[Sca-cooks] 10th cent Welsh foods

Kathleen A Roberts karobert at unm.edu
Mon Mar 31 08:18:57 PDT 2008

On Sat, 29 Mar 2008 13:29:06 -0400
  jwills47933 at aol.com wrote:
> Looking to do a Feast in my persona of 10th Cent Welsh. 
> The thing is I am having trouble finding sources and 
>documention.  If anyone can help.

greetings.  this from my friend, mistress guernin, who as 
i said altho not a cook per se, she is the guru on all 
things welsh in our area.  early welsh at that.  she has 
written several books about an early welsh bard and his 
adventures.  quite good reading.  "storyteller"  and 
"flight of the hawk" by g r grove if anyone is interested.

anyhoo... this is what the researacher in her has to say. 
 perhaps it will give some ideas or leads.



There really isn't much of anything in the way of Welsh 
sources for
cookery. Even down near the end of period what little 
exists is (so
far as I know) indistinguishable from contempory English 
recipes. For
10th century I suggest he looks at contemporary Saxon and 

The only printed source I know, a little booklet called 
"Food of the
Bards", is really only guesswork based on references in 
poetry - and
almost all of that cited is 12th century or later - and 
English analogues. The only thing I'm sure of is that they 
drank a
lot of mead, beer, and wine, and that won't help him much 
Speaking as a writer/researcher, I would go for roast or 
stewed meats
(beef, pork or mutton) with whatever sort of bread and 
greens seems good. (I suspect the lower class diet 
involved more oat-
based things and left-over cuts of meat, but that's not 
what he's
trying to recreate.) For relishes - things that go with 
the bread -
soft cheese, butter, and dried or seasonal fruits seem 
like a good
bet. I don't think the Welsh had as well developed a dairy 
culture as
the Irish, but again that's guesswork - and it probably by 
anyway. "Caws pobi" (melted cheese on bread) seems to go 
back a fair
way and might provide the "Welsh" flavor required ;-)

Stepping back a little, there are food references in the 
Welsh laws,
though of course no recipes. The manuscript sources are 
generally 12th
(?) and 13th century, but it is generally agreed they 
contain a lot
of older material which may go back to the 9th and 10th 
Some foods mentioned: meat (cow, pig, muuton), bacon, 
butter, oats
(as horse-fodder), barley(? - or some other grain from 
"land that is
not wheat land"), wheat, eggs, berries, haddock, cheese, 
"a cake from
every kind of flour which she bakes" (due to the 
bakeress), honey,
venison, wild boar, apples, hazelnuts. Source: _Law of 
Hywel Dda_
(Welsh Classics) by Dafydd Jenkins (Editor)(1990)(isbn 

For Irish material I recommend _Early Irish Farming_ by 
Fergus Kelly
(1997)(isbn 1855001802). For the Saxons, one place to 
start is _A
Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Food_ by Ann Hagen (1992) (isbn 
The last is still in print; the first two have sadly gone 
out of
print, and the Irish one is becoming rare and expensive. 
loan is our friend ;-)

(feel free to forward)

"Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy which 
sustained him through temporary periods of joy."
W. B. Yeats
Kathleen Roberts
Coordinator of Freshman Admissions
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM
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