At the Tables of the Monks: The Fish-Cooks

Photo credit: Howard Stanbury
Photo credit: Howard Stanbury


[Note: The Abbey paid the fish-cooks  for their services, since these people did not belong to the cloistered community.]

In the large monasteries, such as, for example, Edmundsbury, there were two cooks for the fish-dishes ; the first was properly called the “fish-cook,” the other was “pittance-cook.” Their appointment was made for life, and by letterspatent signed by the abbot in Chapter, with the prior and the community as witnesses. Though called the “fish-cooks” these servants had also to attend to the general work of the kitchen, even on days when meat was eaten, and to cook the meat and make the gravy required ; whilst the “pittance-cook” was specially detailed to fry or poach the eggs required for the extra portions, or to prepare whatever else took their place in the dishes served as pittances to the community, or to individuals such as the president of the refectory, and the priest who had sung the High Mass. These two cooks also had to help in the salting time, and in other common work of the kitchen.

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

Leave a Reply