I have a treat for you today. It is the bill of fare for the marriage of the daughter of Sir John Nevill in 1526. I came across it (as commonly happens) while searching for something entirely different in Exerpta Antiqua: Or, a Collection of Original Manuscripts, prepared by John Croft of the Society of Antiquities in 1796.
Sir John Nevill, of Chevit, Knight.
The marriage of my Son-in-Law, Roger Rockley, and my Daughter, Elizabeth Nevill, the 14th day of January, in the 17th year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King Henry the VIIIth, 1526.
For the FIRST COURSE at DINNER.
First, Brawn with Mustard served alone with Malmsey.
Item, Frumenty to Pottage.
Item, a Roe roasted for Standart.
Item, Peacocks, two of a Dish.
Item, Swans, two of a Dish.
Item, a great Pike on a Dish.
Item, Conies roasted four of a Dish [rabbits].
Item, Venison roasted.
Item, Capon Grease, three of a Dish [fat capons].
Item, Mallards, four of a Dish.
Item, Teals, seven of a Dish.
Item, Pies baken with Rabbits in them.
Item, baken Orange.
Item, a Flampett.
Item, Stoke Fritters [baked on a hot iron, or stoker].
Item, Dulcetts, ten of a Dish [sweetmeats].
Item, a Tart.
First, Marterns to a Pottage.
Item, for a Standart Cranes, two of a Dish.
Item, Young Lamb whole roasted.
Item, great fresh Sammon Gollis [jowls].
Item, Heron Sewes, three of a Dish.
Item, Bytters, three of a Dish [bitterns].
Item, Pheasants, four of a Dish.
Item, a great Sturgeon Goil [jowl].
Item, Partridges, eight of a Dish.
Item, Stints, eight of a Dish [a type of sandpiper].
Item, Plovers, eight of a Dish.
Item, Curlews, three of a Dish.
Item, a whole Roe baken.
Item, Venison baken red and fallow.
Item, a Tart.
Item, a Marchpane.
Item, Apples and Cheese strewed with Sugar and Sage.
The total price of the provisions came to ₤46.5.8 – a stupendous sum at the time.
Now, the item on this bill of fare that I find most intriguing is the final one on the list –Apples and Cheese strewed with Sugar and Sage. Sugar at this time would have been used sparingly, in the manner of a spice, not a heavy sweetening agent. That apples and cheese are natural partners is, I am sure, not in any doubt. There is also an English specialty called Sage Cheese. My search for a dish which features the pairing of apples and sage came up with a left-field entry which is entirely off-topic, but is nonetheless interesting enough to include.
From the Saturday Magazine (Vol. 16), of 1840:-
In the Levant, large galls were seen by Tournefort, growing on the sage, which were caused by the punctures of insects; these galls are firm, fleshy, semi-transparent tumours, swelling out from the branches of the plant, and supposed to be produced in the same manner as oak apples, by the puncture of an insect of the Cynips genus. They form an article of ordinary sale in the markets, and are called sage-apples. When preserved with sugar, these apples are regarded as a great delicacy. Dr. Clarke was regaled with them by the English consul, at the island of Syros, and speaks highly of their excellent flavour. The plant which is subject to these excrescences is much larger than the common sage, and has a more powerful smell. It grows abundantly in several of the Greek islands, and attains the size of a small shrub.
As the dish of the day, inspired by the sixteenth century wedding feast, may I give you a nineteenth century recipe for a wedding-worthy roast goose or duck?
Goose and Duck Stuffing.
Boil a few sage leaves with a couple of onions, chop them fine, with a breakfast cupful of stale bread crumbs, and a bit of apple. Season with pepper and salt, and mix the whole with the yolk of an egg and a little butter.
English Cookery, containing practical directions for dressing
Family Dinners, etc (London, 1843)