Saturday, December 1, 2018

Measurements and Conversions (Temperature and Recipe)

I am not sure about you, but when I need to know a conversion, I usually spend quite a bit of time researching on the network, or digging through my cooking books.  Now I know where to look :-) I hope you find this as helpful as I do. 

American Standard
American Standard
American Standard
American Standard (ounces)
1/2 pinch
1/32 teaspoon
2 Smidgens
1 Dash
1/16th of a tsp. 
1/8 teaspoon
.5 ml
8 Dashes
1 tsp.
5 ml.
¼ tsp
½ tsp.
¾ tsp.
1 teaspoon
5 ml.
1 Tablespoon
3 teaspoons
1/16 cup
½ ounce
15 ml.
14.5 grams
⅛ Cup
2 tablespoons
6 teaspoons
1  ounce
30 ml.
28.3 grams
¼ cup
4 tbsp.
12 tsp.
2 ounces
60 ml.
56.7 grams
⅓ cup
5 ⅓ tbsp.
16 tsp.
2.6 ounces
79 ml.
½ cup
8 tbsp.
24 tsp.
4 ounces
120 ml.
113.4 grams
¼ pound
1 stick of butter
⅔ cup
10 ⅔ tbsp.
32 tsp.
5 ⅓ ounces
158 ml
¾ cup
12 tbsp.
36 tsp.
6 ounces
180 ml.
170 grams
1 cup
16 tbps.
48 tsp.
8 ounces
½ pint
240 ml.
225 grams
½ pound
1 pint
32 tbsp.
2 cups
16 ounces
500 ml.
450 grams
1 pound
1 quart
2 pints
4 cups
32 ounces
95 liters
1 gallon
16 cups
4 quarts
8 pints
128 ounces
3.70 liters
8 quarts
1 peck
4 pecks
1 bushel

Liquid Measures

Liquid Measure
2 Tbsp.
1 fluid ounce

3 Tbsp.
1 jigger
1.5 ounces
1/4 cup
2 fluid ounces

1/2 cup
4 fluid ounces

1 cup
8 fluid ounces

Temperature conversion

To convert Fahrenheit to Centigrade

1.    Subtract 32
2.       Multiple by 5
3.       Divide by 9

To convert Centigrade to Fahrenheit

1.       Multiply by 9
2.       Divide by 5
3.       Add 32

To scale your recipes up or down: Converting recipe quantities seems like a mystery but once you know the number of servings you wish to serve, and you know how many servings the recipe you are  using creates the conversion is quite simple.  

To find your conversion factor (the number that you are going to use to scale up or scale down) simply divide the desired number of servings by the original number of servings.

Example One:

Recipe serves 6 but you want to serve 12.

Divide 12 by 6 to get a conversion factor of 2

12/6 = Conversion factor of 2
Example Two:

Recipe serves 12 but you want to serve 8.

Divide 12 by 8 to get conversion factor of .25

12/8 = conversion factor of  0.25

Once you know the conversion factor you can scale up or down by multiplying  each ingredient of a  recipe by the conversion factor.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Harleian MS. 4016, (~1450) Guisseƚƚ.

Harleian MS. 4016, (~1450) Guisseƚƚ.
Bread Dumplings
Guisseƚƚ.-- An interesting dish which makes very thrify use of bread that has been turned into bread crumbs, eggs and broth flavored with parsley and sage and colored with saffron. Sounds a lot like dressing, yes? My recipe creates many small, irregularly shaped "curds", or dumplings.  Bonus? The broth thickens as the bread cooks leaving you with a gravy that you can use elsewhere.  I do not recommend using it with your dumplings.  They become very sticky and unappetizing!  The instructions can be found in Two fifteenth-century cookery-books : Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430), & Harl. MS. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1439, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS. 55 by Thomas Austin. Harleian MS. 4016, ab. 1450 A.D. 

The instructions are just vague enough that I wasn't very certain of what I would end up with once it had been interpreted and cooked.  I was half expecting a wet mucky (and unappetizing) unbaked dressing.  What I ended up with was something that closely resembled a dumpling. I wonder if it's the precursor to boiled puddings?

The process reminded me very much of making the "rivals" for potato soup with rivals.  The difference being that you "pinch off" pieces of the rival dough and put it into the boiling soup, whereas here we are instructed to "cast the stuff to the broth into the pan".  Rather than pinch off pieces of dough, I made the dough somewhat crumbly, and then dropped by handfuls into the boiling broth and cooked till they came to the surface. Then using a slotted spoon, I fished out the dumplings and went on to the next batch and the next...this made A LOT of dumplings.  As mentioned previously, I made a slight mistake when cooking the very last batch and didn't drain them as well as I wanted to :-/ There wasn't a lot of the thickened broth left but there was enough that the entire batch became bit sticky and gummy.  I thought I had ruined it--but guess what? Treating them like spaetzle, I cooked them up in some bacon fat (which makes everything better). 

Harleian MS. 4016, ab. 1450 A.D. Guisseƚƚ. [supplied by ed.] *. [Taken from Douce MS. ] [folio 15.] ¶ Take faire capon̄ brotℏ, or of beef, And sette hit ouer the fire, and caste þerto myced sauge, parcelly and saffron̄, And lete boile; And streyn̄ the white and þe yolke of egges thorgℏ a streynour, and caste there-to faire grated brede, and medle hit togidre with thi honde, And caste the stuff to the brotℏ into þe pan̄; And stirre it faire and softe til hit come togidre, and crudded; And þen̄ serue it forth hote.

Guissell. (Note: Taken from Douce MS.)
Take faire capon broth, or of beef, And sette hit ouer the fire, and caste therto myced sauge, parcelly and saffron, And lete boile; And streyn the white and the yolke of egges thorgh a streynour, and caste there-to faire grated brede, and medle hit togidre with thi honde, And caste the stuff to the broth into the pan; And stirre it faire and softe til hit come togidre, and crudded; And then serue it forth hote

Guissell. (Note: Taken from Douce MS.) Take faire capon broth or of beef, and set it over the fire and cast thereto minced sage, parsley and saffron, and let it boil; and strain the white and the yolk of eggs through a strainer, and cast thereto grated bread and meddle it all together with your hand, and caste the stuff to the broth into the pan; and stir it fare and soft till it come together, and curded; and then serve it forth hot.

Interpreted Recipe

2 cups bread crumbs
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs

4 cups water
1 tsp. sage
1 tbsp. parsley
Pinch of saffron

Put your breadcrumbs and salt (which was added for modern taste) into a bowl, create a well and add in your eggs one at a time until it starts to form lumps.  Mean wile, heat up the water, sage, parsley and saffron till it comes to a boil and then lower the heat so that the water is simmering.  Add the dough in small batches until the  irregularly shaped, curded dough floats like delicious pillowy dumplings. Using a slotted spoon remove from the broth and let drain while you are cooking your next batch.  

I imagine since these appear to be very similar to Spaetzle that you could, if you wish to prepare them in advance, put them on a sheet pan, freeze and then thaw and cook with a little bit of butter or bacon fat before serving, although that is cook's prerogative and has nothing to do with the original recipe.   

Now I totally cheated and used leftover herb stuffing mix, so my bread crumbs taste a bit like ummmm ~whispers~ stuffing mix that has been made into crumbs in the blender (Hey! They were *on sale* and turning stuffing into crumbs requires very little effort).  The dumplings were perfectly lovely until I didn't drain that last batch very well. What a happy mistake...fried up in bacon fat they are nothing short of magical.

In reality, these dumplings were very likely served *in* the broth, and not outside of it.  So bear that in mind, you may need a lot more broth then I created.  I am planning on serving these as a side dish with a roasted chicken, and therefore choose not to serve them in the broth at this time. 

Similar Recipes

Forme of Cury (England, 1390)

Jusshell. XX.II. III. Take brede ygrated and ayrenn and swyng it togydre. do erto safroun, sawge. and salt. & cast broth. þerto. boile it & messe it forth

A Noble Boke off Cookry (England, 1468)

To mak jusselle tak the swet brothe of a capon or of other good flesshe and set it on the fyere in a large vesselle colour it with saffron put ther to saige cut gret and salt it then tak eggs and drawe them through a strener and temper grated bread and eggs and stirre it to gedure till they be ronn and let the erbes be well mellid to gedur and when yt begynnythe to boille tak out the pot stik and turn the curd about with a scorner and let not the fyere be to hasty when it is throughe knyt tak it from the fyere and couyr it and serue it

Thomas Awkbarow's Recipes (MS Harley 5401)

Jussell. Recipe brede gratyd & egges & swyng þam togydere, & do þerto sawge & saferon & salt; þan take gode broth & cast it þerto, & bole it enforesayd, & do þerto as to charlete, & serof.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430) - .lij. Gyngaudre.

Image result for medieval fishes
Illustration from The Book of Wonders of the Age” (St Andrews ms32)

This is one of several recipes that I will interpret but will not prepare. Eating fish offal is just a little bit more adventurous then I prefer. While eating offal is part of the new movement of nose to tail dining, where no part of an animal is wasted, eating specific fish offal carries with it particular risks related to toxins in our water. Cod liver is enjoyed in many parts of the world and if you cannot find it at your local fish market, it can be ordered through Amazon. The liver is described as being creamy and fishy and mild in the bitter offal flavor.

If you are feeling adventurous you can prepare the recipe below, and if you are not feeling so adventurous, you can prepare this using an assortment of fish fillets and omit the livers. Fish heads contain a surprising amount of meat, including the cheek and jowl and collar considered to be the tastiest and most succulent bits of meat on a fish.  You can also eat the tongue, the area around the eye socket, lips and eyes.

There is a question about what a fish pouch is.  I attempted to research this but to no avail.  I then asked a Chef friend what he thought the fish pouch might be and he believes it might refer to the sack of roe.  Alternatively "pouch" could be a misspelling of "paunch" referring to the fish belly. I have interpreted it to mean the roe sack.  I will leave it to you to do your best guess.

.lij. Gyngaudre.Take þe Lyuerys of Codlyngys, Haddok, Elys, or þe Hake hed, or Freysshe Mylweƚƚ hedys, þe Pouches, & þe Lyuerys, an sethe hem in fayre Water; þan take hem vp on a fayre bord, & mynce smal þe pouches; þan take gode freysshe brothe of Samoun, or Turbut, or of Elys, & cast þe mynced pouches þer-to, & pouder Pepyr, & let boyle; þan take þe brothe, þe pouches & þe lyuerys wer sodoun in, in a stipe*. [? meaning. ] or on fayre brede, & draw þorw a straynoure, & þan mynce þe lyuer in fayre pecys; & [leaf 13 bk.] whan þe pouches haue boylid, an þe licoure, caste þe leuer þer-to, an let boyle a whyle: þan caste þer-to þe lyuerys, Wyne, Venegre, Safroun, Salt, & late it boyle a whyle, and serue forth þat rennyng.

lij - Gyngaudre. Take the Lyuerys of Codlyngys, Haddok, Elys, or the Hake hed, or Freysshe Mylwell hedys, the Pouches, and the Lyuerys, an sethe hem in fayre Water; than take hem vp on a fayre bord, and mynce smal the pouches; than take gode freysshe brothe of Samoun, or Turbut, or of Elys, and cast the mynced pouches ther-to, and pouder Pepyr, and let boyle; than take the brothe, the pouches and the lyuerys wer sodoun in, in a stipe (Note: ? meaning) or on fayre brede, and draw thorw a straynoure, and than mynce the lyuer in fayre pecys; and whan the pouches haue boylid, an the licoure, caste the leuer ther-to, an let boyle a whyle: than caste ther-to the lyuerys, Wyne, Venegre, Safroun, Salt, and late it boyle a whyle, and serue forth that rennyng.

52 - Gyngaudre - Take the livers of Codlyngys (a young or small cod, possibly preserved in some way), Haddock, Eels, or the Hake Head, or Fresh Milwell (a kind of cod) heads, the pouches, and the livers, and boil them in fair water; then take them up on a fair board and mince small the pouches; then take good fresh broth of salmon, or turbut, or eels and cast the minced pouches thereto, and powder pepper, and let boil; then take the broth, the pouches and the liver were cooked in, in a stipe, or on fair bread and draw through a strainer, and then mince the liver in fair pieces; and when the pouches have boiled, and the liquor, cast the liver there-to, and boil awhile: then caste there-to the livers, wine, vinegar, saffron, salt and let it boil a while, and serve forth that running.

Interpreted Recipe                                                                            Serves 1, 2 as a Side

1 fish head (Cod, Haddock, Hake preferred), livers and roe sacks or 1/4 pound fish fillets
3/4 cup fish stock
1/4 cup vinegar mix (1 tbsp each white wine, white wine vinegar and water)
Pinch of saffron
1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper

Boil your fish heads, livers until cooked, remove from broth and allow to cool.  Remove flesh from the head and mince the roe and the liver.  Strain stock and return to pot. Add saffron, salt and pepper and return your fish to the pot.  Bring to boil and serve.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Cooking with Kids

Below is a class I had written addressing "Cooking with Kids" . It is one a series of presentations I had hoped to do that would introduce the younger members of the SCA to the culinary arts. This is a very general introduction to cooking with children which includes information on safety tips, age based skills and strategies that you can use at home.

Why cook with your children? The earlier your child learns how to cook, the sooner they will learn an essential life skill. Spending time in the kitchen gives children confidence and boosts their self esteem. It also teaches responsibility. An added benefit is that your children are learning science, language, fine motor skills, reading, problem solving, weighing, measuring, budgeting, sequencing, following directions and patience--and they don't even realize it :-)

Meals prepared from scratch are usually healthier, containing more nutrients, fewer calories, chemicals and sweeteners then prepackaged foods. Preparing meals together means you are spending quality time with your children. The time you spend together chatting and communicating is important.

Introducing your child to cooking can start at a very young age. As soon as my children were old enough to stand at the stove, they were old enough to learn how to cook--yes, they were in the kitchen banging on pots and pans, playing with measuring cups and spoons at the age of two.  While it seems that children of this age are limited, there is plenty they can do.  They are beginning to develop their motor skills, and their attention is very limited so remember to tailor your tasks to their particular abilities.  

As your children grow older you should allow them to increase their activities.  By six years old, they are starting to develop their own likes, opinons and desires.  They want to participate in activities that they see their older siblings or parents do.  Instead of telling your child "you are too young" encourage them in the kitchen!  It is an environment where you can safely supervise their activities while allowing them to explore. At this age you can also start introducing "projects", for example, making your own butter by adding cream and a little salt to a jar and letting them shake it.  They can also help you plan meals or find items in the pantry or fridge.  Don't tell them "they are too young"--they aren't. 

As early as nine years old, your child should be able to put together and cook a very simple meal. This is a perfect time to start speaking to your children about food safety and cross contamination.  You should be present in the kitchen, but allow your child to cook a meal once or twice a week.  Don't forget, that part of cooking is cleaning up afterwords.  Set aside a space for your child to grow their own garden vegetables too! 

It was in the kitchen that some of my most significant conversations took place.  It was our safe area, no topic is off limits and my children and their friends were able to discuss relationships, health concerns, hopes and dreams.  All three of my babies are out of the house now, but the kitchen is still a central part of our home.  

I hope you enjoy.

P.S.  This is my first attempt at bringing a power point presentation to blogger.

Friday, June 1, 2018

What? Wortys? Oh..those Brassica's!

Another remodel--the sun room which is attached directly to the kitchen making using the kitchen a challenge! So I thought I would try to cobble together a few more quick posts. Today's discusses the first five recipes found in Two fifteenth-century cookery-books : Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430), & Harl. MS. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1439, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS. 55 by Thomas Austin, discussing wortys.  What are worts? Some of them might surprise you.

.j. Lange Wortys de chare. -  a budget friendly and delicious dish of greens cooked in homemade beef broth thicked with bread crumbs and gently seasoned to your taste.  A noble dish for any table.

.ij. Lange Wortes de pesoun. - The second recipe in the pottages section elevates a simple dish of greens, lange wortys de chare, by adding peas that have been cooked to a mush and onions.  The pea's add a pleasant sweetness to an otherwise savory dish.  A must try.

iij - Joutes. - take a dish of greens, wild foraged or store bought, cook them in beef broth and "serve it forth in a dish, an bacon boiled in another dish, as men serve furmenty with venison."  Sound familiar? 

.iiij. Caboges. - another dish that should sound vaguely familiar and one of two recipes in the pottages section of the MS 279 specifically mentioning cabbage.  This has become my go-to for cooking "beef and cabbage", elevate this dish by following directions and "when you serve it in, knock out the marrow of the bones, and lay the marrow, two pieces, or three, in a dish as it seem best, and serve forth."

.v. Whyte wortes. - I grew up eating creamed spinach and was pleasantly surprised to find this recipe for creamed greens, appropriate for lent.  Almond milk is used instead of cow's milk to create this very simple dish which has become a family favorite.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Arranging the Feast: The Application of Medieval Dietary Theory to Modern Day Feasts

 This paper represents my very first competition & research paper.  Be kind with your constructive criticism, offer solutions and suggestions along with your critique.   I welcome it, I wish to improve not only research but in writing. 
Thank you!

Arranging the Feast:
The Application of Medieval Dietary Theory to Modern Day Feasts
Bronwyn Ni Mhathain
MKA: Yonnie Travis
Society for Creative Anachronism

Facebook: Give it Forth & Historic Cookery Group



Introduction.. 4
Greek Dietetics. 5
Theory of Digestion.. 7
Feeding the Humors or the Role of the Cook and Health.. 9
Introduction to Structuring the Feast. 10
Defining the Sequence. 11
Putting it all Together –or- Creating the Modern “Medieval” Menu.. 14
Conclusion.. 16
References. 18
Appendix A: Sequence of the Menu.. 20
Appendix B: John Russells -A dynere of flesche. 21
Appendix C:Maistre Chiquart: The Service of Dinner on the First Day. 22
Appendix D: Le Menagier De Paris (~1393). 24


Many years ago, I brought a friend who is a historian to an SCA event.  They enjoyed their time at the event, marveled at the efforts to recreate a “modern” medieval tournament.  They enjoyed the fighting, clothing, classes and demonstrations of skill and prowess. However, when it came to time feast, my friend was a bit disappointed. They were expecting to see the same care and thought in the feast as they had seen all day throughout the event.  My friend enjoyed the food that was served and the hospitality and joviality of the hall, however, the food was not quite period, and the menu itself was “too modern” in design.  It was their comment “you work so hard to recreate a specific atmosphere, but you fell down at the feast” that in part led to my researching how meals were served.
It was this comment that made me ask the questions; “What dietary theories were used in period?”, “How can we apply the dietary practices of the time period we are emulating to our feasts?”, and “Is this feasible?” This paper will explain how to create a modern “Medieval” menu using the dietary theories and practices that were prevalent during the 14th and 15th Centuries specifically in England, although it will touch very lightly on other cultures (France and Italy) as well.  
To understand the structure of a medieval feast, a very basic understanding of Greek dietetics, humors and most importantly the theory of digestion is necessary.  Additionally, a glossary of terms used in France and England will be presented as a means of emulating the sequences that were used in the structure of a feast.  Lastly, how to apply this theory to a modern “Medieval” menu will be offered, along with suggestions for various dishes which would be appropriate to be served throughout the various sequences.


How were medieval banquets served?  The modern diner has an idea on how food is to be served, starting with an appetizer and ending in dessert. This idea dates back to the Greeks and their idea of how to remain healthy through diet. Modern diners are used to a logical sequence of dishes served in a style that became popular in the mid-19th century known as service “a la Russe”.  This style of dining is characterized by carefully choreographed dishes, served in a sequential manner, to an individual according to the relevance of the dish and its function within the meal set (Flandrin, 2007).
Prior to the 19th century, the style of service for a meal was known as “a la Francaise”. It was characterized by serving a variety of dishes at the same time. Oftentimes, the guests would arrive at the table to find that the food had already been placed upon it.  The guests would pick and choose what they would eat based upon what was within easy reach. Upon completion of a specific course, the dishes were removed from the table, and the next course would be brought to it. This style of service, with its formality in the presentation of dishes focused on showing off the wealth and or power of the host. It became predominant in the 17th century (1601-1700), but its roots, are firmly grounded in the dining styles of the previous centuries (Flandrin, 2007) .
Prior to the 17th century, the service (or courses) would have been referred to as a messe (Middle English for meal ~ 1300), mets (Old French for a course or portion of food ~1300), or assiettes (French for Platter ~ 13th Century).  In medieval menus courses could be identified by number (first, second, third, or premier, seconde, tiers), or they could be identified by name (potage, rost, desserte). The terms service, course, dishes (mets), platters/trays (assiettes) are interchangeable, or at the very least equivalent to each other when referring to the different segments of a medieval meal.
Formal meals consisted of several courses each containing multiple dishes which would be served at the same time. However, the number of courses presented varied upon culture and if a meal was served for supper or lunch (dinner). French menus consisted of two, three or four courses; English two or three and Italians could have as few as two or three and as many as twelve courses.  This variance makes it difficult to see or understand a basic meal structure. 
To understand the structure of a meal prepared in the 14th or 15th century, an understanding of Greek dietetics, humors and most importantly the theory of digestion which was a prevalent part of medieval society is necessary. The cook was as much physician as cook, who understood that part of his responsibilities was the health and wellness of the household in which he served and to structure his meal accordingly.

Greek Dietetics

Early Greek philosophers intent on answering questions on the origin of all things, including man,  came to the conclusion (between the sixth and fourth centuries BC) that all things which exist contain within them varying degrees of the elements fire, water, air, and earth.  They also concluded that these four elements had specific qualities associated with them; hot, cold, dry and wet. Further it was agreed that things could not be both hot and cold, or wet and dry, but varying degrees of these qualities. Each quality had attributes associated with them; hot, cold, wet or dry.
Hippocrates writes in his Regimen 1.4-5 “Each of these elements has the following attributes.  Fire is hot and dry, water cold and wet.  By mutual exchange fire has moisture from water. (For in fire there is moisture.) Water has dryness from fire. (for there is dryness in water.) This being the case, there separate off from one another many forms of every kind, both of seeds and of living creatures, which are not all like one another either in appearance or power (Longrigg, 1998).”
Each of the four compound qualities (cold and dry, hot and moist, hot and dry, and cold and moist) was associated with a specific bodily humor in Man. Hippocrates wrote “The Human body contains blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. These are the things that make up its constitution and cause its pains and health. Health is primarily that state in which these constituent substances are in the correct proportion to each other, both in strength and quantity, and are well mixed. Pain occurs when one of the substances presents either a deficiency or an excess, or is separated in the body and not mixed with others (Jones, 1931).”
Claudius Galen (129-199) believed each of the humors not only contained specific qualities, but were also associated with specific temperaments, also known as personalities; sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric and melancholic. The Sanguine temperament was associated with blood, which was both hot and moist and related to the element of air. Galen’s phlegmatic temperament was associated with water and was both cold and wet. Yellow bile was associated with the choleric temperament and the element of fire.  It was hot and dry. Lastly, black bile was associated with the qualities of being both cold and dry.  The temperament of black bile was melancholic and was associated with the element of earth.

Theory of Digestion

Each of the humors present in the bloodstream was considered byproducts of the act of digestion. The theory of digestion according to Hippocratic medicine was a process that likened the stomach to an oven. Air combined with food and created the fuel necessary for the “innate heat” of the stomach.  Galen postulated that digestion occurred in the stomach by heating up food that had been ingested and transforming it into something that the body could properly assimilate.  However, there was a right and wrong way that food could be eaten. Eating the wrong food was just as unhealthy as eating too much food or eating food out of order. This theory strongly influenced the way people ate in the late 14th early 15th centuries (Ogle, 1882). 
The Greeks believed that digestion was composed of four separate processes.  In the first process, food was passed from the mouth to the stomach where it began its transformation.   Food was then passed to the liver where the second process of digestion occurs and the humors were created. Blood was the first humor to appear, and was created from the most nutrient dense materials. It was during the third process of digestion that the remaining humors were created.  Phlegm was the second humor to appear and would be stored in the lungs as mucus.  Any remaining nutrients were then converted to yellow bile which was not as plentiful as either blood or phlegm and would be stored in the gallbladder to be used as needed. Lastly, black bile would be created from the least nutritious and coarsest materials and stored in the spleen. The ingested food was then passed into the veins for the fourth digestion.
According to Hippocrates “Either because of the quantity of things taken, or through their diversity, or because the things taken happen to be strong and difficult of digestion, residues are thereby produced, and when the things that have been taken are too many, the heat that produces digestion is overpowered by the multitude of foods and does not affect digestion.  And because digestion is hindered, residues are formed…...When however, they are coarse and hard to digest, there occurs hindrance of digestion because they are hard to assimilate, and so change to residues takes place.  From the residues rise gases, which having arisen bring on disease (Temkin, (2002).”
An individual's health was the direct result of the interactions of the humors in the body.  If the humors were imbalanced then a person became ill.  The stomach played a central role in the health of the individual.  If the digestive “fire” of the stomachs were not hot enough, or if the stomach was unable to properly digest food, illness would occur. If a person ate too much food the heat of the stomach would be unable to properly digest it. Or, if a person ate a food that was considered difficult to digest, “out of turn”, the remaining food residue would ferment and rot, leading to the creation of ill humors.  Therefore, a person needed to be careful about not only the quantity of what was eaten, but in what order.
The act of digestion started with the cook who would apply his knowledge of the nature and temperament of food to create dishes that were nourishing, sustaining and balanced the humors.  It was his responsibility to determine the structure of the meal, not through random actions or without thought but with the understanding of the dire consequence of ill health and disease that would come as a result of improper cooking and eating.

Feeding the Humors or the Role of the Cook and Health

By the late 14th early 15th centuries, the dietetics of the Greeks and the health benefits of food had become integrated in the household. Books such as the Tacuinum Sanitatis (The Handbook of Health) and the Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum contained detailed descriptions of how to remain healthy through diet and daily habits. Physicians would use these books and work tirelessly to create diets appropriate to maintain the health of an individual or to help that individual overcome a disease.  The medieval cook’s goal then was to produce a meal, based on the physicians’ recommendations, whose overall net balance was equal to an average adult’s balanced humoral nature-- moderately moist and warm. 
Not all foods have the quality of being moist and warm.  Among the many responsibilities the medieval cook had, was to be aware of the nature of everything that entered his kitchen, from wet and cold water to the excessive heat and dryness of garlic. He also had to know how to cook food to make it safe for eating. Different cooking methods had a direct effect on the temperament of food.  Roasting not only heated food, it dried it.  Boiling also heated food, but it added moisture as well. Baking was a method of both heating and drying food, but the nature of the pie shell protected the existing moisture of its contents.  If the contents needed to have more moisture, fat such as marrow was added to it. As the cook applied various methods of cooking; boiling, roasting, grilling, baking, the qualities of the food would change. 

Introduction to Structuring the Feast

A cook was under great pressure to ensure that not only was the correct kinds of foods were eaten, but also responsible for ensuring food would be eaten in the correct order. Based on the theory of digestion, in order to achieve proper digestion, and to prevent illness from food rotting or fermenting in the stomach the diner had to eat food in the correct order.  The logical progression of the meal moved from those items closest to our temperament and easiest to digest to those items that would progressively become more difficult to digest.
In 1475 Platina advises “At the first table (the opening of the meal) are served all things laxative, light, appetizing, and not very filling (Flandrin, 2007).” Following the opening of the meal came pottages and broths (being both warm and moist) and oftentimes composed of foods that thought to be easiest to digest.  Platina then writes “Roasts are more nourishing and more difficult to cook (digest) than boiled meats….roasted and fried flesh is much more filling and harder to digest for being too dry and without humors; but if boiled it is moist and digestible, provided it is not fat, in which case, as we said, better roasted than boiled.”  At the suggestions of Platina, the proper sequence would be liquid before solid, boiled before sauced, sauced before roasted or cooked on a spit, and cooked on a spit before grilled.
Roasting and grilling both heated and dried food. These methods of cooking were appropriate for foods that were cold and moist in nature.  However, to bring the food back into balance, the cook might need to “temper” it, with a sauce. Woe to the hapless cook who deliberately spit roasted a joint of beef (dry and hot) without serving it with an appropriate sauce to bring it back into balance! Frying was another method of cooking that was both heating and moisturizing.  It was an appropriate method of cooking for foods that were already of proper temperament, like chicken.
At the conclusion of the meal, the diner then had to close the stomach, to ensure that the digestive fires remained hot enough to properly digest the food which had been consumed.  It is in this sequence that you would find not only foods appropriate to “open the stomach” but foods that were appropriate to close it; spices and sugar (Flandrin, 2007).

Defining the Sequence

There was a very logical sequence to the progression of a banquet in the 14th and 15th century. The meal centered on a roast and could be preceded by two or more courses, and finished by as many as three courses after the roast. Each of the main cultures; English, Italian and French had their own way of referring to this sequence.
Courses might be referred to as dishes (mets), platters (assiettes), service, table, or  servings.  The Online Etymological Dictionary (N.D.) states that the word “course” in the 13th century referred to a forward or onward movement; however, by the 14th century it had become associated with meals.  In medieval menus courses can be identified by number (first, second, third, or premier, seconde, tiers), or they could be identified by name (potage, rost, desserte).  Modernly a course refers to specific set dishes that are served together during a meal. 
Serving is derived from the Latin servire, to be in service or to be a servant and references the actual act of getting food from the kitchen to the diner.  Modernly, serving refers to the amount of food that is given to an individual at a meal, as well as the act of portioning and distributing food. The terms course, dishes (mets), platters (assiettes), service, table or serving are interchangeable, or at the very least equivalent.  Even the much lamented “remove”, from relevé, meaning a course which relieved or followed the entrée (derived from the old French relever meaning to remove) could be used. However the first recorded usage of the word “relever” is dated to approximately 1825 (Online Etymological Dictionary, n.d.).
Each course in a formal meal contained multiple dishes all of which would be served at the same time. The number of dishes varied between lunch and supper and also varied depending on the culture. For example, several of the suggested menus presented in Le Menagier consist of three courses with approximately six to eight dishes per course. The Harleian Manuscripts contain menus usually featuring three courses with upwards to a dozen -or more- dishes per course.
To define the forward progression of a meal it is important to understand the terminology that would have been used at the time and its modern day equivalent. Once an understanding of the progression of dishes throughout a feast sequence can be understood, putting together a menu that can emulate this progression becomes an easy task. Jean Louis Flandrin provides a workable progression in his book “Arranging the Feast”.

Entrée de table, entrance, or entrée, appetizer, aperitif

The modern diner might equate the Entrée de table (entrance) or entrée in the sequence of dishes to an aperitif, appetizers, or hors d’oeuvres. The term entrée appears around 1536 (Hyman, 1992) and is used to describe the first stage of a meal.  It is the name for dishes that were set on the table before diners entered the room.  It consists of wine and small bites of food meant to awaken the appetite.
Aperitif comes from the Medieval Latin word aperitivus, meaning “to open”.   Appetizer, the word most modern diners are familiar with was first used in the 1820’s and means “to whet the appetite”.   In French, “Hors D'oeuvres” means “outside the main” and does not come into common usage until the mid 17th century.


Following the entrance are pottages and broths. The first usage of the word “pottage” can be traced back to 1200 and is derived from the old French potage, meaning something that could be put into a pot..


               Many menus of the 14th and 15th century describe beautifully elaborate dishes that were for show.  The French referred to these dishes as entremet while the English would refer to them subtlety, sotelty or soteltie.  In the 12th century, entremets referred specifically to entertainments, or an elaborate dish or course featuring a spectacle dish or dishes which were served between courses. However, by the 17th century, an entremet had come to mean a dish that was served between a roast and the dessert. 


               The roast consists of foods that have been exposed to dry heat, baked, roasted or grilled. It is derived from late 13th century word rostir meaning “to cook or burn”.  At the suggestions of Platina, the medieval cook would serve a meat boiled in a sauce, or a meat which had been roasted to be served with a sauce.  Additional cooking methods that might have been used include meat that had been cooked on a spit or a grill, frying or an item that had been baked.


The term “dessert” comes from the French desservir meaning to clear the table, indicating to the diner that they had come to the end of their meal. The first recorded usage of the term desservir was in 1539.  At the conclusion of the meal, there would be served a series of dishes that could be either savory or sweet.  The modern diner expects a completely sweet course, and it is in this progression of the dishes a resurgence of dry and warm spices and hot and moist sugar is prevalent.

Issue de Table

 After diners had finished desert they would be invited to withdraw from the table and enter into another room, where they received the Issue de Table, an offering that could be as narrow as wafers and hypocras or as broad as a selection of light pastries, wafers, juice, or wine.  

Boute Hor’s (Send-off, bow out)

               The last part of a meal in the 14th and 15th century, was the boute hor’s, or send off.   Diners received wine and épices de chambre (chamber spices), fruit candied in sugar or honey, candied nuts and fruit pastes. Not only did these items have the benefit of serving to further close the stomach, they also freshened the breath.

Putting it all Together –or- Creating the Modern “Medieval” Menu

Fortunately recreating the general feel of these elaborate feasts is much easier for the SCA cook. Our modern diners are used to meals that consist of three to four courses of three to four dishes each. This is not to say that the modern medieval cook cannot follow the general outline for the sequence of the meal and serve five courses, starting with appetizers sitting on table and ending with small gifts of chamber spices and candied fruit for the guests to take home.  But as a general rule of thumb, a modern day SCA-feast usually consists of something on the table, a first course, second course and a dessert course.
The modern medieval diner expects to find something on the table when they are preparing to eat. The modern medieval cook can easily fulfill this expectation by placing upon the table dishes appropriate for the Entrée de table (entrance), or entrée (appetizer, aperitif). To borrow a page from Le Menagier, there could be a first platter (items upon the table at the beginning of the feast) consisting of veal or fish pies, sausages and toast rounds with a sweet wine (or grape juice).  Or, capons (chicken) served with a cumin sauce, cress and sorrel with vinegar, olives and tarts of veal.  John Russels “Boke of Nurture” suggests as a first course brawn with mustard, pottages of herbs and wine, and leche lombard.
Some additional suggestions for foods that would be appropriately fitting to serve as appetizers include sweet wines, confections made with spices such as ginger, caraway, anise, fennel or cumin, peaches, melons, cherries, strawberries, grapes, lettuce with oil and vinegar dressings, cabbages, boiled eggs, or honeyed dishes.
A modest first course could be brought to the table featuring two potages, one of meat and one of vegetables, perhaps served over sippets of toasted bread or with a loaf of bread brought to the table. Le Menagier suggests as a second service; a stew of meat, almond broth, blaunche porree, a thickened dish of leeks cooked in almond milk served with thin slices of chicken, and peas. Maistre Chiquart suggests a bruet of almayn and a bruet of Savoy, lamprey sauce with numbles of beef, platters of salted meats in seasons, green porray and any other sauce but mustard.
For the more elaborate second course highlighting the “main” dish (and the highlight of the meal), Le Menagier suggests  roast, the best you can get with appropriate sauces, rich pastries, lombardy tarts, sweet chestnuts and thin pancakes or cream fritters.   This is the course where it is the most appropriate to serve heavier meats which have been roasted, baked or in a pastry shell, served cold (froide sauge), jellied (jelly of meat or fish) or sliced.  Maistre Chiquart suggests “large roasts put themselves” including a whole piglet or kid, and after the roasts trays of fowl including goose, pheasant and partridge, and reminds the cook to pay attention to the sauces used recommending simple salt, sauce piquant, jance or cameline.
The modern cook is not limited in the items that can be served.  Other items that could be included in this course are nuts (especially with fish), aged cheeses (especially with meat), vegetables that have been roasted, baked or fried, pears, apples, quince, medlars or chestnuts. It is not uncommon to find pancakes or other fried dishes such as fritters in this course.
Lastly an elaborate third course composed of all manner of sweet or savory dishes to signal the ending of the meal.  A modern medieval cook may choose to end their meal with a variety of dishes such as a custard tart, stewed fruits, wafers with snow, fruit pastes, manus christi and spices in comfit.  Other items for consideration include sweet dishes made with honey and sugar, glazed dishes, crepes, fruit rissoles, puddings, custards, and light cakes.
At many modern feasts, the Issue de Table is not observed, but suggestions to invoke the spirit of the Issue include the addition of candied fruits, spices and nuts, along with candied ginger, fruit pastes and other sweetmeats served with spiced fruit juice or wine.


To answer the question, “How were medieval banquets served?”  They were served in accordance to the cook’s general knowledge of health, carefully cooked according to the nature of the item being served. An individual's health was the direct result of the interactions of the humors created through the process of digestion in the body.  If the humors were unbalanced then a person became ill. 
The act of digestion started with the cook who would apply his knowledge of the nature and temperament of food to not only create the meal but to determine the structure of it. At the suggestions of Platina, the medieval cook would serve dishes that were light, appetizing and easily digested. Each successive course would then become increasingly more difficult to digest until the meal concluded. 
The modern cook can easily simulate the feel of a medieval feast by following the structure that our medieval predecessors used; appetizers, pottages, stewed or braised foods, sauced, roasted, fried, grilled or baked dishes, and lastly desert.  A cook wishing to extend the feel of the feast should look at the details, nuts served after fish, hard cheese after meat, wine or fruit juices at the beginning and the end of the meal, and lastly, a selection of comfits, candies and sweetmeats to send their guests home.


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Appendix A: Sequence of the Menu

Course Name
SCA Course
Examples of kinds of food served according to Flandrin
Entrance (First)
Open Stomach, Excite appetite
On table
Greens with oil and vinegar, Sweet, Juicy, and Easily Perishable Fruit (cherries, melons, strawberries, peaches), spicy foods (salt, pepper, cinnamon, mace, cloves, etc.) fresh cheese, delicate easily digested non fatty meats
Pottages -foods cooked in a pot
Meat or vegetables cooked in a pot with broth or almond milk such as sops, bruets, porree, cive, stews, graves, or porrays
Roast-foods that have been exposed to dry heat, baked, roasted, or grilled
Roasted meat dishes, meat dishes served with sauce, baked in a pastry shell, fattier meat, grain based dishes such as frumenty or eisings, jellied, and sliced dishes, vegetables that have been roasted or baked, heavier fruits such as meddlars, apples, chestnuts, or quince and fried dishes such as rissole, fritters, and pancakes.
Could consist of savory as well as sweet dishes to conclude the meal: Aged cheese (with meat), nuts (with fish), stewed fruits, puddings, custards, tarts, dishes made with sugar & honey
L’issue de table
Wine, wafers, and light pastries
Boute-Hors (Sendoff)
Candied spices, fruit in sugar or honey, candied ginger, candied nuts and fruit pastes, sugar paste

Appendix B: John Russells -A dynere of flesche.

John Russell’s Boke of Nurture (Harl. MS. 4011, Fol. 171 ~1460)
The Furst Course.

++Furst set forth{e} mustard / & brawne / of boor{e}, þe wild swyne, Suche potage / as þe cooke hath{e} made / of yerbis / spice / & wyne, Beeff, motoñ / Stewed feysaund / Swañ w{i}t{h} the Chawdwyñ, Capou{n}, pigge / vensou{n} bake, leche lombard / frutur{e} viaunt fyne;
+A Sotelte+-{ And þan a Sotelte: Maydoñ mary þat holy virgyne,  And Gabriell{e} gretyng{e} hur / w{i}t{h} an Ave. 692
The Second Course.

T{w}o potag{es}, blanger manger{e}, & Also Iely: For a standard / vensou{n} rost / kyd, favne, or cony, bustard, stork / crane / pecok in hakill{e} ryally, heiron-sew or / betowr{e}, w{i}t{h}-s{er}ue wit{h} bred, yf þat drynk be by; Partrich{e}, wodcok / plover{e} / egret /
Rabett{es} sowker{e}; Gret briddes / larkes / gentill{e} breme de mer{e}, dowcett{es}, payne puff, w{i}t{h} leche / Ioly Amber{e}, Fretour{e} powche / a sotelte folowyng{e} in fer{e},

þe course for to fullfylle, An angell{e} goodly kañ apper{e}, and syngyng{e} w{i}t{h} a mery cher{e}, Vn-to .iij. shep{er}d{es} vppoñ añ hill{e}.
The iij^d Course.

"Creme of almond{es}, & mameny, þe iij. course in coost, Curlew / brew / snyt{es} / quayles / sp{ar}ows / m{er}tenett{es} rost, P{er}che in gely / Crevise dewe dou[gh] /
pety p{er}ueis w{i}t{h} þe moost, Quynces bake / leche dugard / Frutur{e} sage /
y speke of cost,

and soteltees full{e} soleyñ: þat lady þ{a}t conseuyd by the holygost hy[-m] þ{a}t distroyed þe fend{es} boost, presentid plesauntly by þe kyng{es} of coleyñ.

Afft{ur} þis, delicat{is} mo. Blaunderell{e}, or pepyns, w{i}t{h} carawey in confite,
Waffurs to ete / ypocras to drynk w{i}t{h} delite. now þis fest is fynysched / voyd þe table quyte  Go we to þe fysch{e} fest while we haue respite, & þañ w{i}t{h} godd{es} g{ra}ce þe fest will{e} be do.

Appendix C:Maistre Chiquart: The Service of Dinner on the First Day

Du Fait de Cuisine by Maistre Chiquart (~1420)
The first service

And let us take as first service the large meats, that is beef and mutton; and those who cut up the beef should cut fair and large royal pieces, and those who cut them for the mutton should cut them the length of the sheep without leaving anything except a little waste.

And to serve these said pieces of beef and mutton let them be put on a large gold platter without putting on anything else.

And another large platter should be served beside with the salt meats according to the season which it is, that is in winter chine of pork, andouille sausages, and salt pork chops. And for the said first course green porray, and it is not necessary to serve any other sauce except mustard.

And with this, there should be served a white bruet over capons together with the meat which one has therewith.

Again, a bruet of Almayn,

...another potage, that is a bruet of Savoy

A lamprey sauce for numbles of beef

Afterward, also, well-made pastry of fattened bee

Again, for an entremet, heads of boars endored and armed and with banners and spitting fire

The second service

For the second course, all manner of roasts to serve honorably to the royal table as for kings, queens, dukes, duchesses, and such powerful, noble, and venerable lords as was said before.

And to serve more honorably there should be served large roasts put by themselves, that is: a whole kid, a whole piglet, a large loin of veal, a large loin of pork, and shoulders of mutton put on a great platter of gold.

And afterward, poultry put on a great platter of gold, that is: fat goslings, best capons, pheasants, partridges, conies, pigeons, and herons; and these are put one on another in such great abundance that the platter is well filled and heaped high. And one should pay attention to the sauce for the said roast: that is, for the goslings and the capon, jance; for the pheasants, partridges, piglets, and conies, cameline; and for the roast kid, green verjuice; for fat pork, sauce piquant; and for pigeons, crystallized salt.

Also, frumenty, venison, tarts, talmoses, cream flans, a cameline bruet, civet of hares, rosy bruet, a blancmange divided into four colors put in one serving dish; and for an entremet, a high castle wherein is in the middle the fountain of Love. 

Appendix D: Le Menagier De Paris (~1393)

VII. Another Meat Dinner.

First dish. White beet, beef kebabs, coarse meat, veal stew, marrow-bone soup.

Second dish. Roast meat, freshwater and saltwater fish, Lombardy tarts, sweet chestnuts.

Third dish. Lampreys, shad, a roast, sweetened milk with crusts in it, Pisan that is Lombardy tarts, cream fritters.

Fourth dish. Frumenty, venison, browned vegetables, bream and gurnard pies, jellied eels, fat capons a la dodine.

The end is Hippocras and wafers.--Extra drink; wine and spices.

XXIV. Another Fish Dinner.

First service. Strained peas, herring, salted eels, a stew of black oysters, almond broth, napkins, a gruel of pike and eels, cracklings, a green stew of eels, silver pies.

Second service. Saltwater fish, freshwater fish, bream and salmon pies, jellied eels, a brown arbalester, tench in a larded gruel, a fricassee, thin pancakes, lettuces, lozenges, little ears and rich pasties, stuffed salmon and loach.

Third service. Frumenty with porpoise, browned apples and Spanish peas and young lampreys, a roast of fish, jelly, lampreys, congers and turbot in green sauce, bream in verjuice, fried bread slices, meat tarts and the side-dishes: then Dessert, the Final Service and the Extras.