Friday, February 01, 2013

The Cost of a Roast Pig.

I have been having some fun recently (and I hope you have too) with some of medieval London’s food regulations, and the punishments meted out to those who broke the rules. Before I leave the city and the fourteenth century, let us have a brief look at the cost of some foods at that time.

An Ordinance of the Cooks, ordered by the Mayor and Aldermen of the City of London, during the reign of Richard II in 1378 set down the price for “divers flesh-meat and poultry, as well roasted as baked in pasties.

The best roast pig, for 8d. Best roast goose, 7d. Best roast capon, 6d. Best roast hen, 4d. Best roast pullet, 2 ½ d. Best roast rabbit, 4d. Best roast river mallard [ie wild mallard], 4 ½ d. Best roast dunghill mallard [i.e domesticated mallard], 3 ½ d Best roast teal, 2 ½ d. Best roast snyte [snite] 1 ½ d. Five roast larks, 1 ½ d. Best roast wodecok [woodcock], 2 ½ d. Best roast partridge, 3 ½ d Best roast plover, 2 ½ d. Best roast pheasant 13 d. Best roast curlew, 6 ½ d. Three roast thrushes, 2 d. Ten roast finches, 1 d. Best roast heron, 18 d. Best roast bittern, 20 d. Three roast pigeons, 2 ½ d. Ten eggs, one penny. For the paste, fire, and trouble upon a capon, 1 ½ d. The best capon baked in a pasty, 8d. The best hen baked in a pasty, 5d. The best lamb, roasted, 7d.

There are online tools for converting the cost of goods in historical times to modern equivalents, and they tell me that the roast pig, at 8 pence, translates to about US$19 (a bit under ₤ 12 in Britain.) Of course, this figure needs to be related to wages and buying power etc …. and I am working on finding this out.

As the recipe for the day I cannot give you fourteenth century instructions for roasting a pig or a woodcock or a heron, because they were not necessary at the time. The meat would have been put on a spit in front of the fire and turned until it was done – and “everyone” in the kitchen would have been able to estimate how long that would take. Without stating the obvious, there were no clocks or timers and no thermometers in the kitchen at that time!

From The Forme of Cury, circa 1390, compiled by the Master Cooks of King Richard II, so contemporary with this ordinance, I give you stewed pigeons.

Peiouns Ystewed.
Take peions and stop hem with garlec ypylled and with gode erbes ihewe. and do hem in an erthen pot. cast therto gode broth and whyte grece. Powdour fort. safroun verious & salt.

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