Yesterday, while haunting the crowded aisles of a local thrift store, I was able to rescue a cookbook that struck my fancy. Lorna J. Sass' To The King's Taste, is a compilation of various medieval cookbooks that were used in the court of England's Richard II (AD 1367 - 1400). I immediately saw it was a fascinating treatise and as the thrift store is notorious for shredding books and making money from the recycled paper, I snatched it up and will be sending it to a friend who is involved in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA).
The cookbook contains some fascinating modern translations of various dishes that were literally fit to set before a king, comestibles with such fascinating names as Perrey of Peson (an exotic and sweetly flavored pea soup), Sawse Madame (a goose stuffed with garlic, fruit, and herbs), Tart de Brymlent (fruit and salmon pie), Aquapatys (boiled garlic), and Sambocade (elderflower cheesecake).
The work also goes into trivia about medieval meals such as Richard II's castle having a hearth big enough to roast an entire ox, and exotic spices were brought from very far corners of the world such as ginger, sandalwood, pepper, galingale, and a spice called cubeb, a small berry from Java that has a distinct flavor reminiscent of a cross between pepper and allspice.
However, for your upcoming Thanksgiving feast, or any feast in general, allow me to share with you one recipe from the book that sounds tantalizing: Connynge in Cyrip, better known as ...
I very much wish to try this dish, but I will attempt it with chicken instead of rabbit. By the bye, the 1/2 teaspoon of finally ground cubebs will most likely be difficult, if not impossible, to find. Instead, substitute 1/4 teaspoon of finely ground pepper and 1/4 teaspoon of finely ground allspice.
And for those poor souls that lack the time, finances, or expertise to tackle such an exotic dish, allow me to regale you with a medieval dish made specifically for peasants:
LOEWEN'S D*MN GOOD GRUEL
by Alan Loewen
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Imagine serving your family Loewen's D*mn Good Gruel this evening, sweeping into your dining room in a swirl of skirts and saying, "Tonight, we're all going to eat like pathetic, medieval peasants." and plopping tasty gruel into the earthenware bowls before them.
Well, this recipe is an authentic gruel recipe and is exactly how poor peasants lived under the crushing boots of their feudal overlords.
LOEWEN'S D*MN GOOD GRUEL
(serves 1 pathetic peasant)
- Boil 1 pint of water.
- While coming to a boil, mix 4 heaping tablespoons of the flour of your choice (wheat, rye, cornmeal) into COLD water, making a paste.
- When the water comes to a boil, add the paste and stir.
- Throw in a handful of raisins (we may be pathetic, but we ain't masochists)
- Add a dash of salt to taste.
- Reduce to simmer and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Serve with the sweetener of your choice to taste, and nutmeg and/or cinnamon. (Milk, soy milk, or rice milk is optional).
- Now this is d*mn good gruel
- We (burned/hung/rode out of town on a rail) a (witch/Puritan/Popist) at (work/school) today.
- Scurvy? Let me tell you about scurvy!
- I'm so glad that gruel doesn't require teeth.
- I made 3 pence begging in front of the church today!
- You know, modern science says that demons are behind all headaches.
- Today, Old Lady Henicle turned me into a newt!
- The plague only took two of our neighbors today!