[Sca-cooks] medieval/renaissance architectural construction crews &, related food references

Suey lordhunt at gmail.com
Mon Aug 13 14:59:18 PDT 2012

I do not understand the question. Are we talking about 
medieval/renaissance architectural constructions concerning alimentation 
or about what construction workers ate? Are we talking about England or 
Europe in general?

Of construction we have several examples of English palaces and manor 
houses with independent bakery and brewing houses and a kitchen being a 
building separate from the castle as well. Today it is claimed that this 
was because of the fire hazard. I have not run across that type of 
documentation in Spain.

If talking about what construction workers ate  - J.C. Drummond in his 
book "The Englishman's Food, Chapter III titled "Meals of the People," 
divides the people of medieval times into four classes: the nobleman, 
villager laborer, the artisan, and wealthy merchant, pp 47-64:

. . . ordinary country people  . . . 'black bread' (maslin, barley, rye 
or bean flour) milk, cheese, eggs and occasionally bacon or flour. Dairy 
products . . . known as 'white meat'. . . consumed by all classes in the 
country in medieval times. . .rising prosperity of the early sixteenth 
century they came to be regarded as inferior food fit only for the use 
of the common people.  - chief authority for this statement - from 
Harrison's Description of England.

Drummond continues: . . .  in the middle ages the peasant seldom ate 
meat exempt when he did a little successful poaching or when the lord of 
the manor gave a feast to celebrate the harvest . . food given to 
tenants at ties of 'boon-work' seems to have been barley, oatmeal, 
wheat, herrings and ale of beer ("The Economic and Social History of an 
English Village!, N.S.B. Grass 1930.)  . . . peasants rarely drank 
anything stronger than whey, buttermilk or simply water.
      . . . the poor countryman's food seems to have changed steadily 
for the better during the greater part of the fifteenth century. . . 
larger quantities of beef, mutton and veal. . .
     The second half of the sixteenth century saw a sharp turn for the 
worse. It was a period of depression . .  sheep-farmer was popularly 
blamed. .  .

Drummond continues with "The Peasant's Diet," pp 75-76; "The Condition 
of the Poor," 98-101 etc.

Drummond also explains that he's key sources for information on English 
diets was through chronicles of travelers to England. I have reviewed 
receipts of Spanish and English households. As far as I can see they do 
not enlighten me about eating habits of the classes beneath the nobles. 
The poor scratched the land to eat. The rich had that and more. Although 
Hispanics of the Middle Ages are quick to note there were so many 
classes that even slaves had classes of menus. A 5 star slave received a 
liver or a kidney while a run of the mill slave probably received lamb 
fat as a prize.

Drummond does not seem to get into guilds but aren't guilds a city sort 
of thing? Where there guilds for construction workers? Although gremios 
existed in Spain, I don't have as much information on them as I have on 
guilds in London. - Food wise, I have menus for guild banquets in London 
to which I seriously doubt that construction workers were invited.

In Spain, there is very little documented information on what classes 
beneath nobility ate. There are a few references to slaves' food in 
areas of Hispano-Arab domination but menu's of the poor are slim - as 
Drummond points out pottage's and legumes were the poor man's food, 
Let's face it, the medieval peasant did not need a recipe for a lard and 
black bread sandwich and the noble would not want that recorded in his 


To conclude: if we are talking "diets of construction workers in the 
Middle Ages/Renaissance" - I would take a gander at Charles Clyde 
Ebbets' photograph of  "Lunchtime atop of a Skyscraper," and carry on 
from there.

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