What might William Shakespeare's contemporaries have eaten before going to see one of the Bard's plays? Is it possible to recreate such a meal at home for an extra-authentic experience before heading off to Ashland's Oregon Shakespeare Festival?
Shakespeare lived from 1564 to 1616, and many cookbooks from that era are available. Cathy Dunlap, owner of Eve's Garden Cafe in Applegate, along with her new chef, Mark Paine, put together a Shakespeare-era menu to see what the food would taste like, possibly for a future dinner at the cafe.
A lot of things were different 400 years ago, such as the types of vegetables people ate. Things like artichokes, green beans, tomatoes or yams weren't available yet. And while onions and garlic were available, they were considered lower-class peasant fare — some even thought they caused illness.
They also ate differently. Only the upper classes used forks — most people ate with spoons and knives. And many people didn't use plates; they served their meals on trenchers, slabs of stale, dense bread. The trenchers were sometimes eaten but often were thrown to the dogs or pigs, or given to the poor after a feast.
Paine liked the idea of trenchers, so he took a standard recipe for white bread, let each piece rise in a greased pie pan and pulled the edges up to form a lip before baking it. He got 8-inch-diameter bread plates, each about 1 inch high.
Following are the recipes they prepared:
A Sallet of Rosebuds and Clove Gilleyflowers
(Salad With Roses and Flowers)
2 cups mixed spring greens
1 cup rose petals
1 cup mixed flowers (miner's lettuce, pansies, chive flowers and rosemary blossoms)
NOTE: Flowers should be purchased as a certified, food-grade product or raised in a chemical- and insecticide-free garden. Do not buy flowers raised for decoration. Gilleyflowers are carnations, which weren't in bloom yet. Other edible flowers can be added when in season.
1/4 cup dry white wine
Juice of half a lemon
1/8 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
1/2 cup light oil
Assemble salad and make dressing just before serving.
Capon Larded With Lemmons (Lemon Chicken)
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon diced, fresh, sweet marjoram
Zest of 4 lemons, finely grated
Salt, white pepper
4 skin-on chicken breasts, first wing joints attached
Juice of 2 lemons
1 cup halved, pitted dates
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Cracked black pepper, to taste
2 cups chicken broth
1 lemon, sliced into thin rounds
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon fines herbes (a commercially prepared mixture of French herbs, usually parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil)
2 tablespoons rolled oats ground to a powder in a coffee or nut grinder
Mix the butter with the marjoram, lemon zest and salt and white pepper, to taste.
Sear the chicken breasts on skin sides in a skillet until brown. Let cool. Spread butter mixture under chicken skin, reserving a little. Put chicken in a buttered baking dish skin-side up.
Combine the lemon juice, dates, raisins, mace nutmeg and cracked pepper in the chicken broth. Pour enough broth over chicken in baking dish until just browned tops are uncovered.
Cover chicken with the lemon slices and sprinkle with a light coating of the sugar. Add remaining butter to tops of chicken and bake at 350 F for 30 minutes or until done.
When chicken is done, put remaining broth in a saucepan, skim fat and add the wine, fines herbes and oatmeal. Simmer sauce until it is slightly thickened, pour over chicken and serve.
Conyng in Gravey
(Rabbit in Almond Gravy)
1 rabbit, cut into pieces
3/4 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon oil
1 mild bay leaf
Pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 cup toasted, ground almonds
Marinate the rabbit in the wine overnight in refrigerator. Brown rabbit on both sides in the oil in a large iron skillet; add wine used for marinating, the spices and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer until tender (about 30 minutes). (Add chicken broth or water if too much liquid boils off.) Remove rabbit pieces. To thicken broth, add the toasted almonds, sifting through a fine sieve. Reduce broth. Put rabbit pieces back in gravy and serve.
6 to 8 rashers of bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups pea pods
Fry the bacon until crisp; remove from pan, drain and set aside. Blanch the peas in about an inch of water just until they wilt. remove, drain, toss with bacon pieces and serve.
Rabbit, chicken and pea pods are then arranged on trenchers and served drizzled with juices. Paine had a hard time cooking without onions or garlic, but the contrast of rabbit and chicken, plus the pork with the peas, turned out to be quite good. The rabbit had no gamey taste, the meats were tender and the sweet/savory flavors blended well.
Puff pastry, cut into 3-inch squares
1 1/2 cups ground almonds
1/4 cup honey
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cardamon
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup water
3/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon cardamom
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup dry or sweet white wine
Mix filling ingredients, set aside. May be refrigerated overnight.
Put 1 tablespoon filling in middle of a puff-pastry square, pull up corners and pinch closed. Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes or until brown. Let cool.
Bring syrup ingredients to a low boil and cook to reach desired thickness. Pour syrup over pastries. Can be served warm or chilled.
This tastes like a less sweet version of baklava, with an undertone of acidity from the wine. Although it wouldn't be authentic, Paine suggests it would be even better with ice cream or whipped cream on top.