Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Watermelons - Italy 1810 and Cincinnati

When the British traveler Mrs. Trollope first tasted water-melon she "thought it very vile stuff."  She also felt the men, women and children who were sitting on the streets of 1830 Cincinnati, spitting the seeds "to the great annoyance of all within reach" and the juice pouring out of their mouths... looked "very unpleasant."  The delightful image is from Italy, 1810.

Wagon loads of water-melons went to the Cincinnati markets every day when in season in the 1830s.  The following excerpt describing the cutting and eating of watermelons at the market is from Frances Trollope's book, Domestic Manners of the Americans, 1832.  We have encountered Trollope before - men doing the shopping HERE.

The image of a cocommeraro or watermelon vendor's stand with a wondrously tall display of half melons is by Bartolomeo Pinelli (1781-1835) from the 1981 book La Roma di Bartolomeo Pinelli. Click to enlarge.

Frances Trollope:
"Many wagon loads of enormous water-melons were brought to market every day, and I was sure to see groups of men, women, and children, seated on the pavement round the spot where they were sold, sucking in prodigious quantities of this watery fruit.

Their manner of devouring them is extremely unpleasant; the huge fruit is cut into half-a-dozen sections, of about a foot long, and then, dripping as it is with water, applied to the mouth, from either side of which pour copious streams of the fluid, while, ever and anon, a mouthful of the hard black seeds are shot out in all directions, to the great annoyance of all within reach.

When I first tasted this fruit, I thought it very vile stuff indeed; but before the end of the season we all learned to like it. When taken with claret and sugar, it makes delicious wine and water."

Trollope, Frances Milton.  Domestic Manners of the Americans.  Fifth edition.  London: 1839 [1832]

©2015 Patricia Bixler Reber
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1 comment:

  1. A little claret seems like a perfectly fine way to gentrify a vile fruit.