Dulse: a Regular Relish in Dickensian Times
An ancient food for modern thinkers
Seaweed has been eaten for thousands of years in Scotland, with Dulse particularly popular. In Victorian times harvesting and selling seaweed was a livelihood (something we hope we're bringing back!) and there was already a connection forming between seaweed and health.
'None were more picturesque than the dulse-wives'
John Robertson’s article The Purple Shore, published in 1856 in Charles Dickens' popular periodical Household Words, records the sight of women selling seaweed on the streets of Edinburgh. The picture opposite illustrates one such woman, selling 'dulse and tangle' (another word for seaweed.)
"…of all the figures on the Castlegate, none were more picturesque than the dulse-wives. They sat in a row on little wooden stools, with their wicker creels placed before them on the granite paving stones. Dressed in clean white mutches, or caps, with silk-handkerchiefs spread over their breasts, and blue stuff wrappers and petticoats, the ruddy and sonsie dulse-women looked the types of health and strength."
Just like us Mara Maids today!
How to eat Dulse like a Victorian
According to Robertson, along the English coast in the south-west fisherman would eat dulse pinched between red-hot irons, “when it is said to taste like roasted oysters.” Whereas in Robertson’s home town of Aberdeen, dulse was served as “a regular relish on the tables of all ranks.” Sounds delicious!
If you don't have any irons handy, you can update things by checking out our Dulse recipes for ideas.