|As every reader of Melbourne Punch knew, working class people were shifty. |
In my last post, I explained that many people in the colonial era bought their bread from a baker, rather than baking at home, because they didn't have an oven or couldn't afford to run it. For the same reason, they also sent roasts and other main meals to be cooked in the baker's oven.
Knowing this, I'm sure you will find the following account of one baker's dishonesty as alarming as the original readers would have in 1829:
CONFESSIONS OF A JOURNEYMAN BAKER.
Mr. Maton was apprenticed, in the year 1792, to a person in Salisbury, who was miller, baker, &c., and who had some army contracts ; he afterwards came to London, and entered the service of a baker, where on the first Sunday, he got initiated into one branch of the business, that it, of managing the dinners sent to be baked.
'As I was an underman,' he says, ' it became my duty to take the dishes out of the shop into the bakehouse ; the second hand, as the cant phrase is, shaves the meat (that is to say, cuts as much off from each joint as he thinks will not be missed) ; the foreman drains the water off, and puts the dishes into the oven until they require to be turn- ed : after which, the liquid fat is drained off from each dish, and the deficiency is supplied with water ; this fat is the master's perquisite! Here is a pretty particular way of robbing Sunday dinners, as our friend Jonathan would say.
While living with this master, Mr. Maton acquired a knowledge of the trade of dealing in ' dead men,' or charging loaves to the customers which they never had ; this is another lucrative branch of the business, in which master and man strive which can get the monopoly. Such at least was the case in this place, and Maton kept a check on his master. He found that four shillings per week, with the spoils of the ' dead men,' was more profitable than sixteen shillings per week, with lodging, bread, beer, a Sunday dinner, bro- ken victuals, and the spoils of a ' sharp knife in the bakehouse, which would shave off a dinner to a hair's breadth.'
This baker, who appears to have been a terrible plunderer, used to send a peck of flour four pounds short of the proper weight.— To be continued.
So when you next enjoy a store-bought loaf, spare a moment to be thankful for modern health and safety laws and consumer protection bodies!