Historic Meal Planning

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Below is the first article to discuss Historic Cooking Over an Open Fire:

When you begin cooking, you need to look at why you are cooking and who will be serving the food.  You must know your goal prior to starting your kitchen. You will need to know the equipment needed, fire type and setup and how to keep it clean.

Let’s start with the planning of the meal. Below are some questions to think about when planning:

1)      What class of people is this meal for? Look at the next post to have an idea of what items cost.

Impoverished

  • The most simple of meals with a focus on grain – pottage with some vegetables. You would be using what you could scrounge up. Very few spices (pepper and ginger if any) and very little meat.

Working class – Normal Meal

  • A simple meal, not a lot of spices. Should have some meat, some spices (depending on how profitable business is)

Visiting guests

  • Was this an important guest? If so, they would spend as much as they could afford to impress the guest – more spices, more courses, more expensive items.

A Lord

The Lord and his family (Privy Kitchen)

  • Higher than average food on a daily basis. These were the nobility and they had the money to spend on food. It produced healthier and longer living people.

His household

  • Steady meal, not as extravagant as the family out of the privy kitchen, but on average higher than most working class families.

Visiting guests

  • As with the working class, money was spent to impress the guests. More of everything.

The King

  • Are you cooking for the King? The King eats very well. Only the best.
  • Or his household? They Eat better than the average lord’s household.
  • Are there visiting guests? In 1387, Richard II served a feast for the Duke of Lancaster. Staggering quantities of food in each of 3 courses.

2)      Type of Meal

  • Daily meal
    • Breakfast – served about 8 for most households
    • Lunch – served about 12 or 1 for most households
    • Supper – served about 5 or 6 depending on the light of day and summer or winter.
  • Feast day
  • Lenten Meal (as many as 3 days a week[1])

3)      What is your source for food?

  • What vegetables/fruits are in season?
  • How rich are you and how much would you be spending on spices?
  • What meats are in season and what do you have access to?

4)      What should be done in advance?

  • Pickling of vegetable and/or fruits
  • Hippocras/Spiced Wine
  • Beer – when serving “See that… your ale is 5 days old before it is drunk.”[2]
  • Bread and any baked goods to serve

As a plan, let’s say we are using a kitchen that is not as large as many others, let’s plan a simple Lunch for the Lord and his family. As we are planning on using a smaller kitchen that primarily focused on preparing the food for the Lord, his family and certain guests. Usually finer food was served here than in the household kitchen where the bulk of the servants and household staff were fed.

We can make smaller portions of higher quality food and still have a historical reason for doing so.

After you have decided what you want to make and which course it belongs in, next is to 1) determine ingredients, 2) the steps and equipment for each dish, 3) then how long it will take to cook, and 4) when to start or how far in advance it can be completed for about a 2:45 meal.


[1] Cooking and Dining in Medieval England

[2] The Boke of Keruynge –. This is referencing the young beers that were standard drink during the era.

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