In our email newsletter (subscribe!) we asked if anyone had any questions they’d like us to look into with a view to a series of ‘notes and queries’ type posts of which this is the first.
Q: I wanted to ask about bar snacks and how they’ve developed over time — what have bars served along with beers over the decades? –Kyle, Bolivia
That’s a big question, Kyle, and the answer might fill a book, so we’ll limit ourselves to considering the kinds of nibbles that might have been eaten without cutlery, while standing at the bar. For obvious reasons, we’ve also focused mostly on the UK.
Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor records various examples of people who made their living selling snacks on the street and in public houses, so we know that, in the 1850s, pub-goers were eating pickled whelks (‘not to fill themselves, but for a relish’), boiled green peas, fried fish, pies and sheep trotters. In short, anything that could be sold in the street and didn’t require cutlery was probably being eaten in pubs.