Headcheese, wallfish, and mutton [WFJ #64]
What do we know – and what is yet to be realised – about Frome’s historical food connections?
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As you may have cottoned onto already, the name of this newsletter has a fair amount to do with Frome’s local food heritage.
If you haven’t, let me explain: Back in the time of the Romans, it was not uncommon to eat snails, fattened up on milk or wine. In England, snail-eating persisted through the Middle Ages, with the dish prepared in the South West known as wallfish (or Mendip wallfish) on account of its primary ingredient’s adhesiveness to vertical surfaces.
The tradition declined, however, seeing a brief resurgence in the 1960s thanks to the Miner’s Arms pub in Priddy (a village four miles north-west of Wells), where snails were braised in local cider and served with butter and herbs.
While it makes a good story, the history of wallfish is a bit blurry. The same, unfortunately, goes for much of the area’s other food ‘heritage’. Given, then, the first outing of Frome’s Local History Festival is this week, it’s a good time to ask – what do we know, and what do we not know, about the immediate area’s historical food associations?