FACTS FROM THE 1500's
Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May
and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell so
brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor.
Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had
the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then
the women and finally the children -- last of all the babies. By then the water
was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it - hence the saying "Don't
throw the baby out with the bath water."
Houses had thatched roofs - thick straw - piled high, with no wood
underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the dogs,
cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained, it
became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof -
hence the saying "It's raining cats and dogs."
The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, hence
the saying "dirt poor." The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in
the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on the floor to help keep
their footing. As the winter wore on, they kept adding more thresh until when
you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was
placed in the entranceway - hence, a "thresh hold."
In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always
hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot.
They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the
stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then
start over the next day. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been there
for quite a while - hence the rhyme, "peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold,
peas porridge in the pot nine days old."
Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special.
When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a
sign of wealth that a man "could bring home the bacon." They would cut off a
little to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat."
Most people did not have pewter plates, but had trenchers, a piece of wood
with the middle scooped out like a bowl. Often trenchers were made from
stale bread which was so old and hard that they could be used for quite some
time. Trenchers were never washed and a lot of times worms and mold got
into the wood and old bread. After eating off wormy, moldy trenchers, one
would get "trench mouth."
Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the
loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or "upper crust."
Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would
sometimes knock them out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the
road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid
out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather
around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up - hence the
custom of holding a "wake."
Facts from the 1500's