[Sca-cooks] Medieval root beer; early Frankish food

JIMCHEVAL at aol.com JIMCHEVAL at aol.com
Sun Jan 20 12:55:05 PST 2013

At some point I want to summarize the book's worth of information I've been 
 gathering on food under the Frankish dynasties; that is, the Merovingians 
and  the Carolingians. This is part of a more general project looking at 
French food  before Taillevent et al:

_http://chezjim.com/food/pre-v/_ (http://chezjim.com/food/pre-v/) 
But while waiting to do that, here's a glimpse at a very early Frankish  

Anyone who's consulted Bonnie Effros' work may have seen her  account of 
meals found by Fremersdorf in two 5th century Frankish graves under  Saint 
Severin in Cologne. Others have reported the same information in slightly  
different form, including Edouard Salins, whose monumental work (1959) on the  
Merovingians gives a more detailed account of the finds (IV:32). One had a 
bird  cooked in honey and a pot of what seemed to be fat for consumption 
(common  enough in the early medieval period), as well as two eggs set on grass 
in a  bowl; the other contained millet gruel flavored with honey, meat which 
had been  cooked in fat flavored with sage and mustard (probably black 
mustard), and two  drinks. One was a glass of wine (per the residue); the other 
is sometimes  described as a kind of mead, but in fact seems to have been... 
birch beer. That  is, the residue of pollen shows that it was a fermented 
drink using birch  sap.

In fact, there is nothing very surprising about this; various drinks  are 
still made with birch sap today:

Except  that... there is no mention of this in any written records. So this 
may be the  one speck of proof that early Franks drank what, in America at 
least, became  root beer.

So, want to make a very early medieval meal? Roast a bird  (preferably a 
tough one) in honey, serve it with millet gruel, also flavored  with honey, 
cook either pork or beef (probably) in fat flavored with sage and  mustard 
seed and... make up a batch of homemade root beer. (You probably want to  skip 
the bowl of fat unless you're REALLY feeling hardcore; the wine was  
probably a southern product and imported north, for what that's worth.)
As you can see, we're a long way from trenchers and verjuice here. But  
that's a whole other story.
Jim  Chevallier

Newly translated from Pierre Jean-Baptiste  Le Grand d'Aussy:
Eggs, Cheese and Butter in Old Regime  France

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