Friday, January 11, 2013

Rules for Pie-bakers in 1379.

Regulations to safeguard the consumer and allow punishment of unscrupulous professionals are not an exclusive feature of our litigious age. Kings and governments have for centuries made it their concern to see that food sold to the public is safe, and that it is genuine.   

In the time of King Richard II, in 1379, certain regulations were laid down to specify what might be included in a pasty, and what must not, and spelled out the punishment for offending pasty-makers.

Ordinances of the Pastelers, or Piebakers, as to pasties.

Because the Pastelers of the City of London have heretofore baked in pasties rabbits, geese, and garbage, not befitting, and sometimes stinking, in deceit of the people; and also, have baked beef in pasties, and sold the same for venison, in deceit of the people; it is therefore, by assent of the four Master Pastelers, and at their prayer, it is ordered and assented to.-
In the first place, - that no one of the said trade shall bake rabbits in pasties for sale, on pain of paying, the first time, if found guilty thereof, 6s. 8d., to the use of the Chamber, and of going bodily to prison, at the will of the Mayor; the second time, 13s. 4d., to the use of the Chamber, and of going etc.
Also, - that no one of the said trade shall buy of any cook of Bredestret, or, at the hostels of the great lords, of the cooks of such lords, and garbage from capons, hens, or geese, to bake in a pasty, and sell, under the same penalty.
Also,- that no one of the said trade shall bake either whole geese in a pasty, halves of geese, or quarters of geese, for sale, on the pain aforesaid.

Richard II’s reign is known for The Forme of Cury, the first English cookery manuscript, prepared for the Master Cooks in the King’s employ, in about 1395. There are no pasty recipes as such – it would not have been considered necessary, as everyone knew how to make dough. Early cookery texts did not give detailed instructions such as a novice could follow – most of the general population was illiterate anyway – they were intended simply as aides memoire for professionals.

I give you, instead of a pasty, an apple pie recipe from The Forme of Cury.  The spiced apples were placed in a pastry ‘coffin’ – essentially a container with thick hard walls, which was functional, and would not have been eaten by the well-to-do, but might have been re-filled, or broken up and crumbled into stews as a thickener, or given to the poor.

For To Make Tartys In Applis.

Tak gode Applys and gode Spycis and Figys and reysons and Perys and wan they are wel brayed colourd wyth Safroun wel and do yt in a cofyn and do yt forth to bake wel.


Foose said...

What's wrong with rabbit pie? Or goose pie (a tad unusual, but I suppose it could be something like chicken pie)? Is it just in cases where they're sold as "something else" or a flat ban on the rabbit and geese varieties? And if the latter, why?

Also, I think I remember some book that said "garbage" had a different meaning in the Middle Ages, so maybe it's not quite so revolting as this passage might otherwise suggest.

carolina said...

The Forme of Cury is a marvelous little book. I often make its "Peeres in Confyt." Have you seen the three-part TV series that Clarissa Dickson Wright did on it? She made three or four dishes, then invited several experts to join her in eating them. Afterwards, the one woman said, "So much for bland English food!" Love that! HUZZAH!

Ken Albala said...

I was just talking about this in class. What a coincidence.

Anonymous said...

This sounds a lot like the pie I made for Thanksgiving. Except for the cranberries -- fourteenth century England had no cranberries. And I like to think that my (deep, coffinlike) crust was edible.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Ken, Great Minds, Huh? Or maybe just synchronicity at work.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi bklunharuspex. I have no doubt that those heavy medieval coffin crusts were eaten - no-one of those times would have wasted such a valuable food resource - but I dont thing the rich would have eaten them (except crumbled up and used as thickeners) - but the servants, or the poor at the gate would have (soaked in the gravy - might have been quite tasty.)
How deep was your intentionally edible coffin? did you use hot-water crust pastry?

Gaviota said...

Is there a link for the complete text online? I would love to have it! Thanks! Excellent work!

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Foose and Carolina - sorry, I missed responding to your comments - had a massive catch-up after being away briefly over the holidays.
Foose - I am not sure - I think pasties tended to be for the bigger pieces of meat such as a whole haunch of venison or a gammon or suchlike. I suspect the prohibition on geese was just that they were not the "accepted" filling. I think "garbage" just meant the offal and maybe the frames.
Carolina - I havent seen the TV show you mentioned, but I will see if I can get hold of it.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Gaviota. the book is called
"Memorials of London and London life, in the XIIIth, XIVth, and XVth centuries" and it is available at Google books - just search for the title and it will come up. Have fun with it!

Taika said...

Do you have any idea why geeses and rabbits were so bad? And I wonder what did the "garbage" mean? Some less perfect parts of animals like entrails perhaps?

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Taika, it was not that geese etc were bad, but that they were not considered suitable for pasties.
'Garbage' generally meant the offal.