[Sca-cooks] 10th cent Welsh foods

Terry Decker t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net
Sat Mar 29 20:28:50 PDT 2008

> - archeoology. Does Wales have anything like Haithabu
> or York in terms of waterlogged organic finds?
> Archeobotany should be a goldmine in any place so wet.
> That can give you an idea of the kinds of animals and
> plants certainly consumed in the area at the time. The
> same goes for cooking implements and, if you are
> lucky, even kitchen setups.

Most Welsh sites are very early or relatively late.  Towns in Wales date 
largely from the 11th Century onward, when everybody was building castles to 
defend their land.  I believe there is a 13th Century Medieval history 
village named Cosmestan that might prove of interest.

> - literature. Wales has Dark Age law codes, doesn't
> it? How close do the epic poems come to the time? I
> haven't seen this done for Wales, but when I was at
> Trinity, a lecturer gave a very credible account of
> Irish upper-class foods from the Brehon law,
> archeological evidence, monastic accounts and the
> unpronounceable song about that cattle raid (Taine bo
> Cuailgneagheounghhethieanieoe or something).

Welsh law was codified in 945 under Hwyel Dda.  There is what appears to be 
an English commentary on this code published in 1954, M. Richards, The Laws 
of Hwyel Dda, Liverpool, Liverpool University Press.

On might also check The Journey Thru Wales and the Description of Wales by 
Gerald of Wales.  It's 12th Century, but possibly useful.  I used his work 
on Ireland to figure out some of the fish that were and weren't available in 

> - broader context. What contacts would your persona
> have had? What kind of exotic foods and foodways would
> he have been exposed to? (In this context, 'exotic'
> would mean Frisian, Viking, Anglo-Saxon, Irish,
> Breton, Gascon or Frankish rather that Arab or East
> Asian). Frex, what about Latinity? The 9th century
> Lorsch medical MS preserves a stripped-down version of
> Anthimnus 'Observance of Foods' clearly included as
> valuable medical knowledge. Would you have been part
> of that cultural sphere?

Exotic?  The Vikings were in Anglesey, there was a large Irish settled area 
in southwest Wales, the Anglo-Saxons were in Mercia to the east and the 
Bretons are related Brythonic tribesmen driven out of England around 500 CE. 
Bunch a neighbors and kin.  Roman Era Wales had some rather extensive 
overseas trade, but there isn't much information about trade between the 6th 
and 12th Centuries.

The Cymry were Romanized Britons and actively part of the Celtic Church from 
the 2nd Century to the 7th Century when it was folded into the Roman Church. 
Ireland's famed monastery system was modeled on the one in Wales.  So it is 
very possible that they would have had various Latin texts available.

> - traditional culinary techniques. Some regional
> practioces go back pretty much forever and can lend
> local flavour to an otherwise 'generic barbarian'
> booze-up. Jacqui Wood's 'Prehistoric Cooking' does a
> good job looking into some of these.
> The advantage is that without hard and fast recipes to
> follow, you can actually cook up things that match
> your evidence and please your palate. It can be fun.
> Not anything you could put in as an A&S project, but
> if you stay within the bounds of plausibility (and
> please, no honey butter - all references I have come
> across are biblical) you will do just fine.
> Giano

Just for fun, a couple of Welsh culinary sites:




More information about the Sca-cooks mailing list