Cooking With The Bard: We Suss Out Shakespeare’s Forgotten Foods
April 20, 20165:03 PM ET
The King Drinks, by the 17th century artist Jacob Jordaens, illustrates a feasting scene from William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The Shakespearean larder teems with intriguing-sounding food.
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Editor’s note: This week, to mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, we will be running a series of stories examining the links between food and the Bard.
For more than 400 years, Shakespeare’s audiences have devoured tales of Twelfth Night‘s “cakes and ale” and Hamlet’s “funeral baked meats.”
But there’s a whole lot more to the bard’s culinary story – the Shakespearean larder teems with intriguingly named foods. How about chewets, gallimaufries, and fools? (That’s small pies, mixtures and spiced, fruity custard for modern eaters.) And do you know your codlings from your carbonadoes and your umbles from your jumbles? (Translation: small apples, grilled meat, offal and bonbons.)
When Hamlet huffs about the “funeral baked meats” served at his mother’s wedding banquet, he is chastising her for her quick re-marriage, implying that she was serving leftovers from his father’s recent funeral. But funeral baked meats were in fact a real food, and they weren’t as macabre as their name implied — though they were cooked in a “coffin.” The same word was used for “a coffer to keep dead people or to keep meat in,” explains Ken Albala, director of food studies at the University of the Pacific. But these edible coffins, he explains, were made of pastry crust to seal the contents so that they lasted longer. Because that pastry was built to act more like Tupperware than a treat, it was coarse and tossed rather than eaten.
More grim is the drink proffered by Lady Macbeth: To clear the way for murder, she drugs the grooms’ possets — half-food, half-drink staples of Renaissance tables. They were a sort of old-fashioned eggnog made by curdling cream in wine, ale or sack (that’s Spanish Sherry).
….more at the first link above.
…for more fun with Will: Dinner at The Globe, on sale at Amazon