Food in Medieval Times (Food through History)
Melitta Weiss Adamson
Students and other readers will learn about the common foodstuffs available, how and what they cooked, ate, and drank, what the regional cuisines were like, how the different classes entertained and celebrated, and what restrictions they followed for health and faith reasons. Fascinating information is provided, such as on imitation food, kitchen humor, and medical ideas. Many period recipes and quotations flesh out the narrative.
The book draws on a variety of period sources, including as literature, account books, cookbooks, religious texts, archaeology, and art. Food was a status symbol then, and sumptuary laws defined what a person of a certain class could eat―the ingredients and preparation of a dish and how it was eaten depended on a person's status, and most information is available on the upper crust rather than the masses. Equalizing factors might have been religious strictures and such diseases as the bubonic plague, all of which are detailed here.
(Kent Town, Australia: Wakeﬁeld Press, 1997); Franz Unterkircher, ed. and trans., Das Hausbuch der Cerruti: Nach der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek (Dortmund, Germany: Harenberg Kommunikation, 1979); Luisa Cogliati Arano, ed., The Medieval Health Handbook (Tacuinum Sanitatis), translated and adapted by Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook (New York: George Braziller, 1976); Priscilla Throop, trans., Hildegard von Bingen’s Physica: The Complete English Translation of Her Classic Work on Health and
Chapter 6). Of the various sauces named after their appearance as white, pink, blue, green, yellow, black, and camel- (or cinnamon-) colored, the last two were among the most widespread in Europe. King Richard II of England in all likelihood dipped his meat in an unboiled sauce from the Forme of Cury (The [Proper] Method of Cookery) called Sawse Camelyne, or “Cameline Sauce.” It consists of currants, nuts, the crusts of bread, powdered cloves, and cinnamon, all mixed together. Then salt and
stomach. Following the entremets, a French banquet would continue with an assortment of dishes ranging from the prized venison to the lowly frumenty. Made from hulled wheat berries, milk, egg yolks, and ginger, frumenty was equally at home on the dining tables of the rich and the poor.83 The Viandier does not have a separate section on sweet desserts in the modern sense of the word; Taillevent’s focus is clearly on meat and ﬁsh dishes. The reason for this may be that some foodstuffs served did
coloring agents are saffron, parsley, violets, and cherries. And yet, compared to the vast array of colors used, for instance, by Taillevent or Maestro Martino in their multicolored dishes, the German application of color is still fairly basic. One type of dish that produced dazzling colors is jellies, and they are conspicuously absent from The Book of Good Food. Also missing from the German recipe collection are soups, which may have been considered too low class to merit inclusion. Overall the
sauces was also one of the carver’s tasks. Apparently carving knives were also used at the end of a course to remove crumbs from the table and into a container.29 Special treats, such as the sotelties mentioned in the previous two chapters, were served at the end of a course and before the beginning of the next one. The French name entremets points to their status as “between courses.” In England they would normally be served to the distinguished diners seated on the dais, and mostly just admired