Elizabethan Food Presentation
- the Visual Effect
It was important that Elizabethan Food
prepared for the nobility, especially for feasts and banquets
had a great visual effect. Elizabethans enjoyed a a variety of
serving methods, colors and various 'props'. Peacocks were
reared for consumption but their feathers were used to decorate
cooked foods. Strange and unusual shapes were used in food
presentation. The old English Nursery Rhyme "Sing a song of
sixpence' contains the phrase 'four and twenty blackbirds baked
in a pie'. It was quite probable that a court jester may well
have suggested to the court cook to bake a pie pastry crust and
place this over some live blackbirds to surprise and amuse the
Purchasing Elizabethan Food
Elizabethan Food was generally purchased from small markets and
from fairs. In large cities like London there were specific markets
which sold either fish, dairy products or fruit and vegetables. Meat was
sold at large livestock markets.
Elizabethan Food - Cooking Methods
Elizabethan food was prepared by several cooking methods:
Food - Cooking Utensils
A large amount of
Elizabethan cooking was conducted over an open flame. Useful
cooking utensils for this method of cooking Elizabethan food
were pots, pans, kettles, skillets and cauldrons. To prepare the
food a range of knives, ladles, meat forks and scissors were
used. Instead of a baking tin, Elizabethan cooks used a baking
tray made of hardened pastry, which was unnervingly called a
‘coffin’. The mortar and pestle were essential cooking utensils
for cooks who used nuts spices in their recipes. Each cook kept
a book of their own recipes.
Elizabethan Convenience Food?
Did people in the Elizabethan era have convenience food? Yes. Biscuits
were invented by the Crusaders. The 'Ploughman's Lunch' of bread and
cheese was a staple diet of Lower Class workers. Communal ovens were available in
villages for baking. And pastries and pies were sold as was ready cooked
roasted meat. A day out at the London Theatre, or a fair, would bring in
a good trade in convenience foods.
Water was not clean in the Middle Ages and people therefore drank wine
and ale. The rich drank both and the poor just drank ale. Honey was used
to make a sweet alcoholic drink called mead which was drunk by all
classes. Wine was generally imported although some fruit wines were
produced in England. A form of cider referred to as 'Apple-wine' was
also produced. Ales were brewed with
malt and water, while beer contained hops that held a bitter flavor.
Other flavors were added to ales and beers such as bayberries, orris, or
long pepper. Consumption of weak, low-alcohol drinks at this time has
been estimated at around one gallon per person per day.