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    Medieval Cooking and Eating Habits
    Posted on Sat, November 10, 2001 by Toran
    shakey writes "Food. Something everyone needs. Something that plays at least a small part of every adventure. Yet, often overlooked as a potential source of color, or possibly even wealth by most.

    Author: Shakey

    Medieval Cooking and Eating Habits

    by Shakey (
    Used With Permission. Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

    1. Remember that restaurants have not been ‘invented’ yet . The restaurant was first created after the French Revolution, when the chefs had no royalty to work for. Independent eateries were an evolution to stay employed. Of course, individual campaigns will tend to develop this to their own whim. I suggest the evolution of restaurants after the Greyhawk Wars, as the resulting Chaos would unsettle many Chefs comfortable postions, and cause them to find more secure ways of earning their keep.

    2. Sauces were used to cover up the tastes of spoiled meat as refrigeration was not around. Beef bouillon, cooking liquids from of both meat and fish bound with either bread (or toasted crumbs), almonds (ground), and egg yolks (or any combination) to create thick sauces that would coat such meat. A story in the book, The Physiology of Taste, by Brillat-Savarin, tells of his travel in England and his stay with a couple of young ladies. They do not have much in the way of food as they come to an Inn. A couple of Englishmen are roasting a leg of lamb, but there is not enough for their party, and the innkeep offers to cook them some eggs. Mr. Brillat-Savarin goes to make sure his eggs are cooked correctly, and asks if he can gather some of the drippings from the roast. The innkeep says that that's fine as any drippings are the inn's by default. So he cuts 5 or 6 gashes in the meat, cooks their eggs in the excessive drippings, and they take the eggs to their room, all the while laughing that they ate all the flavor of the meat, while the Englishmen had eaten the equivalent of shoe leather. My point is, you take the jus or juice and you thicken it, coating said roast.

    3. Spices were a hot item to have, as they also covered the taste of spoilt meat. When the Crusades came ‘round, many were to be chosen. Middle Eastern: Sugar (cane form), almonds, pistachios, pomegranates, citrus fruits, and spinach. Some spices already available: saffron (very expensive, even now/labor intensive to harvest), ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and long pepper.

    4. Verjuice and vinegar were highly used. Verjuice is the fermented juice or unripe grapes and sometimes crabapples. Other common liquids used in cooking were: wine, almond milk, cow’s milk.

    5. Many of the recipes for soups and stews of the period call for cooking the main element-liver, meat, fish, etc… and pureeing it to bind whatever liquid is being used. I assume other ingredients, carrot, celery, onion, peas, etc… were to be found in these mixes.

    6. Usage of trenchers. Stale bread used to soak up sauce and to hold food instead of plates. Remember that silverware was not highly used, it was a luxury, at least for most settings. The thick sauces required no spoon. The bowl could be eaten, or tossed to the dogs. The fingers, licked clean.

    7. Preserved foods were highly used, a must for survival. Salting, pickling, drying, curing, smoking are such techniques.

    8. Medieval diners were fond of bright colors. Saffron for red, edible gold and silver leaf, pomegranate seeds, and colored green almonds are such decorations, although more for the wealthy.

    9. Cooking fats: Lard, chicken fat (schmaltz), duck or geese fat, butter, olive oil, etc. Different religions restricted different animal use and thus different cooking fats. Think of all the different religions in Greyhawk. I rest my case.

    10. Sweeteners were also in use, but sugar was still considered a spice, as it was a rarity. Honey and dried fruits (such as dates, raisins, etc…) were used more widely. Sometimes different fruits and meats were preserved in honey, such as figs and pears.

    11. Mint was one of the most commonly used herbs.

    12. For gaming purposes, remember that the poor had to stretch what little meat they had. The rich could afford more complex and flavor hiding dishes. As the Medieval period was nearing its end, dishes were getting more complex and building blocks of cuisine were being developed such as stocks and integral sauces. Please remember that you have many ingredients to choose from. There are many starches, vegetables, types of game, domesticated animals, breads, and the like to choose from. Take these, choose a cooking technique, ponder a bit. How about fire roasted beets with a saddle of smoked venison loin and a verjuice thinned deer liver sauce for dinner?

    Chef Bob

    Note: Food"
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    Re: Medieval Cooking and Eating Habits (Score: 1)
    by Man-of-the-Cranes on Mon, November 26, 2001
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    Well, Chef Bob, you certainly know your stuff, and you managed to make me hungry by the time I had finished reading this.

    My only quibble, you only have to look through the GH source books to find restaurants aplenty - in GH city especially - and I don't really think that they feel out of place in so cosmopolitan a city.

    Man of the Cranes

    Re: Medieval Cooking and Eating Habits (Score: 1)
    by Scottenkainen on Sun, December 02, 2001
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    To say there are restaurants "aplenty" is an overstatement. There are one or two restaurants so named in the City of Greyhawk boxed set, and that's it. And yes, the concept of a restaurant -- an eatery with a menu of options that can all be prepared at short notice -- is far too advanced for anywhere in the Flanaess except magic-rich areas like Greyhawk City. Without refrigeration, you just can't have too much food on hand at any time.

    An inn would seldom have more than one or two choices for supper, depending solely on what someone had brought in as a fresh kill that day (or the previous day, for stew!). PCs are better off killing something on the road and bringing it with them to have cooked at the inn, so as not to run the risk of finding the nearest inn has run out before they got there.

    My only complaint was that Bob has included so few Greyhawk-specific comments. I'll make sure to loan him my books before his next submission...

    Re: Medieval Cooking and Eating Habits (Score: 1)
    by Man-of-the-Cranes ( on Sun, April 21, 2002
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    There are one or two named, but they are just examples of course. There are plenty of 'eateries' which would be the Greyhawker's restaurant - probably more like a cafe as we would know it.

    You are right that they wouldn't have an extensive menu, but would more than likely offer two or three options, with a small kitchen on hand to prepare it.

    Greyhawk has yet to discover fast food.

    Man of the Cranes


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