At the Tables of the Monks: The Abbot’s Cook

Glastobury Kitchen Window
Glastobury Kitchen Window

THE ABBOT’S COOK (p. 202-203)

[Note: The Abbey paid the abbot’s cook  for his services, since this person did not belong to the cloistered community.]

This official held more the position of a steward, or valet to the superior, than that of a cook. He had to go each morning to the abbot or prior for orders, and to find out what would be required for the superior’s table for the day, and he had then to proceed to the kitchener to inform him what had to be provided. He helped in the kitchen on occasions such as great feasts, when he was asked to do so by the kitchener ; and as a matter of course, when there were many strangers or other persons to be entertained and the work was consequently heavy. For this and such-like services he received a stipend from the kitchener ; but his ordinary payment came from the superior, who also furnished him with his livery. He was

told by the Custumals to remember that, although he was the abbot’s cook, he had, nevertheless, to obey the kitchener in all things, and to look conscientiously to try and prevent waste and superfluity in spices and such other things as passed through his hands.

If he needed help, the abbot’s valet could have a boy to run on errands and generally assist ; and they were both warned that in the season for pig-killing and bacon-curing they, like all other servants, were to be ready to help in the important work of salting. He had, as part of his duty, to keep a careful list of all the spoons, mugs, dishes, and other table necessaries, and after meals to see that they were clean ; and, if not, to clean them before the close of the day. Once each year the inventory had to be shown to, and checked by, the kitchener.

[Note: All information quoted from F. A. Gasquet’s English Monastic Life (1905, public domain, and transcribed by Richenda Fairhurst, July 2007).]