[Sca-cooks] Size of Trenchers

Terry Decker t.d.decker at att.net
Sun Jul 5 05:50:16 PDT 2009

Given the use of "finger" as a unit of measure, the "foot" in Menagier's 
case may be the "manual foot" which would mean a 6 1/2 inch diameter.  Some 
experimentation I've done suggests that a trencher loaf will be between 6 
and 8 inches in diameter and 8 to 12 ounces in weight.

The original trenchers (roughly 11th-12th Century) appear to have been split 
loaves, which by the 14th Century were being pared into various geometric 
shapes and being used in multiples.

To my knowledge, bread trenchers did not come as large as modern plates.  If 
you consider the cost of preparing and using them, bread trenchers were an 
exercise in conspicuous consumption limited to the wealthy, so the small 
size would add to the effect.  In addition, the trenchers might be replaced 
several times during the meal.


> I've been corresponding with a lady who is thinking of trying to set up a 
> period cookshop at Pennsic next year. One issue is what tos serve the food 
> on. Bread bowls are modern, paper plates are strikingly modern and cost 
> something, reusable plates have to be washed and risk theft.
> One obvious answer is bread trenchers--which raises the question of how 
> big they were. The only figure I can find is from _Le Menagier_ and seems 
> to be 4"x6", which would be awfully small for serving food on. I'm 
> wondering if we have other sources, and if one can make a reasonable case 
> that trenchers were sometimes substantially larger than that--large enough 
> to serve moderns as plates.
> Anyone have anything?
> -- 
> David/Cariadoc
> www.daviddfriedman.com
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