Medieval Feasting

For Twelfth Night last week, we gathered some friends and had a medieval feast to befit the holiday.  For anyone out there who might be planning a medieval feast, I highly recommend the book Medieval Holidays and Festivals: A Calendar of Celebrations.  It was extremely useful in suggesting activities for our holiday.  The book guided me in recreating such lost Twelfth Night traditions as the Oxhorn Dance, where feasters don a hat with horns and try to buck off a little cake shaped like a bagel.  We also went around the tree toasting it and played a tug of war game called Oranges and Lemons.  I found the book in the children’s section of our library, but it wasn’t really a children’s book.  I suppose it’s the sort of thing where they just assume only children and people with children might want to recreate medieval feasts.  Silly them.

Another book resource I found was the picture book A Medieval Feast by Aliki.  The art was some of Aliki’s best in my opinion and the food at the feast certainly freaked the kids out when I read the book aloud at the start of our feast.  They roast a whole peacock and put the feathers back on!

While the first book gave many suggestions about menus, I didn’t really follow them.  Instead, I turned to the website Gode Cookery which is a treasure trove of medieval recipes as well as pseudo-medieval recipes.  Because I don’t think it can be the middle ages without a pie involving meat, I made a pie with chicken.  I also made a mulled cider for our wassail that was extremely well-received.  Both recipes came from there.  Our feast was a potluck, so we got some other excellent offerings, including an egg pie with elderflower that did, indeed, taste like the middle ages.

Overall, it was a fun party.  I think it’s sad that the Christmas season has become so bent out of shape over time.  In the middle ages, I think they had it right by observing Advent as Advent and letting Christmas go all twelve days.  While we won’t be doing the middle ages next year, I think I may have a party that day anyway.  It was like a celebration of seeing friends again after the holidays for Mushroom and BalletBoy and a happy signal that it was time to get back into our routines.

As is often the case with events like these, because I was hosting, I didn’t get many pictures.  Alas!  If only I had a picture of us crowning the King of the Bean or of the kids trying to get that little cake off their heads!  But here’s Mushroom all dressed up for the day.  He said he wanted to be a “peasant” but we all told him he had way too many colors.  It was expensive and sometimes illegal to wear too many colors when you were a peasant, you know.

5 thoughts on “Medieval Feasting

  1. The ‘too many colors’ thing is actually incorrect. (Yes, I study medieval textiles as a hobby. I’m a geek.)

    Some dyes and colors were very expensive or limited to certain groups, but pink, yellow, brown, dark blue, pale purple, grey, tan, grassy greens, etc were all colors that the peasantry would and could wear daily, pretty much throughout Europe during the middle ages. Plant dyes, lichen dyes, and a variety of mordants (chemicals that make the dye stick to the fiber, and could be as simple as the iron pot you dyed in) could yeild a really wide variety of colors for the peasant dyer.

    Don’t believe me? Natural dying can be a really interesting homeschool ecology/chemistry/art project! Just be careful to use nontoxic materials for your work, and you can make a pretty nifty collection of colors!

    1. It was the deep red of the hat that really made us tell him that it was probably too colorful for a peasant. I had always read that red was especially difficult to make and I knew that certain colors and fabrics were actually against the law to wear (though maybe not very much enforced?). I had no idea that the peasantry wore so many colors in general though. That’s really cool. And, of course, now I’m thinking about dyeing fabrics. What a great idea… If only we were studying the middle ages in the spring…

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