Category Archives: Food

Spices as medicine

Imported spices fit very well into the Greco-Roman theory of the Four Humors. We still refer to many spices as “hot” in informal conversation, even if we mean nothing particular by it. They just took it seriously. In the early … Continue reading

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Cooking containers

Containing liquids presents a set of problems; but when the liquids are heated to cooking temperatures, often to boiling, there’s another set of problems. Wooden buckets and barrels don’t work for cooking, even if a Girl Scout can boil an … Continue reading

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Medieval recipes brought to life

I’ve written about the use of spices and sauces in preparing medieval meat dishes. Recipes of the time were quite vague, assuming a common training base and palate for cooks. Here, modern chefs try to work out what medieval recipes … Continue reading

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Spain’s water problem

Spain and Portugal share a peninsula that is mostly a high, arid plateau. Portugal’s western coast receives most of the rain. The capital cities of Muslim Andalusia were clustered on the arid plateau; Cordoba gets about 7 inches of rain … Continue reading

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Christmas in a castle

As you remember from the castle series, there were no true castles in Charlemagne’s time. As soon as you’re in a stone castle with a keep, maybe a round tower, and a gatehouse, the year is at least 1100 and … Continue reading

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Christmas with Charlemagne

When Pope Gregory first sent Latin missionaries to the outer northern wilds of Europe, he instructed them to make it easy for converts. If they were used to gathering on a hilltop somewhere on a certain day, find a saint’s … Continue reading

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15th century castle kitchens

By the 1400s, castles were more and more residential and less and less military. When the government needed a real fortress, the king now built a compact stone fort with very thick walls and artillery stations. The castle residences could … Continue reading

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Modern European cooking begins

1400: firewood is scarcer than ever, with just one iron forge using up to 100 oak trees per year. Wild game animals are hoarded by aristocrats on their shrinking forest estates (parks). But beer is flowing, with a surplus of … Continue reading

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Side note: Jews and the Black Death

Why did Jews get targeted during the plague? Here’s what happened (copied from FB comments string on “The Great Mortality” post): By this time, England and northern France had expelled their Jewish populations. Jews lived in Spain, southern France (Marseille … Continue reading

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Post-plague diet shift

The collapse of the medieval farm economy had a very wide impact on European society. Farming had been based on semi-slavery in which tenants owed the landowner certain days of free labor. They weren’t allowed to leave this contract without … Continue reading

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