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Feast with the King
Why they ate certain foods at feasts, what they ate at feasts, and how we haven’t changed!
A class written and taught by Christoffer Koch
So, what exactly did they eat back then?
. Some food eaten in the Middle Ages is similar to the food eaten today all across Europe. People ate what the land provided, what livestock could be raised and what spices could be added.
. Food that could be kept for long term was used regularly, such as grains or certain types of vegetables. Meat was of course important to the diet, stored with a variety of methods if not prepared fresh. Since most major towns were close enough to a major waterway for trade, fish and other water-based life were also an important staple. When food would become scarce, wild plants and herbs would be used to help supplement diets.
. Spices, herbs and other types of supplements to the main dish were added regularly. Salt, garlic and sugar were important staples of the diet (though not the only ones ever used!)
Medieval Food, why was it so heavily spiced?!
. In the Middle Ages, we did not have medicine as it is known today. You wouldn’t take vitamin pills to get Vitamin C, or drink cough syrup to help with a cold. Yet the same problems persist, sickness and a lack of well health. So the people of the Middle Ages found ways to get the health benefits needed!
. Herbal knowledge, the basics of what plants and herbs/spices provided what, was common knowledge for the people of the Middle Ages. Chefs for noble households would be more than simply well-versed, and would incorporate health benefitting items into each dish.
. Certain spices, herbs and foods were known to have health benefits. Eating these items or drinking them in teas would provide the person with the beneficial bonuses.
We clearly don’t eat like that anymore, right?
. So not true! Many dishes and foods they ate in the Middle Ages we continue to eat today.
. The types of meats available haven’t changed, and many of the spices we still use today were available for the chefs as well. We can mass produce most of the vegetables and fruits nowadays, but they were available to our ancestors just as frequently as ours.
. Just like they did, we use a variety of spices for our meats and foods to change the flavor and tastes. Would you be happy with eating plain/boring pork chops for 5 days straight?
. Many whole dishes we eat today hail from the Middle Ages! The following food dishes are all period documented and eaten in that day and age as well as today:
. Funnel Cake
. Scrambled Eggs
. Chicken Noodle Soup
. Mac ‘n’ Cheese
. Hot Dogs
. Shortbread cookies
. Roasted Chicken
. Apple Pie
. Spaghetti and Meatballs
. Honey Mustard
And many more...
Some useful recipes.
. Tostees Dorees
Basically French Toast, an old idea that turns up in numerous cookery texts. This is how the
Viandierlviii (#198) describes them. The translation is Scully's:
Pour faire Tostees dorees, prenez du pain blanc dur et le trenchiez par tostees quarees et les
rostir ung pou sur le grail; et avoir moyeulx d'oeufz batuz et les envelopez tres bien dedans
iceulx moyeulx; et avoir de bon sain chault et les dorer dedans sur le feu tant qu'elles soient
belles et puis les oster dedans la paelle et mettez es platz, et du succre dessus.
To make glazed toast, slice hard white bread into squares for toast, and roast them lightly on
the grill, and coat them completely with beaten egg yolks; get good hot grease and glaze them
in it on the fire until they are properly glazed; then take them out of the pan and put them on
plates, with sugar over top.
6 slices dry white bread
6 egg yolks (or 2 whole eggs)
oil or butter
Remove the crust from the bread slices and, if they are not sufficiently dry, lightly toast them before the fire. Beat the egg yolks. Heat a little oil or butter in a pan, soak the toast slices in the egg and fry them golden brown on both sides. Serve warm, with sugar sprinkled over the top. This can also be served with savoury soups, leaving out the sugar.
Rumpoldtlvii describes a tasty kind of fritter that has an additional benefit: Its preparation is showy and entertaining.
Mach ein Teig mit guter Milch / schlag drei oder vier Eyer darein / und ruer jn wol glat
an / mach Loecher durch ein Hafen / der nicht groß ist / geuß den Teig darein / und halt
ein Teller unten auff den Boden / daß der Teig nicht heraus rinnet / daß du es kanst
kreutzweiß in heisse Butter eynziehen / zeuchs nicht zu dick eyn / daß es kann außbacken /
bestraew es mit Zucker / unnd gibs kalt oder warm auff ein Tisch / so ist es ein gut
Make a batter of good milk, break three or four eggs into it and stir it until it is nice and
smooth. Make holes into a pot that is not too large, pour the batter into it and hold a plate
against the bottom so it does not run out. You can pour it crosswise into hot butter. Do not
pour it on too thick so that it can bake. Sprinkle it with sugar and serve it warm or cold.
These are good fritters.
1 1/2 cups milk
1-2 cups flour
Beat the eggs with the milk and a pinch of salt until combined. Stir in flour by the tablespoonful
until a thick but still runny batter results. Heat plenty of oil or fat in a pan and pour the batter into it
in a thin stream. You can make circles or figures if you like. Once the fritters begin to brown and
harden, carefully turn them over with two spatulas or spoons. Drain on paper towels and serve
warm, dusted with sugar.
. Chicken Boiled with Herbs
While most chicken recipes tend to involve either pastries or complex cooking methods, the early fourteenth-century Omnia Cibariaxiv (II.5) preserves instructions for a simple mode of preparation:
Pullus in aqua dequoquendus hoc modo preparatur: accipitur pullus integer, et in potto
dequoquitur cum saluia, ysopo, aut petrosillo non inciso, per horam. Post, imponitur de
uino albo uel agresta, et sic administratur.
Chicken to be cooked in water is prepared thus: You take a whole chicken and cook it in a pot
with sage, hyssop or parsley, not cut up, for an hour. Afterwards, put in white wine or
verjuice and thus serve it.
1 bunch parsley
white wine or verjuice
Bring lightly salted water to a boil in a large pot and put in the chicken together with the herbs.
Gently cook till done. It is better to overcook than undercook, and if you are worried about the bird
falling apart, you can tie it up with string before throwing it in. This will also make removing it
easier. A dash of vinegar or wine added before serving lends it a bit of zest. If you wish, you can
also quickly brown the cooked chicken over the fire before it goes on the table. Parboiling birds
before roasting was a common thing to do.
. The Medieval Kitchen: recipes from France and Italy by Odile Redon, Francoise Sabban, and Silvano Serventi
. Plain Fare: A Period Camp Cookbook; A collection of simple, documented recipes for cooking in camp from the Kingdom of Drachenwald by Giano Balestriere (Volker Bach)
. The Forme of Cury by Samuel Pegge