keep calm and eat pie and mash
EXTRAORDINARY FOOD AT UNBEATABLE PRICES
During the Victorian era, industrial air pollution tended to be worse in the east and south east of London due to the prevailing westerly wind, with the result that the East End was settled more by the working classes, while the western part of the city was home to higher social classes. The working class were poor and favoured foodstuffs that were cheap, in plentiful supply and easy to prepare.
The savoury pie had long been a traditional food, and its small handsized form also made it a transportable meal, protected from dirt by its cold pastry crust. European eels baked in a pastry crust became a common worker’s meal since eels were one of the few forms of fish that could survive in the heavily polluted River Thames and London’s other rivers at that time. Supply was plentiful through to the late 1800s, particularly from the Dutch fishing boats landing catches at Billingsgate Fish Market. Adding cheap mashed potatoes made it a plate-based sit-down meal, and a sauce made of the water used to cook the eels, coloured and flavoured by parsley, made the whole dish something special.