How Much Milk Is Average For A 2 Year Old Eating Through Time: Part 1 – The Tudors

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Eating Through Time: Part 1 – The Tudors

As a self-proclaimed “foodie” and thirsty for historical knowledge, the evolution of our dining table has always fascinated me.

Throughout this blog series, I will delve into the best and worst of our culinary past, researching historic recipes and eating habits of yesteryear; from the waterlogged banquet halls of Henry VIII to the famine of the French Revolution.

Come with me as I take you on an edible journey through time, exploring the customs and traditions of the time.

The Tudor period

We begin our time series with the Tudor period; or more precisely the reign of Henry VIII.

1509-1547

We all know perhaps the most famous monarch in history. His reign saw England secede from Rome, the formation of Parliament, the foundations of our modern Royal Mail and of course, his six wives.

But what happened to the English palette during Henry VIII’s 36-year reign?

When Henry succeeded his brother to the throne in 1509, he inherited a united country behind the monarchy, stable finances, and his brother’s wife.

Fruit was a constant feature on a Tudor table, with choices ranging from those that could be grown in England such as apples, pears, cherries, plums and strawberries to those that were imported from Spain after the arrival of Queen Katherine of Aragon.

The pomegranate became the symbol of his house and it contributed to the popularity of oranges at court. Records show that Henry in particular liked oranges; having them readily available to eat fresh and preserved as a marmalade.

The orchards were cultivated at Hampton Court by Cardinal Wolsey for the King’s consumption.

English cuisine may not have appealed to the new Spanish queen, who would have been accustomed to Mediterranean tastes and cuisine, heavily influenced by the Moorish community and their use of exotic spices and fresh vegetables.

In my search for recipes from that era, I came across this one from 15th-century Andalusia; the autonomous community in southern Spain close to Katherine’s native Granada.

Recipe of Thumlyya, a dish with garlic

An Andalusian recipe from the 15th century

Excerpt from “How to milk an almond, stuff an egg and arm a turnip: a thousand years of recipes”

by David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook

Ingredients:

5 oz garlic 1 cup ginger

1 chicken ¼ cup cloves

6 T of oil 15 threads of rudder

½ cup salt ½ c whole almonds

½ cup of pepper? c crushed almond

1 c cinnamon ¼ c murri

2 t lavender – 1 tbsp flour – water

‘Take a plump hen and take out what’s inside, clean it and set it aside. Next, take four uquias (ounces) of peeled garlic and mash them until they are like brains, and mix them with what comes out of the inside of the chicken. Fry it in enough oil to cover, until the garlic smell comes out. Toss this with the chicken in a clean saucepan with salt, pepper, cinnamon, lavender, ginger, cloves, saffron, peeled, pounded and whole almonds, and some murri ( there is no modern recipe for murri, which resembles Chinese soy sauce). Seal the jar with dough, put it in the oven and leave until cooked. Then take it out and open the jar, pour its contents into a clean dish and an aromatic fragrance will come out of it and perfume the area.

As Henry’s reign progressed, his well-documented affair with Anne Boleyn began. Anne spent much of her youth at the French court, first accompanying Henry’s 18-year-old sister Margaret on her trip to France to marry King Louis XII.

Henry and Anne’s affair lasted seven years before his infamous break with the Catholic Church in Rome and their eventual marriage. His French influences are said to have played a huge role in changing court tastes and customs.

In the 15th century, bread and cheese were a staple of French cuisine, with meats and fruits considered fit for royalty and vegetables considered peasant food.

Pears cooked in wine were often eaten as the “end” of a meal, which may have been adopted by the English after Anne Boleyn became queen.

A day in the life of Henry VIII’s stomach

Henry would often start his day with pike, plaice, roach, butter and eggs choosing to eat with 30 of his courtiers around 10am.

Henry would then have had the choice of at least 13 freshly cooked dishes at every breakfast and dinner, from a wide range of pies, meats, soups, jellies and donuts, all cooked by his personal chef Pero Doux.

A staple of Tudor cuisine was spit roasted meats. Pork, sheep, deer – they would be on the spit day after day, ready to serve the King and his Court.

More unusual meats were reserved for banquets and occasions such as swan, peacock, heron and stag.

Despite his growing stomach, Henry and England adhered to the strict rule of fasting on Fridays and Saturdays and sometimes Wednesdays which prohibited the eating of meat and were only allowed to eat fish. During the Lenten period (March 2 – April 14), butter, eggs and dairy products were also prohibited.

To disobey the rule of fasting was to risk a charge of heresy, however, fasting did not mean that Henry ate less than usual.

Any other day was considered a “flesh day.” Below is an example of what Henry might have expected to see.

A STATEMENT OF SPECIAL TARIFF ORDINANCES FOR DIETS

TO BE SERVED AT THE KING’S HIGHNESS, THE QUEEN’S GRACE, AND THE SIDES,

WITH THE HOUSEHOLD, AND FOLLOW THEN.

THE DIETT FOR THE KING’S MAJESTY AND THE QUEEN’S GRACE, AS A PRICE,

IN THE TWO MASSES, AS FOLLOWS.

A DAY OF FLESH

DYNER. SUPPER.

Cheat Bread and Manchett, 16 Cheat Bread and Manchett, 16

Beate and Ale, 6 Gal Beate and Ale, 6 Gal

Wyne Wyne

Flesh for soup 8 Flesh for soup 8

Beef Chines 8 Chickens at Crimary, Larkes

Rammeners in Stew, or Cap 6 Sparrows or Lambe,

Deer in brewz or mult 4 simmered with chynes of 13

Reed Deere Pestels 2 Sheep

Mutton 6 Giggots of Mutton or Veni-

Carp or Yong Veale en – -fils, stopped with Clove 6

Arm’, forced 1 Chapons 4

Swanne 1 Conyes 2

Chapons 2 Phesant, Herne, Shove-

Conyes 1 – lard 4

Fryanders, baked Carp 1 Roosters, plovers or gulls 2

Custard topped 12 Sweete Dowcetts or Orange 10

or frittars 8 Quinces or Pippns 2

In addition to recognizable options, the Tudors enjoyed many specialties that would raise an eyebrow or two these days.

Grilled beavertail was served most Fridays because the Tudors classified beaver as a fish. The whale and the porpoise were boiled or roasted and were favorites of Katherine of Aragon.

From fast to peasant

When the king and people at court ate an immeasurable number of calories, the poorest in England had a much simpler menu.

Meat was scarce for the everyday Tudor peasant and so fresh vegetables, bread and ales were the staple food. Soup appears throughout history in many varieties, with the meatier stew even being served to the king.

The basic vegetable and oatmeal soup would have been a regular sight at the table for those not at court. Similar to our modern stews, the recipe is simple and easy to follow.

Soup

Ingredients:

½ onion

Vegetables (depending on your preference – carrot, parsnip, cabbage, leek, etc.)

300ml stock (or just lukewarm water for the average farmer)

Herbs (such as parsley, mint, rosemary, thyme and sage which were readily available)

1 tsp pepper

4 tablespoons porridge oats

Bread (optional)

Method

Prepare the vegetables (peel them and cut them according to the thickness you want).

Soften the onions in a skillet before adding other vegetables.

Cover with broth or warm water until they begin to soften.

Add a good handful of herbs, salt and pepper.

Increase the heat and let simmer.

When the water begins to boil, add the rolled oats. Cook for 4-5 minutes until everything is combined.

Eat alone or with bread.

six wives

In concluding our Tudor journey, I will focus on perhaps the most famous element of Henry VIII’s reign – his wives.

Each wife has her own story and tragic life, whether she was divorced, beheaded, died or survived. But what were their favorite things to eat?

Catherine of Aragon. Dec 1485 – Jan 1536 Divorced

Besides the fruit originating from her Spanish roots, Katherine loved to eat boiled whale.

Anne Boleyn July 1501 – May 1536 beheaded

Anne would have a penchant for certain fruits such as plums, plums and strawberries. During one of her pregnancies, she had a “furious desire to eat apples”

Jane Seymour 1509 – October 1537 died

Henry spared no expense to keep Jane happy. When she craved quail eggs during her pregnancy, Henry had an ornate box of delicacies shipped from Calais.

Anne de Cleeves September 1515 – July 1557 Divorced

A popular German treat that may have been enjoyed by Anne was “Gefuellte Semmeln”. A bun, filled with jam/preserve, covered in sugar and spices and fried in egg yolks.

Katheryn Howard 1523-February 1542 beheaded

The young queen was perhaps ill-suited to courtly mores. Described as childish and naive, Katheryn enjoyed snacking on marspane, small almond balls, a sweet marzipan-like snack.

Catherine Parr August 1512 – September 1548 Survived

A popular treat at the time was “bridesmaids”. A predecessor to the modern cheesecake, made from cottage cheese, often found at Court, and possibly enjoyed by the Queen.

Watch out for my next trip to the dinner tables of yore!

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