We wish we could tell you that Mock Turtle Soup exists because people went “oh maybe we shouldn’t be killing and eating all these turtles”, but that’s not the reason.
We wish we could tell you that Mock Turtle Soup exists because people went “oh maybe we shouldn’t be killing and eating all these turtles”, but that’s not the reason. It’s mostly because fresh turtles were too expensive. We know, it makes us sad too. I mean, they were driving turtles to extinction too but that wasn’t the priority.
In the 1700s, when everyone was on Extreme Exploring mode (and you know, colonizing), sailors caught turtles in the West Indies and would bring them back to Europe and turtle soup became incredibly popular. And a good chunk of that popularity came from the fact that royalty loved it and kickstarted a trend amongst the upper classes. They could afford turtles and if they said it was delicious, so would everyone else!
However, not everyone could just send a fleet off to bring back some turtles so an alternative was created. Mock Turtle Soup was usually made with a boiled calf’s head, mutton or veal broth, spices, oysters, vegetables and…chopped brains. If that hasn’t turned your stomach, Heinz even made a tinned version as the dish became a British classic. “Classic” feels like a strong word to use here.