The Robshaw family travel back in time to the turn of the 20th century, to discover how the food we ate and the way we ate it helped shape the modern family.
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Meet the Robshaws -
Brandon, Rochelle, Miranda, Roz and Fred.
They've been back in time before.
And experienced the transformation
in our diets from the 1950s to the 1990s.
That is just amazing!
-Look at them.
-Now they're travelling further back in time,
to the first half of the 20th century...
..to discover how changes in the food we ate...
Oh, my good God!
-Is it brains?
-..the way it was served
and how it was cooked...
Yes, I'm cooking the pudding in a soup.
-..helped change the course of history.
Starting in the 1900s...
Oh, my goodness!
..they'll fast forward through a New Year each day.
-What is that?
It looks like a giant hand grenade.
From strict etiquette...
I might practise my bowing.
..to new fads and flavours...
It's not that bad. Dad!
..from far too much...
I think I've got the meat sweats.
-..to not enough...
-Doesn't look like a fried egg.
-Can we eat that?
..as they discover how a revolution in our eating habits...
..helped create the modern family.
The Robshaw family is about to go
back to the turn of the 20th century.
Their time machine will be this ordinary house in Tooting, south London.
It was built in the late 19th century
when a rapidly growing economy was
creating thousands of clerical jobs and new suburbs were springing up
across the country to house the families of this new middle class.
But before the Robshaws can move in,
the house has to be returned to what it looked like in 1900.
I'll be working with social historian Polly Russell to guide the
family through their time-travelling adventure.
In the first 50 years of the 20th century,
middle-class family life was transformed from a world dominated
by strict rules of etiquette, where children were seen and not heard,
to a more relaxed existence of the kind we enjoy today.
And I think food was fundamental to those changes.
So by sending the Robshaws back to 1900 and then fast forwarding them
through five decades and two world wars,
I hope we'll discover how the food we ate and the way we ate it helped
shape the modern British family.
You see, I love this kitchen.
It is sort of appealing to the modern eye,
but this is a place where hard labour is going to take place
with quite rudimentary equipment and no electricity.
The person that's going to be working in here has got to be really
quite skilled and quite knowledgeable.
They're going to have to work very hard to produce the sort of
meals that will be expected on an aspirational middle-class table.
-They haven't got a fridge.
-They don't but they do have a larder
for making sure food is kept safely.
Lots of recognisable brands.
The Atora Suet and the Rowntree's, the Typhoo Tea.
Yeah, this is the beginning of the birth of the brand.
Also, this is a period where we are
importing food from around the world.
We're very reliant on the rest of
the world to feed this growing nation.
In 1900, Britain was importing 60% of its food,
using its wealth and power to ship in produce from across the globe.
Meat came from as far away as Argentina and New Zealand.
It was a time when the upper classes displayed their wealth through the
elaborate food they ate.
Britain's emerging middle classes were keen to do the same,
imitating the diet and habits of the wealthy wherever possible.
To guide the Robshaws' experience,
we're using historical data that track what families spent on food
across the decade.
Look at this. Fantastic survey,
which tells us what it would cost to be a lower middle-class household.
Not ashamed to talk about class in pretty bold terms, then?
No, absolutely not.
Here's a person here who's earning £237 a year.
That's sort of equivalent to what
we think the Robshaws would be earning.
The biggest part of their income is going on food at about sort of 30%.
Compared to today, tiny, isn't it? It's less than 10%.
Much less than 10%.
They are spending a tremendous amount of money on meat.
Bread - 24 loaves a week.
I can't help noticing that the potatoes are measured in pecks.
Three pecks of potatoes!
Flour, half a stone, on top of 24 loaves of bread.
The shape of these people, you can barely imagine.
I really envy the Robshaws, they are going to eat and eat and eat.
It's time for the family to step back to 1900.
I'm fascinated to step back in time to over 100 years ago.
It's an era I don't know much about.
We're going to be like tourists in a foreign land.
I'm a little bit anxious about what will be inside our new home.
I'm worried I'm going to find myself, well, in the kitchen.
I'm really worried about having to, like, sit and sew and cook because
that would just drive me absolutely mad.
I'm wearing a corset!
And I think I'll find that difficult because I can't really move or breathe, either.
This will be the first time the family see their new home.
It's proper old.
Oh, my goodness!
It is totally wooden.
Wow! There's not much in the way of, sort of, decoration.
I thought it would be smaller, though.
-There's lots of wiry gadgets.
That's a sieve.
-You look like the Tin Man.
-I thought that.
-I was going to say that.
-No light, is there?
-Oh, no, of course not.
Actually, that'll be good cos no-one will see what I'm making.
We'll taste it, though, won't we?
Ooh, this is so pretty!
We have a botanical gardens!
-Oh, my God!
This is amazing!
-This is fantastic!
-And there's so many objects.
The sheer amount of stuff...
It's like being in a little museum.
What do you think this is for, then?
It's probably to call me, isn't it?
A bell. Rochelle, some dusting to be done!
I'm back to help the Robshaws
understand the world they've stepped into.
-Don't look so surprised.
Here at the end of the Victorian period,
a time of all sorts of social rules
about mobility and behaviour and appearances.
Your manual, I think, in this decade, is going to be very
important. That's why it's so big.
There's a lot you can do right and a lot you can do wrong.
And there's one other thing which you would have not been without as a
middle-class suburban family in 1900, which I'll just go and get.
I hope it's a dog.
This is Debbie.
This is Debbie and she's your maid.
She's a maid of all works.
-Nice to meet you.
Brandon, you're going to be OK with the idea of having a maid living in?
I think I'm going to find it a bit awkward, I think.
I'm going to feel slightly embarrassed about being on a sort of
higher level and being able to boss her about.
I think I'm not going to really like that much.
But that is the nature of the late Victorian class system.
If you haven't got someone below you, how do you know where you are?
Yes, I suppose so. It'll take some adjusting to, anyway.
I'm sure you'll all find a way to make it work extremely well.
Now, Debbie, it's time to make their dinner, so
-hop it, it's down the hall...
-..in the kitchen.
Right, you've got the manual, you know what to do,
enjoy your life further back in time.
Oh, my goodness!
This is going to be hard.
It straight to work for 19-year-old Debbie.
Luckily, she's no stranger to the kitchen.
In her modern life,
she's just finished catering college and works as a part-time chef.
Service! I love cooking.
I've been cooking since I was really little and it's just developed from there.
I'm excited because I really want to find out what it would be like for a
girl like me to cook how they did back then without any modern-day technology.
I don't think that I'm going to miss being in the kitchen.
But when I was introduced to Debbie,
I actually felt a little bit shocked.
I think it might take some time to actually get used to having somebody
that you would be, sort of, telling, you know, what to do.
But there would have been nothing shocking about this to Rochelle's
Servants were seen as a necessity in any middle-class household and it
was standard practice to employ a maid of all works
to do all their cooking and cleaning.
So thousands of young girls, just like Debbie, left their own homes to
come and live and work in the service of another family.
To give the Robshaws their first taste of Victorian cuisine...
..Debbie's making a formal dinner from the
1900 Day By Day Cookery Book
that featured recipes for breakfast,
lunch and dinner for every single day of the year.
Today, it's mock turtle soup,
ragout of grouse,
and Marlow pudding.
Wow! Oh, no!
What is all this?
This may seem like a lavish feast
but meals like this appear every single
-day in the book.
-Ooh! What are these?
Opulent displays of food on the table were an attempt to ape the
upper classes - a sure-fire way to proclaim your status.
These must be kidneys.
And in 1900,
a typical middle-class family spent twice as much on meat as they did on
their maid's salary.
So that's in pounds.
While Debbie finds her way around the kitchen...
I really don't want to ring the bell.
..the Robshaws are getting used to their new lives.
I can't bring myself to ring it.
I just feel uncomfortable sounding a bell to call upon someone.
She expects us to, doesn't she?
-Well, I'll ask her. I'll ask her if she'd like me to ring the bell.
It's only if you want them to ring the bell!
Oh, my goodness!
An hour into cooking and Debbie's busy preparing mock turtle soup,
which is made from boiled calf's head -
a substitute for real turtle meat.
It's a bit gross. I've never had to, like, prep a head before.
Turtle meat was a popular Victorian delicacy but had been overeaten
almost to the point of extinction.
Hi, Debbie. Just wondered how things were coming along.
This is mock turtle soup.
We're using calf's head.
I'm a bit shocked to see it like that.
So sort of, like...
in its head-like way.
Do you think it's going to be tasty, Debbie?
I'm going to try and make it tasty...
-Right, yeah, you do your best, yeah.
-..with what I've got.
-Leave the teeth out of it, won't you?
-I've just been to see how Debbie's getting on with dinner.
Oh, yeah. What's she got for us, then?
Mock turtle soup.
Oh. What is it?
It's made of calf's head.
-Is it really?
-Yes. She's having to, sort of, cut it up.
It's quite a large head.
Debbie may be used to cooking for
customers in her professional life...
..but as a maid of all works,
she'll have to produce three meals a day with antiquated equipment and do
all the cleaning for the family.
I'm very hot right now and kind of uncomfortable.
But I'm trying not to think about that. I just want to get on.
While Debbie gets stuck in to the cooking...
-Which ones do you think?
-..the Robshaws are trying to get to grips
with the etiquette of table laying.
We need dessert forks, don't we?
-Look at the picture.
Even cutlery had its own rules.
Also, you've got to check which way the forks are going.
We've made a mistake.
-What is it?
We didn't put this down, did we?
You're not going to find a husband if you can't lay a table!
I think it's a fairly mundane activity.
It would probably be the highlight of day.
You'd probably, sort, of store up all your excitement and go mad and
just splurge on your evening table laying.
I'm just waiting for the cream to boil.
-After four hours slogging away in the kitchen,
the first course is ready.
As well as calf's head meat and stock,
the other major ingredient of the soup is cream.
Oh, my God, that's hot!
With this one meal, each of them
will consume more than 3,000 calories.
-Your soup's ready.
But I want to eat with you.
You want to eat with us?
-Oh, I'm afraid you can't.
In the 1900s, a 12-year-old like Fred wouldn't join his family for a
formal dinner. Instead, he would be expected to eat in the kitchen.
Can I have some food now?
As well as eating separately,
children weren't allowed to have the same food as their parents.
Theirs was often pureed.
It's kind of secluded, being on my own
but, if I had both my sisters in here with me with, like, the cook,
I think I can imagine that being quite sort of fun.
Debbie, can I have a biscuit, please?
Yeah, yeah, of course you can.
Spending so much time in the kitchen meant that some Victorian children
saw more of the servant than their own parents.
It's mock turtle soup.
-Thank you very much, Debbie.
-Shall I serve you?
Yeah, thank you.
While the upper classes would have had a butler, in a middle-class
home, with only one servant, it was perfectly acceptable for the
lady of the house to serve the dinner.
That's quite nice.
-It's quite nice.
-I couldn't eat a lot of it, though.
-It's, like, really rich.
I think it's very nice.
Maybe I should ring the bell and tell her it's nice.
-Perhaps I'll ring the bell?
No, no, no, no, no!
-And tell her it's nice?
To tell her it's nice because I want to!
SHE RINGS BELL
Hi, I just wanted to say it's very, very nice.
While you're here, could we get some pepper?
Yeah, yeah, of course.
You just spoilt that!
A hard first day, indeed.
How people did this every day, I don't know.
Next on the menu, it's ragout of grouse.
Hunting game was a popular aristocratic pursuit,
so having game on the table was a way of the
middle classes displaying their upper-class tastes,
even if it was just to their wives and daughters.
It's, like, delicious.
-It actually tastes like red meat, doesn't it?
If I went to a restaurant and got this,
I would be recommending that restaurant to everyone I knew.
These are devilled kidneys.
Although it may not seem very appealing to modern palates,
offal was incredibly popular among Victorians.
It's delicious but that's all I want.
Meaty meat, meat!
It's a meat heavy meal, isn't it?
I think I've got the meat sweats now.
It's not over yet.
This is Marlow pudding.
-It's made of suet, eggs, sugar...
-Suet? Is that beef?
Even the dessert has got beef suet in it.
How would you feel if you had to eat a meal like this every day?
-How would you feel?
-I think I'd feel ill.
That's why they died so young.
There's just so much meat.
Meat after meat after meat.
There just seems to be an awful lot of it.
Today has been really full-on.
This is up there with one of the hardest days, hardest working days,
of my life.
I can't wait to go to bed.
I'm not sure how I feel about the idea of a servant.
She's our age but she's clearly
living a very, very different life to me.
A new day means a New Year for the household.
And Debbie is the first one up.
In 1901, a maid's typical working day would start at 6am and end at
ten at night.
After yesterday, I'm quite tired, to be honest.
I was kind of dreading...
Oh, God, if it's going to be like this, I'll never get through it.
Debbie is preparing the family breakfast and that means more meat.
For breakfast today, there's lamb chops, which is really weird.
I mean, I know a little bit of meat is good but this is a lot.
The decade has only just begun but 1901 was to mark a turning point in
After 64 years on the throne, Queen Victoria died and thousands
lined the streets for her state funeral.
Like many respectable families,
the Robshaws have donned full mourning dress to mark the occasion.
Are we ready for breakfast?
For breakfast and less formal meals,
children were allowed to dine with their families.
This is anchovies on toast.
Lamb chops for breakfast?
That's so weird.
Thank you, it looks very nice.
Fred, this is your porridge.
Fred might be allowed at the dining table,
but he still won't have to chew much on his food.
-Let's get started, then.
-Debbie would have had to have got up like
really early to prepare this for a breakfast, wouldn't she?
-Is there sugar?
Hello, Debbie. Can we have some sugar, please?
-Yeah, course you can.
Great, thanks a lot.
-Why are you ringing it?
-Need a tea strainer.
You were so unhappy about ringing the bell.
Now we're bell happy.
We'll have a toast, shall we? The Queen is dead, long live the King.
Queen Victoria was succeeded by her eldest son Edward,
fondly known as Bertie.
Unlike his strict mother, the new king was a renowned bon viveur,
whose extravagant lifestyle was devoted to women, wine,
hunting and good food.
And like many of his aristocratic friends,
the food he loved most was French.
So, I'm sending Brandon and Rochelle to the Savoy to show them how the
British love affair with French cuisine really took off.
-How are you?
-Very well, thank you.
-You look amazing.
It's Monica off MasterChef, isn't it?
It is. So, welcome to the Savoy, the birthplace of haute cuisine.
-Are you ready for lunch?
-Well, we're not sure, actually.
We had quite a heavy breakfast, actually.
We had grilled lamb chops.
I don't know where you've put it all.
Stuffed it all down my corset!
Monica Galetti was senior sous chef at top French restaurant Le Gavroche
and learned her trade with many of the recipes and techniques first
introduced to Britain here at the Savoy.
Wow! I like this dining room.
This trailblazing restaurant was established by legendary
French chef, Auguste Escoffier, and was patronised by aristocratic
clientele, including King Edward himself.
-So, what we have here's a Sole Walewska,
which is sole with truffles.
It's lovely. It's that sort of food that angels would eat.
Everything we've eaten has been brown because it's been meat.
This is just sort of like pale and sort of pretty.
Escoffier was brought here to open the restaurant,
literally to introduce this kind of dining to Britain.
At that time, it was only available back in the Continent.
Escoffier, when he came over,
literally made this experience open to everyone.
-It must have been a revelation.
-I just find that absolutely amazing.
It took one man to introduce this to Britain and it's just carried on.
Kind of have such a lot to thank the French for.
Oh, my goodness! That looks fantastic.
What we have here is a peach melba,
which is peaches with raspberries and Chantilly cream.
This is very, very different from a suet pudding.
I think this haute cuisine thing will really catch on.
Do you think we could get Debbie to have a go at it?
Yes, I have high hautes for her.
You've been working on that for a while, haven't you?
It's 1902 and to give the Robshaws the chance to show off their new
appreciation of fashionable French cuisine,
I'm asking them to host a very special event.
It's a letter.
-Dear, Brandon, Rochelle, Miranda, Rosalind and Frederick,
for the aspiring middle classes,
this decade is all about maintaining and improving your place in society.
Tonight, you'll be hosting a spectacular...
Wait for it. ..eight course dinner party.
-Eight?! Oh, my goodness me!
-Oh, my goodness!
-So, make sure the evening is a roaring success.
Your reputation will depend on it for years to come.
-That's a bit of a worry.
-All we need to do is make sure that we give the
guests a very entertaining evening.
But eight courses?
I can't even think of eight courses.
I've got some rather exciting news.
-We're having an eight course dinner party this evening.
Eight people, eight courses...
This night is extremely important.
-What hangs on this meal is Mr Robshaw's reputation.
-I think I'll let you get on with it.
Dinner parties were the perfect opportunity for an aspiring
middle-class family to display their status and taste.
Although they weren't able to match the lavishness of the upper classes,
showing off was still the name of the game and elaborate menus were
all the rage.
I'm kind of feeling a little bit overwhelmed at the moment.
There's a lot... A lot to do for one person.
I've taken tonight's menu from Britain's favourite cookery writer,
Mrs Beeton, who also embraced the fashion for all things French.
In English, it's oysters, soup, cold salmon, cream of chicken,
quail, saddle of mutton, cake, jelly and cheese.
What a nightmare this is.
Debbie's starting with creme de volaille, a cold,
savoury dish of chicken with cream sauce,
that needs to be cooked and cooled in time to be served chilled.
It all has to go right, really.
I mean, for the family's sake as well because they just want it to be
a good meal. They don't want me to cock up.
But it matters for Debbie, as well.
In 1902, a disastrous dinner could have led to instant dismissal for
the servant responsible.
As well as seven savoury courses, she'll also have to pull off a
spectacular moulded jelly for dessert.
In Debbie's modern life, making jelly is easy but without a fridge,
it's another matter entirely.
I'm kind of worried about this because I don't know if it'll
actually all set in time.
I'm going to actually have to get it out, so...
It's a bit stressful.
While Debbie single-handedly cooks up an eight course meal...
OK... Shall we move these chairs out the way?
..it's taking four members of the Robshaw family to lay the table.
We need something for the oysters.
A fork faux pas could spell disaster for a family's
standing in the eyes of their guests.
A little fork, an oyster fork.
He's going to think we're really common if we don't have an oyster fork.
-That could be a finger bowl.
-Yes, but there's only one.
-No, it couldn't!
-You can't have a communal finger bowl.
-Yes, you can.
-No, you can't.
We might have to do without finger bowls.
But then what will they say about us?
We can't let a finger bowl hold up your rise to the top.
With the guests due any minute,
Debbie has been cooking solidly for eight hours.
Despite her professional training,
she is finding the ostentatious menu a challenge.
I've done the aspic jelly. I've done the mayonnaise.
The chicken is in poaching.
I need to do grain butter.
Green beans, boiled potatoes, chicken sauce, roasted quail,
and then gravy.
In a one servant household, middle-class families often hired in
extra help on special occasions,
so tonight, I've arranged for Levitt,
a butler who served the royal family,
to help them make the night a success.
The oysters, are they being served with a wedge of lemon?
-Or half lemon?
I'll do halves around the edges.
And I've also arranged some rather special surprise guests,
including the local mayor, just the sort of VIP a socially ambitious
family might like to impress.
Thank you. Hello. Good evening.
This is my wife, Rochelle.
-These are our two daughters, Miranda and Rosalind.
-Thank you so much.
And you must be Mr Ford?
-I am indeed.
-Pleased to meet you.
With Fred not invited to dinner, he's making himself useful behind the scenes.
Ladies and gentlemen, would you please take your places
for the service of supper?
Thank you very much.
Are we ready to go then, cook?
-The first course going now.
Previously a poor man's food, oysters became scarce in
Edwardian England and were increasingly seen as a luxury.
Now, Mr Robshaw, do you have a regular supply of oysters
-delivered to you, or...?
-Well, I wish that I did.
Next up is consomme, a light French vegetable soup.
-I'm sure that's a turnip.
-A vastly underrated vegetable.
I totally agree.
The soup might be finished, but the next course is far from ready.
I'm kind of hoping that the butler gives them a lot of wine,
so that they don't realise how long the wait is.
And then the food will taste nicer, as well.
20 minutes later...
..the whole poached salmon with prawns and home-made salmon mousse
that's taken Debbie three hours to make is ready to serve.
Such beautiful colours.
Do you wish to be addressed as your worship?
Mr Mayor is good enough.
Next up is another Edwardian favourite,
cold chicken in cream on a bed of salty meat jelly.
This is aspic jelly.
This looks gross.
I can't believe they ate this.
Every picture I've seen, they have
these mounds and mounds of sort of...
Great wobbly puddings.
They must have been working very hard in the kitchen.
How the hell are they eating all of this?
The courses just keep and coming.
I'll have the sauce to follow.
I thought you said a horse to follow.
Wouldn't surprise me.
Ladies and gentlemen, mutton.
Couldn't have eaten like this every night, could they?
Can you leave the jelly to the last minute?
Yeah, will do.
For dessert, Debbie's made two puddings.
One, two, three...
But it's the moment of truth for the multicoloured jelly.
Oh, my goodness me!
She must have been devastated.
Her jelly didn't stay upright.
For an Edwardian servant,
a mistake like this might have meant the sack, but luckily for Debbie,
the modern guests are more forgiving.
I've read lots about wanting to steal somebody else's cook and I can
understand that now.
I think I'd keep Debbie in the kitchen so no-one
could see her and poach her.
But the Mayor has other ideas and has asked to meet her himself.
Ladies and gentlemen, Debbie, come in.
Debbie. Are you completely done in?
-It was delicious.
-Fit for a king.
I've got to say I just think that was a triumph.
I think that was a brilliant, brilliant dinner party.
And I truly believe that our social standing in the neighbourhood has
gone right up into the sky.
Any time you have strange people in your house that you have to make
conversation with, obviously it's stressful.
So I'm very relieved that it's over.
Today was a big day.
A lot of food to cook in a short period of time
with hardly any equipment.
I am proud, though.
It's 1903 and following the success of their dinner party,
the Robshaws are starting to feel the consequences of Edwardian excess.
I feel like I'll never be hungry again after last night.
It was about eight dinners in a row.
To get some much-needed fresh air,
they're off to the local common for a promenade.
A walk in the park was not just a way to while away a Sunday afternoon,
it was also the perfect opportunity for image obsessed Edwardians to
parade their immaculately dressed families for all to see.
How are people feeling? Are you feeling all stodged out?
-The thing is...
..if this is all the exercise you had,
like a slow little promenade to feed the ducks.
Maybe this is what the Edwardians did was chuck bread at them because
they had so much food.
They had so much food left over, they had to get rid of it somehow.
Give them a couple of meat chops in there.
Back home and with Debbie hard at work cooking yet another meal...
-Can you see?
..it's the perfect time to enjoy an Edwardian parlour game.
Spin the player round...
Dress the Dandy.
The player must attempt to pin various items on the Dandy.
She's going for the hat.
She's got the moustache on the nose.
-They all have moustaches on their nose?
-It's under my nose.
I haven't got very many peas because of you, Fred.
-I found peas on the floor from you earlier.
Not only did the culture of excess means lots of leftovers...
These are mutton rissoles from last night's dinner, so I hope they're OK.
..it also increased interest in digestive health.
I'll start with two rissoles, I can always come back for more.
Luckily for the Robshaws, there's a new drink on the market,
perfect for the morning after.
Some drinks for you.
Oh, I say.
-Well, I never.
In 1903, Perrier water was launched.
Combining the Edwardians love for all things French with a promise of
goodness, Perrier was French mineral water ingeniously rebranded
by Englishman, William St John Harmsworth.
He put it in distinctive green bottles and sold it to the British
middle classes at a premium price.
Marketed as the champagne of table waters, Perrier would become the
biggest selling bottled water in the country.
-I like it.
-I like it.
It feels like a sort of antidote to all this kind of heavy meat we've been eating.
It's interesting because the bottle shape is how I feel my figure is going.
-How is it going, Fred?
-That's really, really runny.
-Really, really runny?
-Let's have a look.
Definitely needs more icing sugar.
Fred may be banished from formal meals but he's feeling increasingly
-at home in the kitchen...
-Will you help me...?
Yeah, I'm definitely going to help you.
..and today, he's assisting Debbie to make a birthday cake for his dad.
Swirl... Lift it up as you're doing it. Yeah.
I think you're a very good cook.
That's nice. Thanks, Fred.
That's absolutely stunning.
-Look at it.
-Look at it.
-What a great cake.
I like having Fred in the kitchen, actually.
And, in fact, he was quite helpful.
The relationship between Debbie and me is almost like a hidden friendship.
As far as Fred eating out of the kitchen,
I sort of kind of felt a bit sorry for him.
But now I can see that if he establishes a very close relationship with
Debbie, then, actually, it might be quite pleasant and fun for him.
It's 1904 and while the rest of the family stays at home...
I've got to try and make a patterned handkerchief.
..Brandon is heading out to work as a clerk in a city bank.
In the early 1900s, middle-class white collar workers used the newly
expanding railway system to commute from the suburbs to work in the city.
And a whole new wave of restaurants opened to cater to these men at lunchtime.
So today, breadwinner Brandon is going out for lunch with his
Chop houses were relaxed, male only environments where men could enjoy
good food and beer together...
Very nice flavour.
..away from the stiffness of more formal dining.
I think if you're having a working lunch,
you want a nice pint of ale with it, don't you?
According to one survey, it was perfectly normal for a gentleman to
spend as much as an eighth of his income on lunches with the boys.
I think if I were to make a regular habit of this, eating out
all the time with my mates,
spending a huge proportion of the household budget on meat and ale,
I don't think Rochelle would stand for that.
Although, I could get used to this.
I can actually see how this became a habit.
Our blokes went out and did this every single day.
-Of course they did.
-It's more fun than embroidery, isn't it?
In the 1900s,
it would've been unthinkable for a married middle-class woman like
Rochelle to go out to work.
So, she and her daughters are getting to grips
with more ladylike pursuits.
Just about the worst thing,
sitting here for a whole hour and just producing this,
this one knotty mess.
I've got to say, it was a very pleasant experience for me,
sitting in a dining room with Chris,
but I think women had the short end of the straw there, day after day,
if they were at home doing embroidery and I'm out in a dining
room, spending my money on steak and ale,
it just doesn't seem quite fair, does it?
After the success of Brandon's dinner party earlier in the week...
So, what do we need to set-up?
..it's Rochelle's turn to see if she can further cement the family's
standing by hosting a tea party for the ladies of Wandsworth.
An institution at the heart of an Edwardian lady's social life,
afternoon tea provided the perfect opportunity for women to network
with others of the same class in their local area.
So, I've sent Polly round to give Rochelle and the girls a crash
course in tea party protocol.
Hello, Polly. Welcome.
The tea you're about to host is a specifically, sort of, middle class
and upper class activity.
If you're working class, you're working, you have to be at leisure
to have afternoon tea in the way that you're about to.
And you are, sort of, establishing yourself within your social
community because being middle classes isn't so much about your
income, as it is about your attitudes, your behaviour,
the people that you socialise with.
It wasn't, like, a casual thing,
just like pop round to, like, have a little chat and a sandwich.
Casual is not really a word I think we can associate with the Edwardians
Probably a lot of pressure if you've got it wrong,
you might be kicked out of the sort of local ladies' tea group.
You're right. The three of you are responsible for making sure that the
Robshaw family are presented in a way that would do Brandon proud.
Thank you very much.
-Are you off to another tea, then?
Today, Debbie is making a selection
of Edwardian favourites to go with tea.
Sandwiches, scones, and Battenberg cake...
I think that looks OK.
..named in honour of the marriage of Princess Victoria,
the granddaughter of Queen Victoria,
to Prince Louis of Battenberg in Germany.
We need this little table.
A woman hosting tea in the early 1900s would open her door to receive
guests between the hours of 3pm and 6pm precisely.
A good catch, Rosalind.
Visitors could drop by unannounced at any point within those times but
were only expected to stay for around 15 minutes.
I think I might practice my bowing.
I think they might think you're a bit silly if you bow.
It's time for tea and as the Robshaws are new to the area,
Polly's arranged for some local ladies to drop by.
KNOCK AT THE DOOR
I'm not getting it. You have to get it.
-No, Debbie's getting it.
-What name is it, ma'am?
-It's Anna Blair.
-I don't know.
-Anna Blair, ma'am.
Edwardians really would open their doors to strangers,
so mastering the art of polite conversation was an essential skill
for any aspiring middle-class lady.
Have you come far?
Have you been here long?
For a few years.
-Would you like a cup of tea?
-I'd love a cup of tea.
I am feeling slightly hungry.
Oh, I'm so sorry.
Would you like a piece of Battenberg?
That's quite a substantial Battenberg, isn't it?
It is, isn't it?
KNOCK AT THE DOOR
-Libby and Annie.
As well as genteel chitchat, it was essential to serve your
guests with etiquette and refinement.
I can't get a grip on it.
Where have you come from?
We came from Tooting.
It's very nice round here.
Is it you're maid that made all the...?
-Have you come far?
Oh, nice. Would you like a sandwich?
Yes, that looks nice, I'll have one of those to start with.
Thank you. Has this been decorated?
Yes. Yes. Do you like it?
-Yes, I love it.
-It's quite chintzy, isn't it?
It might be a bit overwhelming after a while.
Thank you for coming.
I did find the afternoon tea quite difficult.
It was a bit like speed dating because you've got people in your
house for 15 minutes and then they move on and each time,
they make a judgment on you, it was a... It was a...
a sort of...
..benignly stressful experience.
It's a new day in south London.
We're over halfway through the decade and new technologies like the
motorcar, aeroplanes and electricity are hinting at a way of life
Britain is moving into a new era...
..which is even reflected in the food products that have become available.
Up until now, chocolate had been an expensive imported luxury,
out of reach of most families.
The launch of Cadbury's Dairy Milk in 1906 made it much more affordable
and a nation of chocoholics was born.
I've got something.
Shall we try some? This is so tantalising.
My mouth is watering.
-What do you think of it, Brandon?
-I really like it.
I wonder how long we'll have to wait for Fruit and Nut.
Debbie's being given a rare evening off,
so she's writing home to her family in Yorkshire, 200 miles away.
I miss the dogs. And the family, of course.
It's hard for me now,
so it must have been even harder for a servant in the 1900s.
In the Edwardian era, servants had no legal right to time off or paid holiday.
It was all at their employers' discretion and many worked seven
days a week with just one day off a month.
Luckily for the Robshaws, there's a new innovation which means
they won't have to find their way around the Edwardian kitchen.
What have we got?
What is this? Is this called a chafing dish?
The chafing dish was an early precursor to the 1970s fondue set
and reflected a relaxation of the formal rules around food
making it acceptable for families to cook for themselves
in the dining room.
'I am a festive chafing dish.
'I foam and froth and bubble.
'I sing the song of meat and fish...'
-That's a good song.
-'..and I'm a great deal of trouble.'
-'I'll save a great deal of trouble.'
Oh, it's like a magic pot.
-So, what you do with it?
-Obviously, you light it.
You put food in there and you cook it at the table.
It sounds jolly good fun.
With Debbie off work, keen cook, Brandon, can't resist breaking
Edwardian etiquette to get into
the kitchen himself for the first time in a week.
I'll bring in the rest of the stuff now.
Tonight, they'll be eating a recipe from the chafing dish and casserole
cookery book, cervelle de veau aux oeufs.
I haven't actually had a look at this meat...
Oh, my good God!
That's calves brains with eggs to you and me.
Is it brains?
I don't know what to say.
I'm losing my appetite, just looking at that.
Maybe it'll look better when it's cooked.
Well, I didn't actually do two whole brains.
-That looks absolutely horrible.
Sort of scrambled eggs and scrambled brains.
With cream and salt-and-pepper. It'll probably be good.
Eggs go in.
Brains go in.
Brains may turn the stomach of some modern diners but they were actually
very popular among Edwardians,
who ate every bit of the animal from head to hoof.
I want you to stop stirring it so much.
In fact, in one popular cookbook of the decade,
there were no fewer than 22 different recipes featuring brains.
It just doesn't look...
It doesn't look fit for human consumption.
It seems to be starting to solidify a bit.
Do you think we should let it rest?
So, I'm now going to eat the brain.
I'd say that isn't bad.
Yeah, good stuff.
Shall I serve you a dollop of brain?
-Is that OK?
Is that enough?
That's more than enough, thanks.
-Are you going to taste any?
-I just can't do it.
It's fine. It's absolutely fine.
I actually don't like it, but just
cos it's not the sort of thing I like.
I don't really like scrambled eggs anyway.
That's true. Is it the eggs that's putting you off?
I think it is.
I am very, very pleased with myself that I managed to try some brains
because I didn't think I would.
You think, the brain can process so much and we're here just, like,
Of all the meals to cook in front of people,
brain is properly not the first choice.
You'd choose something like...
..some kind of steak or just anything...
..apart from brain.
Debbie's putting together an informal Edwardian spread,
a platter of cold cuts and cheese,
the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon of musical entertainment.
The musical taste of the upper and middle classes had always revolved
around classical and opera.
But by 1907, things were changing.
The popularity of music hall was seeping into middle-class life,
as revealed by rocketing sales of sheet music for the popular hits of the day.
But this was an indulgence families like the Robshaws would
only dare enjoy in the privacy of their own home.
Go on, after you.
So I've arranged for a surprise visit from '80s pop sensations,
Chas and Dave.
-Good afternoon, everybody.
-Pleased to meet you.
Hello. I'm Brandon.
Celebrated for their unique style of Cockney rock music, or Rockney,
Chas and Dave took a lot of their inspiration from the old music hall
style of song writing.
So there's nobody better equipped to lead a traditional sing-along.
-What do you think of the parlour?
-In need of a singsong, I would say.
We thought you might know this one.
# Daisy, Daisy... #
That was one of my great-grandfather's favourite songs.
# Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do
# I'm half crazy all for the love of you
# It won't be a stylish marriage
# I can't afford a carriage
# But you'd look sweet upon the seat
# Of a bicycle made for two. #
-We love it.
-Good singing, girls and boys.
-We love that one.
-So, what do you think of the music hall songs,
Great. They've got such great rhymes.
So catchy. You can still, like, really enjoy singing them now
because they just make you feel quite good.
I know when they tried out a new song,
if the audience didn't join in on the second chorus,
she'd never sing it again.
So it had to be a song that they could...
Catch on straightaway.
-Tea for you all.
-This is Debbie, our maid.
-And these are our guests, Chas and Dave.
-Nice to meet you.
-Pleased to meet you. Do they look after you?
Yeah. Of course they do.
They don't beat you or nothing?
-The tea is all here and ready.
-OK, thank you very much, Debbie.
-Shall we get some tea, then?
Yes, sounds good to me.
While the family enjoy their first informal meal of the decade,
I've sent Debbie a classic working-class London treat to try.
I don't like the texture.
The family are just in the parlour having a good old singsong and I'm
here having jellied eels.
Sometimes, it is quite hard to be, like, alone in the kitchen all of
the time, when they're doing something that does genuinely seem fun.
I do feel a little bit left out.
Cheers, Brandon. Lovely.
I had a really, really good afternoon.
To sit and sing and play instruments with your family is something that
people don't tend to do any more.
It's really weird not having Debbie as part of the whole thing.
Sometimes I am tempted to kind of break the rules of Edwardian society
and ask her to join us, but that wouldn't have been done and we're
trying to live a life of a middle-class family of the era.
Your morning paper, Mr Robshaw.
Oh, my goodness! The Olympic Games.
In 1908, London hosted its first ever Olympic Games.
The fourth modern Olympiad included 24 sports, ranging from gymnastics
and athletics to aquatics and tug-of-war.
While it was largely a male dominated occasion,
women competed in more events than ever before.
Great Britain cemented its status as the global number one superpower by
topping the medals table for the first and only time in history.
Although that might have had something to do with all the judges
Throwing the hammer,
high jump, the two mile walk...
I could do that.
Our sporting prowess was put down to a diet rich in meat,
so, today, Brandon and Fred are trying out the same breakfast
enjoyed by competitors in the 1908 Olympic marathon,
before heading out for their own training.
-Your Olympic breakfast, Mr Robshaw.
Get out of here!
That is just... Incredible.
-It's a whole cow.
Olympians chomped down on enormous steaks, as well as raw eggs before
exercise, in the belief that meat makes muscle.
And an ambulance, please.
Are you ready?
Actually, now, I feel quite good.
Do you? How far do you think you could run?
I could run a marathon now.
It's not just breakfast that features meat.
Smells of beef dripping.
Beef fat was also used by marathon runners to prevent blisters.
Typical Edwardians, they think you can solve every problem with beef,
Brandon's also going to sample the
most popular sports drink of the era.
-What's this? This is what they used to have?
-Did they used to have this at the end of races?
Yes. To give you a bit more energy.
That's so funny.
That bucks you up a bit.
-Brandy, as well.
In the 1908 marathon,
many runners drank cognac in the belief it would enhance performance.
Gold medal favourite,
Canadian Tom Longboat, drank so much champagne
along the route that he collapsed 19 miles into the race and failed to
cross the finish line.
In 1909, Britain suddenly got closer to its European neighbours
when Louis Bleriot became the first
man to fly across the English Channel.
Taking just 36 minutes and 36 seconds to complete the journey,
he became world famous in an instant.
-How do you make a paper aeroplane?
-I want a go.
To celebrate our growing allegiance with France and the end of
this momentous decade, the Robshaws are serving their friends an
Anglo-French themed feast of sandwiches and eclairs.
Would everybody like to help themselves? Tuck in.
Polly's back to find out how the family have coped with life in the 1900s.
-How are you?
-I'm all right, thank you.
-This is Dr Polly Russell.
-Dr Polly Russell.
I'd like you to try this drink.
It's called strawberry shrub.
That's lovely. That is really... That is strong.
The food itself that you've eaten in this decade,
is it what you imagined it would be?
The amount of meat and offal has been staggering.
I've enjoyed the food a lot but I...
You know, you can have too much of a good thing.
I feel like I'm looking forward to a nice simple salad or something now.
Can we talk a bit about Debbie and having a servant?
Particularly because, of course,
she's the same age almost as your daughters.
And the life expectation is so different, isn't it?
-I found that an extremely complicated
relationship to negotiate.
Because I feel quite motherly towards her and I want to, sort of
like, look after her and I want to make sure she's safe and I want to
make sure she's not working too hard.
But at the same time, I know that her role is distinct.
Do you think you're going to be seeing Debbie in the next decade?
I'm hoping very much we'll see Debbie in the next decade.
Fred, how has it been, being an
Edwardian boy in a middle-class home?
Being away from my family with, sort of, Debbie became, sort of,
quite nice and freeing.
Obviously, there were certain rules and I did miss out on
a lot of stuff, but over time, me
and Debbie became, like, almost friends.
-What are you making now?
-Is your arm aching?
How hard has the physical work of cooking in an Edwardian kitchen been?
It's been really hard and you get really, really tired.
And day in, day out, for months on end, it would get very lonely.
That's why I'm happy when Fred comes in, even though he can be annoying,
but even though I've got to know the family, you're still not part of
their family and you still don't do what they do. So, it is hard.
It has been a pleasurable experience, living as an Edwardian.
Having fantastic, lavish feasts everyday and wearing a lot of really
posh clothes. What's not to like?
I haven't reviewed my opinion on the class system because I still don't
particularly like it, but I do understand it a lot better and
I understand now why back in the 1900s,
people were really proud to be middle-class.
I think it's been a challenge to be lady of an Edwardian house because
you're not in the kitchen, you're not outside the house,
but you are in the parlour and all
you can do in the parlour is entertain.
It's a curious experience.
I don't think I could live like this forever.
But to taste this sample of this life of luxury has been really,
Next time, the Robshaws experience the feast...
You probably need a hacksaw.
..of the turbulent 1910s.
It feels like the war is really hitting home now.
It feels like it's starting to bite.
The Robshaw family are experienced time travellers, but this time they are going further back than they have ever been before - to the turn of the 20th century, to discover how the food we ate and the way we ate it helped shape the modern family. An ordinary house in south London is their time machine, transporting them through five decades and two world wars. Guided by presenters Giles Coren and social historian Polly Russell, they trace the incredible changes to Britain's diet and the extraordinary social transformation they reveal.
As they enter the 1900s, they discover an unrecognisable world of strict etiquette, corsets and conformity. But the biggest surprise is a new addition to the household. Debbie Raw, a part-time chef in the 21st century - she is going back in time to be the family's maid of all work, responsible for all the cooking and cleaning. At the perfectly laid dining table, the Robshaws discover a decade of excess, ending up feeling as stuffed as the décor of their 1900s house. Their first meal is a mere five courses with a meaty pudding - but that is a simple amuse bouche to what follows. Servant Debbie must produce an eight-course dinner party in a Victorian kitchen with not so much as a hand blender to help her, the Robshaw ladies struggle with the formality of hosting formal afternoon tea and the family try out the Edwardian answer to a fondue set - brains and scrambled eggs anyone?
Along the way there is haute cuisine with Monica Galetti, a meaty Olympic breakfast and a music hall tea and singalong with surprise guests Chas and Dave.