The Corrupting Effects of Food

In my last post I wrote about apricots in The Duchess of Malfi and how they are used to ascertain the Duchess’s suspected pregnancy.  Once the pregnancy – and the Duchess’s marriage to her steward Antonio, her social inferior – are confirmed, the Duchess’s villainous brothers set out to destroy her and her family (see http://frompagetoplate.com/2014/05/25/apricots/)

The idea that food, rather than being a form of celebration or sustenance, can have a more malevolent side to it, is a popular idea in early 17th century Jacobean revenge drama.   Continue reading “The Corrupting Effects of Food”

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”