“This Night in Banqueting Must all be Spent”

                                            

                                            Troilus and Cressida,

                                               Act V, Scene 1 (Achilles)

 

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It is usually accepted that William Shakespeare’s birthday was April 23, 1564.  Actually, there is no record of his birth; however, there is a record of his baptism, April 26.  In the 16th century it was traditional for infants to be baptized three days after birth, it is, therefore assumed that he was born on April 23.  Interestingly enough, he also died on April 23, 1616.

The sixteenth century in England, during the reign Queen Elizabeth the First, was a time of relative peace and prosperity.  Compared to previous centuries, it might even considered a time of enlightenment.  Theater and other forms of entertainment were an important part of daily life, even for the poor.  When attending the theater, those of substance paid to be in the tiered galleries.  The poor could for a few pence, by standing room on the open air ground in front of the stage.  Thus they were called “groundlings.”  Visit this link for more information About Theaters in Shakespeare’s Day

 

In the sixteenth century, food was relatively plentiful in England.  The well to do dined lavishly.  Their foods were highly seasoned with imported spices.  Contrary to popular opinion, the heavy seasoning was not to keep food from spoiling.  To a degree, using expensive and exotic spices was a sigh of wealth; a form of obvious consumption, designed to display your status as surely as the gold plate you ate off of.  Heavy seasoning also covered up the fact that in many cases the food was partly tainted.  Remember, there was no refrigeration.

People of less opulent means, in an attempt to emulate the wealthy, wished to season their foods as well, however, they were more apt to use local herbs than imported spices.  How expensive were spices?  You could buy a horse for one pepper corn.  Now, this was not the pepper we know today.  The first pepper imported into Europe and England was what we now

See full size image

call, Balinese Long Peppers.

It should be remembered that when Captain Francis Drake circumnavigated the globe, the second man only to do so, he returned with his ship laden with gold and silver plundered from Spanish communities in the New World.  The cloves and other spices that he also brought were of far greater value.

The English have always been big meat eaters and Shakespeare’s time was no different, however fruit and vegetables were in great demand as well, though the diversity was far less than what we have available today. 

What better way to honor this, most likely the most important writer in the English language than with a meal comprised of the foods of his time.  Pick and choose from the recipes listed below to create a sixteenth century menu worthy of the Bard of Stratford.  The recipes have, in some cases, been somewhat modified to suit contemporary tastes and accommodate availability of ingredients.

“Stew’d in Brine, Smarting in lingering pickle.”

Antony and Cleopatra,

Act II, Scene 5 (Cleopatra)

 

  Marinated Mushrooms

Shakespeare's Birthplace

                                                                       Shakespeare's_Birthplace

 

Nasturtium Salad, The bright flowers of the nastutium add not only color but also a pleasant peppery flavor to a salad. Also included in this salad are nasturtium leaves, watercress, and dandelion leaves. It is served with a walnut vinaigrette dressing., © Michael Boys/CORBIS, RM, Food, Food and drink, Herb, Nasturtium, Nobody, Prepared food, Salad, Seasoning, Watercress

“My salad days, When I was green in judgment.”

Antony and Cleopatra, Act   1, Scene 5 (Cleopatra)

Fresh Herb Salad

 

“...In fair round belly with good capon lin’d.”

As You Like It, Act II, Scene 7 (Jaques)

 

 

Intoxicated Fowelle

 

 

 

"His eyes were green as leeks."

“A Mid summer-Night’s Dream”

Act V, Scene 1 (Thisbe)

 

Braised Leeks

File:Anne Hathaways Cottage and gardens 15g2006.jpg

                                                  Anne_Hathaway’s Cottage

 

“Why, then the world’s my oyster, Which I with sword will open.”

The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act II, Scene 2 (Pistol)

 

           Oysters on the Half Shell

.Mary_Arden’s House

 

 

“...but I am a great eater of beef, and I believe that does harm to my wit.”

Twelfth Night, Act 1, Scene 3 (Sir Andrew)

Haymakers Harvest Beef

 

“...you shall see mine orchard, where, in an arbour, we shall eat last year’s pippins of my own graffing.”

Henry IV, Part II, Act V, Scene 3 (Shallow)

Yealmpton Baked Apples

                                                    Hall's_Croft

 

 

“An I had but one penny in the world, thou shouldst have it to buy gingerbread.”

Love’s Labour’s Lost, Act V, Scene 1 (Costard)

Lebkuchen Gingerbread

 

 

 

If you would like to read more about Shakespeare this is an excellent short biography.

 

 

The English Country Kitchen


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