Category Archives: Dining

Custom Dining Food

Jacobean life – Dining



The daily dining habits of the average Jacobean Londoner share many similarities with those of us living in the 21st Century.  Three meals a day for those with the means, and snacks in-between for the nibblers.  Breakfast was usually taken between 6 and 7am and consisted of bread, with butter if it could be afforded, and perhaps some cold cuts of meat or slices of cheese. Weak beer was served as a staple accompaniment, since the river water in London was unfit to drink, and rainwater also needed to be filtered.

The aristocracy settled down to a heavy lunch between 11am and noon, while the working classes ate a little later; similarly supper for the idle rich was usually served at about 6pm, while the rest might not eat their evening meal until 7 or 8pm. The main meal of the day was lunch, or dinner, as it was then called. For those who had their own cooks, this meal might run to several courses and include soup, stewed meat, pies, bacon, more roasted meat, fish, vegetables, all rounded off with fruit tarts and cheese. Wine was served with each course, and a midday meal might run to several hours. The working man had to content himself with a hastily-grabbed tavern meal, or one snatched at home. It would have included at least one hot dish, often a roast, or pie, or stew, accompanied by more bread and beer.

Supper was something of a rerun of breakfast; cold meat, bread, beer and cheese. The aristocracy might extend this with the inclusion of more fruit and sweet dishes, and fine wine.
Cutlery was still at the rudimentary stage – spoons and knives were in use, but forks were still something of a new-fangled invention. It was customary to go through a ritual hand-wash with other diners prior to sitting down. The head of the household took his place at the table, the children and servants sat at the opposite end, or even in a different room at a different table if space were not an issue. It was a widespread practise in many households to expect children and servants to stand throughout a meal, as can be seen from the woodcut. After Grace had been said, knives were used to spear whatever food looked appealing and convey it to the plate, then fingers took over in place of a fork. Once the meal was over, diners might push away their empty plates and light up a pipe – tobacco was available at 3 pence a pouch.
Sources as for Jacobean Food

©2009-2013 All Rights Reserved

Custom Dining Food London

Jacobean Life – Food


Last week I posted some early modern recipes, and so I thought some snippets on food in general might prove interesting. Londoners in Elizabethan and Jacobean England had plenty of choice when it came to dining.  Of course money was an important factor, but even the poor were in most cases able to buy cheap loaves of bread. Food markets were located throughout the city; including Leadenhall, Stocks Market, Cornhill and Cheapside, Eastcheap, and Billingsgate.


Leadenhall was on the corner of Gracechurch Street and Cornhill, and sold meat and poultry; the staples of a Jacobean diet.  Beef was by far the most popular choice, and cattle were driven in from miles away, often down Oxford St, which at the time was not much more than an overgrown lane. In addition to beef, sheep and poultry were for sale everywhere, and there were stalls throughout the city selling sausages and pies. The Stocks Market (on roughly the site of the current Mansion House) sold fish and meat.  Cornhill and Cheapside were home to flower sellers, as well as purveyors of poultry; including pigeon, duckling, goose, chickens, and even swans. Billingsgate was at this time a general market, specialising in fish, fruit, grain and salt.


Game was a common staple. Hare and rabbit were cheap and plentiful, and deer was also available. Most meat was either roasted or stewed, or found its way into pies and sausages. The eating of fish was not merely encouraged, it was obligatory. Fish days were Fridays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, and it was forbidden for anyone to eat meat during Lent or other special holidays. This part ban on meat effectively ensured 156 flesh-free days a year, but this was only severely enforced during Lent. At other times the rules could be bent, for example, eating meat on Wednesdays might be lawful provided there were at least three dishes of fish served alongside. Licensed ‘meat-eaters’ were useful dinner guests; these were either people exempt from abstaining from meat due to health reasons, or those rich enough to make a hefty donation to the poor-box in exchange for the privilege of eating meat. Having a licensed meat-eater at the dinner table on fish days therefore ensured one could serve a large helping of meat, and if it was shared, no one need know.


Fish was poached or fried, and salted fish was a basic throughout the winter because it could be easily preserved and stored. Dried, salted Cod was a staple for the poor. Oysters were eaten in enormous numbers, brought in from Colchester and Whitstable. They were either eaten in the shell, or used in pies and stews as well as soups. Salmon was pickled in Scotland and along with conger eel, was usually poached in beer.


Cheese was a favourite on meat and fish days alike. Leadenhall market sold Cheddar and Cheshire, but most Londoners ate a basic cheese made from ewes’ milk. Vegetables were usually boiled. Pottage was a basic vegetable soup thickened with grain; a commonplace in the country, it was often only consumed by the poor in London. Fruit was eaten by everyone, but usually boiled or stewed, and seldom consumed raw. Snacks such as ‘hot codling’ (baked apple) were sold on the street, and native fruits such as apples, pears, cherries, and plums, were widely available and cheap. But imported fruits like oranges, apricots, and lemons were prohibitively expensive – a lemon cost 6 pence, the same price as a medical handbook.


Bread was the basic of any meal. The rich ate bread baked at home from the purest white flour, while the poor made do with rye bread. If a harvest failed then bread was concocted from oats, lentils, and beans. Exotic foods were also making their way onto the streets of London, thanks to the advances in foreign trading. Those with the money could buy sugar, pepper, almonds, dates and olives. Potatoes had arrived but there was not yet a consensus on the correct way of eating them.

Multiple sources, including Tames, Picard, Ackroyd
©2009-2013 All Rights Reserved

Dining Household Women

Delights for Ladies

These tips come from a little book of household maintenance for women, entitled Delights for Ladies. 

How to hang your candles in the aire without candlestickes:
This will make a strange shewe to the beholders that knowe not the conceite. Let a fine Virginall wier (wire) of some length be fastened to the postes in the roofe of your house, and fasten it to the Candle. If the roome be any thing high roofed it will be hardly discerned, and the flame though it consume the tallow, yet it will not melt the wier.

A ball to take out staines from linnen:
Take four ounces of white hard Soape, beate it in a mortar with two small Lemmons sliced, and as much roche allome as a hazel Nut; roll it up in a ball, rub the staine therewith, and after fetch it out with warme water if neede be.

A white beauty for the face:
The jaw bones of a Hogge or Sow well burnt, beaten and sieved, and after ground upon a serpentine stone is an excellent beauty, being laid on with the oyle of white poppey

Skinne kept white and cleare:
Wash the face and body of a sucking child with breast milke, or Cowe mille, or mixed with water, everie night, and the childes skinne will wax faire and cleare, and resist sunburning.

How to take away any pimple from the face:
Brimstone ground with the oyl of Turpentine, and applied to any pimple one houre, maketh the flesh to rise spungeous, which being annointed with the thicke oyl of butter that ariseth in the morning from new milke sodden a little over night, will heale and scale away in a fewe daies, leaving a faire skinne behinde.

How to barrell up Oysters:
Open your oysters, take the licor off them, and mixe a reasonable proportion of the best white wine vinegar you can get, a little salt and some pepper, barrell the fish up in a small caske, covering all the Oysters in this pickle; they will last a long time; this is an excellent meeans to convery Oysters unto drie townes, or to carie them in long voyages.

The true bottling of beere:
When your Beere is tenne or twelve dayes old, whereby it is growne reasonable cleare, then bottle it, making your corkes verie fitte for the bottles, and stop them close, but drink not of this beere till they beginne to worke again and mantle, and then you shall finde the same most excellent and sprightly drink; and this is the reason why bottle ale is both so windie and muddy, because it is commonly bottled the same day that it is laid into the Cellar, whereby his yeast being an exceeding windie substance, doth incorporate with the drinke, and maketh it also verie windie, and this is all the lime and gunpowder wherewith bottle Ale hath been a long time so wrongfully charged.

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved

Dining Household

To make the best Sausages that ever was

These fragments come from a household cookery book dated 1656.

To Fricase Sheep-feet:
Take Sheeps feet, slit the bone, and pick them very clean, then put them in a Frying-pan, with a Ladlefull of strong Broth, a piece of Butter, and a little Salt; after they have fryed a while, put to them a little Parsley, green Chibals, a little young Speremint and Tyme, all shred very small, and a little beaten Pepper; when you think they are fryed almost enough, have lear made for them with the yolks of two or three Eggs, some Gravy of Mutton, a little Nutmegg, and juyce of a Lemon wrung therein, and put this leare to the Sheeps feet as they fry in the Pan, then toast them once or twice, and put them forth into the Dish you mean to serve them in.

To make the best Sausages that ever was:
Take a leg of young Pork, and cut off all the lean, and shred it very small, but leave none of the strings or skins amongst it, then take two pounds of Beef Suet, and shred it small, then take two handfuls of red Sage, a little Pepper and Salt, and Nutmegg, and a small peece of an Onion, chop them altogether with the flesh and suet; if it is small enough, put the yolk of two or three Eggs and mix altogether, and make it up in a Paste if you will use it, roll out as many peeces as you please in the form of an ordinary Sausage, and so fry them, this Paste will keep a fortnight upon occasion.

To make Puff:
Take four pints of new milke, rennie, take out all the Whey very clean, and wring it in a dry Cloth, then strain it in a wooden Dish till they become as Cream, then take the yolks of two Eggs, and beat them and put them to the Curds, and leave them with the Curds, then put a spoonfull of Cream to them, and if you please halfe a spoonful of Rose-Water, and as much flower beat in it as will make it of an indifferent stiffness, just to roll on a Plate, then take of the Kidney of Mutton suet and purifie it, and fry them in it, and serve them in with Butter, Rosewater and Sugar.

To make Cheese-cakes:
Take three Eggs and beat them very well, and as you beat them, put to them as much fine flower as will make them thick, then put to them three or four Eggs more, and beat them altogether; then take a quart of Creame, and put into it a quarter of a pound of sweet butter, and put it over the fire, and when it begins to boyle, put to it your Eggs and flower, stir it very well, and let it boyle till it be thick, then season it with Salt, Cinamon, Sugar, and Currants, and bake it.

To dress Snayles:
Take your Snayles and wash them well in many waters, and when you have done, put them in a white Earthen Pan, and put as much water to them as will cover them, then set your Dish or Pan on some coales that it may heat, and then the Snayles will come out of the shells and so dye, and being dead, take them out and wash them very well in Water and Salt twice; then put them in a Pipkin with Water and Salt and let them boyle, so to take away the rude slime they have; then take them out againe and put them in a Cullender. Take Oyle and beat it a great while upon the fire; slice two or three onions and let them fry well, then put the Snayles in the Oyle and Onions and let them stew together. Then put them altogether in an earthen Pipkin and put as much warm water to them as will serve to boyle them, and so let them boyle three or four hours; then mingle parsley, Pennyroyal, Fennell, Tyme, and such Herbs, and when they are minced in a Morter, beat them as you do for Green-sauce, and put in some crums of bread soaked in the water of the Snayles, and then dissolve in a little Saffron and Cloves well beaten; so put it all into the Snayles and water and let them stew in it; and when you serve them up you may squeeze a lemon and put in a Clove of Garlick; serve them up in a Dish with snippets of bread in the bottom.

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