King Arthur's Cookbook:
A Handy Manual for Medieval Feasting
Sure, he can pull a sword from a stone, but can King Arthur dice vegetables? The once and future king is usually known more for his sword skills than his knife skills. But surely someone had to fix dinner for the Round Table! This week, we discover how feasting has played a crucial part of the Arthurian legends. Learn how feasting was a critical component of medieval European hospitality with origins in some of the earliest known English literature. From Beowulf to King Arthur, we'll discover the must-have dinner party skills of any medieval host or hostess. We'll also dig deep into one epic 15th century account of Arthur's dinner table, featuring everything from roast porcupine to a poison-preventing wine goblet. Join us for a one of a kind culinary trip into the legend of King Arthur.
Written & Produced by Laura Carlson
Technical Direction by Mike Portt
King Arthur's Epic 15th Century Banquet
To discover the kind of meal King Arthur would serve, we turned to a rare 15th century manuscript known as the Alliterative Morte Arthur. Written by Robert Thornton, this version of the Arthurian legend opens with the king entertaining a massive Roman delegation. But what to serve them for dinner?! Read this account, adapted from the Middle English by Valerie Krishna in her 1983 book: The Alliterative Morte Arthur: A New Verse Translation.
Because the Romans were regarded as so great,
The royalest blood that ever reigned on the earth.
There came in, as the first course, just in front of the king:
Boar’s heads that were bright, shining with silver,
Served by skilled urbane men in the most splendid garb
Of royal blood, all in a line, sixty together;
Meat fattened through closed season, with frumenty fine,
Besides game of one’s choice and delectable birds,
Peacocks and plovers on platters of gold,
Porcupine piglets that never saw pasture,
Then, herons in hedoyne, so beautifully glazed...
How to Make Peacock Pie (according to NPR's Planet Money)
Just like we saw at King Arthur's table, eating all manner of birds and fowl was pretty common in both medieval and RenaIssance Europe. But what if you wanted to make one of these historical recipes, one dependent on, let's say, a type of bird not commonly found on menus anymore? In a 2016 episode, the Planet Money crew decided to embark on a strange task: recreating a 17th century Dutch recipe for roast peacock pie. Turns out, it's pretty hard to source peacock in the 21st century. Learn how the team approached this unique culinary task with their episode: "We Cooked a Peacock"