The most fun history is the kind you can recreate in your kitchen! I was quite taken with this article which appeared on the Recipe Reminiscing blog, originally posted on NPR. It’s an in-depth examination of the foods of Shakespeare, his plays and his era. I never thought too much about food in Shakespeare before, but it’s quite a fascinating subject, as you can see here. The history of food is a great way to delve into any historical era. Thanks to Recipe Reminiscing for bringing this to us. Let’s eat!
An article by Anne Bramley commemorating the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death posted on npr.org April 20, 2016.
For more than 400 years, Shakespeare’s audiences have devoured tales of Twelfth Night‘s “cakes and ale” and Hamlet’s “funeral baked meats.”
But there’s a whole lot more to the bard’s culinary story – the Shakespearean larder teems with intriguingly named foods. How about chewets, gallimaufries, and fools? (That’s small pies, mixtures and spiced, fruity custard for modern eaters.) And do you know your codlings from your carbonadoes and your umbles from your jumbles? (Translation: small apples, grilled meat, offal and bonbons.)
To really understand Shakespeare’s food literature, we need to tuck into food history and even crack open a Renaissance cookbook or two.
When Hamlet huffs about the “funeral baked meats” served at his mother’s wedding banquet, he is chastising her for her quick re-marriage, implying that she was serving leftovers from his father’s recent funeral. But funeral baked meats were in fact a real food, and they weren’t as macabre as their name implied — though they were cooked in a “coffin.” The same word was used for “a coffer to keep dead people or to keep meat in,” explains Ken Albala, director of food studies at the University of the Pacific. But these edible coffins, he explains, were made of pastry crust to seal the contents so that they lasted longer. Because that pastry was built to act more like Tupperware than a treat, it was coarse and tossed rather than eaten.