The medieval days are by no means my specialty. I majored in American Studies, but I still have the internet at my fingertips, just like you. I have been looking at medieval cuisine and have determined that the people of the time were as desperate for stimulation as any consumer today, if not moreso, and also that they were not picky eaters. Keep in mind that most of the time, most people ate slop like “frumenty” and wet bread. Wet bread and smushy grain. They made their meat appealing by adding a load of cinnamon and raisins and stuff to it before boiling it in milk and more wet bread. Perhaps I am simplifying things, but my interest today lies in the special-occasion cuisine of those sunny, plagued days.
I will now provide you with some recipes, for your amusement. They range from quaint…
A lopster shall be bakyn yn a noven or vnder A pan by the fyre side and then ete hym with vyneager.
Puddyng of purpaysse
Take þe Blode of hym, & þe grece of hym self, & Ote-mele, & Salt, & Pepir, & Gyngere, & melle þese to-gederys wel, & þan putte þis in þe Gutte of þe purays, & þan lat it seþe esyli, & not hard, a good whylys; & þan take hym vppe, & broyle hym a lytil, & þan serue forth.
(Pudding of porpoise. Take the blood of him, and the grease of himself, and oatmeal, and salt, and pepper, and ginger, and mix these together well, and then put this in the gut (stomach) of the porpoise, and then seethe easily, and not hard, a good while, and then take him up, and broil him a little, and then serve forth.)
If you wish to prepare a good meal, take the antlers of a young stag, singe them until they are clean, boil them, chop them up, and add wine, honey, and gingerbread, and boil all the ingredients. Only the antler extract is important, and that is good.
To something scooped from of the vomitoriums of Imperial Rome (at least as envisioned by early Christian smear campaigns)!
The Hog was killed, as Dalachampas translates it, with a small wound under his shoulder. When much blood was run forth, all his Entrails were taken out, and cut off where they began. And after that he was often well washed with Wine, and hung up by his heels, and again washed with Wine. He is rolled in Musk, Pepper. The foresaid dainties, namely Thrushes, Udders, Gnatsnappers, and many Eggs poured unto them, Oysters, Scallops, were thrust into his belly at his mouth. He is washed with plenty of excellent Liquor, and half the Hog is filled with Polenta, that is, with Barleymeal, Wine, Oil, kneaded together.
Musk? Udders? Gnatsnappers?? Yes, please!
Some of the recipes make me think of Ace of Cakes, or those housekeeping magazines in supermarket checkout lanes. You know, food that looks like other stuff. A cake that looks like a hamburger is equivalent to meat disguised as a fruit. Very cute.
Roast piglets and such poultry as cocks and old hens; when both the piglet and the poultry are roasted, the poultry should be stuffed – without skinning it, if you wish; it should be (glazed) with an egg batter. And when it is glazed it should be seated astride the piglet; and it needs a helmet of glued paper and a lance couched at the breast of the bird, and these should be covered with gold-or-silver-leaf for lords, or with white, red or green tin-leaf.
Is tin leaf delicious? Is it edible? And I needn’t list a recipe for the celebrated cockentrice! Sew the front half of a pig to the back half of a chicken and visa versa! Another great dish: a festive roast peacock which has been dressed in its own splendid pelt and made to look as though it were breathing fire (a little cottonwool and camphor in the beak does the trick, ladies!)
If fire-breathing peacocks still leave you checking your sundial and wishing for someone to invent the Xbox, spice up your banquet with SCREAMING CHICKENS:
To Make that Chicken Sing
when it is dead and roasted, whether on the spit or in the platter. Take the neck of your chicken and bind it at one end and fill it with quicksilver and ground sulphur, filling until it is roughly half full; then bind the other end, not too tightly. When it is quite hot, and when the mixture heats up, the air that is trying to escape will make the chicken’s sound. The same can be done with a gosling, with a piglet and with any other birds. And if it doesn’t cry loudly enough, tie the two ends more tightly.
And finally, if the illusion of suffering is not enough to get your rocks off, check out my least favorite recipe of them all! (Warning: This recipe is terribly cruel and awful, so look out!)
A Goose roasted alive
A little before our times, a Goose was wont to be brought to the table of the King of Arragon, that was roasted alive, as I have heard by old men of credit. And when I went to try it, my company were so hasty, that we ate him up before he was quite roasted. He was alive, and the upper part of him, on the outside, was excellent well roasted. The rule to do it is thus. Take a Duck, or a Goose, or some such lusty creature, but he Goose is best for this purpose. Pull all the Feathers from his body, leaving his head and his neck. Then make a fire round about him, not too narrow, lest the smoke choke him, or the fire should roast him too soon. Not too wide, lest he escape unroasted. Inside set everywhere little pots full of water, and put Salt and Meum to them. Let the Goose be smeared all over with Suet, and well Larded, that he may be the better meat, and roast the better. Put the fire about, but make not too much haste. When he begins to roast, he will walk about, and cannot get forth, for the fire stops him. When he is weary, he quenches his thirst by drinking the water, by cooling his heart, and the rest of his internal parts. The force of the Medicament loosens and cleans his belly, so that he grows empty. And when he his very hot, it roasts his inner parts. Continually moisten his head and heart with a Sponge. But when you see him run mad up and down, and to stumble (his heart then wants moisture), wherefore you take him away, and set him on the table to your guests, who will cry as you pull off his parts. And you shall eat him up before he is dead.
In conclusion: The past was BAD.