[Sca-cooks] Above/Below the Salt was Greetings
t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net
Wed Mar 19 19:25:27 PDT 2008
> Ok, now I'm curious, as I have read repeatedly, in my research, that more
> elaborate foods were served to the higher ranking eaters, while messes of
> less elaborate foods were served to the waiting people and hangers-on, and
> that one way to show approval of a hanger-on was to send him food from
> your plate. I seem to place this custom in the 14th c. or before. On the
> other hand, other than a note that someone who seemed reliable mentioned
> this at Kalamazoo, I have no concrete citations to it.
This is correct, but it is not a matter of above or below the salt where the
hall is divided by the position of the salt cellar. In a household,
everyone received the basic ration of a meal with some special dishes being
prepared for the lord or lady of the household, who might or might not share
them with others. The High Medieval household was the retinue that
travelled with and supported a lord or lady and it was common for everyone
of the household to partake of the common meal, although I understand there
are some records of grooms being fed separately because they were a rowdy
In a situation where one person controls everything, there is no need for
the concept of above or below the salt, because everyone knows their place
in the organization. From the evidence, the concept is roughly 16th
Century, when wealth, power and privilege became more fluid and one needed
cues to tell the Pros from the Joes, so to speak.
> I know that separate kitchens for kings and queens as opposed to other
> people in the castle is documented, and separate meals for king vs. queen
> is also documented... that's in various sets of inventories.
> Bear, could you share more about this? I'm perfectly willing to believe
> your research, especially as I can't put my finger on mine; I'm just
> wanting to hear more from you.
> -- Jenne Heise / Jadwiga Zajaczkowa
Often husbands and wives maintained separate households, that would travel
to different manors in their keeping and when they joined together at a
manor, they would then function as a single household (but with two clerks
of the wardrobe probably divvying up the expenses). How much of this has to
do with the actual ownership and inheritance, span of control, or spousal
avoidance, I have no idea. The separation of the King and Queen is likely
to be because of all three, considering of the marriages of the Plantagenets
C.M. Woolgar has done some interesting work on household and household
accounts and I highly recommend him.
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