Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Staff of Life by Ruth A. Casie

Today on History Undressed I'd like to welcome my dear friend, Ruth A. Casie!  Her debut novel, Knight of Runes (which I highly recommend!) just released this week with Carina Press.

The Staff of Life
by Ruth A. Casie

This is where it all started, the 1963 movie, Tom Jones. Albert Finney (Tom Jones) licks his chicken bones and Joyce Redman (Mrs Waters) looks like she's making love to an apple. It showed that playing with your food could be fun and anything edible will do! But what was a banquet really like?

The extravagant feasts and banquets of the Middle Ages are legendary. However, while menus for the wealthy were extensive, only small portions were taken. Hosts were expected to offer extensive choices.  With more extensive travel, a change in society emerged, possibly prompted by the Crusades, that led to a new and unprecedented interest in beautiful objects and elegant manners. This change extended to food preparation and presentation and resulted in fabulous food arrangements with exotic colors and flavorings. Banquets prepared during the Middle Ages were fit for a king.

Staffing and Presenting the Banquet

The kitchen squires where responsible for provisioning the kitchen. Assisted by the cooks, they chose, purchased, and paid for the goods.

The food was plated on the serving dishes and staged in the kitchen until it was time to bring to the tables in the Great Hall.

The Noble of the castle, and his distinguished guests, sat at a great table that was set on a raised platform, a dais, at one of the hall.

Buffets were tables with a series of wooden stepped shelves. The number of shelves indicated the host’s rank. The more shelves the higher the rank. The 'Stepped Buffets' were covered with rich drapes and used at banquets and feasts. The Nobles impressed their guests by using their finest gold or silver plates as service plates on the buffet.

The banquet feast consisted of three, four, five, and even six courses. At times the presentations of the main courses were made into a theatrical representation with colored jellies of swans or peacocks or pheasants with their feathers. Served as a specialty the beak and feet of these birds were gilt and placed in the middle of the table as a centerpiece.

French Medieval Banquets

The French cooking historian described a great feast given in 1455 by the Count of Anjou, third son of King Louis II of Sicily. This description demonstrates just how theatrical the presentation was:

“On the table was placed a center-piece, which represented a green lawn, surrounded with large peacocks' feathers and green branches, to which were tied violets and other sweet-smelling flowers.

In the middle of this lawn a fortress was placed, covered with silver.

The fortress was hollow, and formed a sort of cage, in which several live birds were shut up, their tufts and feet being gilt.

On its tower, which was gilt, three banners were placed.

The first course consisted of a civet of hare, a quarter of stag which had been a night in salt, a stuffed chicken, and a loin of veal.

The two last dishes were covered with a German sauce, with gilt sugar-plums, and pomegranate seeds.

At each end, outside the green lawn, was an enormous pie, surmounted with smaller pies, which formed a crown. The crust of the large pies were silvered all round and gilt at the top.

Each pie contained a whole roe-deer, a gosling, three capons, six chickens, ten pigeons, one young rabbit, and, no doubt to serve as seasoning or stuffing, a minced loin of veal, two pounds of fat, and twenty-six hard-boiled eggs, covered with saffron and flavored with cloves.

For the three following courses, there was a roe-deer, a pig, a sturgeon cooked in parsley and vinegar, and covered with powdered ginger.

The feast continued with a kid goat, two goslings, twelve chickens, as many pigeons, six young rabbits, two herons, a leveret, a fat capon stuffed, four chickens covered with yolks of eggs and sprinkled with spice, a wild boar, some wafers and stars and a jelly, part white and part red represented the crests of the honored guests, cream covered with fennel seeds and preserved in sugar, a white cream, cheese in slices, and strawberries, and, lastly, plums stewed in rose-water

Besides these four courses, there was a fifth, entirely of wines then in vogue, and of preserves. These consisted of fruits and various sweet pastries.”

I researched medieval banquets when I wrote Knight of Runes.  Eating is fundamental and enjoyable. While Arik and Rebeka don’t get it on quite like Tom and Mrs. Waters there is definitely an air of playfulness in the scene.  The trouble every time I read that scene is I really get hungry. I’ll let you figure out for what!

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Author Bio

Ruth A. Casie was born in Brooklyn, New York. For twenty-five years she’s been writing for corporate America. Encouraged by her family and friends this ballroom dancing, Sudoku playing, aspiring gourmet cook has given way to her inner muse and let her creative juices flow. Discover strong men and empowered women as they face unexpected challenges. Watch their stories unfold as they encounter magic, danger, and passion. Join them as they race across the pages to places where love and time know no bounds.
England, 1605

When Lord Arik, a druid knight, finds Rebeka Tyler wandering his lands without protection, he swears to keep her safe. But Rebeka can take care of herself. When Arik sees her clash with a group of attackers using a strange fighting style, he's intrigued.

Rebeka is no ordinary seventeenth-century woman—she's travelled back from the year 2011, and she desperately wants to return to her own time. She poses as a scholar sent by the king to find out what's killing Arik's land. But as she works to decode the ancient runes that are the key to solving this mystery and sending her home, she finds herself drawn to the charismatic and powerful Arik.

As Arik and Rebeka fall in love, someone in Arik's household schemes to keep them apart, and a dark druid with a grudge prepares his revenge. Soon Rebeka will have to decide whether to return to the future or trust Arik with the secret of her time travel and her heart.
Title: Knight of Runes
ISBN: 978-14268-9258-5
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: November 14, 2011
Genre: Historical Fantasy time-travel
Ruth’s web site: www.ruthacasie.com
Ruth’s blog: ruthacasie.blogspot.com
Ruth’s Twitter: Twitter.com/RuthACasie


Anonymous said...

Loved the discription of the placement, presentation and food. Knight of Ruins goes on my list of books to read after Nano.

Ruth A Casie said...


I'm glad you liked the description. Good luck with Nano. I keep trying to sit down and write!

,,, Ruth

derekd said...

No matter what the time period, we all love to eat. Thanks for the historical foodie lesson.

Knight of Runes sounds like a fun read. Good luck with sales.

Ruth A Casie said...


Thanks for your good wishes and for stopping by.

... Ruth

Anonymous said...

Well, now I'm stuffed! What a feast. Great info.
Jen Sampson

Ruth A Casie said...


Thanks Jen, glad you enjoyed the fare.

... Ruth

Julie Robinson said...

This all sounds exhausting. Guess it's all about the presentation. Just think if one of these who were served in this elaborate manner had to eat fast food?! Yep, I know, another 'waht if?" story . . . .