The Spice Account

During the Wars of the Barons in the reign of Henry III, writes Margaret Wade Labarge, everyday life and tastes are recorded in the household rolls of Eleanor de Montfort.

The ingredients handed to the medieval cook were enormous in amount and relatively limited in interest. Great joints of salted beef, mutton and pork were boiled or roasted for the main midday meal. The fish too was frequently salted, and required considerable effort on the part of the cook if it was to be palatable, even to appetites sharpened by continuous life outdoors. The seasonings and luxuries that made this rough fare a little more appetizing, and gave evidence of the householder’s worth, were reckoned on the spice account.

Since these precious items were far more expensive than the ordinary supplies, they were kept locked up in the wardrobe and issued to the cook only in the amounts required for his immediate needs. Thus, the spice account included not merely those items now referred to as spices, but also such medieval luxuries as sugar, rice, almonds and dried fruits.

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