Double wars photo shoot

I’ve now landed after the best event of the year; Double wars in Attemark, Drachenwald. It’s a very busy and very fun event. And a friend of mine had asked beforehand if anyone wanted to do a photoshoot during the week to get some pretty pictures of yourself and your garb. I said that I wanted to, but that I’m usually too scared to do such photo shoots, because that kind of closeup focus on me makes me blush. And a very red face doesn’t make for very nice pictures.

But the very last evening she caught me during the winding down-party, told me to pour a drink and come with her. And who am I to say no do that?!

I was wearing a very simple Iron Age outfit consisting of a t-tunic, an apron, a bag and my newly bought handwoven blanket. Thank jeebus, my other friend Anna/Renike, had recently braided my hair, so the look came out quite nicely!

Isabelle/Eila, the photographer, made me feel very relaxed and at ease. She talked to me, asked questions about the event and made me talk about different things so I wouldn’t focus on my fear of being photographed. I think it worked quite well!

I got a bunch of photos from her, but this one is my favourite! The light, the sereness and the focus on the glass makes me squeak of joy. And it wouldn’t be my blog if I didn’t tell you about the glass… So, it’s a remake of a glass found in the Birka grave Bj 542, most likely made during the 9th century in the area of today’s Iran or Iraq. It’s engraved with motifs of birds, pine cones, pomegranates and a tree of life.

So, finally I have some decent pictures of at least some of my garb! And maybe I won’t be as nervous the next time someone wants to point a camera at me.

Thank you Isabelle for making this happen! She has an amazing website that you can find here and an equally as cool Instagram here. Go check it out.


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The early years of book printing

Relief printing, or xylography, is printing using raised surfaces and originated in Asia. They used woodblocks and moveable cut characters. Blockprinting then moved closer to Europe and in the early 14th century, it was used for printing on textiles. It is thought that this practise and the construction of the wooden screw for wine presses, is the background inventions that helped further the idea of typography, printing with types.

The invention of typographic printing often ranks as one of the most important inventions in civilization, near the creation of writing. Writing created the chance of storing, retrieving and documenting knowledge. Typographic printing allowed for an economical and bigger production. This way, knowledge could spread rapidly and to a bigger crowd. This lead to higher literacy. But it was also a growing literate middle class and their demand for books that created a climate in Europe where printing could be possible. Together with the rapidly expanding universities and their students. The clergy’s monopoly on literacy was ending.

Speed was of the essence. It took one scribe four to five months to do a simple 200 page book. And the sheepskins it required, were even more expensive than the labor of the scribe. This wasn’t the way to supply the growing demand on information. So the second thing that needed to change, apart from the text itself, was the material. Without paper, the efficiency of the printing would have been useless. But during the 13th and 14th centuries, paper mills established in Italy and France. So with the availability of paper, relief printing from woodblocks and a growing demand for books; Johann Gensfleisch zum Gutenberg of Mainz in Germany first brought together the complex system of typography around 1450 AD. Gutenberg was a goldsmith apprentice and came with skills in metalworking and engraving. He then printed the first full book, the forty-two-line Bible, circa 1455.

When Gutenberg started to print he chose to mimic the square compact texture lettering style used by the scribes of his day. Most of the early printers tried to compete with scribes by imitating their work as closely as possible. The printing was done so well, and was difficult to distinguish from good calligraphy. Even the pope to be, Pius II, commented on it; “the script is extremely neat and legible, not at all difficult to follow.”. But when the book was brought out to be sold, they attempted to sell them as manuscripts, but when the costumers saw the number and the likeness of the volumes, they thought witchcraft was involved and the printers had to confess and explain to avoid indictment.

At the beginning, scribes in some cities tried to achieve a ban against printing, arguing that the printers were threatening their livelihood, that printing was unfair competition and that it would reduce the demand for manuscript books. Some bibliophiles agreed and called the printed books inferior to the hand written, and unworthy to be in their libraries.
But books at this time was a collaboration between printers and scribes as initials and ornaments were handmade. Space was left for these, and the scribe often used red ink for headings and paragraph marks.

Printing dramatically changed literature into something more vernacular, printed in the native, everyday language. The production centers moved gradually away from the monasteries and and the publications became more bespoke. The elite were not the only ones who could afford books anymore. But the printing also brought out a new behavior within the elite. The luxury book editions that was not to be read. Books that were shelved, displayed and talked about, but not read. These were often fought over and sent across Europe as booty.

To compare numbers a bit; in 1450, Europe’s libraries and monasteries housed an estimated 50 000 volumes. During the incunabula period, 1450-1500, it is estimated that over 35 000 editions were printed. A total of 9 million books.

But to become a printer, you certainly had to have a lot of resources. To invest in a printing shop, at least one printing machine and the wait before you had finished and could sell books was expensive. The process to print an edition of a book could take a long time, and during that time, the project didn’t make any money. Until the very last sheet was printed, all the others were incomplete and unsaleable. To evaluate the market correctly was very important and it was common to print small editions, and if it went well, print another one and then another one. A book first printed by Günther Zainer in Augsburg was reprinted at least 745 times between 1470 and 1650. Many printers had to have some kind of patron to survive. But a lot of printers didn’t make it and went bankrupt.

To make profits, the printers constantly improved their products and techniques. Types were made smaller, was set tighter and with less margins. The paper became finer and thinner and the paper moulds was made bigger to fit two sheets at the same time for higher efficiency. Small prints for commercial, social or political purposes were usually prioritized. They sold faster and the income was more certain.

Even though Gutenberg was trying to keep the technology a secret, others were quick to copy. By 1470 printing presses worked in fourteen European cities. Just ten years later, 110 cities published printed books. But it was still mainly a German undertaking. Even the first printers in Italy were German. They moved to find new grounds and by 1500, there were printers in 80 towns and cities in Italy and only 64 in Germany.

The fast growth of literacy also created a big demand for writing masters due to an expansion of government and commerce. This created a need for calligraphers who could draft important business and state documents.
A lot of financial, civic and bureaucratic forms were printed, but in many cases, these documents didn’t have any authority until the blank parts were filled in by hand and/or signed and validated with written marks or words.

Typographic printing reduced a book’s price to a fraction of it’s previous cost and turned a shortage of book into an abundance. And not only the books themselves, but the knowledge within them. Printing is said to have stabilized and unified languages, contributing to the spirit of nationalism and the development of the nation-state. Books, posters and pamphlets were powerful ways to spread ideas and the access to knowledge radically changed education. The access gave more people the opportunity to learn, but the learning also became more private. With each person reading on their own rather than a communal process.

One specific type of studies that changed things were the increased studies of religious texts, like the Bible. Edition after edition was printed and people all over Europe could do their own interpretations instead of relying on the established authority. When Luther posted his 95 theses, they were passed to printers and just 2 months later, his ideas had been circulated throughout central Europe. It is doubtful that the Protestant movement of the Reformation could have happened without typographic printing. Big changes like this of course led to the church and state wanting to keep their control. So during the 16th century, censorship became a growing problem for printers. Propagating for ideas often led scholar-printers to conflicts with royalty and religious leaders. Conflicts like these also led to the spread of printers, when they sometimes had to flee to escape religious disputes, rigid trade laws and censoring.

/Honorable Lady Gele Pechplumin
(Magdalena Morén)

The information is coming from the following sources:
Meggs, Philip B. & Purvis, Alston W. (2016). Meggs’ history of graphic design
Raven, James (red.) (2020). The Oxford illustrated history of the book
Suarez, Michael F. & Woudhuysen, H. R. (red.) (2013). The book: a global history

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My Visby shopping haul

This is the haul from Medieval week in Visby! I got some really lovely pieces, some planned and some spontaneous!

The fabrics are, from left to right, lovely hemp for veils from Historical Textiles, plant dyed wool for a Iron Age coat from the Madder dyer and a gorgeous red wool from Medeltidsmode that I’m planning to turn into a 14th century Herjolfsnes coat.

The small cup on top of the birch dyed wool is a gift, made by Alexander at Krohns krukmakeri, is of a Siegburg model and is dated to the 14th/15th century. The mug in the same light clay is another piece from Krohns, also a Siegburg model and I got it to use at the Battle of Wisby camp.

The brown mug is a 16th century model and I preordered it for pickup in Visby, made by Atelier Able.

The glassware are of 14th and 15th century Italian models and I got them from the lovely visiting Italian reenactors in the Battle of Wisby camp on the market day there. They’re handmade in Italy and they have a lovely feeling to them, and the straight ones almost look modern in their simplicity.

The dies and the comb is from Bikkel en Been at Kaptitelhusgården and they got used during the week! The painted boxes are made by Johan Käll and I just had to get the playing monk for my new dice. 

I got the two lovely rings from Burr at Nordens Historiska fynd, and they’re based on 14th century finds, one from Lindesberg, Sweden and the other from Colmar, France. 

The beads was another preorder and they’re made by Sylvia at Viking Beads. They’re part of my Birka project and I’ll present them more closely in a later post.

I got a bunch of sewing needles from the Merchant wife at the Battle of Wisby market, but they’re not all for me.

The pin at the front is this years pin from Medieval week.

Looking at your shopping like this can help you see patterns of what you’re interested in and what your main focus is at the time being. For me, that’s 14th century and Iron Age. Tha latter has been my main focus for a while, and will continue to be so. That period inspires me the most and that’s where I dive the deepest when it comes to doing research.
14th century is a new and fun period for me that I’m playing around with. I want to do it well, but it’s still a pretty shallow dive.

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Food in the early modern period: 16th century

In the beginning of the 16th century, the printing press was working hard and making the world smaller in the means of information. Cookbooks began to appear in print and ideas spread more easily from kitchen to kitchen. Not only through printed recipes and cookbooks, but also via poems and medical essays with diet focus. Information also spread with the increasing amount of travellers who tried new types of food and ways to eat them. With royal entourages, clergy, ambassadors, merchants and adventurers travelled their household and cooks. They got to travel from country to country and gather practical information and expertise in foreign cuisines. The rich even brought back cooks with them.
The book industry and the business travelling helped spredding expensive goods to the culinary curious, like truffles, capers, candy and citrus fruits. Italy was the culinary leader of the century and their cuisine was a big step away from the heavier food cooked and eaten during the Middle Ages. The dishes were lighter and not only did their cookbooks contain complete menus and recipes for the dishes, but you could also find instructions for the perfect music to be played at precise points during a feast.

A wedding feast in 1529 between a future Italian duke and a French princess had 18 courses and went on for 7 hours. It had a lot of local ingredients like eggs, cheeses, small fish, calamari, crayfish, rice, beans, oranges, macaroni, asparagus, salads, artichokes. This was held during a fast day, so no meat was served. But fried fish was sprinkled with cinnamon, sugar and orange juice. The feast ended with a sweet section containing candied oranges, lemons, cucumbers and almonds. The tables were set with damask cloth and the finest Murano glasses. 25 sugar sculptures, gilt and coloured also adorned the hall.

We have information about the court of king Christian II of Denmark, and what they ate. The food instructions are saved and they tell us that everyone at court ate 2 times a day, regardless of station. But the king was served 8-10 tasty dishes each meal. Nobles at the court got 6 dishes. Some combinations could be cabbage with pork, beef with sauce, salted beef with mustard, fried lamb, whole boiled chicken and lastly some kind of game. Servants for 4 dishes and common people 3.
In some way, someone has calculated that they all had about 4000 calories per day, they were just served in different ways.

Bishop Brask in Linköping, Sweden, kept a thorough record of his meals and feasts. His records gives us a better understanding of the kinds of vegetables and fruits that were used in northern Europe at the time. A lot of the time, they’re left out of descriptions. The desserts were mostly made with apples, pears, berries of different kinds, nuts, honey, almonds and raisins. To the meats they had eggs, peas, turnip, carrots and millet. Other than that, vegetables weren’t very common. And they were always cooked. Mushrooms were frowned upon all they way into the 19th century.
The servants at Bishop Brask’s estate got 4,5 liters of beer per day. 2,25 liters of bread, pork, sausages and head cheese to a combined amount of 0,5 kilos. They also got fish products, just short of 0,5 kilos. Flour, peas and grains; just under a deciliter. Butter, 23 grams and salt in the same amount. Lastly, 16 grams of cheese. On top of that, all the cabbage and turnips they could get.

Accordning to Mark Dawson who’s written a book about food and drink in a 16th century household, mealtimes was a well established tradition at the time and t was a sign of civilized behaviour. The working people were said to eat four or five times per day and the gentry and nobility two; dinner and supper. Printed texts about meals and diets didn’t recommend its readers to have breakfast. Breakfast was for the hard working people, those on travels, the sick, the old and children. Those should eat small meals and often. Two meals should be enough for everyone else.
Breakfast was a light meal, maybe some beer and bread, maybe so butter as well. But there’s also an example of an morning omelett or pancake made with eggs, butter, sugar and currants.
Dinner was usually eaten around noon and supper at or just before nightfall. The meals seems to have taken about an hour each in a middling household. A meal at a gentry household would’ve been longer. Mostly due to the larger number of people being served. Those meals could go on for two or more hours.

/Honorable Lady Gele Pechplumin
(Magdalena Morén)

(The information is from following sources:
-Anne Willan (2012) The cookbook library : four centuries of the cooks, writers, and recipes that made the modern cookbook
-Pia Gadd (2001), Mat i myt och historia
-Mark Dawson (2009) Plenti and grase: food and drink in a 16th century household)

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SCA feastgear: 16th century Italian

I spend a lot of time and energy on the items that I eat and drink with at events. What we call feastgear is, for me, accessories the same way shoes, hats and bags are! My goal is to have a full set of feastgear with all my garb sets. For me a set includes a glass, a mug, a bowl, a plate, a spoon, a knife and a pitcher.
But building up multiple sets like these takes time and also some money, so sometimes we have to compromise and maybe use things from the “wrong” period or area. But don’t forget that a lot of period areas traded with each other.

I do love this kit! It might not be done, or have the right replicas, but it’s so colourful and lovely! The Italian pottery with all the colours and patterns is a feast for the eye and there’s a variation in the Italian pottery that only late period Dutch pottery can compete with.

The bowl in the upper corner and the matching cup is decorated with a technique called sgraffito. The way it works is by applying two successive layers of contrasting slip or glaze to an unfired ceramic body, and then in either case scratching so as to reveal parts of the underlying layer. That way to decorate pottery was used in the 15th and 16th century on the Italian peninsula. The style can be used for most of the Italian renaissance. The motif is supposed to be some kind of rodent, like a hare or a bunny.

The glassware is strictly Italian. Gathering this kit started with the glass, since the Italians and especiallty the Venetians are famous for their glass, so finding those weren’t too difficult. The high glass with a stem is a 16th century Venetian beaker found in London and the lower glass is a crackled beaker model from Murano and the 15th-16th century.

You can read all about the cutlery in the previous post about 16th century feastgear! But least, the fork is very much correct for this set, at last.

What I’d like to add to this kit is of course some kind of pitcher and maybe some one-coloured bigger bowl. Finding Italian vendors hasn’t been very easy, it seems like they mostly focus on Italian reenactors and mostly sell face to face, since I can’t find many websites and those that I do find is only in Italian. This is, of course, a great reason to go on a vacation to Italy and find some historical markets there.
And of course I’d like to add a more area- and time-appropriate knife. And a Italian spoon… From what I’ve seen so far, the pitcher will be the easiest thing and the spoon the most difficult. But I do like a good challenge!

/Herrin Gele Pechplumin
(Magdalena Morén)


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SCA feastgear: 16th century German

In my SCA game I spend a lot of time and energy on the items that I eat and drink with. What we call feastgear is, for me, accessories the same way shoes, hats and bags are! My goal is to have a full set of feastgear with all my garb sets. For me a set includes a glass, a mug, a bowl, a plate, a spoon, a knife and a pitcher.
But building up multiple sets like these takes time and also some money, so sometimes we have to compromise and maybe use things from the “wrong” period or area. But don’t forget that a lot of period areas traded with each other.

If we start from the top, there’s a few pieces of glassware. The pitcher and the wine glass is a matching set, and there’s also more pieces in that set that I’d like to get, but they’ll have to wait a bit. They’re both optic blown, after models from Bohemia, Germany from the 16th century. The “bubbly” surface looks amazing at a candle lit feast and the pitcher is a good size for a bottle of wine. Preferably a white German wine! The low glass without a stem is also from a German 16th century model and I’ve marked it with a few beads, so I won’t loose it.

The pewter tankard isn’t specifically 16th century, but the shapes in the later period are more curvy. It would be better if it had a lid. This a piece that I’ll probably sell at some point.

You might recognize the rectangular pewter trencher from previous feastgear posts. In the 14th century, it was a piece for the elite. In the 15th century, it was more common and could be used by the merchant class and by now, in the 16th century it could be used by people without a lot of wealth. But in this century, I also get to use the lovely round pewter plate that’s a model from the mid 16th century.

The pewter spoon with the baluster top is one of my favourite spoons. It’s a bit smaller than the usual model of the period. Baluster derives from the Greek word for the pomegranate which was an important royal symbol.
The brass fork, which I’ve shown you earlier, is now during the 16th century more common, and with the model being from the north of the Italian area, I’m using it for my German kit, because it feels pretty plausible that it could’ve been sold between the two adjacent areas.

The knife is the same as the previous centuries, not because it’s correct, but because I didn’t have a proper knife at the time of the photoshoot, and the pictures felt empty without one. Since then, I have purchased a knife with lovely brass handle. The model was used in the 16th century and usually found in trading areas around the North Sea.

The issue I’ve had with this kit is finding suitable pottery for the period and area. There aren’t a lot of vendors doing replicas of items found in the German area, and especially not from the 16th century. There’s some 15th century that I’ve been using for that reason. There are more period sources for pottery from the Netherland region, but in that case there’s a lack of potters/vendors, or they mostly makes cups. But I won’t give up! I’ll keep searching for pottery that’ll make my kit better.

/Herrin Gele Pechplumin
(Magdalena Morén)

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Shopping for feastgear: the links

My friend Duncan, who also is a fan of feastgear, and I has tried to compile a list of some vendors who either makes and sells or just sells feastgear of different kinds. Some have the works, some do knifes and some do pottery. I’ve also chosen to focus on European vendors.

A lot of shopping also takes place at different markets

If you have a recommendation for another vendor or market, please let me know and I can add them to the list!


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Food in the Middle Ages: 15th century

The Decameron, Flanders, 1432

In the 15th century people lived by the saying “you are what you eat”, what you ate determined how you felt. The ancient idea about the four fluids in the body was still going strong. Blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile had to be in balance for your health to be good. To do this, you had to think about your diet. Just as the fluids were four, so were the types of people. The ones who were dominated by blood (sanguine) had a good temper and were optimistic. Those with too much phlegm (phlegmatic) were inclined to sloth. Too much yellow bile made you ill tempered (choler) and those with too much black bile were gloomy and prone to depression (melancholy). But eating the right food, cooked the correct way, would manage all this and keep you well balanced. A person with too much yellow bile was considered hot and dry, had to balance this with food that was cold and moist, like cucumber or fish. Sloth was cold and moist, and treated with hot spices. The sanguine were considered hot and moist and had to stay away from red meats. Fruits were seen as cold and moist and was prescribed people with hot tempers or those living in hot weater!

From German cookbook, Kuchenmaistrey, 1485

Authors seem to see the 15th century as a changing point when it comes to food. It’s still very much typically medieval with oungent spices, tart with vinegar and verjuice and always cooked in at least two stages, like first roasted and then simmered in broth to create layers of flavour that could be quite complex. The spices were at the beginning still a sign of an affluent and sophisticated table, but later on, a new style of cooking appears. A more simple and lighter cooking emerges from Italy and spread it’s way over the continent in the next century. Simple ingredients available to a bigger group of people than the elite became more prominent. But cooking also started to have more national features, but in terms of ingredients and the way they were used. For instance, a cookbook from the German area had a big proportion of baked pastries that wasn’t found in other areas.

Unknown painter

Show pieces and dishes were quite common in the medieval high society and there’s a banquet in 1453, hosted by duke Philip of Burgundy in the town of Lille, there was a pate containing 28 musicians. In some countries, the government tried to ban show pieces like that. Another tradition in royal circles was to break drinking glasses during parties. At a Danish party at Kronobergs castle, they could smash up to a couple of thousand vessels during one single party.

An Italian banquet in 1473 took six hours and was hosted by Cardinal Riario. It contained 40 dishes such as roast peacocks, herons, stags and even a grown bear! Not everything was served because it tasted good. For instance, the served bread was gilded to show the wealth of the host. A feast was a great way to show your wealth and power. Even the way you seated people showed the difference in power.
Around the same time, the first printed cookbook reached the market in Italy. De honesta voluptate et valetudine (On honest indulgence and good health) written by Bartolomeo Platina in Rome. His target group, according to himself, were those who wanted good health and a clean life. It contains recipes on fruit, vegetables, freshwater fish, pies, porridges, ravioli, broths, soups, egg dishes, roasts and more! The upper-class dish blancmange, common to most of Europe during the Middle Age, gets a space in the book. Peeled almonds and breast of a capon (a fatty rooster), pounded to a pulp and then cooked in spices and sugar. The goal was to get the tone as light as possible, the whiteness was important. It could be poured over meat or flavoured with spices like saffron or cinnamon and the capon could be varied for various types of fowl.

Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry Janvier, painted by the Limbourg Brothers, 15th century

The late middle ages had a huge enthusiams for sugar. Platina made the point that no dish wouldn’t be improved with sugar. Previously sugar was used like a universal seasoning like salt, but at this point in Italy, it was used purposely to make sweet dishes. And the rest of Europe soon followed. Even the early forms of pasta that got created around this time, maccheroni and vermicelli, didn’t escape the sweet. They could be cooked in broth, milk or almond wilk and served with cheese, spices and sugar.

/Herrin Gele Pechplumin
(Magdalena Morén)

(The information is from following sources:
Anne Willan (2012), The cookbook library
Pia Gadd (2001), Mat i myt och historia
John Dickie (2008), Delizia! The epic history of the Italians and their food)

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SCA feastgear: 15th century

In my SCA game I spend a lot of time and energy on the items that I eat and drink with. What we call feastgear is, for me, accessories the same way shoes, hats and bags are! My goal is to have a full set of feastgear with all my garb sets. For me a set includes a glass, a mug, a bowl, a plate, a spoon, a knife and a pitcher.
But building up multiple sets like these takes time and also some money, so sometimes we have to compromise and maybe use things from the “wrong” period or area. But don’t forget that a lot of period areas traded with each other.

This kit have some overlap with the 14th century kit I presented last time. You can read that post here if you want! The pewter trencher is the same but as I said in the other post, because of cheaper pewter prices, it has now changed from only being used be the wealthiest to also the middle class. The knife is also the same as for the previous century, since it’s such a basic model.

The bowl is turned by a skilled friend of mine and is after a late 15th century piece for Lübeck, Germany. The work is beautiful and the wood looks so much alive. Every now and then I take care of it with paraffin oil to hydrate it to make it last longer. The oil doesn’t taste or smell, so it’s great for items you’ll use with food and drinks.

The ceramic cup is another Siegburg piece with a timeframe of around 1350-1450 and the jug isn’t a exact replica, but the shape and the double handle places it at the end of the 15th century and into the 16th.

If you’ve read my latest blogpost about glassware, we now know that this model of the rummer glass doesn’t belong to the 15th century, but later periods, but I didn’t know that when I took these pictures about a year or so. So it’s absolutely the odd one out. But we live and learn!

Last of all we have the two brass cutlery pieces. The spoon is from a English 15th century model, and I love it because it’s so sleek and shiny. The shape of the bowl is also a bit different from most spoons that we see on the market.

The two pronged fork is a copy from an Italian original from the 15th century and the model can be used all the way up to the 17th century. The fork is a luxury item used by a very small elite in Europe at the start of the period. By 1600, the fork was almost ordinary among the merchant and upper classes in in the southern parts of the continent. So I’ll probably use this fork for 15th century Italian when I get that far, and perhaps 15th century sourtern German, if I feel brave enough.

/Herrin Gele Pechplumin
(Magdalena Morén)

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Food in the Middle Ages: the 14th century

Before the time of the printing press, there aren’t a lot of written sources about food. Some manuscripts has survived, but as usual, it mainly gives us information about the elite and their lives. But there is enough information for us to get a broad picture of the culinary culture of the time. A clear pattern is that the difference between what the different classes ate is bigger than between geographical areas. Especially when it came to the consumption of fish and meat. The peasantry had a very similar diet across western Europe, and it changed following the Black Death. The production of meat and dairy increased which led to at least a slightly more varied diet for people. After that change, nothing happened to the peasantry diet for centuries. Their diet consisted mostly of cereals and vegetables.

Peasants and serfs that worked for lords that provided them with food might have received meals consisting of pottage made out of peas or beans, bread out of rye or maslin, followed by a fish or meat dish depending on if it was a fast day or not, and possibly a piece of cheese. This was washed down with ale or cider. The fish and meat was the high point, and should not be seen as something normal in the life of the lower classes. Poultry, rabbits and hares were probably eaten only on special occasions such as Christmas, wedding and at harvest times. In general, meat was a luxury and the diet was not varied, nor plentiful. Sometimes they only had enough to maintain life, sometimes there was enough to brew ale and making bread. Baking oven is rarely found and some villages has communal ovens. English peasant households rarely had more than 1-2 cows, so dairy, “the white meat” was usually only a supplement. Bacon was regarded as typical peasant food and the most common vegetables was cabbages, onions, leeks and garlic. Those you could grow in a garden, and peas and beans was grown in fields.

The first time the word tavern is found in Swedish print is from a statute in 1335. It derives from the latin word taberna and referred to a small shop, most likely not more than a shed with a window towards the street. These were more common in the towns and served warm food such as stews or brawns, to be eaten at the window. A few decades later the taverns turned into what we now think of when hearing the word. Food and drinks in a seated area with an open fire. If the tavern was located by a road or crossroad, it could also offer accomodation for travelers. They served mead, ale, near-beer and/or sourish milk. To eat, the most common dished were bread, porridge or ceral stews.

One thing that many connect with food in the middle ages is the spices. Pepper was the most common spice, used by the wealthy and those of more modest means. The pepper came to Europe from southern India and the black pepper is the seed on the pepper tree. White pepper is from the same seed, but with the outer layer of it removed. The spice was said to help digestion and stimulate the appetite. Long pepper is a more pungent peppar and was used in many medieval recipes.
Saffron was the most exclusive spice of the middle ages and was indigenous to Persia but was grown accross the Continent in our period. In the recipes of the upper-class, saffron was everywhere. A third of the recipes contained saffron on an average, both for the taste and the colour.
Other popular spices were ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

A festive meal that we can read about is the banquet in the Swedish town of Nyköping in 1317. Queen Märta and king Birger Magnusson are the hosts and the feast becomes history due to the abrupt ending with imprisonment of the kings brothers. Maybe the event wouldn’t been written about otherwise, and we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to know what they had on their tables. Which was lavish! Whole birds, rosted and then put back into their plumage, pate and pies made out of chicken, fish, sheep, veal. Seasoned with mustard, honey, pepper and saffron. Game of different kinds, stuffed geese, pigeon, salmon, flounder and the Swedish dish eggcheese. Meat and fish was boiled or roasted and then dipped in sauces that usually contained a lot of vinegar. Medieval sauces probably had a very sharp and acidic taste to them. To all this, they had wine and mead to drink.

Which meal of the day that was most important and when it was had has differed during the ages and also depending on social class. The pattern is that the important meal has gradually moved from before noon to early evening. In medieval England the main meal was called dinner, but occured before noon. The word dinner derives from the French word déjeuner, which means to end a fast. The meal breakfast was reserved for children, invalids and workmen. The meal supper, which is related to the word soup, was just a simple meal before bedtime. Modest households follwed the light and the seasons and cooked and ate when they could see to do so.

/Herrin Gele Pechplumin
(Magdalena Morén)

(The information is from following sources:
Stephen Mennell (1985), All manners of food
Jönsson&Tellström (2018), Från krog till krog
Melitta Weiss Adamson (2004), Food in medieval times
Pia Gadd (2001), Mat i myt och historia
Anne Willan (2012), The cookbook library)

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Filed under 14th century, Food