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Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Medieval kitchens were a far cry from our granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Still, the people celebrated then in the same way we do—with food, wine, and good conversation.
In the kitchen, the cooks roasted meats on a spit over the fire. Common foods were stews and potage, a mixture of grains, with or without vegetables and meat, cooked with water until the mix resembled mush. These soups and stews were cooked in clay or iron pots directly in the flames.
In a castle, like the one to which the heroine of my novel, Jeanne of Clairmonde, traveled with the squire, they would have had a portable oven also, but these were luxuries. Bread and other foods were placed inside the oven, then the cook’s helpers buried the oven in the open fire to bake the contents.
The medieval kitchen, especially in homes of the aristocracy, was located a good distance from the Great Hall, where all the entertaining and eating went on. The danger of fire was ever-present in the Middle Ages, in a peasant hovel as well as an aristocrat’s mansion, because cooking was done over an open flame. Thus, if one could afford it, the food was brought in from another building, preferably through a passageway of wood or stone (to avoid the cooling effect of a brisk wind).
A great collection of 14th century recipes, The Forme of Cury, is downloadable, copyright free, from that most awesome of sites, the Gutenberg Project.

4 comments:

Judy said...

Interesting information here! When I was teaching, one of my students' favorite books every year was about the preparations in a medieval home/kitchen for the visit of the king. They were fascinated with how the food was prepared and served! I also enjoyed the previous blog on annulling marriages--very enlightening!

Kathy Otten said...

I love reading medievals. The way they cooked is fascinating. It would be fun to do a time travel from an open fire with spits kitchen to the modern stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops, indoor kitchen.

Emma Lai said...

Interesting fact about the portable oven. I think it would be fun to eat a medieval meal.

Keena Kincaid said...

Several years ago I traveled to Carlisle, England, and picked up a little book called Medieval Cookery (published by English Heritage). It's a fun little book that actually modernizes medieval recipes if anyone is interested in eating like its 1199.

Yes, I've tried a few of the recipes, but it's more useful in making sure my medieval characters are cooking and eating accurately. Great blog. I'm fascinated by the portable oven.