Feasting in France’s Culinary Past

In France’s past, feasting was a culinary social obligation of the nobility. It was always a splendid occasion with many ‘removes.’ Removes did not represent courses as we think of them today. Most medieval banquets had 3 or 4 removes with a musical interlude or entertainment in between. Great banquets fit for kings and royalty might have as many as 7 removes.

Each one contained a range of foods from gruel soups and ‘salads to roasted and stews meats and fish to baked vegetables, puddings and fruits. There would be at least two and sometimes many. The most impressive dishes could be heralded by fanfare and carried through the dining hall on the shoulders of pages for all to admire.

14th Century Banquet. London, British Library. (Photo by Photo 12/ UIG via Getty Images).

The image here shows an example of feasting in France’s culinary past. Pages and squires at the front of the table serve nobles [wearing crowns] and higher clergy [in mitres]. The shield on the wall show the participants and the host sits under the canopy in the centre.

The Foods in France’s Culinary Past

Remember first that forks did not exist. People used spoons and knives, and often brought their own cutlery. This remained true of knives for a long time. Plates were uncommon also and food was served on sold dry bread called manchets to sock up the sauces and gravies. these were given as charity to the poor after the meal.

France’s hosts did not go for simple fare at these culinary feasts. In the first remove hosts often served pottage and some sort of greens, hare, venison, salmon and pike. After the first interlude, the chef would prepare a sturgeon cooked in parsley and vinegar and covered with powdered ginger. Gilt sugar plums, pomegranate seeds and an enormous pie surmounted with a smaller pie to represent a crown accompanied the sturgeon. After a spectacle of acrobats, they moved on to chickens covered with egg yolks and sprinkled with spice. Then came a wild boar, wafers, and jellies of various colours, decorated to reflect the crests of honoured guests.

France’s culinary past was at least as splendid as its present. The article in the following link is excellent. Everything you want to know about food and its service during the medieval period is at your fingertips.

In the French Middle Ages, as today, banquets were opportunities for the well-heeled to entertain guests in style.

Source: Imagining the Culinary Past in France: Recipes for a Medieval Feast

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