And along comes another new book about the history of English food! My cup runneth over! This one – The Culture of Food in England 1200 – 1500, by C. M. Woolgar – looks promising, for he begins Chapter One by referencing a word game from late medieval England:
A carve of pantlers (those ‘who looked after the bread’)
A credence of servers (“credence” refers to the ‘process of tasting or “assay” foods against poison’)
A ‘hastiness of cooks’
Woolgar goes on to say that the focus of the book is this: “Rather, it examines the contexts of acquiring food, cooking and eating it in the principal social groups in late medieval England: in the countryside, in civic society, in the monasteries and ecclesiastical institutions, and in elite life.”
“In this revelatory work of social history, C. M. Woolgar shows that food in late-medieval England was far more complex, varied, and more culturally significant than we imagine today. Drawing on a vast range of sources, he charts how emerging technologies as well as an influx of new flavors and trends from abroad had an impact on eating habits across the social spectrum. From the pauper’s bowl to elite tables, from early fad diets to the perceived moral superiority of certain foods, and from regional folk remedies to luxuries such as lampreys, Woolgar illuminates desire, necessity, daily rituals, and pleasure across four centuries.
C. M. Woolgar is professor of history and archival studies at the University of Southampton and editor of the Journal of Medieval History. He lives in Hampshire, UK.”