Boiling Underpants


Given a time machine there is one place I certainly don’t want to visit and that is the battlefront at Crimea during the war in the mid 19th century. Unlike any other war prior to this one, the telegraph cables back to Britain delivered a blow by blow account of the soldier’s suffering and it was most upsetting. The front had been cut off from its supply lines, they had a fraction of the food and fuel they needed.

Step in our hero Alexis Soyer. You might have learnt about is ‘son’ Nicholas Soyer in this early episode of the Z List Dead list (starring Helen Zaltsman). He was a genius self promoter and an all round good egg, not only making Soup Kitchens more efficient for the victims of the Irish Potato Famine but also inventing a cooking pot/stove that is still in use to this very day. This allowed cooking mens rations together (using much less fuel) rather than individually, boiling your rations tied in a string in a big pot… labelled with anything including your own underwear - that might also fall into the ‘broth’. (Alexis Soyer was horrified that the British Troops were pouring awat the water the meat was boiling in i.e. perfect stock in order to make tea - bless.)


Continuing the food theme, the latest episode of Making History is about Breadlines. Not only do I go up to York and find out about how a sweetie obsessed Quaker used statistics to understand poverty but also I got to interview a man about a loaf of bread. A 16,000 year old loaf of bread. Which is before agriculture. YEAH. THAT.

Plus you can hear me eat beef dripping (homemade) for the first time!

I do hope you’re liking the series so far. You can listen on BBC Sounds and provide feedback by following this link (click the ‘send feedback’ button). If you have a moment, that would be excellent of you. I’m dead proud to be part of it!