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The nineteenth century seems to many to be the century of sincerity, purity and natural products - however, already in the nineteenth century, manufacturers and small entrepreneurs began to massively counterfeit everything and everyone. And first of all - food, so that, knowing the composition, a resident of the twenty-first century would never take food into his mouth, which was quietly bought and used by housewives and bachelors a little more than a hundred years ago.
Tea and coffeeMost of all, it seems, these drinks got. At best, under the guise of unused tea, you could buy it asleep, collected from teapots in a pub and dried. Ground coffee was mixed with roasted barley flour, acorns, oak bark or chicory, and sometimes in such proportions that it would be difficult to label the resulting drink even as coffee with additives - rather, it was additives with coffee. Chicory was also forged, spreading it with fried flour and crushed bricks.
At best, herbs and vegetables, popular among the people for brewing, such as fermented fireweed or oven-dried carrot shavings, were added to tea, at worst - rusty sawdust or even lead to increase weight, and therefore the price for a handful of tea (as a rule, both precipitated on the bottom of the teapot). Coffee beans could be dangerous too. There is a known case when a brothel was covered in which dirty, sick vagabonds made them out of dough. Another time, it was not possible to plant the producers of gypsum coffee beans, colored with real, but standing for months, cold coffee - they did not forget to write that their product is nothing more than a toy. But in such a nondescript font that no one noticed it.
Tea and other products were counterfeited not only in Russia - throughout Europe, and the cookbooks of Victorian England, just like those published in Russian, contained voluminous sections on identifying counterfeits, especially those dangerous to health.
For the convenience of fraudsters, a certain German company released a machine on which it was possible to sculpt coffee beans, indistinguishable from real, from anything. When an exposing article was published in the Russian press, the publication that published it was filled with letters from merchants - they were interested in where this machine could be ordered.
Bread, milk, butterThe three most popular products have been counterfeited in a variety of ways. Milk could be added with a chalk solution, adding fat with loose ram brains; chalk was also added to the cream. They could also dilute milk with starch and glue, but the customers got used to carrying iodine with them - it was very easy for them to identify starch; sometimes diluted milk with soapy water. A preservative was also used - so that the milk did not sour for a long time, soda was added to it. In bread, part of the flour could be made from weed seeds, sometimes even poisonous, or it could be completely replaced with gypsum.
Butter, which was used much more readily than vegetable oil, by the end of the twentieth century began to be increasingly replaced by low-quality varieties of margarine, sometimes even made on the basis of … dog fat. Although beef or lamb ghee, tinted with vegetable oil, could have been used. However, the use of beef fat instead of dog fat did not mean any decent taste - such a margarine was prepared in blatantly unsanitary conditions, which was revealed by numerous checks.
Interestingly, coconut oil was also used to counterfeit butter, which was considered much worse. However, this name most often hid ordinary palm oil.
Treats for adults and childrenThe most popular types of sweets were sugar (yes, for many it was just a delicacy), lollipops, honey and hot chocolate. All this was actively processed and diluted for the sake of profit. Ground sugar was diluted with starch, sugar loops were treated with blue solution for a "tasty" color and additional weight.
Real monpensier was expensive - it was made from sugar and vegetable dyes, which were imported from abroad. Manufacturers of forgeries did not hesitate to sell to the poor peasants candies tinted with copper sulphate, yar-copperhead (based on arsenic), cinnabar and azure. So many people died from fake sweets that an investigation was opened (and many fraudsters never got into the attention of the police), and the manufacturers were sentenced to long years of hard labor.
Honey was made from dyed syrup, and it was dangerous because it was made everywhere in unsanitary conditions. and in England, at the same time, raspberry jam was much more popular - and it was also made from syrup tinted with beets, and to make the jam seem real, they added "bones" - tiny sawdust.
Such "adult delicacies" as beer, wine and caviar of the Volga fish were constantly forged or processed. The caviar was soaked in beer, which made it larger and heavier, but practically did not change its taste - but it was spent much more economically in restaurants. Natural wine in restaurants and shops could be found extremely rarely, most often diluted, sweetened, tinted alcohol of dubious origin was sold under the guise of Crimean and foreign wines. Beer, at best, was tinted with burnt sugar (dark beer was more popular among the people), and could be diluted with soapy water and other additives, then softening the taste with glycerin.
Kvass was also counterfeited - either bread or berry, using an artificial mixture based on saccharin, tinted with aniline paint. People were dying from other beer with kvass, but this did not bother the scammers, unlike the government and the police. Lime was thrown into the sour beer in order to “save the taste”, which was also not harmless. By the way, such a simple product as vinegar was also dangerous - sulfuric acid was added to its solution "for strength."
A cup of hot chocolate bought from a coffee shop might have been composed mostly of diluted greasy clay and chicory and only contain a little cocoa for the scent. The taste was interrupted by a lot of sugar.
How common were counterfeits?Here are the data for the Russian Empire alone. Examinations of ground coffee carried out at the beginning of the twentieth century showed that almost all samples contain from 30 to 70 percent of foreign impurities, and this is not counting outright one hundred percent fakes. At the end of the nineteenth century, Moscow somehow exported almost twice as much wine for sale as it imported - and it is difficult to call it a wine-making region!
It was almost impossible to find pure butter of any kind in Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century. The peasants rarely made it anywhere, and large factories completely switched to counterfeit, at best adding cheaper impurities to the oil. Both merchants and manufacturers. and the officials unanimously admitted that butter production in Russia does not actually exist and can hardly be restored in the near future.
A huge scandal happened in the nineties of the nineteenth century when checking flour, which the state purchased as a loan for peasants from drought-affected areas: it found from 17% to 60% of ground cockle seed, a poisonous weed. This flour could not be called anything other than a poison.
On the other hand, the packaging, even for fake food, was often very beautiful: What do candy wrappers from 150 years ago tell about the pre-revolutionary history of Russia?.