Medieval Life

Belina Lansac’s way of life

Life five hundred years ago was very different in many ways from now. Think about it. How would you survive without social media, internet, electricity, motor cars, fridge, freezer . . .? However, the late 15th century was a time of innovation because of the invention of printing and the increasing use of paper. In that way, it was similar to the introduction of the internet in our times. Ideas could be exchanged, trade was easier, knowledge of the outside world increased.

Nevertheless, the daily task of cooking food was time and energy consuming. Firewood had to be obtained and lit and managed according to the type of cooking. Cauldrons could sit on a slow burning area while in another zone a fish or an egg could be fried quickly – if you knew how to manage both the cooking and the fire, or had help to do that.

Gascony was already known for its good quality bread. The main dish was garbure, which was – and still is – a cabbage and vegetable stew, simmered with preserved duck or goose or salt pork. It is also the traditional dish of Ecuador. Click here for a modern recipe to make your own garbure.

Everyone kept chickens. Click here to discover how and why they did.

Fires can be dangerous and the medieval housewife had to know first aid (click here for some methods) and she had to do the washing and ironing, or supervise others doing such onerous tasks. Click here to read more

The medieval housewife also had to know safe ways of clothes storage and pest control. Click here to read more

Men went hunting, for sport and for food. Gascony still had many forests but there were laws about who was allowed to hunt where and what Click here to read more about hunting. The rivers contained an enormous amount of fish, but fishing was a commercial task not a sport. There were many days in the year when meat eating was forbidden: every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; on the eve of festivals; during the forty days of Lent.

Spices were expensive and were NOT used to camouflage meat that had gone off (another 19th century myth). A favourite sauce was called cameline, after its camel-hair colour; its main ingredients were cinnamon and almonds. Click here for a modern recipe. Bon appétit!

All medieval cookery books throughout Europe included a recipe for blancmange (or “blanc megnier”) which was recommended especially for invalids. In the Middle Ages sugar was considered to be a medicine, was expensive and difficult to obtain. Only Edith Senclar ate too much sugar, too often. Click here for a modern recipe for “blanc megnier” which includes sugar, almonds – and chicken breasts.

Click here to find a list of books on medieval cookery.

Medieval Printing Press

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