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What's for Supper?
The feasts of noblemen contained several types of food.

What's for Supper?

What’s for Supper asks questions about food and drink.

Food in the Middle Ages varied considerably between peasants and the nobility. For most, the diet was almost completely made up of bread, cheese, vegetables and ale, with the occasional bit of pork, as pigs were the easiest animals to keep. Hunting was the reserve of the nobility, with strict punishments for peasants who took their masters' game. The diets of the rich were low in vegetables and high in meat and spices so, ironically, it was the poor who had the healthier diet; that is, if their crops did not fail. Starvation was their main concern, whilst for the rich, obesity and lack of nutrients caused many health problems.

1.
Food for nobles was often served on trenchers, these were plates made from what?
Gold
Porcelain
Silver
Bread
The original trenchers were round plates of stale bread. They soaked up the sauces and after the meal they were either eaten, given to the poor as alms or fed to pigs. Later trenchers were made from pewter or wood
2.
During Richard III's era of the late 15th century, which type of food utensils were just beginning to be used in England?
Forks
Chopsticks
Knives
Spoons
Everybody carried their own personal knives which they used to cut their food. Spoons were sometimes used, but most liquid meals, such as soup, were drunk from a bowl. The fork had recently come to England from Italy and it was slowly beginning to replace fingers as the means to pick up food
3.
Which of these animals was not classed as a fish when it was eaten?
Whale
Beaver
Swan
Rabbit
Eating meat was forbidden during Lent and on Fridays but fish was allowed. Consequently, many types of animals were classed by the church as being fish, such as whales and beavers, which both live in the water. New-born rabbits were also classed as fish, though for what reason we do not know. Maybe it is because they have no fur
4.
Which drink in particular was usually reserved for the young, the old and the sick?
Cocoa
Wine
Milk
Mead
Milk was hard to keep fresh without refrigeration, so it was saved for those thought to need it most. Healthy adults often drank almond milk instead
5.
Which of the following dishes, still popular today, originated as food for peasants in the Middle Ages?
Bubble and squeak
Ploughman's lunch
Shepherd's pie
Cornish pasty
Peasants, working in their masters' fields, would take with them a dark, coarse bread, cheese and a flask of ale. They ate this at noon whilst at work, though the actual name 'ploughman's lunch' was not coined until the 20th century. The other three meals listed all contain potatoes which were unknown in medieval England, only coming into our diet after the discovery of the Americas
6.
Nobles in the 15th century ate a variety of game birds. Which of the following did they not eat?
Vultures
Peacock
Heron
Cranes
They also ate swans, storks, larks, cuckoos, blackbirds, starlings and thrushes, but they did not like to eat scavenging birds. The larger species of bird were reserved for the nobility alone
7.
The feasts of noblemen contained several types of food. How many are listed as the 'first course' in a feast made for King Henry IV in 1468?
Five
Nine
Thirteen
Seventeen
Listed in 'The Noble Boke Off Cookry', they include: 'golden eggs with a note inside, pork and egg pie, puff pastry, roast lamprey, roast porpoise, flounders, custard, capon, roast cygnet and venison. One was expected to eat only a small piece of each food; a necessity given the amount of it!
8.
One type of soup, made from the heads, livers, feet and gizzards of chickens, was given what name?
Garbage
Giblets
Gobbles
Gools
Despite both the ingredients and the name, this recipe is said to have a pleasant taste. Maybe you would like to try it!
9.
The staple food of fifteenth century peasants was a kind of stew. By what name was it known?
Casserole
Meat Porridge
Hot Pot
Pottage
Pottage consisted of various vegetables, depending on what was locally available. The most common ingredients were peas, beans, cabbage and onions, mixed with breadcrumbs or oatmeal. Meat was a very rare ingredient
10.
During the Middle Ages water was often unsafe to drink. What was the most common alternative?
Fruit juice
Beer
Milk
Tea
A low-alcohol drink, known as 'Small Beer', was made as a substitute for water. Children, as well as adults, drank it and it supplied about a fifth of the calories in a peasant's diet

 

Author:  Graeme Haw

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