[Sca-cooks] Spicing was Non-Pennsic SCA activities?
Pixel, Goddess and Queen
pixel at hundred-acre-wood.com
Thu Aug 7 09:00:20 PDT 2008
On Thu, 7 Aug 2008, Dragon wrote:
> Johnna Holloway wrote:
>> I mentioned this question to the author of Take A /Thousand Eggs/ or More
>> and Cindy Renfrow wrote me that
>> "Off the top of my head...
>> <shrug> Spices were expensive imports. Except for a few notable exceptions
>> in the collection, and as far as I recall, spices were used sparingly and
>> in a manner that they'd be most noticed by the diners i.e. as a final
>> tasty, colorful garnish. This was especially true on white dishes. Herbs,
>> ginger and saffron, OTOH, were grown locally and used in larger quantity.?
> Then how does she explain the sometimes enormous quantities of spices such as
> cinnamon and pepper and nutmegs that show up in some household inventories of
> the period? (I am at work and have no direct references handy, I'll try to
> dig some up later at home if anyone really wants some). I can only surmise
> that these great quantities of spice were not allowed to just sit unused
> until they went bad. I am also convinced that conspicuous consumption and
> showing off one's wealth were just as much in fashion then as they are today.
> People have always operated on the principle of "if you have it, flaunt it".
Christopher Dyer mentions this in "Standards of Living in the Later
Middle Ages: Social Change in England c. 1200-1520" and C.M.Woolgar
mentions this in "The Great Household in Late Medieval England" and
although I don't remember whether it was Dyer or Woolgar who addressed the
actual amount of spice per person or if it was a discussion on the list,
remember that the accounts that we have are for *households*, not just
individuals, and if you're feeding over 100 people for each meal, you use
an awful lot of ingredients. Even if you only use the expensive spices on
dishes that get served to the lord and guests, you're still feeding about
20 people a whole bunch of dishes so again, you're going to use more
spices than if you were making one dish to serve 4.
For instance, Chiquart, in his instructions for making a feast at which
there are kings, specifies (among others) six pounds of nutmeg which is
considered a minor spice. (He also talks about purchasing the spices in
advance and grinding them to powder then storing in leather bags, but
we're talking about spicing levels in this discussion.) He also specifies
100 cattle, 130 sheep, 120 pigs, 100 piglets, 200 kids, 200 lambs, 100
calves, and 2000 head of poultry, so we're looking at a pretty substantial
So, extrapolating to a less spiffy household, it's still not unreasonable
to assume that Lady Thus-and-So's household used ten pounds of pepper in a
year, because they were feeding 40-60 people at every meal, two meals a
day. Add to that the additional factor that some of those days were feast
days where spiffier food was served, and probably a few of those days were
days where there were guests, again requiring spiffier food.
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