Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Legal Feast.

Eleven ‘gentlemen of the law’ gave a five-day ‘grand entertainment’ at Ely House in Holborn, London in 1532. The event was a celebration of their ‘assuming the dignity of the serjeant’s coif’ – in other words, their swearing-in as serjeants of the law at the annual ceremony. It seems that the law was a lucrative profession back then, if the cost of the bill of fare for the feasting is any guide. I don’t know how many guests were invited to attend the feasting, but the quantity of meat purchased was enormous: [formatting options are not particularly flexible here, so in case of confusion - the figures listed are in ₤  s  d ]

                                                                 ₤  s  d
Twenty-four large oxen, each at                 1  6  8
The carcass if a large ox                            1  4  0
One hundred sheep, each                          0  2 10
Fifty-one calves, each at                            0  4  8
Thirty-four hogs, each at                            0  3  8
Ninety-one pigs, each at                            0  0  6
Ten dozen capons of Greece, each
dozen at                                                    0  1  8
Nine dozen and a half of Kentish
capons, each at                                         0  1  3
Nineteen dozen of common capons,
each at                                                      0  0  6
Seven dozen and nine of grouse or
heath cocks, each at                                  0  0  8
Fourteen dozen and eight common
cocks, each at                                           0  0  3
The best pullets at                                     0  0  2 ½
Common ditto, at                                      0  0  2
Thirty-seven dozen of pigeons, each
dozen at                                                   0  0  10
Three hundred and forty dozen of
larks, each dozen at                                  0  0  5

I am now unable to shake the mental image of the job of plucking and dressing of over four thousand larks.

From Epulario: or, The Italian Banquet (‘translated out of the Italian into English’, edition published in 1598), I give you the instructions for making any meat elegantly pale when cooked.

To make all kind of meat to rost fair and white.
To make all kind of foule, Capons, kid, or any other flesh to rost faire and white, specially Beefe, Mutton, Veale, or Lambe. First parboile it, and then larde it, if it be Capon, fesant, or any other foule: first wash it cleane, that done, dip it in hote water, but take it presently out againe, and laye it in cold water, and it will be the fairer and rost better: then lard it and sticke it with cloves, or other things as you think good, or as he that oweth it doth most fancy it: if you will you may stuffe them with sweet hearbes, dry proines, soure grapes, cherries, and such like things, and so spit it, and first make a soft fire that it may rost sokingly and not bee scorched or burnt, and when you think it almost rosted, grate white bread, and cast salt into it, where with you shall crumme it, then make a hot fire, and turne it round, so it will be faire and white, which done, send it presently to table.

Quotation for the Day.

I pray thee let me and my fellows have
A hair of the dog that bit us last night.
John Heywood (1497-1580)

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