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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Fri 22 Jun, 2007 7:17 pm    Post subject: 15th Century Feasts         Reply with quote

Lacking a reliable resources on the subject (such as a book) I was wondering if anyone could provide me with some information on 15th century feasts. What sort of things fall under the table etiquette rules? Who was seated first, and where were the various people placed? Was it still common for two people to share one plate? Were bread trenchers used much still, or had they moved on to plates? Were forks around by this point? (I believe they were, but I'm not sure). What were the titles of some of the servants involved with serving, and in what order did they appear? What is a common number of courses for a meal, and what did each course typically consist of?

Any other details of relevance would be appreciated too.
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Hugh Knight




Location: San Bernardino, CA
Joined: 26 Jan 2004
Reading list: 34 books

Posts: 739

PostPosted: Fri 22 Jun, 2007 9:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Craig,

Go to the In Parentheses web site:
http://www.yorku.ca/inpar/
Then to the Middle English link (along the left side) then to the link for the Babees Book. That's a real medieval book on manners and table customs that you will find absolutely fascinating. More can be found here, although it's less accessible to the average person:
http://milkmama.tripod.com/kervynge2.html
Here's site with good information about tableware, etc.:
http://www.larsdatter.com/feastgear.htm
And if you can read French this one is magnificent (even if you can't there are great pictures):
http://expositions.bnf.fr/gastro/index.htm

As for recipes, be careful, there are a lot of "pseudo-medieval" food books out there, some of which can be entertaining but which have little to do with medieval cooking. My favorite medieval cookbook is Cindy Renfrew's Take a Thousand Eggs or More; I have cooked from it a lot and found the recipes to be delicious. Here's a link:
http://www.thousandeggs.com/ttem.html
Also, check this site out:
http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/Cookbo...agier.html

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask.

Regards,
Hugh
www.schlachtschule.org
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Fri 22 Jun, 2007 10:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh,

Thanks for the links; I'll have a closer look at them some time. However, I wanted some specific information for tomorrow, and I don't have time to read everything there by then. So, if anyone can answer some of my specific questions, I would appreciate it.
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Michael K. Wandl




Location: Austria (AUT)
Joined: 22 Jun 2007

Posts: 8

PostPosted: Fri 22 Jun, 2007 11:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Craig!

As far as I know: Forks were quite unusual on a 15th century table - they used spoons, knifes and bodkins. plates and bowls were made of wood, tin or stoneware.

typical ingredients (taken from the "Kochbüchlein" by Helmut Birkhan and Margarete Jarmer):
- Meat: pork, beef,....also squirrels, bears, otter, beavers but NO horse, cat and dog.
- fowl: chicken, swan, crow, pigeon, and many kinds of songbirds (even nightingales).
- fish: all kind of fishes and crab, they ate much more fish than we do (they had much more fastening), roe of sturgeon and "hausen" had been a delicacy.
- entrails were used on local conventions.
- broad or horse beans, lentils, carrots and many other vegies and a lot of herbs.
- in late medieval spices (pepper and cinammon were the most imortant) were used in an exorbitant way, meals were flavoured oriental (really hot).
ATTENTION: spices, roe, crab,.... had been very expensive, normal people feastet more decent.

hope I could help you a little bit
Michael

liep ane leit mac niht sin.

dietmar von aist. tagelied.
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Sat 23 Jun, 2007 12:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Perhaps this: http://www.r3.org/life/articles/food1.html would fit your needs?
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Hugh Knight




Location: San Bernardino, CA
Joined: 26 Jan 2004
Reading list: 34 books

Posts: 739

PostPosted: Sat 23 Jun, 2007 1:26 am    Post subject: Re: 15th Century Feasts         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
Lacking a reliable resources on the subject (such as a book) I was wondering if anyone could provide me with some information on 15th century feasts. What sort of things fall under the table etiquette rules? Who was seated first, and where were the various people placed? Was it still common for two people to share one plate? Were bread trenchers used much still, or had they moved on to plates? Were forks around by this point? (I believe they were, but I'm not sure). What were the titles of some of the servants involved with serving, and in what order did they appear? What is a common number of courses for a meal, and what did each course typically consist of?


Basic table rules: Wipe your lip before sharing a goblet. Don't scratch at table. Don't pick your teeth, nose or nails at table. Cut your bread with a knife, don't break it. Don't hang your head over a dish. Wash your hands before eating (a servant will pour water--usually scented--over your hands from a jug or aquamanile then hand you a towel). Don't take in so much food at once that you can't easily answer a question. Don't lean on the table. Don't soil the tablecloth. Take salt from the salt-cellar and put it on your trencher, don't dip your meat into the salt cellar. Do not lift food to your mouth with your knife. Do not dip your fingers into a pie past the second knuckle. Don't sit before your lord bids and don't rise from the table until he has done so unless you are commanded to. Don't talk with your mouth full. Use a voider (a bowl) to put your refuse into; never throw anything on the floor. If your lord offers you his cup take it in both hands and drink, then return it to him with thanks; never offer it to anyone else. Pieces of meat or bread are eaten with the fingers (then wiped on a napkin), soups are eaten with a spoon.

The Lord (not his lady!) was seated first, and other sat at his bidding. The lord sat in the center of the high table (usually on a dias) and guests were seated beside him according to rank. This table was often (esp. by the 15th C.) a permenent table. Lesser people sat at trestle tables set up perpendicular to the high table down the sides of the hall.

Forks were used in the fifteenth century for serving sweetmeats and for carving. They didn't come into use for eating in most places until after the fifteenth century (except in some parts of Italy).

Trenchers were the norm for eating all over. Sometimes they were of stale bread carved by the Panter. Your status in that case determined how many pieces you used; the Lord might have four arranged in a square and a fifth over the intersection of the first four; lesser people made do with fewer. Trenchers were usually changed after each course. In the fifteenth century trenchers were often wood or metal.

Cups were shared, trenchers were usually not.

The Panter cut the bread, the Butler was in charge of drinks. The carver cut all the meat into not just serving sized-pieces, but often into bite-sized ones; in a great house the carver might be a nobleman. The Sewer is in charge of service.

Menus changed dramatically based upon social position, time of year, occasion, etc. Here's a fairly reasonable menu from Le Menagier de Paris:
First Course: Capons with herbs, a cominy, peas, loach in yellow sauce, venison in soup.
Second Course: A good roast, meat jelly, Blanc Manger, little cream tarts "well sugared".
Third Course: Capon pies, cold sage soup, stuffed shoulders of mutton, pike in broth, venison with boar's tail, crafish.

Courses were not laid out with any thought to how they go together, and there was no appetizer or dessert. the higher your status the more of the courses in any given meal you might get; the lord and high table would get them all, the regular crowd would get only the last. Typically, the courses ranged from lighter dishes to heavier ones. Many things aren't listed in menus: for example, most roasted meats came with one or more sauces, and the meal usually ended with the serving of wafers (think rolled-up ice-cream cones, sometimes sweet, sometimes savory), spices and nuts.

Lords drank wine, often watered and spiced; the poorer folks drank beer or cider.

This is an incredibly complex subject, and what I've written here barely brushes the surface, but I hope it helps.

Regards,
Hugh
www.schlachtschule.org
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Sat 23 Jun, 2007 5:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It sounds like 15th century feasts were not too much different from earlier medieval feasts then. That having been said, a lot of it was stuff I didn't know, and I realize we're just scratching the surface, but it at least gives me an idea of what feasts were like. Thanks.
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James Barker




Location: Ashburn VA
Joined: 20 Apr 2005

Posts: 365

PostPosted: Wed 27 Jun, 2007 7:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

http://www.amazon.com/Boke-Keruynge-Book-Carving/dp/1870962192

The Boke of Keruynge is an early 16th century text based off the Babees Book from the 15th century; it tells you how to fold table cloths, cut trenchers, serve cut and food, and more. If you want to hold a truly period fest this covers the server’s end of things. Lord Grey's Retinue uses this book as a guide on how to run a feast.

James Barker
Historic Life http://www.historiclife.com/index.html
Archer in La Belle Compagnie http://www.labelle.org/
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Gordon Frye




Location: Kingston, Washington
Joined: 20 Apr 2004
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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jun, 2007 8:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"Use your knife to spread butter on your bread, rather than using your thumb the way the Friesians do".

Big Grin

Cheers!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Mon 06 Aug, 2007 5:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I know this thread is somewhat old, but I thought I'd bring up a point regarding forks that I just learned:

A case in point is the fork. First documented in Italy in the tenth century, when a Byzantine princess marrying into the Venetian ducal family was observed using this strange item to eat her food (a sign of the luxurious and dissolute nature of the Greeks, a slightly later observer noted!), forks occur with some regularity in the inventories by the thirteenth century. That of Enardius of Vicenza includes two iron forks (possibly larger versions designed for use in cooking) alongside a knife and cleaver.

Skinner, Patricia. "Material Life". Italy in the Central Middle Ages 1000-1300. David Abulafia, ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
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Hugh Knight




Location: San Bernardino, CA
Joined: 26 Jan 2004
Reading list: 34 books

Posts: 739

PostPosted: Mon 06 Aug, 2007 6:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
I know this thread is somewhat old, but I thought I'd bring up a point regarding forks that I just learned:

A case in point is the fork. First documented in Italy in the tenth century, when a Byzantine princess marrying into the Venetian ducal family was observed using this strange item to eat her food (a sign of the luxurious and dissolute nature of the Greeks, a slightly later observer noted!), forks occur with some regularity in the inventories by the thirteenth century. That of Enardius of Vicenza includes two iron forks (possibly larger versions designed for use in cooking) alongside a knife and cleaver.

Skinner, Patricia. "Material Life". Italy in the Central Middle Ages 1000-1300. David Abulafia, ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.


Of course, even that has to be taken with a grain of salt; some early forks such as those shown here:
http://www.billyandcharlie.com/misc.html
were intended for eating specific foods (usually sticky, messy things) but not for general eating; even in the case you cite we can't be sure she *generally* ate with a fork, merely that she did for some kinds of food.

And forks were widely used in period for cooking and for carving as you guessed.

All of that notwithstanding, no one can deny that the general use of forks was completely absent at any level of diner throughout the entirety of the middle ages.

Regards,
Hugh
www.schlachtschule.org
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Martin Forrester




Location: Huddersfield
Joined: 30 Oct 2006

Posts: 42

PostPosted: Tue 07 Aug, 2007 4:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Were prickers more commonly used than forks then? I have heard they were mainly used for pickles, which would count as messy with bare hands.

There are repro's of 15c forks here, they are not sourced though.
http://www.armabohemia.cz/Novestr/cutA.htm

Oh, lets just pull out our swords and start whacking at each other, that'll solve everything!
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