Apple Day: ‘like and old Ox pissing in the Mudd’.

We had a good response to our Apple Day press release calling on people to drink apple juice made with English apples, and to look out for obscure apple varieties.  Apple Day has been a great success and the English apple – even when ‘blemished’ – is fighting back against the bland. 

I can’t help wondering what the historian E.P. Thompson would have made of it.  In 1979 he ‘discovered behind a panel in his library the diary of a remote ancestor, a minor landowner in Worcestershire, and a JP’.  The diary dated from late September or early October 1593, a bad time for apples and the state:

And the City Folk run after forrayn Facion & must have the Apples dresst in Papers like Ladyes Sweetmeetes & no Blemish on the Skinnes & all of a Size like Oysters in a Barrel, althow the Fruit be Nothing but Pith & Pulp & a Sort of Natureless Pap without neither Goodnesse nor Taste.  So that the Sweete Juices of England, whose Coddlins & Pippins no Land cd ever Equal, are run into the Grownde like an Old Ox pissing in the Mudd.

Thompson’s ancestor, incidentally, seems miraculously to have anticipated the rise of lager and keg beer, now given a run for its money by CAMRA and real ale:

 the great Brewers have brot into their Imploy cunnyng Apothecaries who wth certayne Salts can so Disguise Pond Water as to make it pass for Ale.  Wch Salts, saith Farmer Russett, he hath bin assured by a Dr of Physicke in Bromyard be Poysons & do breed Distempers of the Brain & Raging Melancolys by wch the Nacions Counsels be brot into Ruine. 

‘An Elizabethan Diary’ was reprinted in Writing by Candlelight, alongside a number of great polemics in defence of civil liberties.  Thompson may have been pleased to see fewer apples made up of ‘natureless pap’.  He would have been aghast at the Lobbying Bill.  More on that tomorrow… 

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