Henry VIII was popular for two things – his trysts with various women throughout his lifetime and his voracious appetite. He may have tried to pass himself off as an epicure but the truth is he was a plain and simple glutton. He was so fond of wining and dining that the kitchens at Hampton Court Palace filled 55 rooms and they were manned by 200 members of the kitchen staff who would typically make a 14-course meal for 600 people!
Here are some of the foods that would typically be served at a feast organized by Henry VIII
Spit-roasted meat, usually of a boar or a pig, was an indication of extreme wealth and was eaten at almost every meal. Only the super rich could afford to spend money on acquiring fresh meat, roasting it (which required using more fuel), and hiring a “spit boy” to do nothing more than turn the spit all day long. In one year, the royal kitchen served 8,200 sheep, 1,240 oxen, 760 calves, 2,330 deer, 53 wild boar, and 1,870 pigs. It was estimated that, on an average, each member of the curt was eating about 23 animals every year! That is one hell of an appetite.
Grilled Beavers’ Tails
This delicious dish was particularly popular on Fridays, when religion forbade eating any meat. To escape sinning, medieval folks classified beavers as fish. And so the merrymaking continued each Friday.
Contrary to current trends, whale meat was very commonly available and pretty cheap too, thanks to their plentiful supply in the North Sea. The meat was served either well roasted or boiled.
Whole Roasted Peacock
Back in the medieval days, they had a pretty fanciful way of serving this meat. It was dressed in the brilliant blue feathers of the bird, which were plucked before cooking and arranged back once the meat was done. For extra effect, the beak of the bird was gilded in gold leaf.
You may think gross but medieval cooks believed in being thrifty and using each and every part of the animal. And, I repeat, each and every part. In fact, they were considered a delicacy fit for a king. Beef spleen, lungs, and udders were preserved in vinegar or brine.
This is not the kind of pudding you are thinking. This popular dish was made by, try not to puke here, stuffing a length of pig’s intestine with its boiled, congealed blood. Again, medieval royalty’s warped idea of a delicacy!
Bored with traditional floral displays for the dining table medieval cooks came up with the bright idea of serving a boar’s head, garnished with bay and rosemary, as the centerpiece for Christmas feasts. Needless to say, it was a huge hit!
Wine and Ale
What meal can be complete without great drinks to wash down the food? It is estimated that, in a year, courtiers at the Hampton Court Palace guzzled down 600,000 gallons of ale (that much could fill an Olympic-size swimming pool) and about 75,000 gallons of wine (that’s enough to fill 1,500 bathtubs)! Talk about wining and dining in style.
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