[Sca-cooks] Leftovers, questions and discussion [long]

Daniel Myers dmyers at medievalcookery.com
Fri Sep 10 06:36:45 PDT 2010

> -------- Original Message --------
> From: Fields Family Farm <fields at texas.net>

If we're getting into hypotheticals here, what if space aliens landed
and handed you 50 tons of rotten pork and forced you under threat of
disintegration to cover up the taste with all of your expensive spices
and feed it to the king?

Seriously though, none of these hypotheticals are all that likely in a
medieval society.

> What if you, as the cook, forgot and left the meat out and it turned?
> Wouldn't you want to avoid that blame for the waste?

Forgot and left the meat out?  How much meat do you think they had that
they would butcher animals and leave them sit out for days?  They
received their meat in the form of live animals (we have buckets of
documentation for this fact) and butchered them as needed.  Why would
you expect them to be anywhere as wasteful in an overall period of
relative scarcity as we are now?

> What if you were given a budget to buy meat and you bought older meat,
> because it was cheaper, and then pocketed the rest?

As mentioned above, meat was typically purchased alive.  For smaller
purchases you could go to a butcher, but the butcher's not likely to
slaughter more than he can sell in a day - he'd go out of business. 
Further, as has been mentioned by others, there are plenty of records of
sellers adulterating older meat in order to sell it - and then being
punished severely when caught.  Just how well do you think they can mask
the smell of serious taint using cheap substances?

> What if you had some bad meat, and some good meat, and you were allowed to
> take what was left home after you cooked for your lord?

It's been documented that the cook's duties included tasting every dish
before serving, and at the end of the feast the lord of the manor would
give part of the last dish to the cook.  There was also a well
documented system in place in which leftovers were given to the poor. 
In the manoral setting, most regular jobs received their meals as part
of their wages.  Further, the cook often lived in or near the manor
kitchen.  The cook "taking food home" is meaningless in this context. 
There was nothing to take, and no home to take it to.

> What if you were a vendor and your supplier brought in some meat that was
> just turning and wanted you to sell it?

Again, the vendor bought the meat as living animals, butchered it, and
sold it at the market.  Cooks in large manors bought live animals and
butchered them for feast.  The supplier was a farmer who raised the
animal and sold it alive.  It wasn't like our current system where
animals are slaughtered and shipped thousands of miles in refrigerated
trucks.  Living animals don't generally spoil, and there were very
strict laws against selling unhealthy animals.

- Doc

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