I was interested to read about a re-enactment group's issuing of a cookbook containing medieval English recipes - well, Cumbrian, actually.
Cumbria’s peasants, it turns out, ate much as we strive to today—though for vastly different reasons. Lack of access to an international array of foods meant the peasants’ diets consisted of plant-based, low-sugar meals of locally sourced, if not home-grown ingredients; the book’s simple “Roast Onions with Thyme” recipe is emblematic. Voluntary, intermittent fasting wasn’t uncommon either, says Jones, albeit in the name of religious self-discipline rather than detoxification. An excerpt from a contemporary work by Bishop Grosseteste indicates that table manners were to be observed (“Never eat bread with abandon till they have set down the dishes. People may think you are famished”). An aside on at-home cooking describes a “home-delivery system” that catered to the many families who, rather than couch-laden, had no kitchens whatsoever.
Elsewhere, Medieval Meals highlights the religious and culinary boundaries that shaped the peasants’ diets and made them so different from our own. A recipe for Monastic Beans with pork lard is a reference to the Rule of St. Benedict. With beans so easy to grow and hard to spoil, writes Appley, monks were prescribed a pound daily alongside a pound of bread—much to the recorded chagrin of many in the monastery. Peasants outside the clergy, whose days “started off with bread and ale,” fared little better. God’s animals were spared slaughter four days a week in reverence of Noah’s Ark, although Medieval Meals nods to a conveniently flexible, if not altogether bizarre, medieval interpretation of meat: “Fish didn’t count as meat … and beavers were eaten because of the superficial resemblance of the tail to fish.”
There's more at the link.
The cookbook may be ordered from the re-enactment group's Web site. At the moment, due to "a sudden influx of interest" (probably due to the article cited above), they've sold out, but new copies will be in stock within days. I'll be buying one.
(I must admit, the thought of a monastery where every monk ate a pound of beans, every day, is a bit daunting, due to their well-known side effect. Not the odor of sanctity!)