History of Britain as seen by Samuel Pegge

Some interesting points, made as far as I can tell about History, by Samuel Pegge in the 18th Century (which was published in the forward of “The Forme of Cury” cookbook):

The Aborigines of Britain, to come nearer home, could have no great expertness in Cookery, as they had no oil, and we hear nothing of their butter, they used only sheep and oxen, eating neither hares, though so greatly esteemed at Rome, nor hens, nor geese, from a notion of superstition. Nor did they eat fish. There was little corn in the interior part of the island, but they lived on milk and flesh; though it is expressly asserted by Strabo that they had no cheese. The later Britons, however, well knew how to make the best use of the cow, since, as appears from the laws of Hoel Dda, A.D. 943, this animal was a creature so essential, so common and useful in Wales, as to be the standard in rating fines.

Hengist, leader of the Saxons, made grand entertainments for king
Vortigern, but no particulars have come down to us; and
certainly little exquisite can be expected from a people then so
extremely barbarous as not to be able either to read or write.
‘Barbari homines a septentrione, (they are the words of Dr. Lister)
caseo et ferina subcruda victitantes, omnia condimenta adjectiva
respuerunt’.

Some have fancied, that as the Danes imported the custom of hard and deep drinking, so they likewise introduced the practice of
gormandizing, and that this word itself is derived from Gormund,
the name of that Danish king whom Ãlfred the Great persuaded to be christened, and called Ãthelstane, Now ’tis certain that
Hardicnut stands on record as an egregious glutton, but he is
not particularly famous for being a curious Viander; ’tis true
again, that the Danes in general indulged excessively in feasts and
entertainments, but we have no reason to imagine any elegance
of Cookery to have flourished amongst them. And though Guthrum, the Danish prince, is in some authors named Gormundus; yet this is not the right etymology of our English word Gormandize, since it is rather the French Gourmand, or the British Gormod.

So that we have little to say as to the Danes.

I shall take the later English and the Normans together, on account of the intermixture of the two nations after the Conquest, since, as lord Lyttelton observes, the English accommodated them elves to the Norman manners, except in point of temperance in eating and drinking, and communicated to them their own habits of drunkenness and immoderate feasting. Erasmus also remarks, that the English in his time were attached to plentiful and splendid tables; and the same is observed by Harrison. As to the Normans, both William I and Rufus made grand entertainments; the former was remarkable for an immense paunch, and withal was so exact, so nice and curious
in his repasts, that when his prime favourite William Fitz-
Osberne, who as steward of the household had the charge of the Cury, served him with the flesh of a crane scarcely half-roasted, he was so highly exasperated, that he lifted up his fist, and would have strucken him, had not Eudo, appointed Dapiser immediately after, warded off the blow.

For more of Samuel Pegge’s opinion/history and all the references that I edited out (as well as the recipes), download a Form of Cury here for free.

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