The Markham Meal

One of my project committee members suggested that creating a ‘Markham meal,’ rather than a hodgepodge of recipes, would be a good way create a coherent whole from the different items I cook. I agree, and so I’ve been searching for information on the size of meals and the number of dishes involved so I can get a sense of what the final spread will look like!

The first obvious place to look is to Markham himself. While I’m not planning on hosting a banquet (I live in an apartment…) Markham’s “Ordering of banquets” (Best, pg 121) gives us a sense of the variety of foods eaten at this sort of meal:

I will now proceed to the ordering or setting forth of a banquet; wherein you shall observe that marchpanes have the first place, the middle place, and last place; your preserved fruits shall be dished up first, your pastes next, your wet suckets after them, then your dried suckets, then your marmalades and goodinyakes, then your comfits of all kinds; next, your pears, apples, wardens baked, raw or roasted, and your oranges and lemons sliced, and lastly your wafer cakes. Thus you shall order them in the closet; but when they go to the table, you shall first send forth a dish made for show only, as beast, bird, fish, or fowl, according to invention: then your marchpane, then preserved fruit, then a paste, then a wet sucket, then a dry sucket, marmalade, comfits, apples, pears, wardens, oranges, and lemons sliced; and then wafers, and another dish of preserved fruits, and so consequently all the rest before: no two dishes of one kind going or standing together, and this will not only appear delicate to the eye, but invite the appetite with the much variety thereof.

Yep. Lots of stuff. But doable! All the dishes are going to be chosen from the recipes available in Markham based mostly on 1. my budget and 2. what I can find in Iowa. For those confused by the terminology above, you’ll be pleased to know that Best’s edited version has a glossary and extensive endnotes.

Here’s a list of the different courses, with some definitions, to give you a sense of what I’ll be doing (I’m going by the order in which they’re carried to the table, in case you were wondering):

  1. Beast/Bird/Fish/Fowl for show: There are a ton of recipes for meat and fish in the book, so I may even try one fish dish and one meat dish.
  2. Marchpane: Marzipan. Markham has a recipe ‘to make the best marchpane’ (which you can gild, if you desire), that is on pg 116 of Best.
  3. Preserved fruit: I need to do some more research to figure out whether he means preserved whole fruits or whether the conserve I made counts in this category.
  4. Paste: A paste of fruit and sugar that’s been baked. Markham’s recipe for ‘a paste of Genoa, or any other paste’ (pg 116) will probably fit the bill.
  5. Wet sucket: Fruit in syrup. There’s a recipe for suckets made from half-ripe fruit (page 120) that I might try, especially in the middle of winter when we get those awful half-ripe oranges at the grocery store. At last, a use for them!
  6. Dry sucket: Candied fruits/flowers. The recipe on pg 120 ‘To candy any root, fruit, or flower’ seems the obvious choice, and I do really like candied flowers. That recipe, apparently, is based upon another by Sir Hugh Platt, and so I might look at both to get  better sense for what I’m doing.
  7. Marmalade: Like today’s marmalades. There’s one for oranges on page 117, and if I can track down some quinces, the marmalade on page 112 would be fun to try.
  8. Comfits: sweetmeat or candy. With the number of sweet recipes in the book, it shouldn’t be too hard to find one.
  9. apples, pears, wardens: these can be baked, raw, or roasted, so the current plan centers around roasting them or perhaps baking them into a pastry. (Wardens, by the way, are cooking pears, according to Best’s index). Also oranges and lemons sliced, although the jury is still out on how I plan to prepare those.
  10. Wafers: I know I’ve seen recipes for wafers, but cannot remember what exactly they entail (nor were they to be found in the index or glossary). I’m sure they’ll be delicious. Wafers are a very thin, crisp, and sweet cookie-like food.
  11. Another dish of preserved fruit!

There will be a lot of sugar in my diet in the coming months–you’ll notice that nearly all of these dishes would be things we would associate today with sweets/desserts. Also notice the lack of any ‘sallats’ (salads), and the fact that only one meat dish is present. That, in fact, is why I chose this menu over the others on the following pages. The ‘great feasts’ are out of my budget and not really feasible. The great feast menu includes multiples of each of these dishes: sallats (grand, green, boiled, and compound), fricassees, broths, roast meats (starting with ‘the greatest first’), then hot baked meats, cold baked meats, carbonadoes, wild fowl, land fowl, and fish in various preparations. The ‘more humble feast’ suggests 16 meat dishes interspersed with sallats, fricassees, and quelquechoses, for a total of about 32 dishes (Best, 121-124).  Some of that food sounds delicious, but in order to stick with a meal in my budget, I’m sticking with the more sugary stuff and the one meat dish. Perhaps I’ll get the chance to try more!

Let the cooking commence!



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3 responses to “The Markham Meal

  1. Anisa

    Interesting. Thanks for sharing your blog link. Food matters are fascinating to me. I’ll be coming back for seconds, and I’m excited to see how your project turns out!

  2. juliaskinner

    Thanks! It should be a fun project–to bad you aren’t here to share the results with in person!

  3. Pingback: Class and The English Housewife « Modernizing Markham

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