By Study and Also By Faith

An LDS (Mormon) blog representing a search for knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Medieval Kitchen

As I read medieval history and visit websites about medieval life, one thing that fascinates me greatly is the daily life of people. Learning how people spent their time in the various periods of history makes them come alive for me. It is also interesting that many of their pursuits are the same as ours in a general sense.

In the medieval era, much time was spent in providing food. Grain had to be sown, raised, and harvested. Animals had to be acquired and cared for. They, too, had to be fed. The kitchen was a center of activity as everything had to be prepared from scratch and cooked over the fireplace. A castle kitchen would have a huge fireplace--large enough to roast whole animals on spits, turned by hand to provide thorough and even cooking. Grain had to be ground before bread could be made. Fruit and vegetables were raised in gardens or gathered from the forest or the meadow. Herbs were used for flavoring and also for medicinal purposes.

Cooking was not as primitive as we might think. I have discovered a delightful website, A Boke of Gode Cookery, that is full of articles and recipes from Medieval and Renaissance times. There are some modern adaptations of these recipes and there are menus. The Society for Creative Anachronism recreates these types of feasts and you can, too! With information from this site, you could have a medieval-themed party or dinner and enjoy the flavor of that time. The site has all kinds of links as well--I feel sure you will enjoy it.

Back to kitchens and food, the poorer people did their own cooking, of course, and often had a hearth in the middle of the room. The smoke rose to the roof and went out through a hole, or there were high open windows opposite each other that blew out the smoke. They usually lived in one room. As they prospered and had larger homes, they might have separate bedrooms, but the kitchen was still the center of the home.

The wealthier people had kitchens separate from other rooms and sometimes even in a separate building. They had servants who did all the food preparation and cooking. Even then, though, the evening meal in particular often took a long time and was a time of gathering for the household plus any guests they might have. The most wealthy had elaborate feasts on special occasions, complete with entertainment between courses. Some of the food was quite decorative and was presented with great fanfare before being served. There were subtleties, which were elaborate sculptures out of a sugar concoction. There were roasted peacocks with their feathers put back on for the presentation.

There was more variety in the food than we might think. There were pies full of meats and spices and raisins and other fruit. There were vegetable dishes and egg dishes with sauces and seasonings. The food was actually quite flavorful and nutritious. It was fresh. Breads were various and sometimes decorative.

I would dearly love to visit the British Isles and visit a preserved castle just to see the kitchens, although the whole place would be fascinating to me.

Other pursuits were sewing and needlework, reading and writing (at least among the more privileged classes), and conversation. There were dances and festivals and plays. The church was a center for much activity also and there were various celebrations for Saints' days. In the villages, there were courts held to settle various problems that had arisen. Larger towns and cities had markets that gathered the people in to buy and sell and socialize.

I still have a lot to learn about Medieval history, but it is a pleasurable pursuit.

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Blogger chronicler said...

Mary, there's a great blog out there:

Caroline cooks as if she's in 18th century France. It is very interesting and informative.

8:18 AM  
Blogger Mary A said...

That sounds good, chronicler. I'll be sure to check it out. I'm wanting to add some other links for various things on my sidebar, so I'm wanting some good sites for food, books, science, politics, etc. Thanks!

10:18 AM  
Blogger chronicler said...

Mary thanks for the link!

7:57 PM  
Blogger Mary A said...

You're welcome! I have been enjoying your blog. I've also read a little in the 18th Century Cuisine one and find it interesting, as well. Not to mention I am having way too much fun tinkering with my blog!

1:55 PM  

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