10 Foods From Shakespeare’s Plays That Shakespeare (Probably) Ate Himself
A Guest Post from Cassidy Cash
In addition to the beer you’ve probably heard about being popular in the 16-17th century England (due to the poor sanitation of the water) Shakespeare’s lifetime saw a flurry of culinary oddities grace the tables of nobility and civilians alike. It wasn’t uncommon to see such surprises as hedgehogs, fish pies, and even fried peacock that’s recorded as appearing at court before Queen Elizabeth.
These culinary experiments would amuse and delight us if found on dinner tables today. Culinary amazements like hedgehogs did not turn up on the ordinary Englishman’s table, however. The culinary rules established by Elizabeth I were not only vast, but detailed, and it was inappropriate to the point of imprisonment to eat outside your station. So if he wasn’t dining on fried peacock at dinner, what did William Shakespeare eat?
Here is a list of 10 Elizabethan foods that someone like William Shakespeare might have really eaten at lunch, then called dinner, the main meal of the day for Elizabethan England.
1. Shrewsberry Cakes
Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night roars out,
Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous,
there shall be no more cakes and ale?
Using culinary references including tins like the one in this picture, which date back to within reasonable distance of Shakespeare’s lifetime, historians believe the cakes Sir Toby was talking about were Shrewsberry Cakes. They were round cakes, flavored with rose or sometimes lemon. In the book, ‘The Compleat Cook‘ by ‘WM’, 1658, there’s a recipe for Shrewsberry Cakes that included flavoring the cake with Rose Water.
2. Gooseberry Foyle
In Henry IV Part II, Falstaff declares,
…all the other gifts appertinent man, as the malice of this age shapes them, are not worth a gooseberry.
While only mentioned once in Shakespeare’s plays, the gooseberry Foyle, also called Gooseberry Fool, is a type of cream pudding featuring gooseberries and some mint. Served with shortbread cookies, this pudding made an excellent Elizabethan dessert.
Orlando in As You Like It, declares: “Of a snail!” (IV.1) He might as well have put it as a question. If you’re from the United States, you likely expected these guys to be a type of flower. In the UK, however, Periwinkles are a type of snail that lives on the coast, attaching itself to rocks and ships and other flat surfaces where they can eat the algae that grows there. It’s a common snack across parts of Spain and France as well…. (the rest at the link above)