In 1604, James I of England signed a long, long list of ordinances “for the governing and ordering of the King’s Household.” The intention was to “abate the dayly Charge and Expense of our Household.”
One of the ways this reduction in expense was to be achieved was to reduce the Bouge (or Bouche) of the Court (meal allowance) for staff and officers of the court, and in some cases to substitute with board-wages. Allowances were already strictly hierarchical, so that more important and senior staff had more dishes to their mess. Alterations were made to the allowances for everyone from the servants in the wood-yard to the King’s physicians and apothecary. The Second Clerk of the Kitchen, for example, was reduced from 2 messes of five dishes each to three dishes at a meal, with a board-wage added.
An important way to contain expense of course was to reduce the amount of pilfering and embezzling that went on – no small feat in a huge household with much purchasing and delivering and general coming-and-going. The cook was singled out for special notice in that regard!
AND furthermore, whereas the Master Cooke for Our Selfe, and Our deare Wife the Queene's Majestie, having an honorable allowance of Diett, doe presume, contrary to all auncient and good Orders, and to the dishonour of Our Service, to take rawe Meate out of Dishes in nature of their Assaies, some quantity of all kindes of Provisions contained in the said Dishes, by which the danger of Our Person can in no sort be prevented, notwithstanding under colour and pretence of the same, this evill Custome hath crept in and been continued onely in the time of Our late deare Sister the Queene; our pleasure and will therefore is, that Our Diett in all sortes be daily served for Us by Our Cookes out of Our Kitchens, in as large and ample manner as they receive the fame into their handes, upon paine of Our grievous displeasure; and that they take not Say of any Dish, but at the Dresser, which is to be given them by Our Sewer [Server], either by cutting off a peece of Meate and giveing our said Cooke to eate, or by giveing a peece of Bread, touching all Meates, as to the discretion of the Sewer it shall from time to time seeme fitting.
I give you, as the recipe for the day, a posh little dish, quite suitable for a King, from a cookbook of the era:
A NEVV BOOKE of Cookerie. VVherein is set forth the newest and most commendable Fashion for Dressing or Sowcing, eyther Flesh, Fish, or Fowle. Together with making of all sorts of Iellyes, and other made-Dishes for seruice; both to beautifie and adorne eyther Nobleman or Gentlemans Table. Hereunto also is added the most exquisiteLondon Cookerie. All set forth according to the now, new, English and French fashion. Set forth by the obseruation of a Traueller, by John Murrell, published in 1615.
To boyle a Capon Larded with Lemons, on the French fashion.
Scald your Capon, and take a little dusty Oatmeale to make it boile white. Then take two
or three ladlefuls of Mutton broth, a Fagot of sweet Hearbes, two or three Dates, cut in long pieces, a few parboyld Currins [currants], a little whole Pepper, a piece of whole Mace, and one Nutmeg. Thicken it with Almonds. Season it with Uergis [Verjuice], Sugar, and a little sweet
Butter. Then take vp your Capon, and larde it very thicke with a preserued Lemmon. Then lay your Capon in a deepe Meat-dish for boyld meates, and poure the broth vpon it. Garnish
your Dish with Suckets [sweetmeats] and preserued Barberries.