Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Things I Did Today
  • First day on the new job. Worked from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Just had orientation and training. Going well so far!
  • I've decided to cut back to 2 recommended links a day. I don't do as much online reading as I used to (I'm trying to devote more time to good old books), and there's no point in scraping the barrel. Besides, 14 items a week is still plenty.
2 Recommended Links
Thoughts -- Excerpts From The Middle Ages, Part 8: The Monastic Diet
Normally the monks had but one meal a day, though a light supper was permitted in summer, and the English always demanded a breakfast of bread with ale or wine. Dinner in the less austere orders was usually substantial. In England it consisted of bread , cheese and egg dishes, beans, vegetables, cereals, and fish for both fasting and feasting. Oysters were a fast-day staple. They were no luxury; Chaucer speaks of something as being "nat worth an oistre." Poultry was classified as a fast food of aquatic origin since at the Creation "the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind."

Many monasteries failed to adhere to this limited diet, however. The scholar Giraldus Cambrensis, visiting the monks of Canterbury in 1179, was offended by the great amount of food that was served them -- sixteen dishes, tricked out with stimulating sauces and accompanied by beer, ale, claret, new wine, mead, and mulberry wine. He sneered at the monks of St. Swithin's, Winchester, who groveled in the mud before King Henry II because their bishop had suppressed three of their customary thirteen dishes. The king replied that in his court he was content with three, and so should the monks be. The Benedictine Rule forbade the consumption of meat, except by the sick. However, the prohibition was gradually relaxed by various devices. Sometimes half the monastery would report sick and enjoy special meat dinners in the infirmary. Gluttony was the darling vice of the monasteries, and why not, indeed? They came ravening to table after a twenty-four-hour fast.

At dinner a lector read edifying selections from the lives of the saints or from other devotional books, though the monks' attention might be otherwhere. The brothers, forbidden to speak at meals, developed an elaborate sign language. At least a hundred signals have been recorded. Giraldus Cambrensis, at the Canterbury dinner just described, thought he was watching a stage play, with all the gesticulations and whistling that went on. Another scholar reports that when the monks were forbidden to communicate with their hands, they talked with their feet.

No comments:

Post a Comment