‘Mystery meat’ again? Try these 20 authentic Medieval dishes instead

Generally, little attention is paid to what heroes eat in a Dungeons & Dragons game. That fact is not surprising, since there is nothing particularly adventurous about eating at an inn or tavern; but periodically describing specific dishes to players adds a level of realism that many players appreciate. For example, in a campaign run by this writer years ago, one hero made an annual journey each year to the town where his adventuring career started; the only reason for the trek was to eat braised cabbage and butter-poached eggs, which was the local specialty at his favorite inn, and the recipe simply couldn’t be duplicated elsewhere. Of course, all manner of adventures befell the hero and his companions while traveling to and from that special inn, and the mere mention of “getting cabbage and eggs” brought a groan from almost every player at the table.

Since Medieval dining tended to fall at either of two extremes – feasting for the nobles and famine for the lower classes – this posting will deviate from history with respect to creating a fantasy role-playing menu, since adventurers as a social class would probably fall somewhere between the two with the diet they could afford. Thus, the menu items described hereafter will draw from both common and noble dishes.

Breakfast during the Middle Ages was usually a very simple affair, if it was eaten at all; it often consisted of bread and cheese, accompanied by wine or ale. Breakfast may also include in-season fruit, such as apples, pears, plums or berries.

The midday meal was the largest of the day, and a light supper was served in the evening.

The later two meals could include any of the following:

Blancmanger, a chicken-and-rice dish thickened with almond milk and seasoned with ginger and sliced almonds;

Buttered wortes, a side dish composed of boiled greens coated with melted butter and served over bread cubes;

Chyches, another side dish made from chick peas roasted in embers and then boiled with oil, garlic and saffron;

Cormarye, pork roasted with pepper and caraway, served with a sauce made from red wine and garlic;

Eels in bruet, a fish soup, seasoned with onion, white wine and pepper and thickened with bread;

Flower salad, consisting of flower petals, diced cucumber and hard-boiled eggs, seasoned with brown sugar, olive oil and pepper, served on a bed of watercress, mint, and tarragon leaves;

Fonnell, a baked dish containing lamb, poultry, and hard-boiled eggs in almond milk, seasoned with cinnamon;

Frumenty, a grain-based side dish for meats made from cracked wheat, beef broth, almond milk, egg yolks and saffron;

Mutton in Beer, consisting of mutton stewed in ale, onions, pepper and vinegar;

Pickled cabbage, a side dish made from cabbage leaves boiled in honey, mustard and white wine;

Pochee, poached eggs served with a ginger and saffron sauce;

Rice in almond milk, served warm and sweetened with honey;

Salmon pie, which consisted of a salmon filet baked in a pastry shell along with parsley, ginger and anise;

Spinach pie, made from spinach, butter, sour cream and pepper, served warm;

Stewed pigeon, a poultry dish spiced with garlic, parsley, sage, saffron and ginger;

Venison in broth, consisting of deer ribs stewed with parsley, sage, pepper, vinegar and red wine; and

Venison pasty, which is a cut of deer meat wrapped in a pastry shell, along with sage leaves and chopped bacon; the dough is seasoned with saffron.

After these dishes, the heroes may still have room for dessert, perhaps enjoying these dishes:

Chardewardon, a custard made from pears, egg yolks, cinnamon and ginger, which is similar in consistency to modern pie filling;

Gyngerbrede, a sweet bread made from breadcrumbs, honey, cinnamon, white pepper and red sandalwood; and

Parsnip pie, made from boiled parsnips, figs, raisins, cinnamon and sugar, served cold.

Special thanks are due to the Web sites of medievalcookery.com, bitwise.net, and celtnet.org for inspiring this post.

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9 comments on “‘Mystery meat’ again? Try these 20 authentic Medieval dishes instead

  1. Ripper X says:

    Brilliant! It is details like this that are hard to come up with on game day. I really liked this! Thanks:)

  2. Nice work. I can see these coming to fine eating establishments in my campaign soon. Thanks!

  3. Max.Elliott says:

    Now I’m hungry.

    And sending this link to my wife.

  4. Raolin says:

    But…But, Mystery meat pie was always my favorite.

    I don’t see any bean dishes. When I DM’ed (not often) I liked to describe the food I was offering the party. (normally inn grub as they usually ate rations or what ever they could snare, fish up) So it wasn’t often so I didn’t have to make recipe cards. I also dislike rice so most my dishes were bean based. Simple bean, broth, meat and cabbage. Meat pies were always easy too. plus they were portable if a sauce wasn’t used (think pizza pocket) there was beef and pork but depending on the inn you could get mutton, duck, game hen, partridge, deer. The meat was usually mixed with potatoes and cabbage then bread rolled around it. Plus it kept the meat from spoiling too fast. Sometimes the Named meat was stretched with a bit extra…thus the mystery meat pies but food can be fun.

    • Alric says:

      Welcome back, Rao.

      Sorry about the bean thing – I only included the one dish with grilled chick peas. I’ll definitely do a second installment in the future, and I’ll give beans more prominent mention.

      And the idea of “stretching” one kind of meat by adding another, unidentified variety is both historically accurate and delightfully disturbing.

      Thanks for your comment.

      • Raolin says:

        Of Course. That’s where I drew from. Well from Les Mis then history. “stretching out the meat with this and that”

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