Category Archives: Household Life

Historic Meal Planning

Standard

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.

Advertisements

What did stuff cost in 1438…

Standard

PURCHASING POWER OF A LONDON CRAFTSMAN’S DAILY WAGE in 1438 – 1439: for Textiles, Foodstuffs, and Spices in terms of a master mason’s or master carpenter’s daily wage of 8d. [1]

 

 

 

COMMODITY

Price per Unit in d.

Unit

Quantity Purchased by Daily Wage of 8d

Quantity Purchased by Weekly Wage of 48d

No. of Days’ Wages to Buy 7 Yds

No. of Days’ Wages at 6d per day for Oxford

 

 

TEXTILES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canvas

2

yard

4

24

1.75

2.33

 

Brabant Linen

6.4

yard

1.25

7.5

5.6

7.47

 

Flemish Linen

12.1

yard

0.661

3.967

10.59

14.12

 

English Worsted

3.5

yard

2.286

13.714

3.06

4.08

 

English Kersey: Dyed

17.9

yard

0.447

2.682

15.66

20.88

 

English Broadcloth: Dyed: average

25.4

yard

0.315

1.89

22.23

29.63

 

English Broadcloth: Dyed: highest

40

yard

0.2

1.2

35

46.67

 

Scarlet Broadcloth: average

144.2

yard

0.055

0.333

126.18

168.23

 

Scarlet Broadcloth: highest range

228

yard

0.035

0.211

199.5

266

 

Flemish Broadcloth (Ghent Dickedinnen)

65.158

yard

0.123

0.737

57.01

76.02

 

Silk: Velvet: average

181.08

yard

0.044

0.265

158.45

211.26

 

Silk: Velvet: highest range

279.96

yard

0.029

0.171

244.97

326.62

 

Silk: Damask

144

yard

0.056

0.333

126

168

 

Silk: Plain Satin

105

yard

0.076

0.457

91.88

122.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OTHER COMMODITIES: Food and Fuel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almonds

3

pound

2.667

16

0.38

0.5

 

Honey

2.5

pints

3.2

19.2

0.31

0.42

 

Milk

1

gallons

8

48

0.13

0.17

 

Butter

1

pints

8

48

0.13

0.17

 

Salt

0.5

pints

16

96

0.06

0.08

 

Eggs

0.157

number

51

306

0.02

0.03

 

Apples

0.08

number

100

600

0.01

0.01

 

Rye Flour

4

pound

2

12

0.5

0.67

 

Chickens

5

number

1.6

9.6

0.63

0.83

 

Capons

1.509

number

5.3

31.8

0.19

0.25

 

Rabbits

4

number

2

12

0.5

0.67

 

Sole (Fish)

2.182

number

3.667

22

0.27

0.36

 

Red Wine

5

gallons

1.6

9.6

0.63

0.83

 

Penny Ale (Beer)

0.748

gallons

10.7

64.2

0.09

0.12

 

Good-Quality Ale

1.778

gallons

4.5

27

0.22

0.3

 

Tallow Candles

1.333

number

6

36

0.17

0.22

 

Coal

0.748

bushels

10.7

64.2

0.09

0.12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPICES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pepper

18.028

pound

0.444

2.663

2.25

3

 

Ginger

12

pound

0.667

4

1.5

2

 

Cinnamon

24.151

pound

0.331

1.988

3.02

4.03

 

Cloves

35.556

pound

0.225

1.35

4.44

5.93

 

Saffron

182.857

pound

0.044

0.263

22.86

30.48

 

Sugar

16

pound

0.5

3

2

2.67

 


[1] Dr. John Munro, Department of Economics, University of Toronto, Canada – November 2001

Women, Food & the Medieval Households

Standard

From book, The Great Household in the Late Medieval England by CM Woolgar, (and this is what excites me) women actually start holding positions in the household –including those in the kitchen. Prior to the mid-15th century, in most households, men held the positions of responsibility within the household – from servants to attendants, from Chamberlain to Pantler, but it seems as family groups began to be hired on by the larger household to hold responsibility for specific areas, women actually began to have specific office roles in the household and the kitchen as a result – including the kitchen and cooking.  While the art shows us that woman was the primary cook for her individual family, stepping outside the home provided her income and a job as well.

How would one learn to cook and then lead the household office of the Kitchen? On the job training. According to Woolgar, that is how most household servants learned what they were supposed to do – such as apprenticeships. This method of passing the craft included not only the training in recipes and how to cook what and when, but also information and education of budgets and acquiring the provisions necessary to feed the household and any guests that were in residence – whether the household was in one place or on the move from one holding to another. The cost of food and drink necessary to feed the household was a large percentage of the expenses for that household.

What was the household and how many people would this entail? A household was brought together to support the Lord and/or Lady and included people such as immediate or foster family, advisers, council, military support – depending on how they were needed and the contracts written for those people. For some members of the household, food and drink were included with their contract, for others, they just received payment for services and were responsible for their own food and drink. The departments that supported the household could be large or small depending on the size of the household, but consisted of 4 major areas – then others depending on the size of the household or specialty needs at a time.

There were specific positions and responsibilities of the various members of the household. Woolgar’s breakdown is below for the various offices.

  • Butler – the domestic officer in charge of the buttery, ale, beer & wine, and the cellar
  • Pantler – the official responsible for the pantry, typically for bread, cheese, and napery (table linens)
  • Kitchen – the office responsible for food preparation for the household and hospitality
  • Marshalsea – the domestic office responsible for the Stables

If the household was of sufficient size, these household offices broke down into smaller divisions. For the Kitchen, these would include:  Confectionary, Larder, Saucery, Butchery, Scullery, and Poultry.

So, how does this all relates to what I’m looking at and working to recreate? For me, its about the food and how to work within our modern mentalities to figure out and learn to look at historic cooking through the medieval mindset. There are tools to help us do this and for me, open fire cooking is one of the first steps for doing this.