- Cake A
loaf of sweet bread, described in the Prologue to The Canterbury
as being similar in shape and size to a buckler, the Medieval round
In the Prologue, the Summoner is dressed merrily in a huge
and carries such a cake in lieu of a buckler. All manners and types of
cakes were made, as numerous as the many varieties of bread that
"A bokeleer hadde he maade hym of a cake" - Prologue
to The Canterbury Tales
"And bad his wyf go knede it in a cake" - The Reeve's
- Calf The
of the domestic cow, or of the water buffalo.
"If cow, or calf, or sheep, or oxe swelle" - The Pardoner's
- Capon, Capoun Capon;
a castrated male chicken. An enormously popular food item, recipes for
capon appear in all period cookbooks and manuscripts. Young capons were
prefered in cooking; if old, they needed to be fat, the idea being that
older, male meat was naturally dryer than meat from a female animal.
castration of a male chicken when young was an attempt to limit the
affect of age in a male, and a plump capon guaranteed a moist product.
Capons were recommended by physicians as food to eat when sick or "out
of humour," and helped the body resist the cold & damp of winter.
"Have I nat of a capon but the lyvere" - The Summoner's
"That, as he seyde, his capouns hadde yslawe" - The
- Centaure The
Centaury, of the genus Centaurium; any of the low herbs of the
family. Chaucer is probably refering to the Old world herb Centaurium
umbellatum, used as a laxative and a tonic for digestion.
"Of lawriol, centaure, and fumetere" - The Nun's Priest's
- Cetewale An
either Setwall or the root Zedoary.
"Of lycorys, or any cetewale" - The Miller's Tale
"The lycorys and the cetewale" - Sir Thopas
- Chasteyn Chestnut
Tree. Nuts were consumed in large quantities in the Middle Ages, and
were always kept on hand in larger kitchens. Considered a "heavy fruit"
(like pears), they were recommended to be eaten at the end of a meal.
were also ground and used as a grain substitute when making bread.
"Wylugh, elm, plane, assh, box, chasteyn, lynde, laurer"
- The Knight's Tale
- Chese Cheese.
A by-product of milk, it was one of the ways of extending the shelf
of that volatile liquid. Made with salt as a preservative, cheese would
last much longer than milk could ever hope to. Nearly everyone from
class ate cheese, and it was essential in making pies, flans, tarts,
pasta dishes, soups, as an accompaniment to bread, wine, meat, etc. -
same popular uses it has today. Cheese production was an art and an
which supplied Medieval Europe with numerous varieties and flavors,
Physicians enjoyed its properties as well: a period doctor
"Cheese, taken after a meal, makes food descend to the bottom of
the stomach where digestion is primarily active, as all those versed in
the art of medicine know full well." In the 15th c. Platina wrote
this of cheese: "Fresh cheese is cold and moist; salt cheese (that
is, preserved and old) is hard, warm and dry. Fresh cheese is very
represses the heat of the stomach and helps those spitting blood, but
is totally harmful to the phlegmatic. Aged cheese is difficult to
of little nutriment and not good for stomach or belly; it produces
gout, pain in the side, sand grains and stones. They say a small
whatever you want, taken after a meal, when it seals the opening of the
stomach, both takes away the squeamishness of fatty dishes and benefits
digestion and head." The best cheese one could use was
neither too old nor too new; a medium-aged cheese was the most
The prohibition of cheese during Lent and fast-days severely
normal kitchens, and ingenious cooks developed substitutes which
tasted quite real. Almond Cheese was made from almond milk,
broth, and starch; Fake Ricotta was made from almond milk and
broth; and a recipe entitled Flans or Tarts in Lent Which Will
of Cheese has an imitation being made of the milt and roe of Pike,
Tench, and Carp.
"With breed and chese, and good ale in a jubbe" - The
"I wol have moneie, wolle, chese, and whete" - The
"And beggeth mele and chese, or elles corn" - The Summoner's
"A Goddes kechyl, or a trip of chese" - The Summoner's
- Chicknes Chickens.
This common domestic fowl provided the most readily available meat
very few households, in towns or the countryside, were without even a
number of chickens being raised in a coop or a limited running area. A
daily ration of grain for chicken feed regularly guaranteed a fresh
of eggs, and the occasional meal of chicken flesh. Medieval cooks
several types of domestic fowl, and recipes call for hens, cocks,
chicks, chickens, pullets, cockerels, and capons. Chickens, with the
and eggs they provided, were an integral part of Medieval cookery, and
were called for constantly in period kitchens.
"To boille the chicknes with the marybones" - Prologue
to The Canterbury Tales
- Ciser Strong
siceram in the Vulgate.
"This Sampson nevere ciser drank ne wyn" - The Monk's
Wine flavored with honey and spices; the second most
flavored wine after Hipocras, not to be confused with the modern
a medium-red variety of wine. Medieval claret is a spiced wine. Forme
of Cury has a sort of basic Clarrey made from white wine
cinnamon, galingale, grains of paradise, pepper and honey; a "Lord's
Claret" from a 14th c. medical manuscript contained cinnamon,
ginger, pepper, long pepper, grains of paradise, cloves, galingale,
mace, nutmeg, coriander, brandy, and honey. A common serving sauce for
eel was made from Claret mulled with powdered dry spices and salt.
"Of a clarree maad of a certeyn wyn" - The Knight's
"He drynketh ypocras, clarree, and vernage" - The Merchant's
"And thanne he taketh a soppe in fyn clarree" - The
- Clowe-gylofre Cloves;
the dried flower-bud of the tropical Clove Tree (Eugenia aromatica),
part of the Myrtle family. Cloves are among the spices listed by
for use in his Viandier; the availability was widespread and
were frequently combined with pepper, cinnamon, ginger, grains of
and the other common spices of the time.
"And many a clowe-gylofre" - Sir Thopas
- Comyn Cumin.
spice plant related to the carrot, cultivated for its aromatic seeds.
was among the most common of spices in Medieval times, and was called
in many recipes.
"And lycorys, and eek comyn" - Sir Thopas
- Conyes Coney;
the European rabbit. The coney was a game animal considered appropriate
for nobles or the sedentary wealthy, along with quail, pheasant,
deer, and capons; rougher men were meant to make do with more "robust"
meats such as stag, beef, goat, and salt pork.
"The litel conyes to here pley gunne hye" - The Parlement
- Corn, Cornes, Corn of
Corn refers to grain and wheat; cornes,
plural, means crops; and corn of whete is grain of wheat. In
Middle Ages, this was not "Indian Corn," the yellow, white, or
brown kernels on cobs so familar today - Medieval man didn't have the
of that New World food. Corn in period vocabulary meant any
"Ther never yet grew corn ne gras" - The Book of the
"Of makyng ropen, and lad awey the corn" - The Legend
of Good Women
"Maken so long a tale as of the corn" - The Man of Law's
"Or springen cokkel in our clene corn" - Man of Law's
"And they brende alle the cornes in that lond" - The
"Noght but the montance of a corn of whete" - The Pardoner's
- Corny The
of corn or malt in ale.
"Or elles a draughte of moyste and corny ale" - The
- Cours The
of a meal.
"At every cours thanne cam loud mynstraleye" - The
- Covercle The
for a pot.
"Paraunter brod as a covercle" - The Hous of Fame
- Cow This
friend of man was one of the Middle Ages most important animals,
meat, milk, butter, cheese, leather, and labor for both peasant and
Then as now, beef was the most popular and common red meat, and its
slaughter, and distribution was a major industry.
"If cow, or calf, or sheep, or oxe swelle" - The Pardoner's
- Crane Crane;
family of tall wading birds which resemble herons. Crane were one of
larger game birds, usually placed in the same cooking categories as
bittern, mallards, quails, herons, etc. Generally, they were merely
quite often in a basting sauce to prevent drying out over the open
"The crane, the geaunt, with his trompes soun" - The
Parlement of Foules
- Cynamone Cinnamon.
One of the most sought after and beloved medieval spices, it was used
flavoring stews, meats, soups, desserts, beverages, pastries,
- in essence, nearly every available food could be seasoned with this
spice, either alone or in combination with ginger, cloves, nutmeg,
etc. Despite its popularity, the origin of cinnamon was a mystery to
many who believed it came from the nest of the mythical Phoenix, or was
found in nets which had been cast into the Nile River.
"My faire bryd, my sweete cynamome" - The Miller's Tale
Here, Chaucer uses the word as a term of endearment.