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Banquet Article

Banquets

Stefano d'Urbino ASXXXII 23 Feb 1998

Provision for large groups and special occasions was, if not a predominant occupation in the Middle Ages, certainly one whose expense was matched only by its lavish specularity and purposeful show of rank on behalf of its benefactor! However with regards to gastronomy, feast records tell us what medieval people ate, and importantly what they ate in the best of times.

Since the latter is predominantly what the SCA attempts to recreate, the list of feasts below provide a (scant) overview of what people ate, when eating well was a concern. Apart from the common tendency of the European nobility towards over consumption of meat (meat being a noble food), the selection of menus below show the quite different styles of Mediterranean and Northern European cooking.


A Dinner for a Meat Day in Thirty-One Dishes and Six Courses in the Goodman of Paris, c. 1393.

First course.

  • Grenache (wine),
  • roasts,
  • veal pastries,
  • pimpernel (fish) pastries,
  • black-puddings and sausages.

Second course.

  • Hares in civey (a sweet-sour bread stew) and cutlets,
  • Strained peas,
  • Salt meat and great joints,
  • A soringe of eels and other fish (another sweet-sour bread stew).

Third course.

  • Roast: coneys, partridges, capons, etc., luce, bar, carp and a quartered pottage.

Fourth course.

  • River fish a la dodine (a sauce of almond meal, garlic and egg)
  • Savoury rice,
  • Bourrey (stew) with hot sauce
  • Eels reversed (yet another sweet-sour bread stew!).

Fifth course.

  • Lark pastries,
  • Rissoles,
  • Larded milk (savoury egg and milk pudding),
  • Sugared flans.

Sixth course.

  • Pears and comfits,
  • Medlars and mixed nuts.
  • Hippocras (spiced white wine)
  • Wafers.

A fictional Shopping List for a Feast for four, in Baghdad, C14th.

... an olive green jug of wine ... yellow and red apples, Hebron peaches and Turkish quinces, and seacoast lemons and royal oranges, as well as baby cucumbers ... mrytle berries ... ten pounds of fresh mutton ... olives of all kinds, salted, pitted and pickled tarragon, cream cheese, Syrian cheese, and sweet and sour pickles ... dry fruits and nuts: Aleppo raisins, Iraqi sugar canes, pressed Ba'albak figs, roast chick-peas, as well as shelled pistachios, almonds and hazelnuts ... sour barley rolls, sweet rolls, date rolls, Cairo rolls, Turkish rolls, and open-worked Balkan rolls, as well as biscuits, stuffed and musk-scented kataifs, amber combs, ladyfingers, widows' bread, Kadi's titbits, eat-and-thanks, and almond pudding ... ten bottles of scented waters ... two loaves of sugar (plus assorted flowers and perfumes).


A Feast given by John Stafford, at his installation as the Archbishop of Canterbury, 1443.

The First Course.

Brawn with mustard Mawmeny (sweet-sour pudding of wine, nuts and shredded fowl flesh) Swan Carpeis of venison Great bream Royal custard (egg custard with fruit, spices and bone marrow) Frumenty with venison Pheasant Capon Heron stew Creamy royal leche (spiced or sweetened milk curd or honey and egg, as a pudding).

(A subtlety. Saint Andrew with a Bishop and entourage.)

The Second Course.

  • Bruet mon amy (a broth)
  • Roast Crane
  • Rabbits
  • Partridge
  • Grand carp
  • Royal tart
  • Viaund cypre (thickened stew of fish and almond milk)
  • Roast Venison
  • Betore (?)
  • Cerlew (a bird)
  • Fruit leche.

(A Subtlety. The Trinity, surrounded by holy men.)

The Third Course.

  • Creme vine (a wine and cream sauce?)
  • Brownes (fritters of fried bread)
  • Melons
  • Rabbits
  • Rales (?)
  • Doe
  • Frutour raysn (fried fruit and raisin cakes?)
  • Gely departed (a savoury jelly?)
  • Boiled Chickens
  • Roast Plover
  • Votrelles (birds ?)
  • Quails
  • Plain leche
  • Baked Quinces.

(A subtlety. A godhead surrounded by holy men.)


The Wedding Banquet of the Marquis Trivulzio with Beatrice d'Avalos d'Aragona, Milan, 1488.

A simple one family dinner in a bourgeois household might have been an elementary one-pot dish of boiled meat and vegetables. At a higher level in society, a roast might have been added. For grand occasions ... the menu could be extravagantly long ...

They began with a series of little dishes, in the same way we start with hors d�oeuvres; boiled meats came before roast meats (though in Catalonia the roasts came first); small roasts usually preceded large roasts; and a succession of sweet dishes signalled that the meal was coming to an end. ... Roasts were carved at the table, usually presented on large, flat dishes or wooden boards; the sauce accompaniment came separately, in a small bowl. ...

(Course)

1 - Rose-scented water for the hands - pastries with pine nuts and sugar - other cakes made with almonds and sugar, similar to marzipan

2 - Asparagus (to the amazement of the guests, since it was enormous and out of season)

3 - Tiny sausages and meatballs

4 - Roast grey partridge and sauce

5 - Whole calves' heads, gilded and silvered

6 - Capons and pigeons, accompanied by sausages, hams and wild boar, plus delicate 'potages' (thick soup or stew)

7 - Whole roast sheep, with a sour cherry sauce

8 - A great variety of roast birds - turtledoves, partridges, pheasants, quail, figpeckers - with olives, as a condiment

9 - Chickens with sugar and rosewater

10 - Whole suckling pig, with an accompanying 'brouet' (broth)

11 - Roast peacock, with various accompaniments

12 - A mixture of eggs, milk, sage, flour and sugar (salviata?) (presumably as fritters or pancakes)

13 - Quinces cooked with sugar, cinnamon, pine nuts, and artichokes

14 - Various preserves, made with sugar and honey

15 - Ten different 'torte', and an abundance of candied spice