This is the second installment in a series of posts inspired by my ancestor, Sir John Poyntz (ca. 1485-1544), Sewer (Knight whose duty it was to oversee the serving of food at high occasions). [See definitions at the end of this post.]
Sewers were required to orchestrate the serving of food for others aside from the royals and one group for which such services were rendered was the Clergy.
The great Feast at the Intronization of the Reverend Father in God George Nevell, Archbishop of York and Chancelour of Englande, in the 6th Yere of the Raigne of King Edwarde the fourth took place in 1467 and below is a list of the supplies needed on that occasion and in the quantities indicated.
Wheate 300 Quarters; In Ale 300 Tunne; Wine 100 Tunne; Ipocrasse one Pype; oxen 104; wilde bulles 6; Muttons 1000; veales 304; porkes 304; swannes 400; geese 2000; capons 1000; Pygges 2000; Plover 400; Quayles 150 dozen; foules called Rees 200 dozen; peacocks 104; mallards and teales 4000; cranes 4000; kyddes 204; chyckyns 2000; pigeons 4000; conyes 4000; byttors 204; herenshawes 400; fessantes 200; partridges 500; woodcocks 400; curlews 100; egrittes 1000; stages, buckes, and Roes 500 and mo.; Pasties of venison colde 4000; parted dyshes of gelly 1000; playne dishes of gelly 3000; colde tartes baked 4000; colde custards baked 3000; Hot Pastries of Venison 1500; Hot custards 2000; Pykes and Breames 608; porposes and seales 12; spices, sugared Delicates and Wafers plenty.
That quantity and array of food was made into dishes served as such:
The first course: Frumentie and Venison; Potage Royal; Hart poudred for Standard; Roo poudred for Mutton; frumentie Ryal; Signettes rosted; Swanne with Galendine; Capons with whole Geese rost; Corbettes of Venison rost; Beef; venison baked; and great custard planted, as a Suttletie.
The Second course: First, Jelly, and parted rayfing to Potage; Venison in Breake; pecocke in his Hakell; cony rosted, Roo reversed; lardes of venison; partridge roste; woodcocks rost; plovers rost; Bremes in sauce ponnyvert; leche cypress; fuller Naplyn; dates in molde, chessons ryal, a Suttletie.
The third course: Blanke desire, dates in compost, bytters rost; feysauntes rost; egrittes rost; rabittes rost; quayles rost; martynettes rost; Great Byrdes rost; larkes rost; leche baked; fritter Crispayne; quinces baked, Chamblet Viander, a Suttletie; Wafers and Ipocras.
There were 30 men assigned to administer to the serving of the meal including sewers, steward, treasurer, comptroller, carver, cupbearers, knights for the hall, panter, ewerer, keeper of the cupboard, and surveyor in the hall.
For the working class, such meals were the stuff dreams are made of. They were unable to hunt for food as the animals of the forest belonged to the nobility, and taking them, even to feed a hungry family, was considered poaching which could result in a death sentence. Such people relied on grains and common vegetables for the bulk of their daily meals.
Let’s dig into the old English spelling and look at what some of these strange items actually are.
Ipocrasse: wine; Suttletie: subtlety, a delicate dish; Itronisation: The installation of a bishop in his episcopal see; Ewerer: one who brought and heated water for the nobles; Panter: keeper of the pantry; Keeper of the cupboard: lardner, keeper of the hall; Pygges: pigs, probably suckling pigs prepared whole, not fully grown hogs; Quayles: quails; Kyddes: kid, young goat; Chyckyns: chickens; Conyes: rabbits; Byttors: bitterns, a group of wild wading birds; Egrittes: Egrets; Stagges: Stags, bucks; Pasties: a pie in a firm crust or coffyn, probably eaten out of hand; Dishes of gelly: gelatin, probably flavored with orange or lemon; Pykes and breams: small fish; Frumentie: Hulled wheat boiled in milk and flavored with sugar and spices; Hart: male red deer; Roo: in later times this may have referred to kangaroo, the tail was the part most commonly eaten, but at this time it was probably the herb, rue; Capon: A rooster castrated as a chick to render the meat tender; Feysauntes: pheasants; Martynettes: a swallow-like bird; Leche: probably a mixture of milk, sugar, and vanilla cooked down into a caramel
Edward IV (28 April 1442 – 9 April 1483) was King of England from 4 March 1461 until 3 October 1470, and again from 11 April 1471 until his death.
George Neville (ca. 1432-June 8, 1476) was the youngest son of Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury. He became bishop of Exeter in 1458 after which he took a keen interest in the politics of the era. For his enthronement as Archbishop of York in Cawood Castle, Sept. 1465, approximately 2500 people were fed at each meal.