The middle ages were filled with grand castles, brave kings, elegant queens and armoured knights. Festivals were prominent parts of life during the middle ages, consequently the dining table, food, linens and lighting were of the utmost importance. Trestle dining tables fashioned from oak, ash, elm, beech or poplar wood were commonly constructed with joints fastened by wooden pegs or iron nails. Wooden benches and chairs provided banquet seating.
Deck the table with fine linens similar to those used for medieval tables. Pure white linen tablecloths embellished with fringe, embroidery, coloured borders and woven patterns typified some of the finest medieval table linens available. Rough, hemp tablecloths were used by the poorer social classes. A sanap, one strip of cloth running the entire middle length of the table, was sometimes placed over the tablecloth. Often a surnape, a piece of cloth laid entirely over the top of the main tablecloth, was used to avoid soiling the main tablecloth.
Set the table with square-shaped wooden or pewter platters and silver dishes, cups, and saltcellars (glass or silver vessels used for holding salt). In medieval times the quantity of dishes on the table indicated the degree of wealth: the more the better. Ornate silver and gold vessels crafted by skilled artisans were cherished by noblemen. Mazer bowls were favourite vessels used for drinking, often bearing the owner's coat of arms adorned with intricate and costly workmanship.
Prepare food that was commonly served at medieval dining tables, such as bread, pottage, meat, vegetables, fish and milk. Bread was a staple in the medieval diet, taking many forms. Pandemain bread was sifted two or three times and was deemed the very best of breads. Clap bread was made of barley bread or oat cakes, while peas and beans mixed with any grain were ingredients used in baking horse bread. Pottage was another daily staple made by boiling meat and/or vegetables in a broth, then adding chopped meat and herbs, creating a soup very similar to our stew.
Share a drinking vessel and plate with the love of your life while dining, as was the case in medieval times of chivalry and romance. Eating utensils consisted of knives and spoons, with forks being less common. A blessing was commonly offered before and after each meal. Listening to the reading of Bible Scriptures or watching the entertaining antics of harpers, mimics and fools while dining was common.
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