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A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens
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What were the poor people of Paris eating?  

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In book 1, chapter 5, of Charles Dickens's historical novel A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens describes the streets of St. Antoine, a suburb of Paris, and its ever-present resident, "Hunger."

It was prevalent everywhere.

Dickens goes on to describe what the poor residents of the area had to eat.

Hunger was the inscription on the baker’s shelves, written in every small loaf of his scanty stock of bad bread; at the sausage-shop, in every dead-dog preparation that was offered for sale. Hunger rattled its dry bones among the roasting chestnuts in the turned cylinder; Hunger was shred into atomics in every farthing porringer of husky chips of potato, fried with some reluctant drops of oil.

Small loaves of bad bread; sausages made from dog meat; dry, withered chestnuts; and the cheapest bowls of shredded chunks of potato were what the poor people of Paris had to eat, along with "only the leanest scrags of meat" and "the coarsest of meagre loaves," washed down with "scanty measures of thin wine and beer."

Once in a while, the poor residents were treated to a dropped and broken cask of wine, like the one that was dropped outside Monsieur and Madame Defarge's wine shop.

All the people within reach had suspended their business, or their idleness, to run to the spot and drink the wine.

A customer remarked to Monsieur Defarge about the people soaking up the wine.

“It is not often,” said the second of the three, addressing Monsieur Defarge, “that many of these miserable beasts know the taste of wine, or of anything but black bread and death."

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