I am having some fun this week looking at A Collection of Ordinances and Regulations for the Government of the Royal Household, made in Divers Reigns from King Edward III to King William and Queen Mary, published for the Society of Antiquaries in 1787.
No household detail was too small to be included in the regulations in times past. There were no simple generic exhortations against the waste of household goods. The fate of every single item – down to the candle stubs, poultry feathers, broken casks, and fireplace ash - was specifically determined. Many of these bits of “rubbish” were perquisites that formed part of the payment of household staff, and they were all eminently useable or saleable in times when recycling was a way of life, not an optional practice.
Most interesting to me is the fate of the leftovers from the table. Food waste was particularly heinous - sinful, even, in the centuries covered by our resource of the week. During these times also, wealthy households were expected to assist the poor in the community, and this responsibility was taken very seriously. The two obligations were served simultaneously by the distribution of food leftovers to the poor waiting at the gate.
The Ordinances for the Household Made at Eltham, in 1526 – the seventeenth year of the reign of Henry VIII - were very explicit in respect of the fate of leftover food. ("broken meate" - meat in the general sense of any food.)
No Vessell To Be Cast Abroade Out Of The Chambers.
And semblably all such as have their lodgeings within the court shall give straight charge to the mynisters and keepers of their chambers, that they do not cast, have, or lay any manner of dishes, platters, saucers, or broken meate, either in the said galleryes, or at their chamber doores, or in the court, or other place; but immediately after they shall have occupied them, to carry them into the squillery [scullery], leaving the broken meate and relliques being in the fame, in a vessell, which by the officers of the almonry shall be sett abroad in a place to be deputed for that purpose; and likewise to put the relliques of their ale into another vessell, semblably to be ordeyned for the same, which vessells the said officers of the almonry shall sett out in a place convenient, giveing their attendance upon the same, from time to time, upon paine of imprisonment, with further aggravation of punishment as their negligence shall require, soe that broken meate and drinke be in no wise lost, cast away, or eaten with dogges, nor lye abroad in the galleryes and courtes, but may daily be saved for the reliefe of poore folks, and to be administered unto them by the almoners as apperteyneth: and in cafe any of those which have allowance of lodgeing within the court doe make default in the ordering of their servants and keepers of their chambers in manner and forme aforesaid, they shall, for the first time, be by the head officers admonished to reforme the same, and at the second default lack their liverie for that time, and for their third forfeite loose their allowance, lodgeing, and bouch of court [meals].
A little further along in the document, the subject is revisited.
Relicts and Fragments of Meate and Drinke.
And because heretofore the relicts and fragments of such meate and drinke, as dayly hath been spent in the King and Queen's chamber and household, have not been duely distributed unto poore folkes, by way of almes, as was convenient; it is therefore the King's pleasure, that from henceforth speciall regard be had, that all the said reliques and fragments be saved and gathered by the officers of the almonry, and from day to day to be given to poore people at the utter court gate, by oversight of the under almnor; without diminishing, embesselling, or purloyning any parte thereof; and that neither in the chamber, nor other place where allowance of meate is had, the meate be given away by any sitting or wayting there; but the relliques to be imployed to the almes as is aforesaid.
So, the rules of Henry’s household were quite clear: all food scraps were to be collected, and all were to be distributed as alms to the poor, on pain of the King’s displeasure. Sounds reasonable to me.
As the recipe for the day, I give you instructions for making fried tripe, from A Proper newe Booke of Cokerye (circa 1545.)
To frye Trypes.
Take your Tripes and cutte them in small peces and put them into a panne and put therto an onyon or two and a dysche of swete butter, and let them frye tyll they be browne, and then take them oute and set them upon a chaffindysh and put thereto a lyttle verges [verjuice] and gynger and serue it.
For what it's worth, I've read that 'broken meats' were dishes that had been cut into or partially served, but not directly eaten from.
If someone scooped out some casserole and put it in another dish and took it to the table, the remaining casserole would be termed under broken meats.
Hi kate, thanks for this comment: I am trying to track down some more information on what, exactly, were "broken meates" - so far, only confusion! will let you know if I find anything definitive.
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