[Smashy the Hammer] [An Aspiring Luddite]
I carry no phone
An aspiring Luddite
In a wired world.
[Jeff Berry]
Jeff Berry is an early adopter of the Internet and the Web, a late adopter of Twitter, and declines to adopt Facebook. With the death of Google+, he's experimenting with federated platforms. He admins a medievalist Mastodon instance, and can found on t he PlusPora diaspora pod. He hates cell-phones.

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Tales From Munden's Chantry
Part Two

Over on my Mastodon account I've started posting threads about some medieval accounts from Munden's Chantry. Every now and then, I'll collate them, lightly edit them, and post them here. If you want to comment on them, Mastodon would be the place to do it ...

Here's the second batch.

Fourth Post

Another week at Munden's Chantry!

Die sabbati proxima post festum omnibus sanctorum, in pane 9d. Item in servicia 9 1/2 d. Item in carnibus bovinus ovinus et porcinis 4 1/2 d. Item in uno porcello 3 d. Item in piscibus 5d. Item in sinapio 1/2 d. Item in butiro 1/2 d in 2 libris candelarum 2 1/2 d
 Summa 2s 6 1/2 d

First Saturday after the Feast of All Saints [Nov 1], for bread 9d. Item, for beer, 9 1/2d. Item for beef, sheep meat, and pork 4 1/2d. Item for one small (suckling) pig 3 d. Item for fish, 5 d. Item for mustard 1/2 d. Item for butter 1/2 d. For 2 pounds of candles, 2 1/2d
 Total 2s 6 1/2 d.

First off, the total should be 34 1/2 d or 2s 10 1/2 d., a difference of 4 d. This is the second math error in the first few weeks, which actually leads me to wonder if there is something else going on. Do the extra 4 d represent something taken from stores, which didn't actually require payment? Is Savernak tracking both usage and expenditure? Or is he just bad or sloppy with math?

We are told what kind of meat they buy - of cows, sheep, and pigs. A suckling pig represents nearly half the total meat budget for the week.

This is the second purchase of candles, 2 lbs for 2 1/2 d. The first week, they purchased an unknown quantity for 1 1/2 d. Does this suggest that candles cost about 1 d, pound? Does it also suggest that in late October, they use roughly 1/3 pound of candles per week? We'll come back to the price of candles ...

Let's talk about mustard for a bit.

We have recipes for making mustard, and they look not too dissimiliar to modern prepared mustards. Le Ménagier de Paris has a couple, both based on ground mustard seeds and vinegar.

But here it seems likely we're talking about buying the condiment already made. Pre-made mustard was available at the saucemaker as a fairly standard sauce. Le Ménagier recommends buying t. He describes the needful for a wedding of 20 platters in September as including, 'From the sauce maker: a half gallon of cameline for the dinner and supper, two half gallons of mustard.' This might also imply that in Paris in the 1390s, half a gallon was a standard size for sauce purchases. (It might not, though.)

The York civic ordinances of 1301 have a list of prices for certain staple items, and it includes mustard at 4 d a gallon, the same price as verjuce, and ginger sauce at 8d a gallon. (Onions go for a penny a pound.)

All of which serves to indicate that a bit of mustard would probably be found in most reasonably well-off household. Recipes call for it to go with a variety of meats, and we could talk about the possible humoral reasons for that ..

The York ordinances also fixes the price of 'Paris candles' at 1/2 d a pound. That's pretty close to the price that Savernak & Co. paid - they got 2 lbs for 2.5 d, as you recall.

So it's early November, and the chantry might be celebrating a bit with suckling pig and mustard. Sounds good to me!

Fifth post:

A new week with Munden's Chantry.

Die sabbati ante festum S. Martini, in pane 6 d. Item in servicia 7d. Item in carnibus bovinus ovinus et porcinis 7d. Item in uno porcello 3d. Item in piscibus 4 d.
  Summa 2 s 3d.

Saturday before the feast of St. Martin [Nov 11], for bread 6 d, Item for beer 7d, item for meat of cows, sheep, and pigs, 7d. Item for one piglet 3d. Item for fish 4d
  Total: 2s 3d

Well, the math is right this time, well done Savernak. We get much the usual list of purchases, including a suckling pig again. That's worth thinking about for a moment. Suckling pig brings a couple of things to mind. First, it is fresh pork. Does that mean that the other meat is salt? Impossible to say without further information. The other has to do with timings and one of my favourite topics, eating seasonally.

Usually when people talk about eating seasonally they mean fruit and veg which is in season. But before modern presevation techniques, it also had implications for meat. 'Labour of the Month' illustrations often show animals being fattened and then slaughtered around this time. Generally, this was the time when animals were culled so that they would not need to be fed over the winter. The piglets our priests are purchasing are probably the result of such a cull.

Sixth Post:

Another week at the chantry ...
Die sabbati et in festo S. Hugonis, in pane 5 1/2 d. 2d. Item in servicia 8d. Item in carnibus bovinus ovinis et porcinis 8d. Item in 2 castrimergiis 1d [woodcocks]. Item in piscibus 5 1/2 d. Item in butiro et sinapio 1d.
 Summa 2 s 7d

Saturday, the feast of Saint Hugh (of Lincoln, Nov. 16). For bread 5 1/2 d 2d. Item, for beer, 8 d. Item in meat of cows, sheep, and pigs, 8 d. Item, for two woodcocks 1d. Item for fish, 5 1/2d. Item for butter and mustard, 1d.
 Total: 2s 7d.

No oatmeal this week, but more butter and mustard. A brace of woodcocks, which brings up an interesting point concerning both the woodcocks and the suckling pig. The implication is that the piglet is whole, otherwise it would just be more pig meat. Which suggests to me that they are roasting it, and probably roasting the woodcocks. Roasting means spit-roasting, since domestic ovens are not common, and are primarily bread or pastry ovens when you do find them. (As an aside, a lot of what we call roasting these days is actually 'baking'.)

So, roasting. The fact that they are roasting underscores the fact that they are moderately well off. The ability to roast - owning spits, having a suitable hearth - is an indicator of wealth and/or status. It's a high-class and inefficient way to cook in terms of both labour and fuel. (Done properly, the results can be amazing, though.) A little credence is lent to this idea by an inventory from 1408, a little before these accounts, which includes a spit.

So as November rolls on, our priests celebrate somewhat with some roast pig, and a brace of roasted game birds, with a little more mustard.

Seventh Post:

Die sabbati in festo S. Grisogoni, in pane 7 1/2d Item in servicia 9d. Item in carnibus bovinis ovinis et porcinis 6d. Item in piscibus 8d.
 Summa 2s 6 1/2 d

Saturday the feast of Saint Chrysogonus Dalmaticus (Nov 24), for bread 7 1/2 d. Item for beer 9 d. Item for meat of cows, sheep, and pigs 6d. Item for fish, 8d.
 Total 2s 6 1/2 d.

A fairly standard week for provisioning, 30.5d is about average for what they spend. (The actual average thus far is a hair over 32.5). What got me to thinking this time is the choice of saints Savernak uses for his dating. There are many saints and many feasts, so why choose specifically the ones he does? Some are obvious enough, but what of the others? The specific calendar used varied both by general region and also by specific locality. But even within that, Savernak had options.

For instance, the calendar of Sarum includes the translation of Edward on 13/10, Luke on 18/10, Simon and Jude on 28/10, All Saints on 1/11, Martin on 11/11, Hugh of Lincoln in 17/11, and Chrysogonus/Grisogonus on 24/11, so that's all good. But why does Savernak choose the Saturday before St Martin (Die sabbati ante festum S. Martini) rather than the actual calendar entry?

Perhaps because that entry is for 'The Four Crowned Martys' which doesn't quite roll trippingly off tongue or pen? I confess (get it) that liturgical calendars are not my area of expertise, but it did get me wondering. (And I relied on this site for the Sarum calendar.

Eighth Post:

Die sabbati proximi post festum S. Andree apostoli, in pane 7 1/2 d. Item in servicia 13 1/2d. Item in carnibus bovinus ovinis et porcinis 10 1/2 d. Item in piscibus 4 1/2 d. Item in croco et butiro 1 d. Duo extranii per diem ad mensam.
 Summa 3 s 1 d

The first Saturday after the feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle. For bread, 7 1/2d. Item for beer, 13 1/2 d. Item for meat of cows, sheep, and pigs, 10 1/2 d. Item for fish, 4 1/2d. Item for saffron and butter 1 d. Two extra people per day to table.
 Total: 3 s 1 d

The feast day of St. Andrew is Nov. 30, but Dec. 1 is fairly slack Saint-wise, so the dating makes sense from that perspective. A few other items of note.

It's time to get in some more butter. The purchase of butter is pretty regular - every few weeks, and based on the entry for All Saints, they spend about 1/2 d on butter each time. That seems to be when they buy their other spices or condiments, since butter is often lumped in with mustard, or in this case, saffron.

The saffron is interesting. It's used a lot in medieval cookery, primarily as a colouring agent. Terence Scully goes so far as to say that it was used 'explicitly and solely' for its hue. (This is in 'The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages' a crucial resource for those interested in medieval cookery.) One wonders what dish was on the menu that needed to be pepped up with a little saffron colour.

Perhaps it is related to the presence of two guests during the week. The entry itself contains no indication of who they were (unlike the first entry which mentioned that it was Richard Carpenter and his servants), so it pointless (although amusing) to speculate. What is clear is that the presence of guests makes itself felt in the amount of food needed, beer in particular - half again as much as usual! In fact, the average weekly expenditure (thus far) when they are alone is 31 1/2 d. This week it's 37 d, a significant increase.

('Tales From Munden's Chantry' is a nod to Ostrander and Truman's Grimjack, in case you care.)

Luddite'sLog, 9 July 2023
© 2023 Jeff Berry
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