Page last updated at 15:51 GMT, Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Gruel served up to hungry public

People tasting gruel
The Victorian workhouse gruel got a mixed response

Gruel - the notorious dish which Dickensian orphan Oliver Twist requested more of - was served up to members of the public on Tuesday.

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has produced the recipe after consulting historic sources such as Charles Dickens' Victorian novel.

The gruel was served at the RSC's office at Burlington House, Piccadilly, central London.

It has been recreated by French chef Fabian Aid in the RSC kitchen.

'Extremely bland'

People queued up to get a helping of the "meal for hard times", as described by Charles Dickens, which was served in pewter dishes.

But the slushy gruel, containing oats, water, milk and onion, got a mixed response from tasters.

"It's extremely bland," said Jennifer Gilson, a retired scientist. "There's no flavour at all without the onion."

But Israel Philip, an administrator at the RSC had a different view.

People queueing for gruel
The RSC said it was hoping to make the gruel 'disgusting'

"In this weather it's the best thing to have. I'd have this for breakfast every morning. It's just like porridge."

A Mr Bumble character was even on hand to "eject" any diner who, like Oliver, dared to ask for an extra helping.

A spokesman said: "We were hoping he'd make it far more disgusting."

The RSC chief executive Dr Richard Pike said: "The part that food plays in our lives has perhaps never been more memorably portrayed in literature than in the workhouse scene.

"This year, we will be looking closely at food sustainability and the part that science and engineering play in this."

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