July 15: From before the era of English-food jokes

Just like the last post which involved Holinshed, I'm just going to pass along various anecdotes that caught my eye; that's what he did, apparently. Today, he bellies up to the table with his English pals, 1577-style:

• The English eat more than their Mediterrean friends, because they need to keep warmer, but thank god they're not like the Scots:

...so otherwise they far exceed us in over much and distemperate gormandise, and so ingross their bodies that divers of them do oft become unapt to any other purpose than to spend their times in large tabling and belly cheer.
"Belly cheer" being another one of those great phrases one is tempted to use, until realizing how stupid it would make you look.

• Gross:
...each one, as necessity urgeth, calleth for a cup of such drink, as him listeth to have, so that, when he has tasted of it, he delivered the cup again to some one of the standers by, who, making it clean by pouring out the drink that remaineth, restoreth it to the cupboard from whence he fetched the same.
Emphasis added for public health reasons. And they thought it was enough to outsmart disease by not drinking water. Holinshed, naturally, assumes you know they don't drink water, which is why he devotes many paragraphs to describing how his wife makes beer. I skipped them, however; but they are there for the home-brew enthusiast.

• A little 16th century observational comedy: What's the deal with glassware?
It is a world to see in these our days, wherein gold and silver most aboundeth, how that our gentility, as loathing those metals (because of the plenty) do now generally choose rather the Venice glasses, both for our wine and beer, than any of those metals or stone wherein before time we have been accustomed to drink...The poorest also will have glass if they may... but in fine all go one way—that is, to shards at the last, so that our great expenses in glasses (beside that they breed much strife toward such as have the charge of them) are worst of all bestowed in mine opinion, because their pieces do turn unto no profit.
See, in his day, Pottery Barn meant Pottery Barn.

• I have seen this often remarked elsewhere, but that "multigrain" bread which is more expensive than white at the local artisan baker would freak Holinshed out:
The bread throughout the land is made of such grain as the soil yieldeth; nevertheless the gentility commonly provide themselves sufficiently of wheat for their own tables, whilst their household and poor neighbours in some shires are forced to content themselves with rye, or barley, yea, and in time of dearth, many with bread made either of beans, peas, or oats, or of altogether and some acorns among, of which scourge the poorest do soonest taste, sith they are least able to provide themselves of better.
• Mead is good for colds.

• And, just like the bean-counters in HR, Holinshed is against long lunches:
They [the goddamn Normans -- ed.] brought in also the custom of long and stately sitting at meat, whereby their feasts resembled those ancient pontifical banquets whereof Macrobius speaketh (lib. 3, cap. 13), and Pliny (lib. 10, cap. 10), and which for sumptuousness of fare, long sitting, and curiosity shewed in the same, exceeded all other men’s feasting; which fondness is not yet left with us, notwithstanding that it proveth very beneficial for the physicians, who most abound where most excess and misgovernment of our bodies do appear, although it be a great expense of time, and worthy of reprehension.
And, actually, it's about lunchtime as I finish this up, so maybe I'll go sit at meat myself.

0 comments: