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Not Just A Frankfurter Essay, Research Paper

Not Just a Frankfurter Conspicuous waste. A term which categorizes the lavish expenditures of the wealthy in the fourteenth century. Giving was altogether a very major charge on the income of any man of standing. He needed to be seen as generous in alms to the poor, in patronage of the church, and his choice of rich individual gifts for his peers and leading retainers, including jewels, gold collars, fine wines, and games (Keen 169-170). A high social profile did not come cheap (Keen 170). Hospitality was something expected of every aristocrat, from gentleman to earl or duke, and up to the measure of his means or worship it was expected to be lavish: that is why it snowed meat and drink in the house of that worthy vavassour, Chaucer s Franklin (Keen 169). The Franklin was a large landowner with a certain amount of wealth, but he was not of noble birth. He had the habit of living for pleasure, for he was a true son of Epicurus, who held that pure pleasure was truly perfect bliss (Chaucer 7). His house was always stocked with food, ready for any unexpected guests he may have to cater to. It is on a day such as this that the Franklin shall be observed. He has just finished taking his bath and is scurrying around trying to make preparations for the fifty guests that are coming into town. Magnanimity and largess are characteristic virtues that can be seen in the Franklin throughout his day of dressing, supervising the cooking operations, and finally, indulging in the feast. A great man was expected to dress in style, and that was costly (Keen 169). The one thing that the Franklin had a lot of was money, so he was always dressed in the latest styles. In the mid-14th century, men abruptly abandoned the long gown in favor of a short fitted jacket and long tight hose. The origin of this style can be traced to contemporary developments in arms and armor. The armor got rid of the long skirts of the old chain tunic and replaced them with thigh coverings or cuisses (Kemper 70). The short, virile lines of the military look were then taken over to civilian costume (Kemper 70). The new short look exposed well toned masculine legs, now covered with skintight hose, cut on the bias for the snuggest fit possible. Each leg was cut separately and fasted to the inside of the jacket with points, which are like shoestring laces. An impressively heraldic effect was often achieved through the use of two contrasting fabrics, the left leg and arm matching the right side of the jacket, and vice versa Kemper 69-71). The Franklin s decorations were negligible. Decorations were fairly modest, generally limited to embroidered bands at the neck and wrist (Kemper 64). But the clothing itself could be dressed up quite a bit by making it out of velvets and brocades.Both men and women wore a variety of hats or ornate and unusually shaped headdresses that covered the head (Good).The day before the festival, the Franklin went to see his barber for a haircut. In the Middle Ages barbers performed a variety of tasks. They performed as surgeons, a task previously attended to by monks, priests, or other clergymen. They were entitled doctors of the short robe and practiced tooth pulling, blood letting, and the treatment of abscesses. Hairdressers also became associated with a variety of technical instruments and chemical compounds that were later developed as methods of tinting and dying hair. The hairstyles changed with the times. Early medieval styles showed a return in popularity of the beard and longer hair in men. Braids became very fashionable for women. The bowl haircut and the pageboy, which curled under the chin, emerged as the popular men s hairstyles of the period. Blond hair continued to be admired, and the favored medieval bleaching formulas included eggs and calf kidneys (Good). The largest item in the Franklin s accounts, almost always proved to be provisioning, which tended to be a very large-scale operation (Keen 168). The Franklin first ordered the trenchers to be made. During this time, the wealthy used thick slices of brown bread as plates to eat on, called trenchers (Adams 24). Bread was the basic food; it could be made from barley , rye, or wheat (Adams 24). Flour for the castle was ground at the lord s windmill. The miller produced different grades: fine, to make white bread for the lord, or coarse, to make brown bread for the servants (MacDonald 17). The Franklin then decided upon the menu for the evening. Next to bread, fish was the most common food. Birds like chicken, duck, or geese were also popular. On special occasions the better off ate swans and peacock. Beef and venison, from deer, were liked as well (Adams 24). Many vegetable dishes were prepared, making use of the cabbage and leeks grown in the large castle gardens (Quennel 64). During the Middle Ages, new foods, like raisins, dates, and figs were brought to Europe by the crusaders (Adams 25). The Franklin had the cooks prepare the very popular millet for the servants to eat. Millets were probably first cultivated in Asia or Africa more than 4000 years ago. In the United States and Western Europe they are used Chiefly for pasture or to produce hay, though they were frequently raised grains in Europe during the Middle Ages. The millets are somewhat strong in taste and cannot be made into levened bread but are mainly consumed in flatbreads and porridges, or prepared and eaten much like rice (Good).The cooks immediately went to work preparing the food.The castle kitchen was quite far from the great hall so that the smell of the cooking was kept away (Adams 25). All cooking was done on a raised hearth made of masonry. The charcoal used for fuel is kept in an arch below. The smoke from these fires was very dangerous, it was carried away by a hood over the hearth to a wall flue. In the hearth there were small holes about 9-12 inches square, and six inches deep in which fires were lighted, pots boiled, and food was fried of grilled. Some castles had a small kitchen near the hall where food was reheated. When things did have to be warmed up, they used a Forno di Campagna, meaning oven of the country. It consisted of a large round pan, like a saucepan on legs. It was put over a fire and a flat cover was placed over the top of the pan. Another small charcoal fire was made on the top, and the cook regulated the amount of heat with a fan. A variety of materials were used to make the kitchenware. The skillets, saucepans, and pots were all made of bronze (Quennell 63-65). The rich had bowls made of pewter or even cups of silver and gold; plates were rarely used. Since glass was too expensive, food was stored in pots or wooden barrels (Adams 25).

The cooks used a lipped clay vessel called a mortar, which had pieces of grit worked into the surface of the clay before it was fired so that vegetables and other food could be rubbed down in it (Quennell 65).In order to be prepared for the feast, the cooks must know how to preserve and flavor the food. Food was preserved in a number of different ways. Meat and fish were salted, smoked, of dried. Large quantities of salt were purchased each year for use by the castle s cooks.Salt was expensive: it was made by evaporating sea water in shallow lagoons. Fruits and vegetables were pickled. Grapes were made into wine or vinegar. Milk was turned into salted butter or hard, long-lasting cheese. Apples and pears were preserved in cool attics. Honey was carefully stored in sealed jars. Mushrooms were gathered in the fields and threaded on long strings to dry (MacDonald 16). Before 1100, the only way to sweeten food was with honey, but by the 15th century, cooks had developed several ways of flavoring things (Adams 24). Pungent vegetables, like onions and garlic, precious spices, and dried herbs were used to disguise the taste of stale preserved meat.Savory dishes were often flavored with fruit or honey. Honey or liquorice was sometimes used to disguise the taste of stale or tainted water (MacDonald 16). The characteristic flavors of bakery goods, candles, cookies, and soft drinks as well as the characteristic odors of perfumes, soaps, and cosmetics can be attributed to various essential oils (Good).Out of the vast numbers of plant species, essential oils have been well characterized and identified from only a few thousand plants. These oils are called essential because in the middle ages they were once thought to represent the very essence of odor and flavor (Good).The evening that the Franklin had been preparing for all day came at last; it would consist of a series of set rituals. Before the feast. All of his guests accompanied the Franklin into the chapel for prayers before they entered the great hall. The Franklin and the noble guests entered last. Laughter and joy lasted until dinnertime. After washing their hands they go to appointed seats (Cosman 15-18). The lord, his family, and the nobles sit apart from the rest of the guests at a high table . This table is raised above the height of the rest of the hall (MacDonald 18). At this time a jester usually entertains with a story or marvel until it s time to eat (Cosman 18). The feast consists of several courses, each with a variety of different dishes. The first course comes with trumpets that have many bright banners hanging from them. Each two guests have 12 dishes between them, and good beer, and bright wine (Cosman 15-18). There is no lack of anything that could be wished (Cosman 15). A fanfare signals the start of eating. Kings and Princes employed men to taste their food before they ate it, to make sure that it was not poisoned (MacDonald 18).There was a tacit etiquette among the guests at the feast evident even through the use of utensils. Overall table manners were very important at a feast. It was good manners to select a particularly succulent morsel from the serving dish and offer it to your neighbor (MacDonald 18). Cups and plates might also be shared, but men with mustaches were warned not to leave a film of grease floating on the wine after they had drunk – as it would offend ladies (MacDonald 18). In the early Middle Ages, most people used their fingers to eat their food, but by the 15th century, forks were expected to be used (Adams 24). Many people thought that using forks was silly but everyone had to behave properly at mealtimes (Adams 24). In the Middle ages, utensils were made out of wood, tin, or silver with handles ending in a knob. Later in the 16th century however, handles ended in figures of Saints and other religious figures (Good). At the finale of the Franklin s hectic day of dressing, overseeing the culinary operations, and taking part in the festival, his Epicurean nature is evident. The Franklin s clothing and hairstyle were always of the latest panache. He served only the finest, freshest, and best seasoned food to his guests. The Franklin s festival is a gift of pleasure and enjoyment to all that attend. Spending for the rich was regarded as a social obligation. Frugality, and especially frugality in the treatment of valued clients and servants, was not thought of as a virtue (Keen 170). Therefore the Franklin spent his money freely, enjoying good food, wine, and company.

Adams, Brian. Medieval Castles. New York: Gloucester Press, 1989.Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. New York: Washington Square Press, 1948.Cosman, Madeleine Pelner. Fabulous Feasts. New York: George Braziller Inc., 1976.Good, Dale. Compton s Encyclopedia, First Edition(Online). Richmond, VA: Compton s Newmedia Inc., 1995. Date online: 12-1-95.Keen, Maurice. English Society in the Later Middle Ages;1348-1500. London, English: Penguin Books Ltd., 1990.Kemper, Rachel H.. The History of Costume. New York: Newsweek Book, 1977.MacDonald, Fiona and Mark Bergin. A Medieval Castle. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1990. 16-17.Quennell, C.H.B. and Marjorie. Everyday Life in Roman and Anglo- Saxon Times. London, England: Sarrold and Sons Ltd., 1959. 63-66.


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