[Sca-cooks] Lenten Observations was Officially serving modern food at SCA...

JIMCHEVAL at aol.com JIMCHEVAL at aol.com
Thu Jan 31 21:05:10 PST 2013

Le Grand's work amply documents the use of birds, the allowance of pork  
fat, etc. (he says somewhere that he is as much a compiler as a writer). 
Gregory  de Tours (6th century) was served a boiled fowl (with chickpeas) to 
accommodate  his abstinent diet.

"It was comforting enough for the Monks of these  former times to mortify 
themselves, in eating all these dainty birds, domestic  or other. Nonetheless 
the Church in the end found that such food was a sensual  indulgence ill 
suited to people who, by their oath, had devoted themselves to an  austere 
life. In 817, the Council of Aix la Chapelle forbid it them except four  days 
at Easter and four days at Christmas; yet they allowed those who, as a  
penance, wanted even then to abstain from it, to do as they  pleased....

....the Canon of the Council of Aix la Chapelle was only a  rule of reform, 
set exclusively for the Regular Canons. It did not change how  most people 
thought about birds. They continued to regard them as  fish..."

"In 817, when the Council of Aix la Chapelle forbade Regular  Canons the 
use of poultry, as I have noted above, it allowed them that of fat,  to 
indemnify them for this deprivation; nonetheless it excepted from its  permission 
every Friday of the year, the octave of Christmas, and all of Lent;  ut 
Fratres aliquid pinguedinis habeant; excepto sextô feriâ, etc. [“that the  
Brethren have some fat; except on the sixth day, etc.”]"

Here is how he sums up the situation as he saw it from his Old  Regime 

"If it was possible to restore to Life for an instant  someone who no 
longer lives, it would be a Spectacle quite worthy of a  Philosopher's eyes to 
seat at the same table a Monk of the VIIIth century, a  Monk of the XIVth, and 
one of ours and to serve all three what, in their  different times, and 
according to the regime of their same Rule, constituted and  constitutes their 
fasting food. One would see the last think to keep a severe  abstinence in 
eating eggs, butter and milk-meat; the second regard these  substances as 
meat and abstain from them with horror; the first to the contrary  would join 
to them without scruple a fowl, a partridge, vegetables or greens  seasoned 
with fat or bacon. What a horrible scandal they would cause each other!  How 
they would mutually condemn each other to excommunication. Alas! Let us  
condemn no one. The history of a people's customs is only, strictly speaking,  
the history of its contradictions. Who knows if our own, one day, will not 
be  criticized by future centuries; if our nephews, when they read that we 
did not  dare to eat a duck on a fast day, while we ate a scoter duck and a 
water hen,  will not be as shocked as we are today when we see that our 
Ancestors abstained,  on the same days, from beef and pork, and yet fed themselves 
with vegetables  prepared with fat and bacon."

His work also includes other surprises, such as the fact that in the same  
period Saturday was made a fast day (despite previous objections - which I 
don't  believe he mentions - that this was "Judaizing"). Few Catholics today 
I think  know that it still is: "the Roman Pontiffs have constantly refused 
to abrogate  the law of abstaining on Saturday."
So yes, birds (and eggs) were eaten for a long time by people avoiding meat 
 and yes a Church council authorized eating fat. In the medieval era.

Jim Chevallier

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

In a message dated 1/31/2013 12:47:42 P.M. Pacific Standard Time,  
lcm at jeffnet.org writes:
Do you have documentation for the allowance of pork  fat and of birds? 

And I'm afraid that 18th c practices are not  relevant here. 

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