Celebrating Lent Medieval-Style

The Easter season is upon us and Aoife shares annotated links dealing with food and farming for a medieval spring.

Hallo all. This week's links list covers Medieval Lent, some of the newer Medieval Food links, and a few Medieval Farming Links as well.

Please enjoy these links and pass them on a warranted to those with an interest.


New Advent: Origins of Lent
(Site Excerpt) .....in the existing remains of the first three centuries we find both considerable diversity of practice regarding the fast before Easter and also a gradual process of development in the matter of its duration. The passage of primary importance is one quoted by Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., V, xxiv) from a letter of St. Irenaeus to Pope Victor in connection with the Easter controversy. There Irenaeus says that there is not only a controversy about the time of keeping Easter but also regarding the preliminary fast. "For", he continues, "some think they ought to fast for one day, others for two days, and others even for several, while others reckon forty hours both of day and night to their fast".

Frumenty in Lent (The Foody)
(Site Excerpt) Take clene pykyd whete. Bray hit yn a morter, and fanne it clene, and seth hit tyl hit be brokyn. Than grynd blanchid almondys yn a morter, draw therof a mylke. Do hit togedyr and boyle hit tyl hit be resonabull thykke: than loke thy whete be tendyr. Colour hit up with safferyn. Lech thy purpas when hit ys sodyn, than ley hit on disches by hitsylfe, and serve hit forth with frumente. from An Ordinance of Pottage

710ml (25 floz) Almond Milk
225g (8oz) Bulgar Wheat
1 pinch Saffron
tsp Salt

University of Edinborough Medieval Society's Lenten Recipes
(Site Excerpt, not that no original is given) Lenten Stew
8 onions
4 fluid oz olive oil
4oz ground almonds
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/4 pint boiling water
1/2 bottle white wine

Food for the Soul?
Though Lent is supposed to be about the heart, not the stomach, the season is famous for provoking culinary creativity.
(Site Excerpt) People grumbled, because pizza (even icky cafeteria pizza) beat fish sandwich hands down. But compared to lenten fasters of the past, we got off easy.Lent, the period of fasting in preparation for Easter, has been on the church calendar since the first or second century. It has not, however, always occupied the same dates. According to Irenaeus (c. 130-c. 200), cited by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History, the lenten fast originally lasted only two or three days. The 40-day period, first mentioned in the Canons of Nicea (325), was probably adopted to parallel the 40-day fasts of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus

Znan'stvo's Medieval Poland
Food and Drink
(Site Excerpt) Wednesdays and Fridays, and Lent, were meatless days, but special feast days were, well feasts. Fish and meat were not generally served at the same meal, possibly in order to avoid repetition due to the strict observance of meatless days. The most common drink, Dembinska says, would have been wheat beer and small beer, followed by wine and mead.

Regia Anglorum's Anglo-Saxon Food
(Site Excerpt) We know that they grew wheat, rye, oats and barley. Wheat for bread, barley for brewing and oats for animal fodder and porridge. Along with these crops grew various weeds of cultivation - some of them poisonous. The harvesting methods made it difficult to separate the cereal from the weed, and many illnesses must have been caused in this way.

Medieval food for vegetarians
(Site Excerpt) It is a myth that medieval people were mostly carnivorous. Although meat was often eaten, and was very prominent at feasts and in recipe books and so forth, it was not eaten all the time. For one thing, the Catholic church dictated a huge number of fast days during which meat could not be eaten. These included Fridays and the entire 40-day period of Lent leading up to Easter. Although fish was commonly eaten on fast days, vegetarian dishes were also popular, and many recipes for such dishes are available to us. Of course, our knowledge of medieval cookery comes mostly from what was written in books, and it's easy to see that the books were describing the food eaten by the nobility, especially at feasts or when entertaining. It is probable that everyday food, especially among the lower classes, was much less meat-heavy. It's also probably safe to assume that the simplest dishes were not written down, much as we don't bother to publish many recipe books with instructions for cooking ramen noodles or making toast....... Finally, a list of recipes from medieval sources which are suitable for vegetarians. If you have any additions to make to this list, please email me at the address at the bottom of this page.

Cariadoc's Miscellany Recipe Table of Contents
This table of contents is organized so as to determine which foods contain meat, which foods contain some meat, which foods were mostly vegetable-based, and which are designated lenten.

All Gode Cookery Recipes (350 of 'em!)
Note that a gode cookery search with the word "lent" came up with 26 recipes.

MOAS Atlantia Cooking Links
Though this site sadly needs some housekeeping, there is a tremendous amount of single-recipe links which are divided into handy categories.

Easter Symbols and Food
(Site Excerpt) The oldest prayer for the blessing of lambs can be found in the seventh-century sacramentary (ritual book) of the Benedictine monastery, Bobbio in Italy. Two hundred years later Rome had adopted it, and thereafter the main feature of the Pope's Easter dinner for many centuries was roast lamb. After the tenth century, in place of the whole lamb, smaller pieces of meat were used. In some Benedictine monasteries, however, even today whole lambs are still blessed with the ancient prayers. The ancient tradition of the Pasch lamb also inspired among the Christians the use of lamb meat as a popular food at Easter time, and at the present time it is eaten as the main meal on Easter Sunday in many parts of eastern Europe. Frequently, however, little figures of a lamb made of butter, pastry, or sugar have been substituted for the meat, forming Easter table centerpieces.

Good and noble food (Dutch Medieval Cookbook, including some lenten-style foods)
(The site notes a "diplomatic" translation. Originals noted. Site Excerpt)1.13. Whisked (?) greens.
Bring the white of leeks, chopped finely, boiled and drained, again to the boil with wine and some water. Cook salmon in it, and onion, well fried, and dried herring. Add saffron, pepper and salt and let cool.
ghekelongiert- Meaning is unclear.

Research reveals Medieval diet was more than meat and gruel
(Site Excerpt, and how many of us are presently saying "Well, Duh!") The Victorian view was that medieval food was a disgusting slop of thin gruels and roast meat. Hollywood added its own touches of festive diners throwing bones to dogs in the dining room, or wiping their greasy hands on the dog's fur. But recent historical and archeological research is providing a much different and richer picture, concluding that much of the food served on the medieval dinner table would be recognized and enjoyed today, and pointing out that even medieval etiquette frowned on unsanitary dogs at the dinner table. "I think it would be very recognizable to one today, with the same tastes," said Bridget Ann Henisch, a medieval scholar and author of several books on medieval cooking. "It was more adventurous. Even the keenest foodie would not be so adventurous today."

Pretzel offers a twist on Lent
Monks created sign of prayer, penance
(Site Excerpt) In metro Detroit, paczki are the popular heralds of Ash Wednesday each year, so most Christians are surprised to learn that Lenten culinary traditions include a 1,400-year-old twist.A pretzel twist, to be exact. Around 610, European monasteries wanted to remind people that the season of Lent was a time for prayer and penance. So, they began baking Lenten bread shaped like a monk's arms folded across his chest in a traditional posture of prayer.

Medieval Life & The Hundred Years War
Medieval Agriculture
(Site Excerpt) The foundation of the Medieval economy was agriculture. Throughout Europe, 80-90 percent of the population struggled to coax a living, and perhaps a surplus, out of the soil. It wasn't easy, but using a wide variety of techniques it was done and often with marked success. While crops varied somewhat depending on the climate and soil quality, England and France saw mostly wheat, barley, peas and oats being grown, along with vegetables, vinyards and fruit orchards. Medieval agriculture, like that still practiced in many Third World areas, got by without machines, hybrid seed or chemical fertilizer. A horse, an ox, or a wife, was used to pull the plow. Harvesting was done by hand. Crops available for export went a short distance by ox cart, and thence by river barge or sea going ship to market.

Kingdom of Acre Food and Beverage in the Middle Ages
(Site Excerpt) What characterized medieval food was that even though transportation was a limiting factor, a great deal of traveling was going on and with it contact with foods never before available. The cost might be great but the rich could obtain many new foods while peasants would have to survive on local products for the most part. Wealthy nobles kept private forests and meadows full of animals so that they could have a variety of fresh meats when they wanted them. And for the most part, we are recreating the wealthy aspects of medieval life; after all, they were the ones doing the interesting things. Who wants to recreate the peasant scratching at the fields all day to come home to bread and porridge.

Historical Recipes of Different Cultures
(Site Excerpt) index
Antique Roman Dishes - COLLECTION
Medieval and Anglo Saxon Recipes : COLLECTION
Medieval European Recipes : COLLECTION

Medieval/Renaissance Food Homepage
(Site Excerpt) Primary Sources, Reference, Bibliography
Introduction to Cariadoc & Elizabeth's Recipes (bibliography, ingredients) Cooking from Primary Sources: Some General Comments (from Cariadoc's Miscellany)
A Renaissance Food Bibliography
A glossary of medieval and renaissance culinary terms
Ein Buch von Guter Spise (German, c. 1350)
The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Digbie (1669, partial)
Le M�agier de Paris (c. 1393, in French, partial, also an English translation) ........

Inns of Harn A guide to the finest links in Medieval Food and Drink

Medieval Cookbooks - An Annotated Bibliography

Acanthus Books Food, Cookery and Dining pages

Stefan's Florilegium, Medieval and SCA Feasts
See espescially the articles marked Mid-Lent-Dnnr-art and Carnival-Fst-art (a mardi-gras/carnical themed feast in Delftwood).

Coquinaria: "Fake Fish" : Medieval Apple Pie During Lent
The copy-paste feature has been disabled on this site, but it is well worth reading.

History Today
(Site Excerpt) Every year, on the day called Shrove Tuesday, boys from the schools bring fighting cocks to their master, and the whole morning is given up to boyish sport; for they have a holiday in the schools that they may watch their cocks do battle. Children's cockfighting continued throughout the later Middle Ages, and indeed in some places down to the eighteenth century. It is hard for us to empathize with, but it was approved by adults and even set as a subject for Latin composition. A school notebook, probably from St Albans, contains a whole Latin poem about a real cock-fight, telling how a boy named Chelyng brought to school a cock called Kob, and how this put the other birds to flight. `Kob' or `Cob' means a male swan; the bird was obviously large and aggressive.Shrove Tuesday was also a day for football, and Lent which followed was a season of outdoor games as the weather improved yet still remained bracing enough for active pursuits. The battles of 1400 happened in Lent and those of 1554 were in March, nearly all of which fell within Lent that year.

Medieval Life KEEPING AND LOSING: The Big Barn and the Peasants Maria Mois�
(Site Excerpt) Introduction
Nothing in the English folklore of barns can rival the legends about Hatto, the tenth-century bishop of Mainz, and villain of a poem by Robert Southey. The real character died in 913 AD as Imperial Chancellor, but the stories about him are associated with famines which occurred after his death. In one version, he is said to have locked up some starving people in a barn and set fire to it in order to diminish the number of the hungry. He was then chased and killed by rats. In another version, mice invaded his barn, where he hoarded grain during the famine. Chased by the mice, he sought refuge in his tower on an island in the Rhine; the mice swam after him and devoured him. Rats and mice were seen as the executioners of a divine retribution for the crime of not giving out grain during a subsistence crisis.

Virtual Visit: The Kitchens of Alcazar
(Site Excerpt) There was a clear social difference regarding food. According to some chronicles, there were two different diets, that of the rich and noble people, and that of the poor and peasants.Although in very different proportions, bread, meat, wine and fish, which were not scarce in the county, were the base of all social groups' diet. Fruit and vegetables were scarce and the rich american products had not arrived yet, but they would come here earlier than to any other place.Besides, Niebla had the rich muslim culinary tradition that was incorporated into its habits. In the kitchen of the alc�ar, cooks made hotpots, roast,delicious alfajores and pesti�s, meatballs with cumin, meat and semolina gachas, couscous, peas and hake pie, fish with green coriander or filled aubergines.

A Boke of Gode Cookery Presents
How to cook Medieval Vegetables

(Site Excerpt) Vegetables were eaten daily in the Middle Ages & Renaissance, but, like today, were in many ways considered an inferior or secondary menu item; vegetable dishes are hardly ever mentioned in Medieval cookbooks. Victorian & early-20th century food historians seized on this fact as proof that vegetables were hardly ever eaten, but this was an erroneous assumption which fortunately is not given much credence today. The fact is that the use of vegetables was wide-spread and prolific, and vegetables were an important food item in the diet of nearly all Medieval people. The pure simplicity of vegetable preparation often meant that precious vellum or parchment wasn't wasted on recording the recipes; some cookbooks go so far as to point out that the ability to prepare vegetables is common knowledge and further instructions are not necessary.

Food Safety Through the Ages by Dr. Bill Grierson
(Site Excerpt) During the Middle Ages the winter feeding of livestock was often so difficult that only animals selected for breeding were kept alive. Meat from the slaughtered livestock was salted for consumption over the winter. (Considering how high salt intakes affect many people with high blood pressure, the church's annual late-winter proscription of meat consumption during the 40 days of Lent must have prolonged many medieval lives.)

Some General Advice Concerning the Preparation of Food from The Goodman of Paris, 1392
(Site Excerpt) Now behoveth it to show how to prepare the viands ... but first it behoves thee to know divers general terms, the which thou mayst collect more fully by means of certain additions thereto, that be here and there throughout this book, to wit concerning binding for pottages, as bread, eggs, amidor', flour, etc., and throughout the thick soups. Item, to prevent thy pottage from burning, thou must move it in the bottom of the pot and look that the logs touch not the bottom and if already it have begun to burn, thou must forthwith change it

(Presumably in the Renaissance. Read on for some very odd scholasticism. Site Excerpt) (Photo omitted)The Bean Eater, Annibale Carracci, 1585. Like everything else, food is a matter of social class as well as region and season. With the price rise that has been a general phenomenon in this century, a peasant or urban laborer rarely sees meat except on feast days. Bread is much more than figuratively the staff of life -- it is the fundamental food of Europe. The bread of the lower classes is made with cheaper grains than wheat: barley and rye, for example. More rye is being used in bread now than formerly in this century, again a sign of the high cost of living now. Lower class bread had grit in it. The bread of the upper classes was made with a higher proportion of wheat, which was more finely ground and sifted. Stale bread was cut into squares and used for trenchers -- a surface on which to serve the other food and sauces. When the rich were done with their meals, the sauce-soaked bread was usually given to the poor.

Alice's Medieval Feasts and Fasts
(Site Excerpt--note: click on the word Lent on the menu to the left of the screen) By the fourth or fifth centuries, most churches were keeping the forty days before Easter as a time of fasting and penitence. Fasting usually meant eating only one meal a day, though the very young, and the weak were exempt. This one meal was eaten at the hour of none in mid-afternoon. By the late middle ages the time for none had shifted to our noon, and an additional light meal had been added at the end of the day. The first day of Lent became known as Ash Wednesday, because of the practice of throwing ashes onto the heads of public penitents. This was a very grave ceremony in ancient times, involving public penance and isolation of the penitents, unwashed and silent, from Ash Wednesday up until the Thursday before Easter. By the medieval period most people were receiving the ashes.

Cantica Nova Lent Menu
(Site Excerpt) Lenten Music New!! 24 Mar 2003
What is Lent? New!! 10 Mar 2003
A Creative Penitential Rite
Agnus - A Lenten Service
Ash Wednesday
Ave regina caelorum
Changes in Lent
The Common Psalms of Lent
De profundis
Does Our Music Say "Lent"?
Lenten Resources

Medieval Legacy ~Culinary Traditions in the Dark Ages~
(Site Excerpt) The medieval period of our history is a fascinating one, albeit one sometimes shrouded in mystery. The food itself, the preparation, the utensils used and the manner in which it was eaten might seem a bit archaic to all of us in the modern age. Cooks in medieval times had to create dishes with limited resources, and there was a poor selection of ingredients and spices (not to mention keeping what they had fresh). The method of cooking the food was also restricted by the basic tools that were available.The medieval period is defined as the years between the 10th and 13th centuries, and is also known as the "Middle Ages," or the "Dark Ages." However, other historians claim the medieval age encompassed one thousand years (from 500 to 1500), and began with the collapse of the Roman Empire in Western Europe, and ended with the discovery of the Western Hemisphere by Columbus.

Pancake Day: Classroom Ideas
This site actually has a brief history of Pancakes in England, also of Pancake Day.

The Medieval Farming Year
Version 1.0, July 23, 1999
Andy Staples, 1999
(Site Excerpt) .....Not so for medieval people. The turning seasons marked the fundamental rhythm of their lives. The time of year determined what they did, the length of the working day and what they ate. The vast majority of people - between 80 and 90 per cent of the population - were directly involved in agriculture. There was no rapid transportation and there were few ways of preserving food. Even the medieval urbanite was more in tune with the yearly cycle than we in the developed countries will ever really understand.

Medieval Farming
(Site Excerpt) ...Farms were much smaller then and the peasants who worked the land did not own the land they worked on. This belonged to the lord of the manor. In this sense, peasants were simply tenants who worked a strip of land or maybe several strips. Hence why farming was called strip farming in Medieval times. This reliance on the local lord of the manor was all part of the feudal system introduced by William the Conqueror. A peasant family was unlikely to be able to own that most valuable of farming animals - an ox. An ox or horse was known as a 'beast of burden' as it could do a great deal of work that people would have found impossible to do. A team of oxen at ploughing time was vital and a village might club together to buy one or two and then use them on a rota basis. In fact, villagers frequently helped one another to ensure the vital farming work got done. This was especially true at ploughing time, seeding time and harvesting.

Willen Employment
Medieval farming

(Site Excerpt) Just like today, the farming year is marked by changes in the jobs that had to be done. Peasants hoed and harvested their own strips, but worked together on big jobs such as ploughing or hay-making. Working together was essential, a failed harvest could mean starvation for the whole village.Crop growing areas around villages were usually divided into three big fields, (see 1520 map). One field was sown with wheat in winter, the second was sown with rye, barley or oats in spring and the third would be left empty, or fallow, so it could recover its strength.

profits, productivity and weather
by Dr Derek Vincent Stern; edited and with an introduction by Christopher Thornton

Review of a book on the subject