Saturday, May 18, 2019

Birthdays in the Middle Ages

Birthdays are a big deal in the modern West.  A lot of milestones turn on birthdays, such as being old enough to drive, old enough to vote, old enough to drink, even old enough to compete in the Olympics.  People in the US will sometimes celebrate their 21st birthday by going to a bar on the first day they are legally able to do so.

Birthdays were much less important in the Middle Ages.  One did not celebrate with presents and birthday cake.  (What?  No cake?  I hate to break it to you, but they didn't have chocolate either.)

There was a vague sense of the "stages of life" where one reached the "age of consent" at 7 and the "age of reason" at 14 (details varied a lot depending on who you asked), but no one tried to cling to age 39 or felt that once they were in their 50s things were different, or hummed the Simon and Garfunkel song about "how terribly strange to be seventy."  (Much less the Beatles song about "when I'm 64."  Paul McCartney has said he's changed it to 84 when he sings it now.)

When someone important died, it was often noted how old they had been, but since keeping track of the day or even the year of their birthday was not a big deal when they were little, one cannot expect this always to be accurate.  Saint Anthony, father of monasticism, was said to reach 105.  Maybe.

The only real birthday that medieval people celebrated with gusto was of course Christmas, the supposed birthday of Jesus.  But even that celebration, as I have discussed elsewhere, was far outshone by Easter, which is far more significant theologically.  (And medieval accounts of Jesus's incarnation and birth always looked forward toward his death—the myrrh given to him by magi was used in embalming.)

The real date that was remembered most vividly for an individual was not the day of their birth but the day of their death.  Christians of course believe that Jesus died and rose again, and although ordinary people were not expected to rise again on this earth, the day of their death was a crucial one.  One's death date became one's anniversary.  People would establish what were called anniversaries in the Middle Ages, special prayers to be said on the same day of the year each year for the soul of their dear departed.

This is not unique to medieval Christianity, of course.  Modern people will remember a loved one on the day that they died, and modern Judaism has certain rituals used to honor them on that day.

Every day of the year was celebrated as some saint's day, and which saint went with which day was determined almost always by the date on which the saint had died.

© C. Dale Brittain 2019

For more on medieval life stages and Christianity, see my new ebook, Positively Medieval: Life and Society in the Middle Ages.

Friday, May 10, 2019

A Bad Spell in Yurt

I'm sort of an amphibian author, who has been published both by a traditional New York City publishing house (Baen) and independently (by me), with books available both as paperbacks and as ebooks. But don't worry, I haven't been turned into a frog.

My first published book was A Bad Spell in Yurt, originally published by Baen in 1991.  It was a national fantasy best-seller when it first appeared and has continued to gain new readers ever since.  It doubtless benefited from the fact that I'd had lots of experience in writing stories—one gets better at writing the more one does so, just as one gets better at everything from tennis to cooking with practice.  I've been writing stories since I was five years old, and had first tried to get a novel accepted by a publisher back in high school.  So after 25 years I was an overnight success!

The book is a story of a young wizard who believes the tiny kingdom of Yurt is the perfect place for someone who barely graduated from the wizards' school, after all that embarrassment with the frogs.  But as he takes up his duties as new Royal Wizard he senses malignant forces at work....  Finding out who is responsible and saving his kingdom will take all his ingenuity and all the magic he didn't exactly learn properly in the first place, with his own life the price of failure.

Part of the success of Bad Spell I'm sure was the excellent, eye-catching cover by Tom Kidd.  Although the original Baen paperback is out of print, it's now back in print as a trade (large-format) paperback with the same great cover art.  Tom made my wizard hero, Daimbert, look a lot like himself, even though he's never worn a hat like that in his life.

The book is available (both ebook and paperback) from Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, and B&N/Nook.  Here's the US Amazon link.  If you buy the paperback from Amazon, you can get the ebook for a substantial discount.

Here's the opening, to whet your appetite.


I was not a very good wizard.  But it was not a very big kingdom.  I assumed I was the only person to answer their ad, for in a short time I had a letter back from the king's constable, saying the job was mine if I still wanted it, and that I should report to take up the post of Royal Wizard in six weeks.
It took most of the six weeks to grow in my beard, and then I dyed it grey to make myself look older.  Two days before leaving for my kingdom, I went down to the emporium to buy a suitable wardrobe.
Of course at the emporium they knew all about us young wizards from the wizards' school.  They looked at us dubiously, took our money into the next room to make sure it stayed money even when we weren't there, and tended to count the items on the display racks in a rather conspicuous way.  But I knew the manager of the clothing department—he'd even helped me once pick out a Christmas present for my grandmother, which I think endeared me to him as much as to her.
He was on the phone when I came in.  "What do you mean, you won't take it back?  But our buyer never ordered it!"  While waiting for him, I picked out some black velvet trousers, just the thing, I thought, to give me a wizardly flair.
The manager slammed down the phone.  "So what am I supposed to do with this?" he demanded of no one in particular.  "This" was a shapeless red velvet pullover, with some rather tattered white fur at the neck.  It might have been intended to be part of a Father Noel costume.
I was entranced.  "I'll take it!"
"Are you sure?  But what will you do with it?"
"I'm going to be a Royal Wizard.  It will help me strike the right note of authority and mystery."
"Speaking of mystery, what's all the fuzzy stuff on your chin?"
I was proud of my beard, but since he gave me the pullover for almost nothing, I couldn't be irritated.  When I left for my kingdom, I felt resplendent in velvet, red for blood and black for the powers of darkness.
It was only two hundred miles, and probably most of the young wizards would have flown themselves, but I insisted on the air cart.  "I need to make the proper impression of grandeur when I arrive," I said.  Besides—and they all knew it even though I didn't say it—I wasn't sure I could fly that far.
The air cart was the skin of a purple beast that had been born flying.  Long after the beast was dead, its skin continued to fly, and it could be guided by magic commands.  It brought me steeply up from the wizards' complex at the center of the City, and I looked back as the white city spires fell away.  It had been a good eight years, but I felt ready for new challenges.  We soared across plains, forests, and hills all the long afternoon, before finally banking steeply over what I had been calling "my" kingdom for the last six weeks.
From above there scarcely seemed to be more to the kingdom than a castle, for beyond the castle walls there was barely room for the royal fields and pastures before thick green woods closed in.  A bright garden lay just outside the castle walls, and pennants snapped from all the turrets.  The air cart dipped, folded its wings, and set me down with a bump in the courtyard.
I looked around and loved it at once.  It was a perfect child's toy of a castle, the stone walls freshly whitewashed and the green shutters newly painted.  The courtyard was a combination of clean-swept cobbles, manicured flower beds, and tidy gravel paths.  On the far side of the courtyard, a well-groomed horse put his head over a white half-door and whinnied at me.
A man and woman came toward me, both dressed in starched blue and white.  "Welcome to the Kingdom of Yurt.  I am the king's constable, and this is my wife."  They both bowed deeply, which flustered me, but I covered it by striking a pose of dignity.
"Thank you," I said in my deepest voice.  "I'm sure I will find much here to interest me."  The air cart was twitching, eager to be flying again.  "If you could just help me with my luggage—"
The constable helped me unload the boxes, while his wife ran to open the door to my chambers.  The door opened directly onto the courtyard.  I had somehow expected either a tower or a dungeon and wondered if this was suitably dignified, but at least it meant we didn't have far to carry the boxes.  They were heavy, too, and I had not had enough practice with the spell for lifting more than one heavy thing at a time to want to try in front of an audience.
The air cart took off again as soon as it was empty.  I watched it soar away, my last direct link with the City, then turned to start unpacking.  Both the constable and his wife stayed with me, eager to talk.  I was just as eager to have them, because I wanted to find out more about Yurt.
"The kingdom's never had a wizard from the wizards' school before," said the constable.  I was unpacking my certificate for completing the eight years' program.  Although, naturally, it didn't say anything about honors or special merit or even areas of distinction, it really was impressive.  That was why I had packed it on top.  It was a magic certificate, of course, nearly six feet long when unrolled.  My name, Daimbert, was written in letters of fire that flickered as you watched.  Stars twinkled around the edges, and the deep blue and maroon flourishes turned to gold when you touched them.  It came with its own spell to adhere to walls, so I hung it up in the outer of my two chambers, the one I would use as my study.
"Our old wizard's just retired," the constable continued.  "He must be well past two hundred years old, and when he was young you had to serve an apprenticeship to become a wizard.  They didn't have all the training you have now."
I ostentatiously opened my first box of books.
"He's moved down to a little house at the edge of the forest.  That's why we had to hire a new wizard.  I'm sure he'd be delighted to meet you if you ever had time to visit him."
"Oh, good," I thought with more relief than was easy to admit, even to myself.  "Someone who may actually know some magic if I get into trouble."
I took my books out one by one and arranged them on the shelves:  the Ancient and Modern Necromancy, all five volumes of Thaumaturgy A to Z, the Index to Spell Key Words, and the rest, most barely thumbed.  As I tried to decide whether to put the Elements of Transmogrification next to Basic Metamorphosis, which would make sense thematically but not aesthetically, since they were such different sizes, I thought I should have plenty of quiet evenings here, away from the distractions of the City, and might even get a chance to read them.  If I had done more than skim those two volumes, I might have avoided all that embarrassment with the frogs in the practical exam.
"You'll meet the king this evening, but he's authorized me to tell you some of our hopes.  We've never had a telephone system, but now that you're here we're sure we'll be able to get one."
I was flabbergasted.  In the City telephones were so common that you tended to forget how complicated was the magic by which they ran.  It was new magic, too, not more than forty years old, something that Yurt's old wizard would never have learned but which was indeed taught at the wizards' school.  How was I going to explain I had managed to avoid that whole sequence of courses?
He saw my hesitation.  "We realize we're rather remote, and that the magic is not easy.  No one is expecting anything for at least a few weeks.  But everyone was so excited when you answered our ad!  We'd been afraid we might have to settle for a magician, but instead we have a fully-trained and qualified wizard!"
"Don't worry the boy with his duties so soon," the constable's wife said to him, but smiling as she scolded.  "He'll have plenty of time to get started tomorrow."
"Tomorrow!  A few weeks!" I thought but had the sense not to say anything.  I didn't even have the right books.  If I did nothing else, I might be able to derive the proper magic from basic principles in four or five years.  I was too upset even to resent being called "the boy"—so much for the grey beard!
"We'll leave you alone now," said the constable.  "But dinner's in an hour, and then you can meet some of the rest."  I had seen faces peeping out of windows as we went back and forth with the luggage, but no one else had come to meet me.  While I unpacked my clothes, I tried gloomily to think of plausible excuses why Yurt could not possibly have a telephone system.  Nearby antitelephonic demonic influences and the importance of maintaining a rustic, unspoiled lifestyle seemed the most promising.

© C. Dale Brittain 2019

Tuesday, May 7, 2019


As I mentioned briefly in a recent post on double monasteries, one of the very few double monasteries (a house with both monks and nuns) in the High Middle Ages was Fontevraud, in Anjou (western France).  Both men and women in religious orders, as well as lepers in a separate lazar-house, were under the direction of an abbess, a woman.

Fontevraud is worth further discussion.  It became a royally-favored monastery, where kings and queens of England were buried in the late twelfth century (because these kings and queens also controlled Normandy and Anjou in France), but its origins were far from elegant or royal.  Below is the tomb of Richard the Lionheart.

The monastery was originally founded at the beginning of the twelfth century by a man named Robert of Arbrissel.  He had been a preacher and a hermit in the late eleventh century, like many men who read (or heard) the New Testament's call for radical rejection of things of the world.  He soon gathered other hermits around him to form a small monastery.

But he always wanted to preach as well as to withdraw from the world.  He managed (exactly how has never been clear) to become officially recognized by the pope as an apostolic preacher, and he spent much of his life wandering around, going from city to city to preach salvation and the importance of giving up worldly things.

These days we tend to cross the street to avoid someone shouting about salvation.  At that time, without all the forms of entertainment we take for granted, a preacher was interesting and exciting.  And Robert was apparently very persuasive.  He would often gather a group of penitents who would then follow him when he left town, full of religious enthusiasm.

A lot of these were women.  Probably most of them soon said, "What was I thinking?" and turned back, rather than sleep out in a field on the way to the next town, but some persisted.  This was very disturbing to the local bishop.  He essentially accused Robert of luring women away from their families to satisfy his own sexual urges, especially since some of the penitent women appear to have been prostitutes.  Both Robert and the women said this was most certainly not the case.

But Robert was persuaded to found a nunnery for these women, rather than have them continue to wander around with him.  This nunnery was Fontevraud.  Men who had also followed Robert were welcome at Fontevraud, but in a separate structure away from the nuns.  A woman was made abbess of the whole congregation.  Robert ordered that all abbesses should be women who had previously been married and who had experience in worldly administration, rather than women who had become nuns as young girls.

You notice that Robert did not become abbot himself.  This is because an abbot would have had to stay with his monks, whereas Robert was soon off preaching again.  He did not dress in proper clerical garb (or what the bishop considered proper clerical garb), but rather went around looking like a hermit, barefoot, in rough and dirty clothes, and did not bother with hair and beard grooming.  This was very disturbing to the bishop, who accused him of looking like a madman or the village idiot.  Exactly what constituted holiness was contested territory.

Robert's biography was written twice after his death in 1117, probably in the hope (ultimately unsuccessful) that he would be declared a saint.  Both versions of his "life" have been translated by Bruce L. Venarde in Robert of Arbrissel:  A Medieval Religious Life (Catholic University Press, 2003).

© C. Dale Brittain 2019

For more on monks, nuns, and other aspects of life in the Middle Ages, see the ebook, Positively Medieval, available from Amazon and other major ebook platforms.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Forgery in the Middle Ages

Forgery is bad.  We all agree on this.  Forging someone's signature on a check, creating a fake ID so one can drink in the bar at age 20 instead of 21, this is all wrong.  So is calling up someone and saying you're from the IRS and unless they wire you thousands of dollars right away they will be arrested.  So is telling the judge in traffic court that the light was green when you sailed into the intersection (where another car inexplicably materialized) and you weren't looking at your phone, no, not a bit!

But how about medieval attitudes toward forgery?  Their attitudes were pretty much the same as ours.  Augustine wrote on lying and why expressing something that wasn't true, whether in speech or in writing, was a sin.  (His attitude isn't surprising--lying is mentioned in the Ten Commandments.)  But just as modern people may consider a tiny fib not really wrong "if it doesn't really hurt anyone,"  people in the Middle Ages were capable of expressing things that weren't exactly true.

Medieval scholars have been interested since the seventeenth century, when medieval studies really began, in separating real from forged documents.  There has been a strong suspicion of any copies of documents made in the Middle Ages, concern that the copy may have "improved" the content of the original or even be a total fabrication.  Because before the eighth century documents were generally written on papyrus, most of which would be totally lost to us if they hadn't later been copied onto parchment, we are really dependent on post-eighth-century copyists for information on the early Middle Ages--or for that matter the Roman Empire.  (The image below is of a thirteenth-century book into which earlier documents were copied.)

For a long time historians were interested in "what really happened," and any forged (or "improved") document was tossed aside, along with saints' lives and anything else that didn't match modern standards.  More recently historians have become interested again in forgeries.  Once we decided that the really interesting question was "what did people in the past think was important and interesting," rather than just "what happened in what order," historians have decided there is value in studying forgery.

Examining forged documents should not be seen as just determining the truth, because, as already suggested, there was a lot of gray area.  Sometimes medieval scribes just made their best guesses as to what a document said when it was almost illegible, or they corrected spelling or grammar--should we call this a forgery because it's not exactly like the original?  Or sometimes they abbreviated a verbose text--is this not an accurate transcription?  Out and out forgeries were fairly rare.

But sometimes medieval monks might nonetheless forge (in the full sense of the word, which is related to forging implements in a blacksmith's shop, taking raw materials and turning them into something useful).  Sometimes they just knew that (for example) Charlemagne had been generous to them, and since inexplicably there were no documents from him in the archives, they created some.  This was part of an attempt to create a "useful past," an account of past events that worked for their present.

At the monastery of St.-Denis, outside of Paris, the monks went so far in the eleventh century as to take some old, genuine papyrus documents they still had in their archives, turn them over, and write new charters on the backs--charters much more useful to them than what the papyrus had actually said.  (They glued the papyrus to parchment, original charter face down.)

In other cases people forged documents to try to win in court.  A well-known example took place in ninth-century Le Mans (now known for its 24-hour car race, an important religious center then).  The bishop was trying to assert authority over a nearby monastery, which thought it should be independent.  Both bishop and monastery appealed to King Charles the Bald, bringing with them a large collection of forged documents saying that half a millennium of kings and saints had said the monks were dependent on the bishop (or vice versa).  Imagine everyone's dismay when Charles said all these documents were forgeries, ordered them all burned, and said the monastery was in fact his own personal property.  (That didn't turn out well for anyone.)

© C. Dale Brittain 2019

For more on history and the Middle Ages, see my ebook, Positively Medieval:  Life and Society in the Middle Ages.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Notre Dame of Paris

This is heart-breaking.  Notre Dame is burning.

The cathedral is 850 years old, having been begun in the 1160s under the direction of the bishop of Paris.  The pope laid the cornerstone.  There had been older cathedrals there since the fourth or fifth century, changed or replaced every century or two, but this one was so large and so beautiful that it was never replaced.  It's built of local limestone.  The roof, now gone, was supported by wooden beams, giant oaks dating from the twelfth century, which would have been very dry and burned very readily.

It's one of the earliest and best-known churches in the Gothic style, a new twelfth-century way of building churches that emphasized height and light.  (The monastery of St.-Denis, on the outskirts of Paris, is now considered the first Gothic church, a generation earlier.)

The church was finished within a generation, but of course it had challenges and issues over the centuries—though nothing like what it is now facing.  The first problem was that the high walls, pierced by high windows, started bowing ever so slightly but very alarmingly.  The flying buttresses were then added to help keep the walls upright at the beginning of the thirteenth century.

During the early eighteenth century, the church lost much of its medieval stained glass, knocked out by the cathedral canons as too "old fashioned."  Then in the late eighteenth century, when France went officially atheistic during the Revolution, the facade was deliberately damaged, the heads knocked off the kings and queens of the Old Testament who were ranged across the front.

It was still however the biggest, most important building in Paris, and when Napoleon was crowned emperor (crowning himself), he held the ceremony in Notre Dame.

The novelist Victor Hugo deplored the dilapidated condition of the cathedral, and in his Notre Dame de Paris (1831), usually translated as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, he inspired Parisians to look at their cathedral and save it.  Extensive renovations were carried out, headed by Viollet le Duc, who put new heads on the Old Testament kings and queens, added gargoyles, and had the whole thing topped off by a spire (flèche in French) at the crossing point of nave and the perpendicular aisles (transept), which spire collapsed today.

Recently the whole church was cleaned of the dirty patina from polluted air and was looking fresh and inviting, as seen in the picture below, taken the last time we were in Paris.  The limestone walls still stand, but it may be an awfully long time, if ever, before the church will be itself again.  (Limestone doesn't actually burn but it disintegrates in intense heat.  It is burned in kilns to form one of the components of cement.)

In the twelfth century, when Chartres cathedral caught fire, the local citizens pounded on the walls and cursed God.  One can see their point.

Added May 6:

Amazingly, much of the interior of the church survived.  There was stone arching (ceiling) below the actual roof, and it held up fairly well.  The biggest damage was at the crossing, where the nave met the transept.  The nineteenth-century spire crashed through there when it fell.

But obviously the church still needs a roof.  There are not 1300 oaks in Europe big enough to replace the 1300 wooden beams (made from oaks already several centuries old in the twelfth century).  And there is concern that, without a roof pressing down and out, the walls, which are pushed in by the flying buttresses, might start leaning toward the center.

The French government has promised restoration within 5 years, in time for the next Olympics (to be held in Paris).  We'll see.  But cathedrals have been rebuilt before.  Reims, in northern Champagne, was blown up in WW I, leaving nothing but the walls, and was rebuilt back to its thirteenth-century glory over 20 years.

© C. Dale Brittain 2019

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Double monasteries

I've written before on male monasteries, where monks lived, and on nunneries for women (often now called convents).  But in the early Middle Ages, it was not uncommon to have double monasteries, houses for both men and women.  Such houses were normally headed by a woman, an abbess, although she would need to have a priest on hand to say mass.

One of the more famous of these double monasteries was Nivelles, located in what is now Belgium, near the French border.  It was founded in the seventh century, and its most important abbess was Gertrude, now considered a saint.  It was founded for her by her widowed mother, who joined the house herself.  Gertrude is actually in the Carolingian family tree, a great-great (etc.) aunt of Charlemagne, though those creating a glorious image of him on either side of the year 800 tended to emphasize the family members who were warriors and rulers, not female saints.

A century or two after its foundation, Nivelles had its monks and nuns replaced by canons and canonesses.  The difference is that while monks and nuns are supposed to be completely cloistered, away from the world, canons are supposed to help bring the Christian message to the lay population--though canonesses were still pretty well cloistered.  Their life was not as strict as that of monks and nuns, a little more privacy, for example, a little better diet, a few more blankets on the bed.  But the canons and canonesses of Nivelles continued to follow the liturgy Saint Gertrude had laid down, taking turns in the chanting and singing of the psalms, so that male and female voices were both heard.
The image above is the church of Nivelles, as it would have looked in the eleventh century.  It was bombed by the Germans in WW II but rebuilt.

Nivelles is one of the best known examples of a double monastery in the early Middle Ages, but there were plenty of others.  However, during the ninth through eleventh centuries, monasteries all tended to be single-sex.  A noble couple might found two separate houses, one for men and one for women, but they were clearly distinguished (and a certain distance apart).  Examples include the houses of Vézelay and Pouthières in Burgundy, founded in the ninth century, or the two houses that William the Conqueror and his wife founded in Caen after the 1066 Conquest of England, one for men and one for women (the picture is the female one).

One of the few double monasteries of the High Middle Ages was Fontevraud (in the Loire region), founded at the beginning of the twelfth century.  It was very successful, serving as the burial spot for Henry II of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Richard the Lionheart.  That's Richard's tomb below (constructed a couple generations after his death).

Fontevraud continued down to the French Revolution, and was always run by an abbess, although there were separate places for male monks and female nuns within its walls.  It also had a so-called lazar-house by the thirteenth century, sort of a hospice for lepers.  The lazar-house was made into a luxury hotel in the twentieth century.  I bet they were a little vague with the guests on who used to sleep in those rooms.

© C. Dale Brittain 2019

For more on monks, nuns, and other aspects of life in the Middle Ages, see the ebook, Positively Medieval, available from Amazon.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Preserving food

We now take preserving food for granted.  Pop something in the refrigerator or freezer and it will keep for as long as a week for fresh meat and vegetables, longer for some things.  Commercially canned food will last for years.  Food you "can" yourself (i.e. put up in sealed jars) will last a lot longer than it would in the refrigerator.

Medieval people had none of these options.  Instead the primary ways of keeping food were salting and smoking.  Most of us like smoked, salted food, which is why bacon is a perennial favorite, but modern ham and bacon are smoked and salted a lot less than the medieval versions would have been, which is why they still have to be refrigerated.

If you've ever had a true Smithfield ham you've had something closer to medieval ham, that is the ham where step one is cutting off the mold and step two is soaking overnight to get out the extra salt, before you even get to the baking step.

In practice, during the autumn pig harvest medieval people would eat as much fresh pork as they could, then salt and smoke the rest, or make sausage—pepper is a good preservative if you use enough of it.

In northern Europe, the pig harvest came just as winter was setting in, so some meat might be frozen (or at least semi-frozen) up in the attic or in an out-building.  Here your danger was January thaw.

They knew after all that food spoiled slower if it was cooler, even without understanding bacterial action (not understood until the nineteenth century).  So milk would be stored in a springhouse, where a cool stream or spring ran through the bottom of the structure, where one could keep things at least moderately cold.  Most milk, however, became cheese, which we still like for itself alone (as we like bacon), even though its original purpose was preservation.

The image above is a nineteenth-century springhouse, but the idea is unchanged since the Middle Ages:  build a small structure right over a stream or spring, so that you can set jars right into the cool water.

There was nothing like canning food until the nineteenth century.  One needs those glass jars with metal lids and rubber rings used for home canning, and those were far in the future.  The difficulty is making sure bacteria don't multiply in the carefully sealed environment and kill you.  Today home canners are advised to stick with acidic foods like fruits or tomatoes, which are put into jars at boiling temperatures.  For other vegetables, you need to further cook your jars in a pressure canner, far above the boiling point, to make sure the bacteria are really dead—this is what commercial cans experience.

No wonder the medieval diet would seem extremely bland to us.  It would consist primarily of bread, whatever fresh foods were available, and a selection of those things that could be preserved.  All natural!  Farm to table!  Boring!

© C. Dale Brittain 2019

For more on medieval food and other aspects of medieval history, see my book Positively Medieval, available from Amazon and other online booksellers.