You are what you ate

I’M AT SANDAL CASTLE visitor centre for this year’s Rhubarb Festival and today I’ve got a chance to sample the kind of food that they would have prepared in the castle kitchens in the medieval period.

I try the Tarte de Bry (Brie tart) and Pylets yn Sarcene (Meatballs in Saracen sauce). The Saracen sauce is spiced with ‘clowys, macys and reysons of corance’ (ground cloves, ground mace and currants, which were imported from Corinth) with ‘a percyon of sawndrys to colour hit Sarcene colour’ (red food colouring).

On an open fire nearby a medieval cook is preparing a cauldron of potage; a soup or stew of buttered vegetables. It was a staple food; just what you would have needed after a hard day in the fields. The vegetables are stirred in butter – not fried – in the cauldron before the liquid is added and this gives essential nourishment.

I’ve drawn some of the high status food including this sugar loaf. I’d thought that honey was the only sweetener available but cane sugar was available in this form, imported from southern Europe.

Wardonys in Syrup

To finish I can’t resist the Fretoure (apple fritters) and a measure of  Lamb’s Wool, a creamy, spicy drink based on cider (or apple juice for today’s family friendly version) and they were serving this as a kind of dessert by adding Wardonys in Syrup (Pears in wine syrup) with an additional dollop of thick cream.

During the morning visitors were invited to take a turn at churning cream to make butter, using a small wooden churn. When this thickened the buttermilk was drained off by straining it through a piece of muslin, producing a ball of thick, creamy yellow butter.

Despite this event being part of the Rhubarb Festival there was no rhubarb for dessert. At that time rhubarb – usually the powdered rootstock – was used for medicinal purposes only.

Link: You are what you Ate at Leeds university.

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