The wedding of my young friend is approaching fast (The Girls’ Lunch is today), and the realisation of all that planning is at hand. Wedding catering always means a lot of work for someone. It was no different in fourteenth century France. Here are some instructions from Le Menagier: A Treatise on Moral and Domestic Economy by A Citizen of Paris, published about 1393.
Arrangements for the wedding done by Master Helye in May, on a Tuesday; dinner only for twenty bowls.
Platter: butter, none because it is a meat day. Item, cherries, none, because none could be found; and so no platter.
Soups: capons in fricassee, pomegranate and red sugared almonds on top.
Roast: on each plate a haunch of kid: haunch of kid is better than lamb; a gosling, two young chickens and sauces for them, oranges, cameline, verjuice, and for this fresh towels or napkins.
Side dish: crayfish jelly, loach jelly, small rabbits and pigs. Dessert: frumenty and venison. End: hippocras and wafers. Extras: wine and spices.
The arrangements for supper done this day are for ten bowls.
Cold sage soup of halves of young chickens and little geese, and a vinaigrette of this same dish for supper on a plate. A pie of two young rabbits and two flans - it is said that at French weddings you must have meat pies - and on the other dish the kids' mesenteries and the half-heads, browned.
Side-dish: jelly as above. End: apples and cheese without hippocras, because it is out of season .
Dancing, singing, wine and spices and torches for light.
Now we shall talk about the quantities of the things spoken of above and what goes with them and the prices, and who provides them and sells them.
At the baker's, ten dozen flat white bread baked one day ahead and costing one denier each.
Trencher bread, three dozen of half a foot in width and four fingers tall, baked four days before and browned, or what is called in the market Corbeil bread.
Vintner: three pairs of wines.
At the butcher, half a sheep to make the soup for the companions and a quarter of bacon for larding; the master bone of a leg of beef to cook with the capons so as to get broth to make the fricassee; a forequarter of veal to serve in the fricassee. For the seconds a hind leg of veal or veal feet, to make the liquid for the jelly. Venison, a hefty leg.
At the pastry-cook order: first, to serve the young women, a dozen and a half conical wafers stuffed with cheese, three sous; a dozen and a half long wafers, six sous; a dozen and a half porte wafers, eighteen deniers; a dozen and a half stirrup wafers, eighteen deniers; one hundred sugared cakes, eight deniers.
Item, they shopped for twenty bowls, for the wedding-day dinner, and for six bowls for the servants, and this cost six deniers per bowl, and served each bowl eight wafers, four supplications and four stirrup wafers.
At the poulterer, twenty capons, two Paris sous each; five kids, four Paris sous; twenty young geese, three Paris sous each; fifty young chickens, twelve Paris deniers each; that is to say forty to be roast for the dinner, five for the jelly and five for supper in the cold soup. Fifty young rabbits, that is to say forty for the dinner, which will be roasted, and ten for jelly, and cost twelve Paris deniers each. A thin pig, for the jelly, four Paris sous; twelve pairs of pigeons for the supper, ten Paris deniers the pair. One may enquire of him for venison.
In the market, trencher bread, three dozen. Pomegranates for fricassee, three costing... Oranges, fifty costing... Six new cheeses and one old, and three hundred eggs.
You must realise that each cheese must furnish six tartlets, and also for each cheese you need three eggs.
Sorrel to make verjuice for the chickens, sage and parsley for the cold soup, two hundred pommes de blandureau.
Two brooms and a shovel for the kitchen and salt.
At the sauce-maker's, three half-pints of cameline for dinner and supper and a quart of sorrel verjuice.
At the grocer's: ten pounds of almonds, forty deniers a pound. Three pounds of blanched wheat, eight deniers a pound. - One pound of columbine ginger, eleven sous. - one quarter-pound of mesche ginger, five sous. - A half-pound of ground cinnamon, five sous. - Two pounds of ground rice, two sous. - Two pound of lump sugar, sixteen sous. - A quarter-pound of cloves and seed of garlic, six sous. Half a quarter-pound of long pepper, four sous. - Half a quarter-pound of galingale, five sous. - Half a quarter-pound of mace, three sous four deniers. - Half a quarter-pound of green laurel leaves, six deniers. - Two pounds of tall thin candles, three sous four deniers the pound, making six sous eight deniers, - Torches at three pounds apiece, six; smaller torches at one pound apiece, six; that is to say a cost of three sous a pound, and six deniers less per pound on the returns .
For chamber-spices, that is to say, candied orange peel, one pound, ten sous. - Candied citron, one pound, twelve sous. - Red anise, one pound, eight sous. - Rose-sugar, one pound, ten sous. - White sugared almonds, three pounds, ten sous a pound. - Of hippocras, three quarts, ten sous a quart, and all will be needed.
These spices amounted to twelve francs, including returns on the torches, and a few spices left over; this works out to half a franc per bowl
At Pierre-au-Lait, a sixth of full-cream milk without water added, to make the frumenty.
In the Place de Greve, a hundredweight of coal from Burgundy, thirteen sous two sacks of charcoal, ten sous.
At the Forte-de-Paris: may, green herb, violet, bread-crumbs, a quarter of white salt, a quarter of coarse salt, a hundred crayfish, a half-litre of loach, two clay pots, one of six quarts for the jelly, and the other of two quarts for the cameline.
The Menagier includes a large number of recipes. What to chose? This one, on the basis of its name, wins for today.
A chick should be suffocated while it is still alive, and it is suffocated at the neck; then bind its neck and let it die: then scald, pluck, gut, put it back together and stuff.
Item, or else, when it is all ready to put on the spit, at the hole where it was gutted, you can separate with your finger the skin from the flesh, then stuff it using the end of your finger, then sew it back up with a whip-stitch, at the hole, sewing the skin with the flesh, and put it on the spit.
And note that the stuffing is made of parsley and a little sage with hard-cooked eggs and butter, all chopped up together, and powdered spices too. For each chick you need three eggs, whites and all.
Quotation for the Day …
Marriage is not merely sharing the fettuccine, but sharing the burden of finding the fettuccine restaurant in the first place. Calvin Trillin.