March 10, 2014

There’s a Rat in My Soup: Could You Survive Medieval Food? by Chana Stiefel

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:10 am by suebe2

There’s a Rat in My Soup:  Could You Survive Medieval Food?
by Chana Stiefel
illustrated by Gerald Kelley
Enslow Publishers

Picture a medieval feast and you’ve probably imagined a roast pig complete with an apple in its mouth.  Potatoes and carrots lay around it on the gigantic platter.  In part, that would be right.

Roast meats were a huge part of the medieval diet.  So were stewed meats.  And cooked meats preserved in gelatin made from hooves (yuck!).  And also salted meats.  Medieval diners ate all kinds of meats that we would probably not consider including a wide range of birds such as swans, peacocks and even tiny humming birds.

What about the four and twenty black birds baked in a pie?

Medieval cooks would sometimes put live birds between baked crusts.  This way, when the king or nobleman cut into the pie, he would break the crust and out would fly a flocks of scolding, squawking birds.  It seems that medieval cooks would relieve the tension by playing practical jokes on their employers.  Other jokes including plucking a live chicken and painting it brown before stunning it and putting it on a platter.  Poke the chicken and it takes off running down the table.

Diners, in turn, would play tricks on the cooks, sneaking into the room to dump frothy soap into a pot of soup.

Food preparation in medieval times was no easy manner because it was so hard to keep food for any length of time.  This meant that the diet often consisted mostly of meat and bread.  Fruits and vegetables would be eaten in season but they only kept so long into the winter.

In addition to discussing diet, menus and food preparation, Stiefel gives the reader information about health and the treatment of illness.

Gerald Kelley’s colorful paintings enliven the text, making topics such as food spoilage somewhat more palatable.

Although the cover and size of the book look like a picture book, it is too text heavy for an early grade school audience but perfect for the slightly older audience for which it is intended, grades 3 – 5.  Pick up this humorous take on medieval dining and open up a discussion about what you eat, what you would be willing to eat and the things we eat that other people might find disgusting.

This funny and informative take on history will pull young readers into the topic and the times.

–SueBE

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