The Staff of Life: A Medieval Banquets Guest Post by USA Today Bestseller @RuthACasie #historicalfan
This is where it all started, the 1963 movie, Tom Jones. Albert Finney (Tom Jones) licks his chicken bones and Joyce Redman (Mrs Waters) looks like she's making love to an apple. It showed that playing with your food could be fun and anything edible will do! But what was a banquet really like?
The extravagant feasts and banquets of the Middle Ages are legendary. However, while menus for the wealthy were extensive, only small portions were taken. Hosts were expected to offer extensive choices.
Possibly prompted by the Crusades, extensive travel exposed people to new and exotic choices. They integrated these experiences into their lives and changed society. This led to a new and unprecedented interest in beautiful objects and elegant manners. This change extended to food preparation, presentation, and resulted in fabulous food arrangements with exotic colors and flavorings. Banquets prepared during the Middle Ages were fit for a king.
Staffing and Presenting the Banquet
The kitchen squires where responsible for provisioning the kitchen. Assisted by the cooks, they chose, purchased, and paid for the goods.
The food was plated on the serving dishes and staged in the kitchen until it was time to bring to the tables in the Great Hall.
The Noble of the castle, and his distinguished guests, sat at a great table that was set on a raised platform, a dais, at one of the hall.
Buffets were tables with a series of wooden stepped shelves. The number of shelves on the ‘Stepped Buffet’ indicated the host’s rank. The more shelves the higher the rank. Gold or silver service plates were used to impress the noble’s guests.
The banquet feast consisted of three, four, five, and even six courses. At times the presentations of the main courses were a theatrical representation with colored jellies of swans or peacocks or pheasants with their feathers. Served as a specialty the beak and feet of these birds were gilt and placed in the middle of the table as a centerpiece.
French Medieval Banquets
A French cooking historian described a great feast given in 1455 by the Count of Anjou, third son of King Louis II of Sicily. This description demonstrates just how theatrical the presentation was:
“On the table was placed a center-piece, which represented a green lawn, surrounded with large peacocks' feathers and green branches, to which were tied violets and other sweet-smelling flowers.
In the middle of this lawn a fortress was placed, covered with silver.
The fortress was hollow, and formed a sort of cage, in which several live birds were shut up, their tufts and feet being gilt.
On its tower, which was gilt, three banners were placed.
The first course consisted of a civet of hare, a quarter of stag which had been a night in salt, a stuffed chicken, and a loin of veal.
The two last dishes were covered with a German sauce, with gilt sugar-plums, and pomegranate seeds.
At each end, outside the green lawn, was an enormous pie, surmounted with smaller pies, which formed a crown. The crust of the large pies were silvered all round and gilt at the top.
Each pie contained a whole roe-deer, a gosling, three capons, six chickens, ten pigeons, one young rabbit, and, no doubt to serve as seasoning or stuffing, a minced loin of veal, two pounds of fat, and twenty-six hard-boiled eggs, covered with saffron and flavored with cloves.
For the three following courses, there was a roe-deer, a pig, a sturgeon cooked in parsley and vinegar, and covered with powdered ginger.
The feast continued with a kid goat, two goslings, twelve chickens, as many pigeons, six young rabbits, two herons, a leveret, a fat capon stuffed, four chickens covered with yolks of eggs and sprinkled with spice, a wild boar, some wafers and stars and a jelly, part white and part red represented the crests of the honored guests, cream covered with fennel seeds and preserved in sugar, a white cream, cheese in slices, and strawberries, and, lastly, plums stewed in rose-water.
Besides these four courses, there was a fifth, entirely of wines then in vogue, and of preserves. These consisted of fruits and various sweet pastries.”
I researched medieval banquets when I wrote the Knight of Runes. Eating is fundamental and enjoyable. While Arik and Rebeka don’t get it on quite like Tom and Mrs. Waters there is definitely an air of playfulness in the scene. The trouble every time I read that scene is I really get hungry. I’ll let you figure out for what!
Recipe Title: Rebeka’s Salmon with Brown Sugar Glaze
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill (or 2 teaspoons dried)
4 (6 ounce) salmon fillets
Salt and Pepper
1. Preheat the broiler
2. Spray the rack of a broiler pan with nonstick spray
3. Mix the brown sugar, mustard and dill together in a small bowl.
4. Salt and pepper both sides of the salmon and place on the broiler pan and spoon the brown sugar glaze on top. (You will not use all of it – it keeps forever in the fridge)
5. Position the broiler pan about 7 inches from the heat and broil just until its opaque, about 6 minutes
NOTE: Don’t turn the fillet. The glaze works well on chicken and pork.
Story about recipe:
This is a favorite recipe of our sorceress and scholarly heroine, Rebeka Tyler. She was ecstatic when she found the ingredients for this recipe in Doward’s wagon (the traveling tradesman). Imagine her surprise when Lord Arik brought home a fine salmon from fishing in the Stone River along with a healthy appetite. She couldn’t wait to tempt him with her offering(s). Luckily for both of them, this recipe takes less than ten minutes to prepare. This is the 21st century version.
PS…Rebeka served the salmon to Lord Arik in the Great Hall. Tantalized, he licked the sticky glaze from his fingers never taking his eyes off of her. But that’s a totally different story that’s available in KNIGHT OF RUNES.
Title: Knight of Runes
Author: Ruth A. Casie
Genre: Historical Fantasy, Historical Romance
When Lord Arik, a druid knight, finds Rebeka Tyler wandering his lands without protection, he swears to keep her safe. But Rebeka can take care of herself. When Arik sees her clash with a group of attackers using a strange fighting style, he’s intrigued.
Rebeka is no ordinary seventeenth-century woman—she’s travelled back from the year 2011, and she desperately wants to return home. She poses as a scholar sent by the king to find out what’s killing Arik’s land. But as she works to decode the ancient runes that are the key to solving this mystery and sending her home, she finds herself drawn to the charismatic and powerful Arik.
As Arik and Rebeka fall in love, someone in Arik’s household schemes to keep them apart and a dark druid with a grudge prepares his revenge. To defeat him, Arik and Rebeka must combine their skills. Soon Rebeka will have to decide whether to return to the future or trust Arik with the secret of her time travel and her heart.
RUTH A. CASIE is a USA Today bestselling author of swashbuckling action-adventure time-travel romance about strong empowered women and the men who deserve them, endearing flaws and all. Her Druid Knight novels have both finaled in the NJRW Golden Leaf contest. Writing with the Timeless Scribes, Ruth also writes contemporary romance with enough action to keep you turning pages. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, three empty bedrooms and a growing number of incomplete counted cross-stitch projects. Before she found her voice, she was a speech therapist (pun intended), client liaison for a corrugated manufacturer, and international bank product and marketing manager, but her favorite job is the one she’s doing now—writing romance. She hopes her stories become your favorite adventures. For more information, please visit www.RuthACasie.com or visit her on Facebook, @RuthACasie, Twitter, @RuthACasie, or Pinterest RuthACasie.