The Sweeter Side of Life

Most food that is referred to in medieval literature is savoury, hence the focus on fish, meat and pies in my previous posts.  However, in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, when Gawain is introduced to the ladies at Sir Bertilak’s court, they take him to sit by the fire in their chamber where they call for wine and “Spyce3” (l. 979, defined in the Middle English Dictionary as spices, sugar, spiced cake or sweetmeat).  With no indication of what exactly Sir Gawain is being fed by the courtly ladies, I turned to the medieval cookery book The Forme of Cury – referred to here – which contains a number of recipes for sweet dishes, including “Crispels” (fried pastry rounds basted in honey), “Rysshews of fruit” (fried fruit rissoles) and “Daryols” (custard tart flavoured with saffron).  Honey is, not surprisingly a key sweetener in many of these recipes, but in some cases reference is also made to sugar.   Continue reading “The Sweeter Side of Life”

Food for Stories

The fact that the pilgrim characters in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales tell their stories in the hope of winning a free meal suggests the heightened importance of food in medieval literature.  Continue reading “Food for Stories”

Festivities at the Medieval Court

As I promised in my last post, this post is going to be dedicated to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a late 14th century chivalric romance.  Written by an unknown author, the poem is thought to originate from the North East (the dialect of Middle English used suggests an author from Lancashire, Staffordshire or Cheshire).  It is written in alliterative verse, with words in the same poetic line repeatedly beginning with the same consonant sound, a type of poetry that seems to have originated in Germany in 4th century BC.  Anglo-Saxon poetry, including Beowulf  which I wrote about in this postwas also frequently alliterative.  
Continue reading “Festivities at the Medieval Court”