To collar eels.
Take a large Eel, split it, and take out the Bone, and wash it; then strew it with Cloves, Mace, and beaten Pepper, with Salt and sweet Herbs; then roll it up, and tye it with Splinters round it; so boil it in Water and a little Salt, and White-wine Vinegar, and a Blade of Mace; when the Eel is boil'd, take it up, and let the Pickle boil a little; and when 'tis cold, put in the Eel.
---Court Cookery; or, The Compleat English Cook. R. Smith, 1725.
[collar: roll up and bind with string]
Eels were used not only as food but also rent for centuries (dried and smoked, of course). This was ending in Diary times, but there are a few records of eel rents to be found.
Also, there are stories about people dying from eating raw eels.
And there are rumors, believed by John Milton for one, that live eels were used as suppositories to make a horse seem more perky when presented for sale.
Nicholas Culpepper, in the Complete Herbal, wrote about eels’ virtue as a cure for alcoholism, “being put into wine or beer, and suffered to die in it, he that drinks it will never endure that sort of liquor again."
Yup, that might do it for me, too.
In a city bisected by the Thames, the eel’s population was plentiful, cheap and, when most meat or fish had to be preserved in salt, eels could be kept alive in puddles of water.
Rev. David Badham reports in his ‘Prose Halieutics Or Ancient & Modern Fish Tattle’ in 1854 – “London steams and teems with eels alive and stewed. For one halfpenny, a man of the million may fill his stomach with six or seven long pieces and wash them down with a sip of the glutinous liquid they are stewed in.
Such was the demand that eels were brought over from The Netherlands in great quantities by Dutch eel schuyts, commended for helping feed London after the Great Fire.
Although they were seen as inferior to domestic eels, the British government rewarded the Dutch for their charity by Act of Parliament in 1699, granting them exclusive rights to sell eels from their barges on the Thames.
Much more about these slippery things:
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.