[Sca-cooks] Book Review - WAS: Bread Labor

Terry Decker t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net
Fri Nov 2 20:03:50 PDT 2007

> The part that pertains to bread was very interesting to me. It goes into 
> the
> prices of wheat, how the wheat was obtained by a large household and from
> whom. Apparently, they had figured out exactly how many loaves of bread
> could be baked from a set amount of wheat. They didn't use bushels but 
> I'll
> use that as an example. The amount of loaves from a bushel was a standard
> that was used almost universally. They had standards for other products as
> well.

Wheat was commonly purchased by the quarter, which is eight bushels.

For a great household in England, the baker was a specialist that had to 
meet the requirements of the Assize of Bread, which specified loaf weight 
dependent upon the price of a quarter of wheat.  The number of loaves baked 
from a quarter of wheat is a function of the price of the wheat.  The 
standard was universal in England because it was the law.  Other regulations 
covered other products, which may cause the standardization you are seeing.

> The accountant would record that he gave the cook so many bushels of wheat
> on a particular day. The cook had to report back how many loaves of bread
> s/he baked from the wheat. This implies that they ground the wheat 
> in-house
> and then baked the loaves. It doesn't say what the turnaround time was. If
> there was a discrepancy between the amount of wheat given to the cook and
> the loaves of bread returned, then they had to be accounted for (such as a
> percentage of the wheat was moldy or something).

The baker is a professional seperate from the cook.  The baker and the cook 
report independently.

Under the Assize, the baker has the bran as part of his profit, so it may be 
that seeing to the milling was part of the baker's obligation and not 
necessarily internal to the household or the milling may be done at the 
manor's mill.

You will find that any and all supplies issued from the Wardrobe were 
constantly accounted for.  For example, foodstuffs for the kitchen were 
accounted for as served portions when received at the bar (usually by the 
butler or equivalent).  Discrepencies were noted and needed to be accounted 

> Anyway, I'm over 3/4 through on my first reading and I'm fascinated by the
> little details. None of the items are terribly new or shocking for most of
> us, but they are interesting when put into perspective as they are in this
> book. The one thing I need for the next pass is a clear understanding of 
> the
> monetary system...I understand the references to pounds, d, and s enough 
> to
> get a comparative idea but I would like to know how many s go into a d, 
> how
> many d go into a pound, etc.
> In Service,
> Ysabeau of Prague
> Barony of Bryn Gwlad
> Ansteorra

One pound sterling (12 troy or tower ounces of silver) equals 20 shillings 
(s.) equals 240 pence (d.).  There is a slight weight difference between 
Tower and Troy pounds.  The Tower pound was the English standard from 760 to 
1526, when it was replaced by the Troy pound.

Sounds like an interesting book.


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