What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“Sallad Oyl and Malligo Raisons.”
John Newmarch listed only four items in his advertisement: “Sallad Oyl and Malligo Raisons, LEMONS, and good OATMEAL.” While modern readers probably recognize the lemons and oatmeal, I suspect that “Sallad Oyl and Malligo Raisons” may be a bit less familiar (even putting aside eighteenth-century spellings that had not yet been standardized).
What were “Malligo Raisons”?! Most likely they were raisins (produced by drying muscat grapes) from the Malaga region along the Mediterranean coast in southern Spain. Over the centuries Malaga raisins have gained a reputation as the black pearls of Andalusia, a description that testifies to both their taste and economic value. Today Malaga raisins have been incorporated into marketing campaigns as part of the region’s tourism industry, as in this article that promotes them as part of “the most traditional vintage in Europe” and details harvesting the grapes, one by one, and transporting them over difficult terrain on the backs of mules.
Given that “Sallad Oyl and Malligo Raisons” were grouped together in the advertisement, I imagine that “Sallad Oyl” refers to olive oil that also originated in Spain. Today, “salad oil” refers to any edible oil used in salad dressing, but the context here suggests Newmarch stocked olive oil in particular.
These grocery items – “Sallad Oyl and Malligo Raisons, LEMONS” – bring to mind the transatlantic networks of trade in the eighteenth century, but this is not a story exclusively about commercial exchange. These items also reveal transformations in taste as residents throughout the Atlantic world incorporated new foods into their diets as part of an ongoing Columbian Exchange.