Saturday, 6 April 2013

F is for Feasts ...

The Roman bon viveur Marcus Apicius who, in 354 AD, made the earliest reference to a Christmas feast ... suggesting perhaps ostrich: not a bird known in the England; but the forests were full of boar.

Roast Boar

By medieval times it was the ‘Yule boar’ ... with its head as the main table decoration that was the speciality of the season.  Trimmings included a Christmas pudding made of meat, oatmeal and spices wrapped in the gut of a pig.

And there were mince pies – Henry V (1386 – 1422) was a great fan and had them served at his coronation in 1413 ... filled with chicken, partridge, pigeon, hare, capon, pheasant, rabbits, ox tongue and mixed with fruits, peels and sugar.

Banqueting and Feasting

Jane Austen in Persuasion (1818) talks of the weight of ‘brawn and cold pies’ on the Christmas table, while the dinner was served at 4.00 pm – consisting of ‘roast beef and venison as the mainstay, supported by goose’.

This where Austen also says, ‘Christmas pudding, gingerbread and the wassail bowl – a mixture of beer, sherry, sugar and spices’.

The huge halls became specialised Banqueting Rooms as in the Royal Pavilion, Brighton (promoted by the gourmand King George IV (1762-1830) – where feasting was taken to a new level by ... today these are rarified gatherings ...

... however Medieval Feasts are held for recreational purposes ... a time of fun and experience for today’s guests of times gone by ... as Shakespeare directs in Macbeth:

 Butter Beer a popular Tudor drink
You know your own degrees. Sit down.
At first and last, the heart welcome ...
Be large in mirth.  Anon we’ll drink a measure
The table round.”

Though a not so happy bloody ending occurred ...

That is F for Feasts from Aspects of British Cookery

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Anonymous said...

Good day Hilary, they certainly knew how to eat in days gone by, certainly no take aways.
Excellent post and wonderful to read.

Have a great week-end.

Vallypee said...

Goodness, it makes us all seem very moderate and frugal eaters now, doesn't it? What a feast indeed, to read and to savour!

Manzanita said...

I love to look at the lavish feasts and the spacious halls that held all the food and people partaking of the festivities. I yearn for times like that again where all food was organic and one could step outdoors and breath non-chemical air.

MunirGhiasuddin said...

I remember going to Brighton where parents of a friend of my husband lived.
I think we got the term "Feast" from the British People in our Indian version of the celebratory "EID".

Jo said...

You mentioned brawn (known as head cheese here) my mother used to make it quite often, never tried myself. The one she made was delicious. Olde England sure knew how to eat. Today we aren't active enough to cope with such food.


Bob Scotney said...

I believe there used to be an ostrich farm in England, Hilary. I'm going to see if I can find it.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Hmmmm, roast boar sounds good.

JoJo said...

I have to say some of those mixtures and combos sound kinda gross. I ordered a Christmas pudding once with the brandy sugar icing; it even came with a coin to put inside the pudding. It was so gross that I threw it out after the first bite.

Gattina said...

During the reading of your post I put on at least 2 kgs !

Karen Lange said...

What a good choice for the letter F. I admire you for your creativity; I'm not sure I could do as well for all the letters! Happy A to Z, and happy weekend! :)

Bish Denham said...

The yule boar sounds like a pig roast to me... yummmmm!

Nick Wilford said...

They certainly knew how to lay on a spread in those days!

Nice to see a mention of the Pavilion. I've decided to do an A-Z of Brighton for next year, there's more than enough material.

Tina said...

I do enjoy a good feast...though my Mom's version of wassail bowl does not contain beer. However, my Grandma Vivian's potent whiskey sours sure made up for that...
Loving your series.

Tina @ Life is Good
Co-host, April 2013 A-Z Challenge Blog
@TinaLifeisGood, #atozchallenge

cleemckenzie said...

I'm imagining all the labor it took to pull off these elaborate feasts! The hunting, the preparation of food, the serving and cleaning up after. I'd choose to be among the elite and not a scullery maid, thank you very much.

That Butter Beer looks darned good, Hilary.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Yvonne - thanks and didn't they know how to feast ..

@ Val - well we're slightly more frugal aren't we - yet some of us are more sedentary - excluding you and your boat of course!

@ Manzanita - I'd love to partake in one I must say .. but I'd have to be a noble - too much work otherwise!!

But I agree - all organic and wild, and then all that fresh air .. so true Manzanita ..

@ Munir - well you'll enjoy Nick's posts next year .. if he does Brighton. I do remember you visited Brighton when you lived in the UK ..

Was the term "Feast" brought in from Britain - and absorbed into your EID festival .. that's interesting to know ...

@ Jo - I did mention brawn - it's delicious .. but the person I know who made it - sadly died before her time .. and so I never got to spend time with her making brawn and seeing how it's done ..

No we need exercise to cope with regular feasting - that's for sure ..

@ Bob - I'm sure there is an ostrich farm too - but I was referring back to Roman times - when they hadn't reached our shores (yet)! - hope you let me know though ..

@ Keith - as it's now supper time - roast boar would be a delicious treat right now!

@ JoJo - oh that's disappointing .. these are the foods we are made from!! Yes, a traditional Christmas pudding .. with a coin for good luck, and brandy sauce to top it off - it's really good!!

@ Gattina - well if we ate it all we would put on a few kilos .. sadly true!

@ Karen - you could Karen .. I'm just finding ideas that fit - which in fact I love doing .. glad you enjoy the posts though!

@ Bish - it is a precursor of our pig roast .. wild boars abounded back in those early days - in fact we have them roaming around now ... and I agree yummy!

@ Nick - those that could afford to put such a feast on - knew what life was about didn't they ..

I think your Brighton idea is a good one - wouldn't clash either with my next series ...

@ Tina - your stories of feasting would be delicious based on your Swedish heritage ... and wassail is usually apple based with spices - this Butter Beer I came across and thought it was interesting to remember and to post up ..

Your Grandma's whiskey sours sound potent as you say ... sadly I'm not keen on whiskey ..

Thanks - so pleased .. but I love learning about the Swedish girl in America ...

@ Lee - it was hugely labour intensive .. especially as Court would travel with an entourage and so the household size would increase exponentially .. me too - I'll join you at the high table .. I'm not keen on washing up!!

The Butter beer does look rather interesting .. I've never sampled it ..

Cheers everyone - have a lovely rest of the weekend .. Hilary

A Lady's Life said...

ostriches in England? Wow!
Hunting wild boar mince pies...
I have never made a mince pie.
I should try one day.

Mark Means said...

It's funny because I look at that sort of food and think that some of it doesn't sound so appetizing.

I'll bet, though, someone from that time period would say the exact same thing about our food today :)

Diane said...

I think I would love to experience one of their feasts. Not sure I would want to ear an old fashioned corset to one though!! Have a good Sunday, Diane

Chuck said...

Not all appetizing but most. I see a large cholesterol problem looming if you ate too much of that stuff. But then they didn't know about that back then and just lived life large!

Nice post Hilary.

Chuck at Apocalypse Now

hyperCRYPTICal said...

The mince pies sound interesting...

Anna :o]

Julie Flanders said...

How funny to think of an ostrich as the Christmas feast. I guess ostriches got lucky that never caught on.
I think it would be fun to attend a Medieval feast now. And I'd love to have a Butter Beer. :)

Happy weekend, Hilary!

Lynn said...

I am loving this A to Z in food. Butter beer - hmmm - does it taste like butter, I wonder?

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

It's interesting to learn about the customs of other countries. Years ago, I wrote short recitations for my Sunday School class. I had the children speak about Christmas customs in other lands.

klahanie said...

Hi Hilary,

Your posting, a feast for sore eyes.

Your usual meticulous effort and greatly appreciated.

My wedding was in the theme of a Medieval feast. Although there was no dogs under the table to throw scraps at.

Happy alphabeting and enjoy Sunday.


Sue McPeak said...

What a Feast you have put on here for AtoZ readers. I'm stuffed...actually I can't imagine eating that much food, but I'm guessing from my limited knowledge of Feasting that the entertainment was mixed in with the eating. That might explain why we hurry up and eat so we don't miss the 6o'Sue CollectInTexasGal
AtoZ LoneStar Quilting Beeclock news and Wheel of Fortune.

Sue McPeak said...

mmmmm..sorry for the signature mistake. It should read:
That might explain why we hurry up and eat so we don't miss the 6 O'clock news and Wheel of Fortune.
Sue CollectInTexasGal
AtoZ LoneStar Quilting Bee

Kellie @ Delightfully Ludicrous said...

I certainly wouldn't mind attending a Harry Potteresque feast!

Patsy said...

A medieval feast sounds like it would be fun.

Marja said...

They seem to know how to party big time back then. I learned about the British cookery in NZ also a land of pies and Christmas pudding

VikLit said...

Oooh they knew how to feast didn't they. Now I'm hungry ;)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I don't think I could eat with a boar's head staring at me.

Rosalind Adam said...

In Leicester one of the oldest buildings is the Guild Hall. They have original documents listing out all the courses that were served to the Mayor and aldermen in the 16th century and beyond for their banquets, this being after the dissolution when the Guild Hall became used as a town hall.

Sadly I'm not very good at feasts. My stomach can't manage more than two courses and I don't drink alcohol. I've always been a cheap night out!

TALON said...

I love reading the history and evolution of events. This was really cool, Hilary.

Tracy Moore said...

Hi Hilary~ The feasts back then sure were lavish! Can't imagine us in today's society sitting down to meals like this. Nice F post :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ A Lady's Life - well we have them now - but never wild, I don't think. Our mince pies today are sweet - full of mince meat - which has suet, currants, raisins, candied peel, apple and some booze! I have to say I love mince pies ..

@ Mark - I'm sure you're right .. but I expect these were quite delicious back then - even the butter beer!

@ Dianne - hadn't thought of the corset .. and I do hate being full to the brim. I'd love to try a feast - as long as I could just eat it ... and no worries re the catching and making, or the washing up!

@ Chuck - the difference in the foods we eat today and those of times of yore .... but I'd rather have their chemical free foods ... and they did life to the full ..

@ Anna - they used meat then, til sweet mince pies came to be the fashion ...

@ Julie - the eggs are very valuable - they'll feed 22 with an omelette made with an ostrich egg! I've had the egg - seen the feathers - but never eaten meat .. it must be around .. perhaps it's quite tough, very gamey though ..

Ok - butter beer together and we could try out a medieval feast sometime?!

@ Lynn - I was pleased to find the butter beer - it's interesting isn't it ... tea time and I'm resisting the biscuit!

@ Susan - I bet the children enjoyed learning about others' customs around Christmas time ... always a little different ..

@ Gary - thanks .. a Medieval Feast for your wedding - that must have been fun at the time .. I didn't add the dogs in did I - trouble with short posts .. things need to be 'not thought about' .. ?!

Hope you've had a pleasant Sunday and a sunny walk with Penny ..

@ Sue - no worries ... we do eat too quickly today, and yes in those days they probably danced between courses, or listened to entertainment .. music or storytellers ...

Good to see you too - thanks for coming by ...

@ Kellie .. I guess there'd be many who'd happily join you in one of those - if I knew Harry Potter was going to be there - that'd be extra special!

@ Patsy - I went to one YEARS ago! It was fun ..

@ Marja - there'd be lots of traditional food in NZ ... the feasting too at times I expect!

@ Vikki - they sure did know how to feast ..

@ Diane - it's a strange thought isn't it .. piggy eyes peering out!!

@ Ros - how fascinating to see those documents - must make such interesting reading .. what a great resource.

No worries - we'll need someone to drive us home?! Could you wait for us to finish all our courses??!!

@ Talon - thanks so much .. there's so much early and Medieval history ..

@ Tracy - feasts were feasts. I think today's banquets are much more carefully thought through - the meal is more balanced ..

Thanks to you all .. lovely seeing - hope you've had a feasting Sunday with family and friends .. Hilary

Julie Jordan Scott said...

Ohmigoodness! This is such a fun post. Love the illustrations and the way my imagination flies about at the celebrations you mention.

I think its time for a party!

Hope your weekend continues to be festive!

Julie Jordan Scott
Our Literary Grannies from A to Z:F is for Fredrika Bremer
tweet me - @juliejordanscot

joylene said...

The cook definitely had her job cut out for her. But I wonder how many patrons died from food poisoning. LOL. Excellent post, Hilary!

Sara said...

A fun post about holiday cooking. The idea of the bore's head isn't exactly my cup of tea, but times have changed. On my last visit to England, we went to Brighton and they show a full laid out table. OMG how did they eat all the food? Crazy.

But, it did start a tradition and food has been an equalizer in many of turmoil. Maybe not in Macbeth:~) but certainly in other times.

Thanks Hilary. I enjoyed this post.

Suzanne Furness said...

Wow what a feast! Promised to tell you about the Butter Beer I tasted last week. Well not sure that the 'Harry Potter' stuff is the same as the Tudors had but anyway.
It was quite sweet with a frothy top, it tasted sort of like caramel. The girls thought it had a taste of Iron Bru (I can't comment on this as I have never knowingly drunk it!). Because of the sweetness a small glass was enough. It had no alcohol content perhaps the Tudors would have? However, so glad I got to try it!

Happy weekend, Hilary :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Julie - there's so much to write about .. so I'm delighted you enjoyed the 2,000 years of feastings!

@ Joylene - the cooks had to be incredibly inventive .. and now we can understand why there was a necessity for a taster!

@ Sara - holiday cooking?! They'd have needed to work 24 hours a day a lot of the time to get these feasts up and running - back then ... now we have the Health and Safety people after us!!

The Royal Pavilion in Brighton is a sight to behold isn't ... they probably only had one or two proper meals a day ..

Food can bring us together can't it ... but the Hamlet quote I thought was "so appropriate"!!

@ Suzanne - thanks for coming on quite so quickly to tell us about your taste of Butter Beer at the Harry Potter exposition ...

I'm sure it's not the same .. but fascinating to read about ... sort of what I'd expected in some way - the butter making it slightly sweet in taste ... I haven't had Iron Bru either ... so pass on that one.

The Tudors would have had to have alcohol to eliminate the dangers in the water ... I'd have thought ...

But so pleased you've told us what it's like .. thanks ...

Cheers everyone - and isn't it wonderful our blogging friends add to our 'knowledge' ... ie the taste of butter beer at Hogwarts!

Lovely to see you - Hilary

Lisa said...

Every time I come here I get hungry! I love your historical data and how you present it!

Deniz Bevan said...

Now I'm starving... I'd love to try the Tudor version of butter beer!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Lisa .. thanks so much - I'm just delighted the posts are fun to read, and I enjoy the learning aspect - hence I put the snippets in ...

@ Deniz - I think the Tudor version of Butter Beer would be better than today's version .. which I gather is creme soda, brown!

Cheers to you both - Hilary