11 Foods The Tudors Never Knew

They might be everyday treats to us, but these food and drinks didn't come to England until well after the Tudors ended their tumultuous 118-year reign. And it's probably a good job too - could you imagine Henry VIII on caffeine? 

A Banquet, (c) Public Domain, The British Library, Flickr Archive

Tomatoes technically existed in Tudor times, but they weren't eaten because it was thought that they were poisonous. Apparently, they were discovered by the Spanish Conquistador Cortez in 1519 in South America and brought back to Europe. The first record of an English grower of tomatoes dates to 1597, right at the end of Elizabeth I's reign. But, according to an old legend, it was thought that they were full of poison, so were grown for decorative reasons (1). I doubt even the hungriest Elizabethans would have risked poisoning themselves on a small, shiny, round fruit and so it's fair to say that Tudors never knew the juicy sweetness of a ripe tomato chopped and tossed into their 'salletts' (salads). 

Although tea had been drunk in China for centuries, it took a while longer to make it to England, and it's King Charles II's queen, Catherine of Braganza, that we have to thank for our afternoon cuppa. Tea had been traded through the East India Company through some parts of Europe, including Portugal, where Catherine grew up. When she married Charles II in 1662, she brought a chest or two of tea with her to England and it became the trendy drink of the mid-seventeenth century (2)

Toad in the Hole
This roasted dish of sausages, nestled in a puffy batter of flour, eggs and milk did't actually exist - as far as we know - until the mid-eighteenth century. According to Albert Jack, in his historical foods book What Caesar Did For My Salad, the first mention of sausages cooked with batter is in The Diary of Thomas Turner (1754-65). But it wasn't called a Toad in the Hole until 1787, in the Oxford English Dictionary (3)

It's hard to believe, but it's unlikely the cautious Henry VII ever tucked into a bacon butty while he was initialling his daily accounts. The sandwich was created by John Montague, Earl of Sandwich one late night in 1762 when he called for his waiter to bring him some meat between two slices of bread. He didn't want to get his fingers greasy while playing cards (4)

Chelsea Buns
These chunky little spirals of sweet bread dough studded with dried fruits and topped thickly with an icing glaze were first mentioned in the early 1700s, when they were sold at The Chelsea Bun House in London. King George III was a fan, but sadly it was invented too late for the likes of the Tudors, who had to make do with slabs of marzipan (5).  

Imagine going through life never knowing what chocolate tasted like? It's a wonder that chocolate never made its way through the Tudor court, having been introduced to Spain in 1528 by the same Cortez of tomato fame (see above) (6). Chocolate eventually reached England in the seventeenth century and King George I requested a cup of drinking chocolate each morning, on waking. He loved it so much he even had a special chocolate kitchen installed at Hampton Court Palace.  

Henry VIII might have been a tyrant in his later years, but can you imagine how grumpy he'd be before his first cappuccino of the day? It's probably a good thing that coffee wasn't introduced to England until 1650, when the first coffee house opened in Oxford. Diarist Samuel Pepys writes that he visited to try for himself in 1660, saying 'I found much pleasure in it' (7)

Another seventeenth-century import, the tropical, spiky pineapple appeared, albeit sparsely, in England in the mid-1600s under the Stuarts, when it was successfully grown in a 'hot house' to recreate the warmer climes of its native South America. It's said that Charles II loved the fruit, which was too expensive for the general public, costing around the equivalent of £6,000 per pineapple (8).

Stilton Cheese
Wouldn't it be great to imagine Queen Elizabeth I picking up morsels of Stilton Cheese with a silver fork at Robert Dudley's famous banquet he held for her at Kenilworth, in Warwickshire? It's just down the road from the village of Stilton in Leicestershire, after all. But sadly, this crumbly blue-veined cheese wasn't produced until the mid-1700s, probably in Melton Mowbray (9)

There would be no daubing anything in rich, silky mayo in the Tudor courts, because it was first mentioned much later, and in France, too - the Tudors' rival. It's first mentioned in a recipe book of 1750, where eggs, oil and vinegar are whisked into an emulsified sauce during the reign of King Louis XV (10).  

Imagine the stiff lips of the severe Mary I parted and a small cube of fudge is popped in. Bet she'd be smiling in portraits if that were the case. But fudge wasn't created until as late as the nineteenth century, in the USA. It's thought that it happened as a mistake (another reason we describe something that's gone wrong as 'fudged') when someone was making caramels (11). And it was a delicious mistake at that. 

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Notes (1) David Loades and Mel Trow, The Tudors For Dummies, 2010. 
(2) Catherine of Braganza, The Influence of a Foreign Princess, tea.com, accessed 9 March 2020. 
(3) Albert Jack, What Caesar Did For My Salad, Penguin Books, 2010. p.52
(4) Ibid., p32-33
(5) Ibid., p65
(6) Cadbury, The Great Chocolate Discovery, accessed 9 March 2020.
(7) History Extra, A drink for the devil: 8 facts about the history of coffee, accessed 9 March 2020. 
(8) Mental Floss, The Super Lux History of Pineapples, accessed 9 March 2020
(9) Stilton.org, Stilton Cheese, a history. Accessed 9 March 2020. 
(10) Wikipedia, Mayonnaise, accessed 9 March 2020. 
(11) Copperpot Originals, a history of fudge, accessed 9 March 2020.