- Bacon, Bacoun Bacon,
less like our modern variety and more like cured ham; pork; smoked
a side of pork; not fresh meat. Its use in Chaucer is mainly with those
who can't afford or find fresh meat.
"Seyned bacoun, and somtyme an ey or tweye." - The Nun's
"And yet in bacon hadde I nevere delit." - The Wife
of Bath's Tale
"The bacon was nat fet for hem, I trowe." - The Wife
of Bath's Tale
"Bacon or boef, or swich thyng as ye fynde." - The
The Wife of Bath uses "bacon" as a term for "old men,"
in which she never finds delight!
- Bake Mete A
in which meat or fish is baked with fruit, spices, etc. "Mete"
is not "meat," as is easily assumed, but "meal," and
such meat pies, common in the Middle Ages, contained a plethora of
and were literally a meal within themselves. A pie shell with lid
the meat inside to bake, rather than roast, and quite frequently the
was considered superfluous and was discarded. Two Fifteenth-Century
Cookery-Books contains an entire section devoted to Bake Metis.
"Withoute bake mete was nevere his hous,
Of fissh and flessh, and that so plentvous" - Prologue to The
- Bakere Baker.
Being a baker was a distinct profession in its own right, one that was
closely regulated by civic authorities who always needed to maintain
over the size, quality, weight, and price of bread. The uncertain
and cost of bread was always a constant worry and fluctuating bread
caused hardship & anxiety; prices were fixed and bakers were
to ensure quality control. A baker found guilty of making insubstantial
loaves would be pilloried or worse. The making of bread was a
enterprise, and bakers joined powerful guilds as one would join a union
today. In 1303 the London Baker's Company succesfully obtained for its
members enough allowance to cover the cost of wood, candles, journeymen
and apprentices, salt, yeast, the miller's charges, the baker's house,
a cat, and even a wife.
"His bakere and his butiller also" - The Nun's Priest's
- Barley-breed Barley
Bread. Made from a course grain, it was considered appropraite fare for
the working class but not for nobles or the wealthy, whose digestive
were too "aristocratic" for such vulgar food.
"Lat hem be breed of pured whete seed,
And lat us wyves hoten barly-breed;
And yet with barly-breed, Mark telle kan,
Oure Lord Jhesu refresshed many a man" - The Wife of Bath's Tale
The reference here is to the Miracle of the Loaves & Fishes.
- Barmcloth An
barm means bosom or lap.
"A barmcloth eek as whit as morne milk" - The Miller's
- Barel Ale A
"I hadde levere than a barel ale" - Prologue to The
- Bee; Been Bee;
bees. Bee-keepers performed a valuable activity and their beehives were
home to enormous swarms producing vast amounts of honey. Honey was one
of the premium sweeteners in the Middle Ages.
"Lo, lyk a bisy bee, withouten gile" - The Second
"That ferde as been don in an hive" - The Hous of Fame
"For nevere yet so thikke a swarm of been" - Troilus
"Out of the hyve cam the swarm of bees" - The Nun's
"Right so as bees out swarmen from an hyve" - The Summoner's
- Bene Bean.
were among the vegetables and fruits that were commonly served at meal
times, in a variety of ways: boiled, baked, mashed, etc. Le
de Paris advises that their preparation is simple and most cooks
aware of how to cook them, and so recipes for beans are rare in period
"She preyseth nat his pleyyng worth a bene" -
The Merchant's Tale
- Bene-straw A
straw. An inedible part of the bean plant.
"It is but bene-straw and greet forage" - The Merchant's
- Berme Yeast.
was the primary leavening agent used in making ale, beer, mead, &
fermented drinks, in addition to breads, pastries, and other raised
"Of tartre, alum glas, berme, wort, and argoille"
- The Canon's Yeoman's Tale
- Bitore A
a heron. A bittern is a long-necked, brownish, wading-bird with a
cry. Its Latin name, butitauras, means "bird that bellows
like an ox." Heron were often consumed in the Middle Ages and
heron recipes can be found in period manuscripts. Generally, they were
roasted, with an accompanying sauce to prevent dryness.
"And as a bitore bombleth in the myre" - The Wife of
- Blankmanger Blancmange.
Not the pudding so popular in England today, but a dish of rice boiled
in almond milk, often with chunks of chicken or sometimes fish. It's
means "white food." Chaucer's cook was proficient in making
this popular dish and a variety of versions were in existence.
"For blankmanger, that made he with the beste" -
Prologue to The Canterbury Tales
- Bocher Butcher.
Domestic meat made up a good portion of the bourgeois diet during the
Middle Ages, and butchers were kept busy throughout the year, except
Lent. Like the baker, their industry was highly regulated as the
population insisted upon good, fresh, healthy meat, properly cut and at
a fair weight and price. Regulations concerning the sale of good meat
strictly enforced with harsh punishments. Professional guilds levied
on members, and strict public officials exacted severe punishments to
butchers. In London, butchers who sold meat that was "putrid and
stinking, an abomination to mankind;" "putrid, rotten, stinking,
and abominable to the human race;" and "putrid and corrupt,
unwholesome as food for man, and an abomination" were "without
exception punished... by being placed in the pillory and having the
matter burnt beneath." Equally regulated was the disposal of the
butchering wastes, which created stench and disease in the closely
cities. The descriptions of how slaughterhouses disposed of large
of blood, hair, dung, and entrails would be amusing if not for the
glimpse they provide of the reality of food production in the Middle
The barbour, and the bocher, and the smyth" - The
- Boef Beef;
meat of oxen and cows. Domestic meats were eaten in moderately generous
amounts in Medieval towns, and according to slaughterhouse records,
was the most popular meat between the months of September and February.
"Bacon or boef, or swich thyng as ye fynde." - The
"And bet than old boef is the tendre veel" - The Merchant's
- Boor Boar,
uncastrated male pig; a wild pig with dense, dark bristles. The meat of
the wild pig was preferred over domestic pork. The belief was that game
animals were active, and boar would therefore provide a healthier meat
than domestic swine.
"He groneth lyk oure boor, lith in oure sty" - The
"He slow the grisly boor, and that anon" - The Monk's
- Bores Heed Boar's
Head. The roasted head of a boar, decorated for the occasion, was a
feature of feasts during Christmastide & 12th Night, and was
at other times of the year as well. A boar's head doesn't provide the
of meat but was prized because of the skill required in hunting the
"And therinne was a bores heed" - Sir Thopas
- Bragot A
made of ale and honey fermented together; a spiced ale drink, sweetened
with honey. Receipts are found in Forme of Cury (as braggot)
in Goud Kokery (as brakkat). Judging by the prices paid by
de Bryene in 1419, the spice quantities would be 2/3 oz. pepper &
"Hir mouth was sweete as bragot or the meeth" - The
- Brawen The
of the boar or the "tusked swine;" the dark meat of pork
or chicken. The word is Germanic in origin and is related to the Old
word for flesh, "braed." Two 15th-Century Cookery-Books
lists recipes where "braun" is most certainly boar meat, or the
dark meat of pork: "Braun en peueruade" is translated
as "Boar in egerdouce." Le Viandier de Taillevent
defines "braun" as the dark meat of poultry; however, the author
of Curye on Inglish says that "braun" of chicken is the
white, or breast portion, of the meat.
"Or yif us of youre brawen, if ye have eny" - The Summoner's
"Biforn hym stant brawen of the tusked swine'" - The
- Brede Roast
"That ben at festes with the brede" - The House of Fame
- Breed, Bred Bread.
One of the most common and vital foodstuffs of the Middle Ages, it was,
and has always been a daily staple of life. Essential to Medieval
a rise in the cost of wheat or a scarcity of bread usually marked the
of a time of famine or economic calamity. Figures indicate that in
the average lorly household allowed everyone about 2 to 3 pounds of
bread a day, while in France wheat records show that each citizen had
wheat for about a 2-pound loaf each day. Clearly, bread was the basis
the Medieval diet. References to many varieties of bread appear
"And of youre softe breed nat but a shyvere" - The
"Certes, I nil never ete breed" - The Book of the Duchess
"Fro this forth I shal nevere eten bred" - Troilus and
"And brynge us breed and wyn ful prively" - The Pardoner's
- Breed ne Ale Bread
nor Ale; used in an expression which meant to "not stop."
"He foond neither to selle
"Ne breed ne ale, til he cam to the celle" - The Miller's Tale
This would translate as, "He didn't stop, until he came to
the cellar." An Old French Fabliaux contains two instances of
the same expression.
- Breem A
the European freshwater Cyprinid or related fishes; a Porgy, or any of
various freshwater Sunfishes, especially the Bluegill. Recipes for
appear in Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books, Forme of
etc. Bream were among the fish that were domestically raised
for food, and are found in the Franklin's stocked fish pond, or "stuwe."
"And many a breem and many a luce in stuwe" - Prologue
to The Canterbury Tales
- Bren Bran;
broken coats of individual seeds of cereal grain, separated from the
or meal by sifting or bolting.
"In stide of flour yet wol I yeve hem bren" - The Reeve's
"The bren, as I best kan, now most I selle" - The Wife
of Bath's Tale
"But I ne kan nat bulte it to the bren" - The Nun's
- Brewhous A
"In al the toun nas brewhous ne taverne" - The Miller's
- Broun breed Brown
bread. Not considered as fine as white, brown bread was usually
for the lower classes and the poor, such as the widow in the Nun's
"Milk and broun breed, in which she foond no lak" -
The Nun's Priest's Tale
- Bryd, Brid(d), Bryddes,
Birds; more specifically in cooking, the smaller
as swallows, hummingbirds, larks, turtledoves, pigeons, etc. Medieval
ate practically anything with wings, and small birds were prepared in a
number of ways, often being used to stuff larger birds or other animals
as an added treat for the diner. The frequency with which such fowl
in period cookbooks indicates their popularity, especially in pies ("four
and-twenty blackbirds..."). In Medieval times, there were four
classes of birds, which symbolized the four classes of
of prey/nobles, birds that eat worms/bourgeois class,
class, & seed-fowl/agricultural class. Birds are the primary
in Chaucer's The Parlement of Foules, a fable about how birds
their mates on St. Valentine's Day, a popular Medieval belief.
"Bridd, fissh, best, or him or here" - The Hous of Fame
"As man, brid, best, fissh, herbe, and grene tree" -
Troilus and Criseyde
"My faire bryd, my sweete cynamome" - The Miller's Tale
"On every bow the bryddes herde I synge" - The Parlement
- Bugle Horn A
vessel made from the horn of a bugle (a buffalo) or wild ox.
"And drynketh of his bugle horn the wyn" - The Franklin's
A male deer of at least 6 years of age. The Book
Alban (1486) states that a buck is called a fawn in its first year,
a sore in its fourth, and a buck in its sixth.
"The dredful ro, the buk, the hert and hynde" - The
Parlement of Foules
"Ye, bothe bukke and hare" - Sir Thopas
"Of founes, sowres, bukkes, does" - The Book of the