Category Archives: Dining

Booze Dining Medicine

No maide shall drinke no wine

These snippets on the marvellous benefits of wine come from A compendious regiment or a dietary of healthe, by Andrew Boorde (1547).


All manner of wines be made of grapes. It must be fine, fayre & cleare to the eye. It muste be fragrante and redolent having a good odour and flavour in the nose. It muste sprinkle in the cup when it is drawne. It must be colde & pleasant in the mouth, and it must be stronge and subtle of substance. Moderately drunk it doth quicken a mans wittes. It doth comfort the heart, it doth scoure the liver, specially if it be white wine. It doth rejoice all the powers of man, it dothe engendre good bloode, it doth comforte and doth nurse the braine and all the body, and it resolueth flem, it engendreth heate, it doth cleanse woundes & sores.

Forthermore the better the wine is, the better humours it doth engender. And because wine is full of fumosie, it is good therefore to allay it with water. Wine high and hot of operation doth comfort olde men and women, but there is no wine good for children and maides. No maide shall drinke no wine, but still she shall drinke water unto she be married. The usual drinke for youth is fountaine water, for in every towne is a fountaine or a shallowe well, to the which all people that be young or servant hath a confluence and a recourse to drinke.

Meane wines, as wines of Gascony, and Frenche wines, are good with meate, specially claret wine. It is not good to drinke neither wine nor ale before a man dothe eate somewhat, although there be olde fantasticall sayings to the contrary. Also these hot wines [such] as malmesye, wine course [Corsican], wine Greeke, romanysk (Italian), secke (dry white Spanish) basterde (burgundy), muscadel, with other hot wines be not good to drinke with meate, but after meate, & with oysters, with salades, with fruit.

Furthermore all sweete wines doth make a man fatte.
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Art Dining Italy Renaissance

A centaur made of sugar

These fragments are taken from a Milanese banquet menu dated 1491. As well as providing descriptions of the sorts of food eaten at a large feast, the menu also indicates the theatrical presentation of each course (which, frankly, in some cases is distinctly surreal). Formal dining is one aspect of court life which underwent very few changes from the Middle Ages onwards.  Hors d’oeuvre courses consisted of pastries, poultry and fish, and were followed by main courses of more fish, and heavier meats. The meal ended with courses of sweet desserts and oysters. Each course is accompanied by especially chosen wines. Here are a few excerpts from the menu:

Three swans with their skins decorated with gold; two roasted reared geese with bowls of grape juice on the side; one large golden pastry of game per plate. The lids of the same game pies are to be in the form of three very high and ornate mountains with forts on top, decorated with gold.

Large boiled pikes covered with black pepper sauce; one large boiled Toro [fish] with bowls of blue sauce on the side; salted fish. The covers of the plates holding the salted fish should consist of a model of the Colosseum lavishly decorated with gold.

A course of large boiled meats: two whole calves; four whole heifers; four whole kids; two whole roe deer; eight hares; pigs; and two wild boar. On large platters should be served six large capons; six geese; six pheasants; six ducks; twelve pigeons; and ten partridges. On other large platters should go eight hams; two salami; six large sausages; six tongues.’  This course is to be presented as follows: ‘a centrepiece with a laurel tree which is cut open and spurts blood; a small boy comes out on horseback reciting apposite verses and mottoes with much grace and skill.

Fish jelly on large plates; saffron jelly on others; white jelly which looks like snow on others.  The plate covers are three different forts made out of jelly with drawbridges over a moat in which live fish swim, surrounded by golden cuttlefish with flowers all around.

A course of large fish; four fried John Dorys per plate in a sauce with olives and lemons; four fried sea bass covered with salsa verse per plate with sugar-coated aniseed.

To be served in the following mind-boggling manner:

a centaur made of sugar carrying a woman dressed elaborately in vegetable leaves, crosses a river, as he runs from another figure made of sugar who appears to be following him and defeating him.

Pies of sour apples; and other kinds of pies; black tarts with sour apples in basins and mashed pears in bowls.

This is presented in

three large ships loaded with apple jam, adorned lavishly with mottoes and carried by sailors from under the sea.

Oysters in large basins with little bowls of pepper on the side; truffles in little plates or cups; giant roast chestnuts with fennel and pepper.

To be served in

a galleon full of oysters presented with other marine creatures adorned with mottoes.

Large golden sponges; large golden marzipans; large columns of icing; and other things made out of sugar in the Roman manner and decorated with gold.

This teeth-aching course is delivered in

a large ship from the Fortunate Isles bearing Moors with mottoes, full of sugar and gold.

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