What better way to teach kids about history than to help them experience it through period costumes, re-enactments of historical events, or planning and cooking foods from a particular time period in history. Medieval recipes are relatively plentiful, generally simple to follow and can become part of any lesson plan centring around life during medieval times. Delving into the world of medieval foods can be memorable for kids, whether in school as part of a class project or something for restless children to do at home on a gloomy day.
Before diving into cooking medieval dishes, it might be helpful for kids to do a little research on the time period. To evoke interest and enthusiasm for the subject, explore what life would have been like in the daily lives of knights, nobles, serfs, craftsmen, soldiers and kitchen servants. In preparation for cooking in the kitchen, help kids understand what a bustling medieval castle kitchen was like: no refrigeration, no electric lights, stoves or ovens. Food preservation was key in the feeding of scores of castle inhabitants. Many foods were dried, smoked or salted. When it came to mealtime, forks were unheard of at the dining table. Fingers, knives, spoons and hunks of bread were all enlisted to stab, scoop or sop up food.
Researching the kinds of foods typically eaten by people in the medieval era will surely provoke interest and possibly disgust in modern children. While many foods such as roasted meats, pressed cider, roasted vegetables and fruit-filled tarts may seem familiar to them, other, more exotic foods such as eels in cream soup, candied horseradish, deer kidney mincemeat pie and black sauce made from the liver of a capon will probably seem pretty alien to them, if not downright gross. Have kids sort through various medieval recipes, vote on ones they'd like to experiment with making, and come up with an informal recipe booklet that can be copied for each child.
Cooks and Helpers
Medieval kitchens were hives of activities. Many jobs were relegated to younger servants. Spits containing skewered meats had to be turned over the fire; vegetables and fruits had to be scrubbed, peeled and chopped; mounds of dishes had to be scraped, washed and dried. Assign kitchen jobs for each child involved, paralleling those of the medieval castle kitchen. Many medieval dishes used baked apples and raisins. Turnips and potatoes were a staple of medieval life. Ask for volunteer fruit- and vegetable-peelers and choppers. Meats such as joints of mutton, whole chickens and pigs were roasted and often stuffed with fruit, onions or leeks. Spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves were used generously, often to cover the flavour of spoiled meats and vegetables. Put a child to work pounding whole cloves using a mortar and pestle, and another grating nutmeg. Use wooden utensils when cooking and large pots to mimic those of the medieval age.