Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An Elizabethan Dinner.

We have spent far too much time in the nineteenth century of late. Let us travel back four hundred years, to the period when Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne of England.

It seems that some things never change – the movers and shakers (the fat cat beaurocrats, if you prefer) have always eaten well on the public purse. In 1573, on this very day, a number of the chief advisers to Queen Elizabeth (the powers behind the throne, if you will) sat down to a very fine dinner.These were the men who made the nation’s economic decisions – the Lord High Treasurer (William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley), the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Walter Mildmay), and the Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer (Sir Edward Saunders) and various other officials.

The provisions list for the dinner (with prices in shillings nnd pence) was as follows:

A Dinner for my Lorde Treasurer, Mr. Chanceler, my Lorde Chefe Baron, the Barons and Officers of the Exchequer, upon the 28th daye of October, 1573’

For breade, ale, and beare                   15    0
For a rande of brawne                           5    0
For a surloyne and a double
rybbe of byefe                                        7   0
For 2 geese                                            3   8
For four jointes of veale                          7   0
For sixe capons                                    13   8
For 3 cople of rabbyts                            3   4
For a dozen and a halfe of pigions           3   4
For sixe woodcocks                               5   0
For 4 partridges                                     3   4
For one fessante                                     4   0
For 4 snypes                                          1   8
For 3 dozen of larkes                             2   6
For marybones                                      1    0
For butter                                              4   0
For eggs                                                1   0
For sauce                                              1    0
For spices                                              7   0
For frute                                                1   6
For white wyne                                      0   5
For a pottle of muskeder, a pottle
of sacke, and 2 gallons of
claret wyne                                            5   8
For rose-water and swete-water            0   8
For lemans                                             0   8
For strewing hearbes and p’sly               0   6
For fier in pearlers and kitchin                 6   8
For cookes wages                                  6  0
For boote hier                                        1   4
For occupyenge of plate, naperye,
and other necessaries                              5   0

Today’s recipe is for a dish supposedly first served to the Queen’s father, Henry VIII, if we are to believe John Partridge, the author of a book first published in the same year as this dinner, with the impressive full title of:

The treasurie of hidden secrets, commonly called, The good-huswives closet of provision, for the health of her houshold Gathered out of sundrie experiments, lately practised by men of great knowledge: and now newly inlarged with divers necessary physick helpes, and knowledge of the names and disposition of diseases, that most commonly happen to men and women. Not impertinent for every good huswife to use in her house, amongst her owne familie

A Sawce for a rosted Rabbet: first vsed to King Henry the eight.
TAke an handful of washed percelye, mince it small, boyle it with Butter & veriuce vpon a chafing dish, season it wt sugre and a little Pepper grose beaten, when it is redi: put in a few fine Crummes of white bread, put it in amongste the other, let it boyle agayne till it be standing, then lay it in a Platter, lyke the breadth of three fingers, lay of each side one rosted Conye (or mo[r]e) and so serue them

There are other Elizabethan tales – and recipes – here, here, and here.

Quotation for the Day.

Most banquets turn out to be full discourse dinners.
Ed Whittaker


Anonymous said...

Mrs. Clarkson,
Thank you for all of your interesting posts on traditional English foods, I find your recipes fascinating.
Indeed, these would be good for preparing modern wild game of all sorts, especially the game birds.


Foose said...

"Lemans" is an old word for sweethearts or loose women, but I assume in this case lemons are meant -- fancy women at My Lorde Treasurer's banquet would be a bit much, although perhaps 8 pence for the lot was an irresistible bargain.

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Berserker: I'm glad you like my stories - I agree about the game birds (wish I could get some!)
Foose-marvellous! I had no idea that lemans could mean anything other than lemons. I meant to give a relative price in today's money, - 8 pence was probably still quite expensive (for the citrus sort of leman that is, not sure about the female sort!)