For a long time after I began this blog in late 2005 I kept to an “On This Day” theme. I ultimately discontinued this for several reasons, and subsequently much of my material ended up in my Food History Almanac. I still have many unused stories related to specific dates however, and I thought it might be fun to use them from time to time.
On this date in 1336, in the tenth year of the reign of King Edward III, England’s first sumptuary law was promulgated at the Parliament held in Nottingham. Sumptuary laws have been promulgated by kings and governments for many centuries (I have written on them previously here), but have always proved impossible to enforce – no doubt in part because the law-makers and enforcers belonged to the very classes whose consumption was being targeted. Many sumptuary laws throughout history have addressed clothing and jewellery, but the Statutum Cibariis Utendis of 1336 was an ‘alimentary statute’ – that is, it was concerned entirely with food consumption. The act specified the number of courses that were to be allowed at a meal, and the type of dishes served:-
Whereas, heretofore through the excessive and over-many sorts of costly meats which the people of this Realm have used more than elsewhere, many mischiefs have happened to the people of this Realm - for the great men by these excesses have been sore grieved; and the lesser people, who only endeavour to imitate the great ones in such sort of meats, are much impoverished, whereby they are not able to aid themselves, nor their liege lord, in time of need, as they ought; and many other evils have happened, as well to their souls as their bodies - our Lord the King, desiring the common profit as well of the great men as of the common people of his Realm, and considering the evils, grievances, and mischiefs aforesaid, by the common assent of the prelates, earls, barons, and other nobles of his said Realm, and of the commons of the same Realm, hath ordained and established that no man, of what estate or condition soever he be, shall cause himself to be served, in his house or elsewhere, at dinner, meal, or supper, or at any other time, with more than two courses, and each mess of two sorts of victuals at the utmost, be it of flesh or fish, with the common sorts of pottage, without sauce or any other sorts of victuals. And if any man choose to have sauce for his mess, he may, provided it be not made at great cost; and if fish or flesh be to be mixed therein, it shall be of two sorts only at the utmost, either fish or flesh, and shall stand instead of a mess, except only on the principal feasts of the year, on which days every man may be served with three courses at the utmost, after the manner aforesaid.'
Although as with other sumptuary laws in other times and places, the statute was impossible to enforce, it was not formally repealed until 1856, during the reign of Queen Victoria.
Now, for the recipe for the day I give you a nice, rich dish of goose from Forme of Cury, the cookery manuscript of the Master Chefs of King Richard II, published in about 1390.
Gees in Hoggepot
Take Gees and smyte hem on pecys. cast hem in a Pot do þerto half wyne and half water. and do þerto a gode quantite of Oynouns and erbest. Set it ouere the fyre and couere it fast. make a layour of brede and blode an lay it þerwith. do þerto powdour fort and serue it fort.