Thursday, May 10, 2007

What's For Dinner?

I mentioned some food preferences in Roman and sub-Roman Britain earlier, as indicated by archeology. Another approach, using later literary sources, takes us back to the Law of Hywel. This source, remember, is 9th to 13th century, but it does give us some insight into what was available and how it was managed.

Like everyone else, a King and his court had to eat. How did they get their supplies? Well, one way was by going a circuit through the land, stopping at various places where the noble owners or the bound peasants were required to feed them. Another source was customary food renders, paid on a seasonal basis. Here's an example: the food-gift owed by a free township to the King in winter-time consists of "a horse-load of the best flour that grows on the land, and a meat steer, and a vat's quota of mead ... oats as horse-fodder ... a three-year-old pig, and a salt flitch with fat three fingers' breadth thick, and a vessel of butter three fistbreadths deep ... and three wide ... if the mead cannot be had, two quotas of bragget; if bragget cannot be had, four of beer." Summer food renders also mention cheese made from cow's milk. Vegetables are evidently much less important.

If this all sounds like the ingredients for a bacon cheeseburger, or possibly a pizza (without tomatoes!), there may be reasons. More tomorrow...

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