What was the best meal in history?

From rat pie to diced calf's brain, five food historians introduce a selection of palate-pleasers from the past...

Illustration by Clair Rossiter

This article was first published in the March 2016 issue of BBC History Magazine 

The Victorian period

Boiled rats in a pie

A skinned treat for rich and poor

Rat pie is a dish that straddled the classes in Victorian Britain. Traditionally a delicacy from the north of England, one recipe for rat pie that appeared in the Sheffield Independent newspaper on 22 April 1879 suggests preparing and cooking it in the same way as a rabbit pie. The rats should have their tails and skin removed, readers were advised, before being dressed and washed and cut into four pieces. It was also recommended that the meat should be combined with a little pork fat before being encased in pastry, to create a sort of jelly like an aspic. Sometimes rats would be fried in hot oil to remove all the hair, or they could be skinned and boiled.

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