Where did the ingredients come from?

Indian FlagFylettys en galentyne

  • The fifteenth century recipe for fylettys en galentyne requires red sandalwood (saundres) to be used as a colouring agent. This would have been transported to England from India. The colouring of food grew in popularity in late medieval and Tudor dishes, with upper classes colouring their foods a vast range of different colours.
  • Pepper, including white, cubeb, long and black pepper, was sourced from South India. By the Tudor period, however, cubeb and long pepper were going out of use in England, and even black pepper was no longer as prestigious and fashionable as it had once been.
  • Vinegar was a popular ingredient at this time. It was mostly used to add a sharp, tangy flavour to foods and sauces.
  • Pork was a very common meat in England at this time, as pigs were incredibly easy and cheap to care for, even fed on household waste. However, due to this common nature, the meat grew to become associated with the poorer classes. By the 18th century, the rich would generally only eat it in the form of cured meat, leaving the fresh pork to the poor.
  • British fleetCinnamon was brought to England from Ceylon and Sri Lanka. This became possible in the early 16th century, when the Portuguese began trading from Ceylon. Up until that point, trade routs had been under tight control by the Arabs.
  • Both mace and cloves were imported from the Moluccas, which at that stage were part of China. These islands were fought over constantly between the 16th century and the 18th century, and have been controlled by the Portuguese, British, Dutch and Spanish at different stages – these were what are now referred to as the spice wars. Mace and cloves were both very popular during Tudor times – mace, for those who don’t know, comes from the outer skin of the nutmeg, which has been dried and chopped into blades. Oddly, nutmeg wasn’t used until much later!

Ryschewys close and fryez

This dish featured many fine imported ingredients, which would have made them a very expensive, fashionable foodstuff. But where was all this stuff coming from?

  • While they were originally imported from places such as Arabia, Greece and Egypt, by the Tudor period, dried figs could be sourced from all over Europe. Figs had even been brought to Haiti and South America by Spanish settlers.
  • Sugar was brought into England from Persia, having been processed in Antwerp along the way.
  • Currants were produced from a variety of grapes which could be found in Greece, near Corinth.
  • Sourced from a little further afield, dates were brought in from the Middle East and North Africa, a food with which the Romans are believed to have had a love affair!
  • Saffron was originally imported from Persia and Greece, but was produced in Essex and Cornwall by the Tudor Period. It is because of this that the town of Walden was renamed “Saffron Walden” in the 16th century.

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