Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding.
I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... It was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.
Thinking of visiting Oxford?
Allow me to be your guide... and discover the history of Oxford with an Oxford historian.
I offer a wide range of guided walks around the city and university. These can be a general introduction to the history and architecture or looking at specific themes and subjects.
I am a Catholic and a historian based in Oxford, where I am a member of Oriel College. My research, for a long delayed D.Phil., is a study of Richard Fleming, Bishop of Lincoln in the second decade of the fifteenth century. I also work as a freelance tutor in History and as an independent tour guide.
I was received into the Church in 2005 and am a Brother of the External Oratory of St Philip Neri at the Oxford Oratory.
How would Medieval people react to eating modern food?
By chance I came across the following post on the Quora website. It is by a Spanish born columnist Alberto Yagos and I have copied it with the odd grammatical change but otherwise it is verbatim:
I’ve cooked most of the recipes in two Medieval cookbooks, Libre de Sent Sovi and Libre del Coch which were the most important ones in Spain, France and Italy from the 14th to 16th centuries. Some of the recipes are as old as 1220 and some of them also appear in English cookbooks.
Contrary to the popular belief that meat and fish were very expensive, they were quite usual on most tables. Villages which were not very big could have four or five butcher's shops. In 1287, a carpenter called Mr. Paulet paid his mother livelihood (each year): two mines of wheat (around 400 pounds), four barrels of wine, an entire salted pork or beef and three canes of wool. In 1307, the maid of a scribe in Majorca buys every day: bread, wine, meat or fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, cabbages, onions, cucumbers, almonds, parsley and carrots.
What was expensive was well preserved or fresh meat.
Medieval people from that era would be surprised by the new ingredients (potatoes, bellpeppers, chocolate…) and the fact that you can eat summer vegetables in the middle of winter. And also:
* Bread and wine aren’t the usual breakfast. Also, people eat it too soon (they were used to eating the first time around 3 hours after getting up).
* People drink wine and beer pure, without spices, water, honey or vinegar. Or in a certain preparation, without butter and barley flour (if you are curious, it tastes as bad as it sounds).
* Meat and fish are very abundant but also very repetitive. Medieval people would eat any meat and any fish. And any part.
* We cook with milk (a big no in Medieval cuisine, only for two months, April and May, was it recommended to have around 300 gr. of goat's milk).
* We use cheese and not curd in most recipes. Cured cheese was taken as a full meal.
* Food today has very little spices. They used pepper and sugar as the stars of the dish. Sugar was really expensive but they used it a lot (a lot of recipes called for 3-4 ounces of sugar), so now that it’s so cheap they wouldn’t understand why we put so little.
* Very few preparations are boiled fish/meat (it was recommended to cook it this way in summer).
* Sauces are used now in little quantities. Medieval preparations literally were floating in sauces made of broth, almond flour, wine, eggs.
* We reserve the fruits for desserts. The first time I cooked a typical soup of the era with onion, apple and bacon people thought it would be disgusting (it’s just really sweet).
* We mainly use wheat flour. The basic flour in the era was barley and they added it to most recipes.