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trenchers-msg – 1/17/08

 

Wooden and bread trenchers. Plates. Modern substitutes. Trencher cutting.

 

NOTE: See also the files: Trenchers-Hst-art, bread-msg, breadmaking-msg, utensils-msg, p-tableware-msg, feastgear-msg, iron-pot-care-msg, flour-msg, ovens-msg.

 

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NOTICE -

 

This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that

I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some

messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.

 

This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium.

These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org

 

I  have done  a limited amount  of editing. Messages having to do  with

separate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes

extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs  were

removed to save space and remove clutter.

 

The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I

make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given  by the

individual authors.

 

Please  respect the time  and efforts of  those who have written  these

messages. The  copyright status of these messages  is  unclear  at this

time. If  information  is published  from  these  messages, please give

credit to the originator(s).

 

Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org

************************************************************************

 

From: tcsrmo at aie.lreg.co.UK (Roland Oughton)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Request:medieval feast

Date: 21 Sep 1994 08:25:07 -0400

 

I once attended a Viking feast in York (Jorvik to the Viking) in the

Merchant Advebturer's Guilehouse. They had trenchers such as you describe:

 

They were about 1 - 1.5 inches thick, flat and about 10 inches across.

They were quite tough, the crust wasn't quite crisp, but was fairly thick and

it was quite a 'heavy' bread (unlike Pittas). Also unlike pittas it was

a dark bread - probably wholegrain, a bit like the 'black bread' I had in

Moscow.

 

- Roland

 

 

From: brgarwood at aol.com (BRgarwood)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Wooden feast gear

Date: 18 Dec 1995 13:30:50 -0500

 

margritt at mindspring.com (Margritte) writes:

> The ranking nobles were given the top slice off the loaves,

>which were generally, well, "crustier." This is the origin of the term

>"upper crust."

 

My initial reaction to this was, Oh oh, spook etymology. Further

investigation however shows it to be basically accurate. John Ciardi, in

"A Browsers Dictionary" quotes from the "Boke of Keruinge" (late XV) "Then

take a lofe in your lufe hande and pare ye lofe rounde aboute; then cut

the over cruste to youre soverayne, and cut the nether cruste, and voyde

the parynge, and touch the lofe no more after it is so served."  Also a

XVI rhyme "Furst pare the quarters of the lofe rounde alle about / Than

kutt the upper cruste to your soverayne and to him alow't."

 

Berwyn, crusty old phart

 

 

Date: Sun, 4 Jan 1998 14:14:05 +1100 (EST)

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charlesn at sunrise.srl.rmit.edu.au>

Subject: SC - Trenchers

 

We have used trenchers quite often - usually we get old focaccia (or get

them baked early and let them stiffen up abit) It is amazing how

difficult it is to explain to the average baker that you WANT the bread

to go stale as fast as possible.

 

But they tend to be given to the ducks, or eaten for breakfast, or thrown

away, since there are no local monasterires that seem to want them, and

the poor don't line up outside the castle anymore (I think the council

banned it. And the health inspectors were none too keen on the whole deal

anyway)

 

Charles Ragnar

 

 

Date: Fri, 9 Jan 1998 00:37:01 +0000

From: "Robin Carroll-Mann" <harper at idt.net>

Subject: Re: SC - trencher question (WAS: table manners)

 

And it came to pass on  8 Jan 98, that DUNHAM Patricia R wrote:

> I know someone, a woodworker, who is convinced that trenchers of

> bread were much less commonly used than is believed in the Society.

[snip]

> A lot of confusion could be caused by the use of the term "trencher"

> for both wooden plates and the alleged stale-bread-slabs. (A

> chicken-or-egg problem-- is the wooden one called after the bread

> one, or vice versa.)

>

> What say you all on this question? (with documentation, please)

>

> Chimene

 

::digging out my photocopies::  I started to do some research on this

at one point.  I cannot address the *commonness* of bread trenchers,

but I can certainly document that they were used.

 

The _Northumberland Household Book_ (1512) specifies that

trencher-bread should be made from the bran left over from making

white flour.

 

There are several books of courtesy in the collection _Early English

Meals and Manners_ which discuss trenchers:

 

John Russell's _Boke of Nurture_ says that trenchers should be

cut from 4-day-old bread, and goes on to specify how they should be

laid out on the table.  "Right so iiii trenchers oon by a-nothur

.iiii. square ye sett, and uppon tho trenchurs .iiii. a trenchur

sengle with-out lett."  Ie., 4 trenchers set together in a square,

with an additional trencher placed on top.

 

_For to Serve a Lord_ refers to "Trenchours of tree [wood] or

brede".

 

Wynkyn De Worde's _The Boke of Keruynge_ refers to trencher

loaves.

 

_Food and Feast in Medieval England_ by P.W. Hammond (Alan Sutton

Publishing, 1993), says that "Trenchers of bread were superseded by

those of wood or metal in the course of the sixteenth century.  Those

of the peasants seem to have been of wood, probably much earlier than

this..."

 

Lady Brighid ni Chiarain of Tethba

Barony of Settmour Swamp, East Kingdom

 

 

Date: Tue, 13 Jan 98 13:46:52 -0500

From: Dottie Elliott <macdj at onr.com>

Subject: Re: SC - trencher question (WAS: table manners)

 

I don't have any of my sources right now. I have been researching pottery

from the middle ages which naturally includes plates. However, my

impression from reading various period cookbooks and research is that the

English peasants would have used either wood or pottery (it was very

cheaply made and cheap to buy) before the 1500's. The upperclass used

mostly bread trenchers until the 1500's when they went to using wood,

pewter and silver trenchers. I have read some evidence the upper class

used wood somewhat but not at the larger feasts.  Pottery wasn't used

much as plates by the upper class until majolica made it to England in

late period. Pottery was relatively crude in England until that time.  In

Italy on the other hand, folks of all classes were using pottery & wood

and the uppers used pewter & silver much, much earlier.  But of course,

us Italians were always much more civilized.

 

Clarissa

 

 

Date: Sat, 7 Nov 1998 22:39:41 -0600

From: "Decker, Terry D." <TerryD at Health.State.OK.US>

Subject: RE: SC - SC dumb Bread trencher Question

 

> Hi everyone,    When you make trenchers, are they flat slices of bread or

> scooped out crust shells??    (Like bread bowls I have seen.)

>

>     Helen

 

A proper trencher is made from a round coarse wheat loaf 4 days old.  The

sides are squared.  The carver then cuts the top (upper crust) for his lord

and proceeds to cut slices (trenchers) from the loaf.

 

There is evidence that they were used as plates and on plates.  How they

were used probably was dependent on the amount of liquid served with the

food.

 

Commonly trenchers were cleared after each course and sent to the back door

to be given as charity to the poor.

 

To my knowledge, there is no evidence that bread bowls were used in period.

However, rastons come close.  Rastons are a white bread fortified with eggs

on which the top has been carefully cut away, the soft inner bread scooped

out, crumbled and fried with spices, then returned to the loaf and to top

placed on before serving.

 

Bear

 

 

Date: Tue, 02 Feb 1999 08:19:41 -0500

From: Philip & Susan Troy <troy at asan.com>

Subject: Re: SC - trencher history guesses

 

snowfire at mail.snet.net wrote:

> Did "Sop" gave us "Supper" and "Soup" then?

 

Yes.

 

> Has the anyone in the SCA ever done a feast using trenchers?

 

Yes.

;  )

 

Adamantius

¯stgardr, East

 

 

Date: Tue, 02 Feb 1999 07:32:23 -0600

From: Heitman <fiondel at fastrans.net>

Subject: RE: SC - trencher history guesses

 

>Has the anyone in the SCA ever done a feast using trenchers?

>Elysant

 

Ah, this brings back a nice memory.  I had been in the SCA

about 18 months, when I went to Winter Court (VERY small, local,

non-published event).  Came time for the feast, and they set out

candles, and, as I recall, did something with torchieres so that

they looked roughly non-electric (I don't remember, that was a

long time ago, but they put *something* around the top, so that

the light was muted).  The harp music started, and the trays

piled with trenchers were brought out.  The trenchers were replaced

once, between the first (fowl) and second (pork) course. There was

music and entertainment, and I don't have a single memory of

what the food actually was, but it was one of those magic

moments.  I've always felt those trenchers helped enormously to

make it magic, because of the feel of "something out of the ordinary."

 

Or, maybe, it was just being new and more easily taken in by magic. :)

 

Fiondel

 

 

Date: Tue, 2 Feb 1999 09:17:25 -0600

From: "Decker, Terry D." <TerryD at Health.State.OK.US>

Subject: RE: SC - trencher history guesses

 

> is that the urban poor didn't generally have regular easy

> access to milled grain and ovens, and the rural poor, while they could

> have built mills and ovens, don't appear to have been in too many

> situations calling for trenchers, largely because it probably would

> indicate proximity to a manor or castle, which more or less makes them

> urban, not rural.

 

In the urban environment, the ovens were most commonly owned by the baker to

limit fire hazard.  The baker produced bread for the retail trade and baked

the general populace's bake goods for fee.  The quality and quantity of

bread you ate depended on what you could afford.  There was also the

difference between the brown and white bakers.  Brown bakers baked general

loaves for the people.  White bakers baked white bread for the carriage

trade.  IIRC, the distinction becomes moot in the 15th Century when the

guilds joined and became bakers.  Of course there is the point that workmen

were commonly given meals including bread as part of their hire.

 

Communal ovens are most common in reasonable well off villages which were

too small to interest a beggar.  These were commonly fired and served by men

who had retired from more active work.  For these services, the oven keepers

were recompensed by gratuities of money and food.

 

Rural farms without the services of an oven, could bake bread in a cook pot,

as was being done into this century.  In this environment, it is common to

bake large loaves a couple times a week, so that they can stand up to a four

day shelf life without drying out.

 

Mills in England were technically owned by the lord of a manor and the fees

accrued to the lord, except, there is a study that show there were almost

double the number of independent mills as there were manor mills.  These

mills were actually operating outside of the law, but apparently there was

so much milling business no one complained.  Almost everyplace in England

had the services of a mill.

 

If you could afford the service charges, you could eat bread.  The quality

and quantity of bread available would be based on a person's position in the

economic pyramid.

 

By their nature, trenchers are conspicuous consumption. They are made from

bread which has been deliberately allowed to go stale, which could only be

afforded by a person of privilege, at a time when most people worked hard to

earn their "daily bread," literally.

 

As a social mechanism, sending the trenchers for alms represents the

transfer of wealth from the haves to the have-not in a society without the

benefit of social welfare.  It helps meet the requirement of the feudal

contract that the lord shall provide for his people.  And it fits in with

the concept of Christian charity.  Do you eat your trencher, if you see it

as the "duty" of your position to give it to the poor?

 

Bear

 

 

Date: Mon, 1 Feb 1999 20:19:11 -0600

From: "Decker, Terry D." <TerryD at Health.State.OK.US>

Subject: RE: SC - trencher history guesses

 

You are mis-using the term trencher and equating it with all levels of

society, which is incorrect.

 

A trencher is specifically a four day old loaf of the second quality carved

to serve as a plate.  If the bread doesn't meet the specifications, it's a

sop.  Daily bread was used as a sop by all classes.  Sops were eaten, not

given away.

 

Because you have to let the loaf dry out to use it as a trencher, trenchers

were limited to classes who could afford surpluses to use in this manner.

That means trenchers were used by the upper classes and the upwardly mobile.

Which means that "trencher manners" were the province of these classes and

were a symbol of their wealth and power.  After all, trenchers produced the

term "upper crust."

 

Bear

 

 

Date: 01 Feb 99 21:52:17 EST

From: Marian.Deborah.Rosenberg at washcoll.edu (Marian Deborah Rosenberg)

Subject: SC - Two questions

 

Love's Labor's Lost by Shakespeare --

 

V ii 464-465

 

Some mumble news, some trencher knight, some Dick,

That smiles his cheek in years and knows the trick

 

The footnote in my edition "The Riverside Shakespeare 2nd edition" defines

trencher-knight as a parasite.  It then goes on to say that a trencher is a

wooden platter or dish.

 

Wasn't the bread trencher still being used in Elizabethan times?

 

<snip of cloved fruit question>

 

 

Date: Mon, 1 Feb 1999 22:33:57 -0600

From: "Decker, Terry D." <TerryD at Health.State.OK.US>

Subject: RE: SC - trencher history guesses

 

> -Poster: Jean Holtom <Snowfire at mail.snet.net>

> >  If the bread doesn't meet the specifications, it's a

> >sop.  Daily bread was used as a sop by all classes.  Sops were eaten, not

> >given away.

>

> Did "Sop" gave us "Supper" and "Soup" then?

>

> Elysant

 

As I understand it, a sop could be either a soup or the bread dipped in the

soup, although soup in this usage might mean drippings. And I believe you

are correct that sop is the root of soup and supper.

 

Bear

 

 

Date: Mon, 1 Feb 1999 20:57:20 -0800 (PST)

From: Laura C Minnick <lainie at gladstone.uoregon.edu>

Subject: RE: SC - trencher history guesses

 

> Has the anyone in the SCA ever done a feast using trenchers?

>

> Elysant

 

I did, July '97, at An Tir West War. TRM's of the West and four

other friends. It was my try to see if I could do it- tablecloths up. I

admit that I cheated a little and used my bread machine, being somewhat

streed of time and space. The R2D2 unit (our nickname for it) produced

hunks of bread that made 6" sq. slices. I then laid them in the attic

space off the bedroom to dry a bit. My daughter and her friend didn't get

it when I was laughing my head off at sending them into the garret to

scramble after dry crusts of bread ;-) Anyway, I think they made fine

little plates. Just big enough for a nice portion of each course. They

were dry enough that they soaked up excess and didn't leak through. Only

thing I would do different, if I had to do over, would be to figure out

why the top of the bread kept sinking (WWheat, not white), which cut down

on the amount of trencher slices I could get out of one batch, and maybe

to figure out a way to pop the beater-bar thing out between the last knead

and the baking time, also because the bar ruined at least 1" worth of

otherwise good bread. But I really liked doing the bread thing as opposed

to using plates. Fewer dishes, general puissance. I thought it was cool,

at least.

 

'Lainie

- -

Laura C. Minnick

University of Oregon

Department of English

 

 

Date: Sat, 11 Sep 1999 10:36:13 +0100

From: Linda Giddings <McKeown at micronet.net>

Subject: Re: SC - trenchers

 

There's a receipe for Wroclaw Trencher Bread in the "Food and Drink in

Medieval Poland" book.  I can post it if you like.

Angustias

 

 

Date: Sun, 12 Sep 1999 01:21:31 -0700

From: "Laura C. Minnick" <lcm at efn.org>

Subject: Re: SC - trenchers

 

Stefan said:

>Perhaps a whole-wheat bread produced in a bread-machine, which often

>produce square loaves would be a reasonable substitution and be more

>economical than cutting off large sections of a round loaf. You

>could get about half-a-dozen trenchers from one loaf I would expect,

>perhaps more with the bigger machines. I've not priced modern grains.

>I wonder if using a substatial amount of rye or oats would be both

>more accurate still and even cheaper.

 

When I did trenchers for a small feast a couple of years ago, I made

the bread in my bread machine and got about 4 good slices per loaf- the

whole wheat dough had a tendency to sink in the middle, and I lost to

bottom slice to the kneader bar. Laid them out in the attic for a day or

so to dry a little. They were great- one slice would hold about one

portion of any dish, so things 'fit' quite well.

        The manners/serving books do talk about trimming the loaf to make

proper trenchers, and many of them appear to come out square. And most

of them are whole grain, except for the very very highest of folk, who get

fine white flour- aesthetic, I suppose, as the white flour bread doesn't

hold up as well.

        I have seen flat breads of all sorts and foccachia used as trenchers,

and while they might look cool, I don't think they really get anywhere

near what the medieval diner found in front of him.

 

'Lainie

 

 

Date: Sun, 12 Sep 1999 07:45:39 -0400

From: Philip & Susan Troy <troy at asan.com>

Subject: Re: SC - trenchers

 

Stefan li Rous wrote:

> Also, there is evidence that trenchers were not made of the best bread.

 

Agreed, according to prevailing standards of the period. However,

 

> A denser bread may have lessened the chance of juices seeping through the

> trencher as well as being cheaper to produce.

 

Regarding cheapness of a denser, coarser loaf, this may have been the

case until the nineteenth century or so, but is not so now, I'd think.

Bear in mind that of two loaves the same size, the denser one will

require more flour than the light one, and if you're using something

like stone-ground whole wheat flour, or some kind of mixed meal with

bran, or whatever, it's likely to be more expensive than the boring

chemical-filled Brand X white flour, because of the demand schedule,

factors like a shorter shelf-life, etc. Not to mention the dreaded

appellation, Health Food, which usually is good for a price increase of

at least 20% over processed, preserved, cholesterol- and salt-filled counterparts.

 

I think some cooks in the SCA came to the conclusion early on that since

most people don't actually eat their trenchers (most people who did in

the middle ages were either receiving alms or were considered gluttons,

generally), and since therefore they contribute no food value to the

feast, can't be donated to most homeless shelters in period fashion, and

require extra effort to produce, as well as money, they're not generally

used. They _are_ a nice touch, though. I've made and used them once or

twice, but I usually just carry a wooden one with me on those occasions

when I actually sit and eat the feast. Most people I know do the same.

 

Adamantius

 

 

Date: Sun, 12 Sep 1999 13:23:27 -0500

From: "Decker, Terry D." <TerryD at Health.State.OK.US>

Subject: RE: SC - trenchers

 

> Master Cariadoc said:

> > What we used to do for trenchers long ago was to get a baker to make us

> > small, flat, round loaves and then cut them in half, giving two circular

> > bread "plates."

>

> However, do you have any evidence to trenchers ever being round? The pictures

> I've seen all show the trenchers to be almost square, with the crust cut

> off on all sides. I believe there are some period instructions on cutting

> trenchers that also support this.

 

This is open to question.  Cutting a square trencher is very tricky without

a good bread knife.  Having played with this a little, I think that the

square trencher is primarily to show off the carver's skill.  To my

knowledge, the instructions for cutting trenchers are only in late period

English carving and manners manuals.

 

> However, round with crust, or square with the crusts cut off, trenchers are

> still a very period thing that I don't think has been done much in the SCA.

 

This is a matter of economics and time.  A trencher loaf is about 10 ounces

and provides two trenchers.  The trencher is not eaten and several may be

used per person during a feast.

 

A cheat to get around this is to use a coffee can loaf cut into 1 inch

slices.  It is not authentic and it is not as effective as a real trencher,

but it provides the illusion of using bread trenchers. Relatively dry foods

can be served to the trenchers while more liquid foods should be served in a

bowl.

 

> Also, there is evidence that trenchers were not made of the best bread.

> A denser bread may have lessened the chance of juices seeping through the

> trencher as well as being cheaper to produce.

 

Trenchers were wastel made from wheat flour of the second quality.  I've

used both 1:1 and 2:1 mixtures of stone ground whole wheat and all purpose

flour in my trencher experiments.

 

The trenchers are used four days old, soft enough to cut, dry enough to be

absorbent.  They appear to have been changed out during a feast to avoid

leakage.

 

> Perhaps a whole-wheat bread produced in a bread-machine, which often

> produce square loaves would be a reasonable substitution and be more

> economical than cutting off large sections of a round loaf. You

> could get about half-a-dozen trenchers from one loaf I would expect,

> perhaps more with the bigger machines. I've not priced modern grains.

> I wonder if using a substatial amount of rye or oats would be both

> more accurate still and even cheaper.

> --

> Lord Stefan li Rous    Barony of Bryn Gwlad   Kingdom of Ansteorra

 

The bread machine loaves would probably be similar to the coffee can loaves.

 

When you consider the cost and use of trencher loaves, they represent

conspicuous consumption.  They are less desirable than the white loaves

served at a noble's feast, but they are far superior to the loaves the poor

can afford and therefore represent significant alms.  To adulterate such

loaves with oats or rye would be pleading poverty and might be considered

uncharitable.

 

As for today, all purpose wheat flour is the cheapest flour available.  Rye,

oats, barley and whole wheat carry premium prices.

 

If you want to make experimental trenchers, take a basic bread recipe which

uses only flour, water, yeast and salt.  Use a blend of all pupose and whole

wheat flour.  Follow the recipe.  For the second rise, take a ball of dough

about 3 1/2 inches in diameter.  Flatten it into a round loaf about six to

seven inches in diameter about 1 inch thick.  Put it on a greased baking

sheet and let it rise for an hour or two.  Gently press down on the top to

flatten, then bake as directed.

 

The more whole wheat flour, the denser the loaf and, generally, the less

rise you get.

 

Bon Chance

 

Bear

 

 

Date: Sun, 12 Sep 1999 12:50:41 +0100

From: Linda Giddings <McKeown at micronet.net>

Subject: SC - Trenchers-Long

 

Here is the Wroclaw Trencher receipe

 

8 cups stone ground rye

7 cups stone ground spelt or whole club wheat flour

2 cups thick beer

1 cup active beer barm or 1/2 oz. active dry yeast proofed in 1 cup warm

   water

4 cups water at room temperature

2 tablespoons salt

 

        Combine the flours in a mixing boul.  Measure out 7 1/2 cups and put

this in a large work bowl or bread trough.  Combine the thick beer,

yeast, and water.  Add this to the flour and stir to create a slurry.

Cover and let stand overnight until foamy. Combine the salt with the

remaining flour, and stir down the slurry.  Add the salted flour to the

slurry and knead this into a ball of dough on a well-floured work

surface. Knead for at least 20 minutes, vigorously striking the dough

from  time to time with a bat or long rolling pin to break down the

gluten. Set aside, cover, and let the dough rise until doubled in

blulk.  When it is fully risen, knock down and knead again, breaking it

with a bat or rolling pin as before.  When the dough is soft and spongy,

mold it out into 9 or 10 round loaves(each about 12 ounces to allow for

water loss during baking). Cover and let the loaves rise in a warm place

until they are roughly 6 inches in diameter.

 

        While the loaves are rising, preheat the oven to 400*F.  When the

loaves are fully risen, set them on greased pizza sheets and cut a small

sign of the cross or some other preferred pattern into the top of each

loaf.  Set the loaves in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Then reduce

the temperature to 375*F and continue baking for another 15 minutes.

Last, reduce the temperature to 350*F and finish baking the bread for

10-20 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Cool

on a rack.  Do not cut the bread until it is room temperature.

 

        Note: Some bakeries impressed pictorial images into the bread,

including cyphers or initials of the baker, the arms of the bakers'

guild, the arms of the city of Wroclaw, or in the case of the royal

bakery, the coat of arms of the king.  These bread stamps were generally

lozenge-shaped and carved of wood in a design similar to a signet ring.

 

 

Date: Sun, 12 Sep 1999 23:30:25 -0500

From: "Decker, Terry D." <TerryD at Health.State.OK.US>

Subject: RE: SC - trenchers

 

> Where do you get the 10 ounces from? But yes, if it is only 10 ounces then

> I can see where you would get only two trenchers per loaf after you slice

> off the top and the bottom.

 

I get the 10 ounces from some of the tests I've run.  You do not slice off

the top and bottom, you split the loaf and use the top and bottom for the

trencher surfaces, which is presumably why the upper crust was given to the

highest ranking people, no ashes.  Scully specifies in Early French Cookery

that Menagier's loaves were turned over in the oven which would tend to

negate that idea of the "upper crust".  A conundrum to investigate.

 

> > When you consider the cost and use of trencher loaves, they represent

> > conspicuous consumption.  They are less desirable than the white loaves

> > served at a noble's feast, but they are far superior to the loaves the poor

> > can afford and therefore represent significant alms.  To adulterate such

> > loaves with oats or rye would be pleading poverty and might be considered

> > uncharitable.

>

> And then the Wroclaw trencher recipe says:

> > 8 cups stone ground rye

> > 7 cups stone ground spelt or whole club wheat flour

>

> Argh. Ok, Bear do you have anything specific you are basing your comments

> on? Or possibly this is a regional differance because wheat was more

> difficult to grow in eastern Europe? Or maybe William Weaver is

> interpreting

> things differently as I doubt he has an explicit recipe, either.

 

Trenchers are described as being wastel in some of the English sources.

Menagier's comments seem to support this in France. Wastel is a second

quality wheat bread produced by brown bakers.  Trencher bread and manchet

are roughly the same weight.  When manchet was 6 a penny, trencher would be

10 a penny and unbolted household loaves of equal weight would be about 13 a

penny, if I understand the Assize or Bread and Ale correctly.  Household

loaves would be given to servants or hired laborers, with better grades of

bread being given for specific cause or for reward.

 

The comments about conspicuous consumption and why wheaten loaves were used

when cheaper grain would suffice are opinions based on considerations of the

practices.  No gentle would be so gauche as to comment directly upon the

reasons for certain behavior.

 

The trenchers I've been describing represent Western Europe.  The Wroclaw

trenchers represent Eastern Europe.  The use of maslin as the basis for

trenchers doesn't surprise me.  Growing wheat and rye together to produce

maslin flour (whether by accident or design) was fairly common practice.

Wheat was generally more costly in Eastern Europe, so maslin makes a good

compromise for wastel.  I would like to see Weaver's comments about this, so

I guess I need the book.

 

> Bear also said:

> > A cheat to get around this is to use a coffee can loaf cut into 1 inch

> > slices.  It is not authentic and it is not as effective as a real trencher,

> > but it provides the illusion of using bread trenchers.

>

> And:

> >The bread machine loaves would probably be similar to the coffee can

> loaves.

>

> But the recipe you give later in your message doesn't mention any coffee

> cans. Are these used to bake the loafs in? To just shape them? I assume

> the latter, but even so, coffee cans have little round ridges in them. It

> seems like it would be difficult to extract either the dough or the baked

> bread from the can. More directions for the new or non-bakers among us,

> please.

> --

> Lord Stefan li Rous    Barony of Bryn Gwlad   Kingdom of Ansteorra

 

The comments were about using a basic bread recipe to experiment making

trencher loaves.  Such a recipe could be used to bake coffee can bread.

 

For the coffee can bread, you use the can as a loaf pan. Thoroughly grease

the interior of the can.  Place the kneaded dough in the can and let it rise

the second time.  Bake as with a normal loaf pan.  The dough shouldn't stick

to the greased pan and will shrink slightly in baking. After you remove it

from the oven, run a knife around between the loaf and the side of the can

to make sure nothing is sticking.  Turn the can upside down and the loaf

should slide right out.  I recommend using solid shortening, margarine or

butter rather than an oil to grease the cans.  Doughs often absorb oil.

 

Scully suggests using 100 fl oz cans rather than coffee cans.

 

Bear

 

 

Date: Mon, 13 Sep 1999 10:24:30 EDT

From: RuddR at aol.com

Subject: SC - Re: Trenchers

 

After much trial and error, the easiest, best trenchers I have come up with

are from sourdough loaves from a local organic bakery; dried four days, and

cut and trimmed into 4" x 7" rectangles, about 3/4" thick.

 

Rudd Rayfield

 

 

Date: Mon, 13 Sep 1999 10:39:03 EDT

From: RuddR at aol.com

Subject: SC - Re: Trenchers

 

Stefan li Rous writes

<<However, do you have any evidence to trenchers ever being round? The pictures

I've seen all show the trenchers to be almost square, with the crust cut

off on all sides. I believe there are some period instructions on cutting

trenchers that also support this.>>

 

I have seen pictorial representations of hexagonal and octagonal trenchers,

both in feast scenes depicted on monumental brasses from late fourteenth

century Northern Germany.  One of these, "The Peacock Feast", is reproduced

in _Fast and Feast_, B. A. Henisch, pp. 230, 231.  The brass itself is in

England (St. Margaret's Church, King's Lynn, where I've seen it in person),

but was made in Germany and imported.  The other brass is that of a German

bishop, which I have only seen in a reproduction (from which I took a

rubbing).

 

Rudd Rayfield

 

 

Date: Mon, 17 Apr 2000 09:36:47 -0500

From: "Decker, Terry D." <TerryD at Health.State.OK.US>

Subject: RE: SC - Plastic Ware

 

> Now, if I could find some way to keep bread from molding at Pennsic with the

> moisture in the wrapping (stale bread wouldn't be a problem, but wet, moldy,

> or buggy bread would), I would think that doing the period thing and using

> bread trenchers as a plate would satisfy both the desire to eat from period

>

> Brangwayna Morgan

 

I won't make any guarantees, but here are some things to try to keep your

trenchers mold and bug free.

 

Make your loaves out of flour, water, yeast and salt. Breads enriched with

oil, milk, eggs, etc. have a greater tendency to mold. Trenchers are

wastel, so stone ground whole wheat flour with the graham is a good choice

for trencher flour.

 

Do not wrap the loaves.  Moisture from inside the loaf continues escaping

for about a week.  If you put a moisture barrier around the loaf, the

moisture accumulates in the crust, softening it and making a more hospitable

environment for mold.  Rye loaves hold moisture better than wheat loaves and

stay soft much longer.  

 

To keep bugs out, put the loaves in a bag of a loose weave cloth like muslin

that can be tied closed.  Hang the bag where it won't get too hot and where

any moisture that is forced out of the bread by the heat will evaporate.

 

Bear

 

 

Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2000 21:02:47 +0200

From: "Cindy M. Renfrow" <cindy at thousandeggs.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Subject: Trenchers Request

 

>I'm looking for images of a particular type of wooden

>trencher used in the 16th century: the primary characteristic

>of the type is that it has poetry or Biblical quotations and

>painted decorations on the bottom; the top should be of plain

>wood.  It was used for serving fruit, and is sometimes

>referred to as a "roundel."

>

>If you could refer me to specific books or even a museum

>website with pictures of this sort of trencher, I'd be very grateful.

>

>Elianora Mathewes

 

Hello!  There are some pictured in "Fabulous Feasts".  Ms. Cosman says

these are in the Pierpont Morgan Library collection in NY. "Banquetting

Stuffe" also has sketches of 2.

 

Cindy Renfrow

cindy at thousandeggs.com

 

 

Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2000 17:38:15 -0400 (EDT)

From: alysk at ix.netcom.com

Subject: SC - Re: Trencher Request

 

Besides _'Banquetting Stuffe'_ that Cindy mentioned, there are

two photos in the new book _Eat, Drink & Be Merry_, edited by

Ivan Day.  Page 46 has at least 4 trenchers (round ones) on the

Elizabethan banquet table.  However, they are hard to see and

would not be useable for much.  Pages 60-61 has a close-up of a

square trencher along with quite a bit of information about them,

as well as some of the poetry.  The close-up is good enough that

you might be able to re-create it.  The text mentions a possible

sugar plate trencher in a 1618 painting reproduced in _The

Pleasures of the Table_, by Peter Brown and Ivan Day.  I haven't

seen that book.

 

The trenchers in _Eat..._ are on display with the tour of the

food display.  I've heard rumors that it will be in the US at

some point... NY and LA, I think, but I don't know when. It

will be in London shortly, if it hasn't already arrived there

from York.  (Would make a great weekend trip!)

 

Alys Katharine, who took a weekend trip to go to the Leeds Food

History Symposium in April

 

 

Date: Thu, 21 Sep 2000 03:02:41 -0400

From: "Catherine Deville" <catdeville at mindspring.com>

Subject: Peri-oid  or Modern Adaptions for Trenchers (was Re: SC - Trenchers (was Sweet Spinach Tart))

 

> A trencher is a round, flat loaf 6 to 8 inches in diameter and about an 1

> 1/2 inches thick, aged 4 days to let it harden.  In Western Europe it was

> commonly leavened bread of the second quality (wastel), while in Eastern

> Europe, maslin or rye appear to be more commonly used.

>

> The loaf was squared by trimming the sides, then split in half and placed

> with the crust upmost to be used as a plate.

 

For those who will be satisfied with a "peri-oid" trencher rather than an

authentic trencher, our household found that making a beer bread trencher

was fast, easy and served us quite well.  during our college days we were

all poor (they were much cheaper than the "wooden" trenchers or plates that

our baronial mentors were using) and none of us could make bread they were

also fast, easy and do-able.  They also made a loaf for about a buck which

could be split into two perfect (albeit round and for our group white

instead of wheat) trenchers and because the bread is a denser bread, they

lasted through an entire feast.   I regret that I forget the recipe, but it

was super simple... something like a cup of flour, a can of beer, a

tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of salt for one loaf. (I'll try and

find it if anyone wants.)  mix, pour into the pan (no need to "knead" or

"proof" the bread) and then pop into the oven!

 

it occurs to me that you could make these with wheat flour (I buy whole

wheat organic bread flour at my health food store in bulk), add a little

gluten to compensate, put them into an 8x8 square pan instead of the 8 inch

round the recipe calls for and haver very presentable peri-oid trenchers...

In the days when I was active in the SCA, these were perfectly acceptable

for everyday use.  Would they be o.k. to use now-a-days. (Yes, Your Grace,

I understood your point earlier and I recognize that it would be *better*

to make actual, authentic trenchers, but I'm wondering if these would be

o.k. when they were more practical than *real* trenchers or when the person

is unskilled as a baker (as we were back in those days <s>?))

 

I remain, in service to Meridies,

Lady Celia des L'archier

 

 

Date: Thu, 21 Sep 2000 08:51:11 -0500

From: "Decker, Terry D." <TerryD at Health.State.OK.US>

Subject: RE: Peri-oid  or Modern Adaptions for Trenchers (was Re: SC - Tre nchers (was Sweet Spinach Tart))

 

> it occurs to me that you could make these with wheat flour (I

> buy whole wheat organic bread flour at my health food store in bulk),

> add a little gluten to compensate,

 

Why worry about gluten?  Trenchers aren't to be eaten, and whole wheat flour

should have enough gluten.  Add a little yeast if you want more rise,

although you don't want too much rise or the upper crust will slope to the

edges (a no-no for trenchers).  If you use whole wheat flour with the graham

still in it, you'll have a rough equivalent to the flour used to make

wastel.

 

> put them into an 8x8 square pan instead

> of the 8 inch round the recipe calls for and haver very presentable

> peri-oid trenchers...

 

An 8 inch round, makes a square just under 6 inches on a side.  If you could

get a 10x10, you could cut the loaf into quarters and make 8 trenchers at a

time.

 

My personal cheat is coffee can bread sliced about 1 inch thick.

 

> In the days when I was active in the SCA, these were perfectly acceptable

> for everyday use.  Would they be o.k. to use now-a-days.  (Yes, Your Grace,

> I understood your point earlier and I recognize that it would be *better*

> to make actual, authentic trenchers, but I'm wondering if these would be

> o.k. when they were more practical than *real* trenchers or when the person

> is unskilled as a baker (as we were back in those days <s>?))

>

> Lady Celia des L'archier

 

The real drawback to making trenchers for feasts is the need for oven

capacity 4 days in advance.  If I had access to commercial ovens during the

week before an event, I would produce trenchers more often.  Unfortuantely,

I often work sites which don't have commercial ovens and have to pre-bake at

home, which makes trenchers impractical in terms of time and effort.

 

While not precisely as described, the faux trenchers you suggest seem to be

a reasonable cheat (at least to me, I don't know about His Grace).  I might

suggest that with them you make some real trenchers with which you could put

on a show of carving them for the head table, thus creating the illusion of

real trenchers, while you pass out the faux trenchers to the rest of the

feasters.

 

Bear

 

 

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 2000 18:59:37 -0500

From: "Hank" <steinfeld at tqci.net>

Subject: SC - Trenchers Oh my!

 

Unto the list does Muirghen send greetings.

 

Well I trial cooked the Wroclaw trencher recipe from the Florigium and I

must tell you it is awful!  I am sure that it faithfully replicates the

intent of the trencher and if people were expected to actually eat these

things I really do feel their pain!  I made mine with spelt and rye

flour.  The result was heavy and had a bitter after taste. If you

intend to try this one, I would suggest a trial with a reduced amount.

I foolishly did the full amount and have regretted it.

 

Knowing that there are some that will think I am criticizing the

Florigium, let me say that is NOT the case.  I am just letting you know

that this recipe does not produce a palatable result to my modern

western taste.  For the first time feast head cook, I pass my lesson on

to you.  In all my other dishes, I used reduced quantities until I had

the desired effect.  I got cocky with bread having been baking for

several days now and wanted to be done with that part of the

pre-cooking.  Avoid being tempted to go to the dark side!

 

As an educational element, I think I will have them on a side table for

anyone wanting to try them, but will not serve them in the feast.

 

I am now baking still more bread from a trialed recipe.

 

Yours from the kitchen

Muirghen

 

 

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 2000 20:49:08 -0500 (EST)

From: Jenne Heise <jenne at mail.browser.net>

Subject: Re: SC - Trenchers Oh my!

 

> > Well I trial cooked the Wroclaw trencher recipe from the Florigium and

> > I must tell you it is awful!  I am sure that it faithfully replicates

> > the intent of the trencher and if people were expected to actually eat

> > these things I really do feel their pain!  I made mine with spelt and

> > rye flour.  The result was heavy and had a bitter after taste.

 

I made a modified version for an A&S competition, that was edible but

quite definitely better as trenchers than food, especially after a day

exposed to air:

 

Rye/spelt 'trencher bread' made with 'thick beer' leavening

(using a recipe from Food and Drink in Medieval Poland, by Dembinska and

Weaver)

 

According to Food and Drink in Medieval Poland, by Maria Dembinska, edited

and with recipes by William Woys Weaver, Polish bread was leavened with a

yeasty substance that Weaver calls 'thick beer' (p120, p183), which also

was used to make beer. The recipe included in the book by Weaver calls for

a sourdough mixture:

 

2 c. hops tea

2 c. German wheat beer (Hacker-Pschorr in this case)

1 c. spelt flour

1 c. barley flour

combined and left to sit, uncovered (for five days in this case) until it

begins to bubble.

 

Dembinska also says that wheat, spelt, and rye flours were used in varying

amounts; rye, rye/wheat, and whole wheat and 'white' wheat types

(p114-15). This would be an approximation the bread described as the

'common rye bread' (p.114) by Dembinska.

 

Weaver's re-created recipe calls for a flour mixture of 7 c. spelt

flour/whole wheat mixed with 8 c. of stone-ground rye. I halved the

quantities, and mixed 3.5 c. spelt and 4 c. rye. However, I ended up using

an additional 3 c. rye in order to get a dough that was kneadable (sticky,

but still kneadable, instead of sticking to everything but itself)

 

Using the leaven obtained as described above, I created a bread sponge:

1 c. 'thick beer' (above), 3 and 1/4 c. flour mixture, 1/4 ounce active

dry yeast proofed in 1/2 c. lukewarm water (Note: I am unsure why

Weaver adds this additional yeast), 2 c. room temperature water.

 

Mix to smooth consistency, cover and let sit about 11 hours.

 

Dough: punch down sponge and add 2 tsp salt to remaining flour mixture.**

Knead remaining flour mixture. Knead for 20 minutes. Set aside and allow

to rise again until doubled. Punch it down and knead again. Mold into

loaves. Cover and allow to rise.

 

Place loaves on greased sheets and slash pattern into the top of loaf.

 

Bake for 15 minutes in an oven heated to 400 degrees; lower temperature to

350 and bake for 15 more minutes; lower temperature again to 375 and bake

for 10-20 minutes until it sounds hollow on the bottom.

 

+I don't know if tops of the loaves were slashed in medieval Poland, but I

recall pictures of medieval breads with slashed tops. Weaver says that

bread stamps or signs of the cross were used (Dembinska, p182)

- --

Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, mka Jennifer Heise          jenne at tulgey.browser.net

 

 

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 2000 21:00:25 -0500 (EST)

From: Jenne Heise <jenne at mail.browser.net>

Subject: Re: SC - Trenchers Oh my!

 

> Well I trial cooked the Wroclaw trencher recipe from the Florigium and I =

> must tell you it is awful!  I am sure that it faithfully replicates the =

> intent of the trencher and if people were expected to actually eat these =

> things I really do feel their pain!  I made mine with spelt and rye =

> flour.  The result was heavy and had a bitter after taste.  If you =

> intend to try this one, I would suggest a trial with a reduced amount.  =

> I foolishly did the full amount and have regretted it. =20

 

This may be a dumb question, but:

I notice that the bread recipe in the Florilegium does not include the

directions for making the 'thick beer' sourdough starter. Did you use a

sourdough starter for the thick beer, an ale barm, or just plain beer/ale?

If you used plain beer or ale, that would be part of the problem: you

would get loaves that were not leavened enough and had much too much hops

in them, thus being bitter.

--

Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, mka Jennifer Heise          jenne at tulgey.browser.net

 

 

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 2000 21:54:00 -0600

From: "Decker, Terry D." <TerryD at Health.State.OK.US>

Subject: RE: SC - Trenchers Oh my!

 

> According to Food and Drink in Medieval Poland, by Maria Dembinska, edited

> and with recipes by William Woys Weaver, Polish bread was leavened with a

> yeasty substance that Weaver calls 'thick beer' (p120, p183), which also

> was used to make beer. The recipe included in the book by Weaver calls for

> a sourdough mixture:

>

> 2 c. hops tea

> 2 c. German wheat beer (Hacker-Pschorr in this case)

> 1 c. spelt flour

> 1 c. barley flour

> combined and left to sit, uncovered (for five days in this case) until it

> begins to bubble.

 

I wonder about this mix.  The hops and wheat beer would make it fairly

bitter while the ratio of liquid to flour would make this a batter.  Since

Ed Wood has obtained a continuous sourdough starters from Russia and

Scandinavia, I suspect this may be a bad modern "mock-up" of Polish

sourdough.

 

> Weaver's re-created recipe calls for a flour mixture of 7 c. spelt

> flour/whole wheat mixed with 8 c. of stone-ground rye. I halved the

> quantities, and mixed 3.5 c. spelt and 4 c. rye. However, I ended up using

> an additional 3 c. rye in order to get a dough that was kneadable (sticky,

> but still kneadable, instead of sticking to everything but itself)

 

This 50/50 maslin mix produces a common rye.  For trenchers, I would have

expected something closer to 75/25 rye to wheat.  The fact the mix was very

sticky suggests that there was too much liquor to the volume of wheat, as

does the fact that you made it kneadable by adding more flour.

 

> Using the leaven obtained as described above, I created a bread sponge:

> 1 c. 'thick beer' (above), 3 and 1/4 c. flour mixture, 1/4 ounce active

> dry yeast proofed in 1/2 c. lukewarm water (Note: I am unsure why

> Weaver adds this additional yeast), 2 c. room temperature water.

The yeast is added to insure a rise.  This is a modern trick used by bakers

who must have rise (usually in commercial kitchens) or by people who know

very little about sourdough baking.  This further suggests the "thick beer"

is a modern approximation.

 

> Mix to smooth consistency, cover and let sit about 11 hours.

>

> Dough: punch down sponge and add 2 tsp salt to remaining flour mixture.**

> Knead remaining flour mixture. Knead for 20 minutes. Set aside and allow

> to rise again until doubled. Punch it down and knead again. Mold into

> loaves. Cover and allow to rise.

Okay.  I think you will find your 3 to 1 flour to liquor mix by volume is

about 2 to 1 by weight, which is a fairly common ration for bread making.

 

> Place loaves on greased sheets and slash pattern into the top of loaf.

I doubt if this would be done for a trencher.  It would compromise the

solidity of the crust.

 

> +I don't know if tops of the loaves were slashed in medieval Poland, but I

> recall pictures of medieval breads with slashed tops. Weaver says that

> bread stamps or signs of the cross were used (Dembinska, p182)

>

> Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, mka Jennifer Heise

> jenne at tulgey.browser.net

Probably not for a trencher.  Table loaves are a different matter.

 

Bear

 

 

Date: Thu, 9 Nov 2000 23:24:31 -0500

From: "Hank" <steinfeld at tqci.net>

Subject: Re: SC - Trenchers Oh my!

 

>This may be a dumb question, but:

>I notice that the bread recipe in the Florilegium does not include the

>directions for making the 'thick beer' sourdough starter. Did you use a

>sourdough starter for the thick beer, an ale barm, or just plain beer/ale?

>If you used plain beer or ale, that would be part of the problem: you

>would get loaves that were not leavened enough and had much too much hops

>in them, thus being bitter.

> --

>Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, mka Jennifer Heise       jenne at tulgey.browser.net

 

That was it!  I did use a dark beer vice a starter.  Well that would explain

some of what happened.  The bread never really impressed me as rising very

much and I assumed that it was a result of so much flour and the heavy

flours at that.  I wonder if the result would be better with a blend of

white flour.

 

I am in he middle of a kvas which sadly will be ready a day late I fear.

 

Muirghen

 

 

Date: Sun, 12 Nov 2000 16:00:57 -0500

From: Elaine Koogler <ekoogler at chesapeake.net>

Subject: Re: SC - Trenchers Oh my!

 

Regarding the trenchers, he did bring them along, and they looked and felt a lot

like large brown hockey pucks.  I suspect it would have been difficult even to

cut them in half to form a bowl!  I wonder if what Bear is suggesting above

(slashing around the middle to allow them to expand as they bake) might have

made them more useable (notice I didn't say edible!). However, we did feed them

to the poor upon completion of the meal (our dogs...who thought they were fancy

dog biscuits!).

 

Congratulations, Muirghen, on a job well done...and a real learning experience

for all concerned.

 

Kiri

 

 

Date: Mon, 13 Nov 2000 10:36:05 -0600

From: "Michael F. Gunter" <michael.gunter at fnc.fujitsu.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Trenchers Oh my!

 

> Maybe a short training session for all

> your servers, who could then demonstrate how to cut and use the

> trencher to their tables. Or if you are sending the trenchers out

> already sliced, simply having the servers explain the use of the

> trencher and that they don't taste particularly good.

>

> If you have more than one trencher for each person, sending folks

> around to collect the used trenchers between courses might be useful

> and a period element.

 

I think sending out pre-sliced trenchers would be best. Serving is

usually rather hectic at even the best events. And another thing

I think should be mentioned to any who are considering this is

that from the illustrations I've seen, trenchers were pretty small

and were arranged on a plate by placing four pieces of bread

in a square with a fourth on top in the middle.

 

I do agree that they would really help with cleanup. Especially

when you think that many high feasts were served on the finest

silverplate the Lord had. I'm sure that, extravagance aside, he

appreciated it not getting too messy.

 

> I doubt trying to explain things to a full hall will work, since

> often you can't hear the entertainment or even court. A simple

> note in any feast menus might also be useful.

 

The note is good, and even an illustration of the way to put them.

Or a brief explination by the server would help.

 

> But I'd like to try it at least once.

 

So would I. I'll have to work on it.

 

> THL  Stefan li Rous

 

Gunthar

 

 

Date: Mon, 13 Nov 2000 12:00:27 -0600

From: "Decker, Terry D." <TerryD at Health.State.OK.US>

Subject: RE: SC - Trenchers Oh my!

 

> > Maybe a short training session for all

> > your servers, who could then demonstrate how to cut and use the

> > trencher to their tables.

 

Trying to cut a four day old trencher to shape without a large, sharp knife

or a good serrated-edge bread knife is a real chore. Also, in period,

trenchers were prepared by the pantler for disposition to the tables.

Prepare the trenchers in the kitchen and save yourself a lot of grief.

 

> > If you have more than one trencher for each person, sending folks

> > around to collect the used trenchers between courses might be useful

> > and a period element.

 

Apparently trenchers were collected and replaced between courses by yeoman

waiters under the almoner's direction.

 

> I think sending out pre-sliced trenchers would be best. Serving is

> usually rather hectic at even the best events.

 

Good idea.

 

And another thing

> I think should be mentioned to any who are considering this is

> that from the illustrations I've seen, trenchers were pretty small

> and were arranged on a plate by placing four pieces of bread

> in a square with a fourth on top in the middle.

 

Not necessarily.  I've also seen what appears to be trenchers as single

squares of bread.  I believe the particular paintings you are referring to

are are those of the King's high table.

 

> I do agree that they would really help with cleanup. Especially

> when you think that many high feasts were served on the finest

> silverplate the Lord had. I'm sure that, extravagance aside, he

> appreciated it not getting too messy.

 

Painted wooden chargers were probably more common than silver (except maybe

for the high table) and I suspect silver alloy was more common than

silverplate.  I'm still in the early research stages.  And ceramic bowls.

Ceramic bowls were replenished once or twice a year, just before the high

Holy Days.

 

As for the mess, that is why one hires retainers.  The Lord would prefer

that the service not get damaged.

 

> > I doubt trying to explain things to a full hall will work, since

> > often you can't hear the entertainment or even court. A simple

> > note in any feast menus might also be useful.

>

> The note is good, and even an illustration of the way to put them.

> Or a brief explination by the server would help.

>

> > But I'd like to try it at least once.

>

> So would I. I'll have to work on it.

>

> > THL  Stefan li Rous

>

> Gunthar

 

I'm still looking for a copy of Furnivall to further my researches.  I'm

hoping it can provide more information on trenchers than I currently have,

including how to present the trencher to the table and whether or not food

was ever served to the trencher.

 

I'd love to try trenchers, but I think the advance oven capacity required

makes them impractical for anything other than small feasts.

 

Bear

 

 

Date: Mon, 13 Nov 2000 14:46:24 -0600

From: "Decker, Terry D." <TerryD at Health.State.OK.US>

Subject: RE: SC - Trenchers Oh my!

 

> However, going back to your previous post where

> you describe using it with the crust up would be an interesting exercise in

> trying to keep the food on the "plate"...these things were slightly domed in

> shape, whereas using it as you describe would require that they be flat on

> top...right???  So what would have produced that kind of shape?

>

> Kiri

 

Prick the dough half a dozen times or so with a skewer before tucking it in

the oven.  It helps vent gases from under the crust.  This is a trick used

to help flatten galette.  YMMV.

 

I've also gently flattened the loaf with my hand before sliding it into the

oven.

 

Bear

 

 

Date: Mon, 13 Nov 2000 19:52:56 EST

From: Bronwynmgn at aol.com

Subject: Re: SC - Trenchers Oh my!

 

stefan at texas.net writes:

<< And for camping events such as Pennsic where you might be concerned

about keeping the dishes clean throughout the event, this could ease

this, although the number of trenchers needed might be high. >>

 

Actually, we tried storing trenchers for Pennsic this year.  They made it

through the first week before they turned green and fuzzy :O  I think if I

can get some Dutch oven baking practice in, I might try baking some at

Pennsic...  We've used them several times for weekend events without a

problem.

 

Brangwayna Morgan

 

 

Date: Mon, 13 Nov 2000 23:41:08 EST

From: LrdRas at aol.com

Subject: Re: SC - Trenchers Oh my!

 

ekoogler at chesapeake.net writes:

> "...these things were slightly domed in

> shape, whereas using it as you describe would require that they be flat on

> top...right???  So what would have produced that kind of shape?

>

> Kiri

 

Most period trencher descriptions state that the bread is to have the crust

removed. All the period illustrations that I am aware of show bread trenchers

as being a hand or so in size, rectangular and laid down 2 side by side on

the bottom and one across the seam on top. I have used trenchers a number of

times in the past and if you use the correct method of taking a piece of

whatever and dipping it into the sauce which is ideally served  for two in a

separate dish instead of pouring the sauce over  your food on the trencher it

works well. i have had no problems using them.  The thought has never

occurred to me to eat my trenchers though so i have no idea whether they

were, in fact, edible or not. ;-)

 

Ras

 

 

Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2000 18:42:00 EST

From: Bronwynmgn at aol.com

Subject: Re: SC - Trenchers Oh my!

 

stefan at texas.net writes:

<< So, what recipe did you use when you made these trenchers and how did

they work out? So far, no one has been able to relate to me whether

they got soggy and were a total mess, whether they soaked up all the

juice and thus left nothing for the food, whether they collapsed in

folks laps or table or just what. >>

 

I worked out a recipe from Bear's suggestions about using only flour, water,

yeast, and salt, and relative proportions from my breadmaker book.  The

current recipe for a 1.5 lb loaf is:

 

1.75 cups water

3.33 cups + 2.5 Tbsp whole wheat flour

1.25 tsp salt

1.5 tsp bread machine yeast, or 2 tsp regular yeast.

 

The odd measurements are due to trying to get the dough to the right

consistency.  For some reason, this seems to be much more senstive to

atmospheric moisture that regular bread dough, so I nearly always have to

adjust something.

 

I usually make them either the Tuesday or Wednesday before a weekend event,

and let them sit on the counter until we are ready to pack, at which point

they go into a muslin bag, tied shut.  We have learned that it is best to cut

them after only a day or two of drying; a saw would work better than a bread

knife if you leave it till the last minute.  I have been making them in the

bread machine (normal loaf shape, not round), so we slice them into 3 or four

sections from the top down, and usually discard the top because it tends to

be very lumpy.  We have used two side by side for most feasts, and have not

needed to use the "spare".  Of course, anything really soupy goes in the

wooden bowl anyway ;-)  We have not had any problems with them getting too

saturated, or falling apart; they mostly just tend to leave crumbs everywhere!

 

Brangwayna Morgan

 

 

From: "Robin Carroll-Mann" <rcmann4 at earthlink.net>

To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org

Date: Fri, 3 Aug 2001 21:39:58 -0400

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Trenchers

 

Bear was asking about sources of information on trenchers.

 

A few period sources:

 

The Northumberland Household Book

 

Serveral of the carving/serving/ettiquette manuals reprinted by the

Early English Text Society as "Early English Meals and

Manners"(ed. by Furnivall):

 

The Boke of Kerving

The Babees Book

Boke of Nurture

 

Brighid ni Chiarain *** mka Robin Carroll-Mann

Barony of Settmour Swamp, East Kingdom

 

 

To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org

Date: Fri, 3 Aug 2001 14:59:18 -0400

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] A Comment & A Question was ( Jonathan Swift

      was an Optimist)

From: Elizabeth A Heckert <spynnere at juno.com>

 

On Fri, 3 Aug 2001 15:53:29 -0500 "Decker, Terry D."

<TerryD at Health.State.OK.US> writes:

>I am seeking references to trenchers in both primary and secondary

>sources for a paper I am preparing.  Does anyone have any references

handy?

>

>Bear

 

  I have a book on inter-library loan right now, called "Medieval Pottery

in Britain AD 900-1600" by Michael R. McCarth and Catherine M. Brooks (

Leicester University Press, 1988, ISBN 0-7185-1254-5; ISBN 0-7185-1271-5

pbk.)

Chapter 2,  'Production and Distribution' says:

 

  "The later Middle Ages was thus a period of change. [...] Potters made

inroads into the wood turner's domain with the manufacture of ceramic

drinking vessels and in the seventeenth century, pottery plates,

imitating pewter forms, began to edge out wooden boards and trenchers."

(pg.90)

 

   Chapter 3 is a lovely chapter called 'Pottery and Society'.  It

compares ceramic and non-ceramic vessels.  It says about trenchers:

 

  "Wooden (or 'treen') trenchers and platters were widespread in the

later medieval and early post-medieval periods, replacing the bread

trenchers of earlier times."  (pg. 99)  This page also has a picture of a

wooden trencher in the Oxfordshire County Museum, Woodstock.

 

   The rest of the citations which are listed as 'plates/platters' in the

index are records of items recovered at digs, and are mostly about

platters.  I found a website talking about pit-fired pottery, which is a

less sophisticated means of firing, than was in main use at the end of

our 'period', and that gentleman said that he found plates to be the

hardest to fire.

<http://www.physics.mq.edu.au/~gnott/Miklagard/Articles/#Fig.1> is the

site.

 

   Sorry this is so long!  It's basically anti-evidence I suppose, but it

might give you some background; that is if you want to be that in-depth

with the article.  I also didn't want you to go to the trouble of geting

the pottery book and then find out it's useless to your research!

 

    Elizabeth

 

 

Date: Sun, 05 Aug 2001 18:58:53 -0400

From: johnna holloway <johnna at sitka.engin.umich.edu>

To: "sca-cooks at ansteorra.org" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

Subject: [Sca-cooks] REPLY: Trenchers definition--long

 

I am seeking references to trenchers in both primary and secondary sources

for a paper I am preparing.  Does anyone have any references handy?

 

Bear

----------------------------------------------------------------

Here's part of the definition with quotes from Middle English

Dictionary that the UM has been working on.

 

 

trenchur (n.) Also trenchoure, trencheour, trenchor(e, trenchur(e,

trencheure, trencher(e, trens(c)houre & (error) trechor; pl.

trenchour(e)s, etc. & trenchirres, (error) tryschurs.

 

[OF trencheor, AF trench(e)our, vars of OF trancheor.]

 

(a) A knife, blade; a cutting tool; (b) a platter or serving dish; a

slice of bread serving as a platter; also, a slice of bread; (c) in

cpds.: ~ bord; ~ bred (lof), stale or otherwise inferior bread used for

platters; ~ knif; ~ molde, a mold for a platter.

 

(a)  (1360-70) Acc.R.Dur.in Sur.Soc.99   175:  In j pare de trenchours

pro Priore, 12 s.  (1382) in Rymer's Foedera (1709)   7.357:  Duo magna

Paria Cultellorum, vocatorum Trencheours.  ?a1400(a1338) Mannyng

Chron.Pt.2 (Petyt 511)   p.166:  Fulle bro=FEely & brim he kept vp a

trencheour, & kast it at Statin..His nese & his ine he carfe at

misauentoure.  (c1410) York MGame (Vsp B.12)   99:  Wi=FE a sharp

trenchour [vr. trenshoure] kitte as =FEik as he can =FEe flesshe doun to =

=FEe

nek bone.  a1425 Roy.17.C.17 Nominale (Roy 17.C.17)   659/1:  Sissorium:

trenchure.  ?a1450(a1400) Siege Jerus.(1) (LdMisc 656)   1328:  =DEe kempe

kest hym a trenchour, & with =FEe same he schef hymself to =FEe herte.

c1450 Lestenit lordynges I you beseke (Sln 2593)   p.279: My baselard

haght a trencher kene, Fayr as rasour, scharp and schene. ?c1475

*Cath.Angl.(Add 15562)  129b:  Trenschowre: Secarium, Scissorium.

?a1500 Lndsb.Nominale (Lndsb)   773/8:  Sissorium: a trenchore.

 

(b)  (?c1300) Sub.R.Lynn in Nrf.Archaeol.1   353:  In ij trenchurs, j

alvaz, ij s.  ?a1325 Whose =FEenchi=FE vp (Hrl 913)   p.138:  What wol men

for =FEe sowle del? Corne no mel..Bot wel seld at =FEe mele A row3 bare

trenchur o=FEer a crust.  (1354) Doc.Finchale in Sur.Soc.6   p.xxxvii:

Item, ij cultelli pro trenchores faciendis.  (1392) Acc.Exped.Der.in

Camd.n.s.52   218/30:  Clerico panterie..in pane pro trenchors, v duc.

di.  ?c1425 Arun.Cook.Recipes (Arun 334)   471:  Take qwyte bred, and

make therof trenchours, and tost hom, and lay hom on syde. a1450

Hrl.Cook.Bk.(1) (Hrl 279)   41:  Take whyte Brede, & kytte to

trenchours, & toste ham; take =FEin paste whyle it is hot, & sprede it

vppe-on =FEin trenchourys with a spone.  a1475 Bk.Courtesy (Sln 1986)

678,681:  Moo loues of trenchirres at a brayde He settes..Two loues of

trenchors and salt =FEo, He settes be-fore his son also. a1475 Russell

Bk.Nurt.(Hrl 4011)   203:  On =FEe lifft side of your trenchoure lay youre

knyffe synguler & playn.  a1475 Russell Bk.Nurt.(Hrl 4011)   323:

Kervynge, of bred leiynge, voydynge of cromes, & trenchewre: with ij

fyngurs and a thombe loke ye haue =FEe Cure.  a1500 Weights in RHS

ser.3.41 (Vsp E.9)   17:  There ys a numbyr that ys called a

stoke..thereby be sold Pruse trenchers, dysshes, and platters.  (a1500)

Collect.Anglo-Premonst.in RHS ser.3.6   264:  Item, in ye buttre, ii

tabille clothis & a towelle, a bassene & an Ewere of pewder..iii dosen

tryschurs [read: trynschurs].

 

(c)  (1388) Inquis.Miscel.(PRO)   5.37:  [A pair of table knives and a]

trenchourknyf [worth 3 s. 4 d.].  (1392) in L=F6fvenberg Contrib.Lex.

53:  Trenchour burde.  (1425) Doc.Brewer in Bk.Lond.E. 187/1460:  For

white brede and trencheour brede, and iij pekkes of Flour fyn..vij s. x

d.  (c1451) Doc.in Welch Hist.Pewterers Lond.  15:  Item, j qware bolle

molde iiij part ys, vij li.; Item, j Trechor [read: Trenchor] molde iiij

part ys, v li. d. qa.  (?1474) Stonor   1.147:  Item, a coberde clo=FEe

wyth iij towellys, and j trencher knyfe.  a1475 Russell Bk.Nurt.(Hrl

4011)   197:  Lay on =FEat arme viij louys bred with iij or iiij trenchere

lovis.  a1500 Gloss.Garland (Hrl 1002)   123:  Mensaculos:

trencher-knyvys.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Johnnae llyn Lewis

 

 

Date: Sun, 05 Aug 2001 19:18:00 -0400

From: johnna holloway <johnna at sitka.engin.umich.edu>

To: "sca-cooks at ansteorra.org" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] REPLY: Trenchers--Books

 

I am seeking references to trenchers in both primary and secondary sources

for a paper I am preparing.  Does anyone have any references handy?

 

Bear

------------------------------------------------------------------

Johnnae llyn Lewis sends greetings.

Having sent the definition in a previous message, I will

send along a couple of citations to books that I don't think have been

mentioned.

 

You didn't include a time period, so I am including some material

that is post 1600.

 

Dinner Is Served.

Author:  Brett, Gerald

1968, 1969 2 editions one US and one UK.

 

The Appetite and the Eye. Food and Society 2.

Editor:  C. Anne Wilson.1991 {Leeds Conference}

Contains "Decoration of the Tudor and Stuart Table"

by Peter Brears.  pp.56-97. Trenchers appear pp.74-78.

 

Brears also mentions them in passing in his new

book All The King's Cooks.

 

Trammels, trenchers, and tartlets /

Author(s): Carlo, Joyce W.

Publication: Old Saybrook, Conn. : Peregrine Press,

Year: 1982

 

Hope this helps.

 

Johnna Holloway

 

 

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

To: <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Tableware

Date: Tue, 26 Mar 2002 18:37:34 -0600

 

I would suggest you take a look at Menagier.  He directs that trencher

loaves be specially purchased for wedding meals.  The meals were for 30

bowls plus six servants.  Menagier ordered the purchase of three dozen

trencher loaves, or one for each person present.  This suggests that

trenchers were not in common use outside of the great households.

 

If you use the Assisa Panis to calculate the cost of preparing trenchers, it

is easy to see why they would be seldom used outside of the great

households.  One person using two trencher loaves per day (one for each of

two meals) would cost just under 2 1/2 shillings and 1/2 ton of flour per

year.  Most of the etiquette manuals suggest that a person might use several

loaves per meal.  Only the great households could afford this expense.

 

As far as I have been able to determine, trencher use began in the 11th

Century, probably in France.  It was definitely established there by the

early 12th Century.  Trenchers were definitely used in England and France,

Central Europe and east into Poland.  I've found no evidence of their use

east of Poland, in the Mediterranean countries and in Scandinavia. The area

of use conforms to the areas of Europe where the manorial system was

practiced most fully.

 

Trencher use appears to have peaked between the 13th and 14th Centuries.

After the 13th Century, household accounts show a decline in the expenditure

on bread, suggesting a decline in the use of trenchers except for special

occasions.

 

Bear

 

 

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

To: <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Tableware

Date: Wed, 27 Mar 2002 18:36:24 -0600

 

>I wonder if trenchers were specifically used for feasts.  When they

>served more people than usual and didn't have enough of the plates

>that would be normally used.  People didn't bring their own feast gear

>in period.

 

Actually the rich and powerful travelled with full baggage trains and often

their own cooks.  They would be served on their personal tableware and

linens by their own servants and room would be made in the kitchen for their

cooks.

 

Since the illustrations often show trenchers being presented to the highest

ranking nobles, they are certainly not being used to fill in where there

were not enough plates.  Also, the handbooks on serving and etiquette

provide very precise instructions on how trenchers were to be prepared and

presented.

 

>Using trenchers doesn't make that much sense for everyday meals.

>Its better to wash and reuse a plate, but makes a lot of sense for

>feeding a large number.

>

>Ranvaig

 

You need to keep in mind that dining in a great household was a ritual as

well as a meal.  It was a display of the wealth and power of the head of the

household and was meant to create a sense of community among the members of

the household.  Trenchers served to demonstrate wealth and piety. Only a

wealthy and therefore powerful house could afford the expense of using bread

for plates, which were taken up between courses and given to the poor as

alms.

 

Originally trenchers were just small round loaves sliced in half, as shown

by an illustration in an early 12th Century copy of Gregory's Moralia, but

by the late 13th Century they were being squared and presented to the table

in an increasingly more elaborate ritual.

 

A comparison of accounts between the 13th and 16th Centuries show a decline

in the expenditures for bread, suggesting that trenchers moved from being

used at every meal to being used primarily for pomp and ceremony.  For

example, Dembinska comments that in mid-16th Century Poland it was common to

use bread trenchers on fast days.

 

Bear

 

 

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

To: <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

Subject: Bread trenchers was [Sca-cooks] Tableware

Date: Thu, 28 Mar 2002 23:18:16 -0600

 

Rather than try to answer each of your points, Stefan, let me try to create

a cohesive response.

 

Last year I decided to write a summary paper on what we know about bread

trenchers to present at the Cook's Symposium.  Soon after I started, I

realized that not even professional historians have a clear picture of the

history of trenchers and that most of "what everyone knows" are assumptions

extrapolated from a few points of data, most from the 15th and 16th Century.

The paper became a "working" paper and its presentation the first iteration

of a work in progress.

 

The earliest reference I could find was an illustration from an early 12th

Century copy of Gregory's Moralia (originally written in the 6th Century)

which I believe is currently housed in the Bibliothique Nationale in Paris.

I, and others, have interpreted the bread in the illustration as being

trenchers.  Another interpretation could be sliced bread.

 

Since the first reference is early 12th Century, the custom of trenchers

probably became established in the 11th Century.  Germany and Poland use

variations of the French, "tailloir."  (That may not be spelled correctly

since I don't have my crib sheet handy.)  "Trencher" is derived from the

Anglo-Norman, "trancheor," and probably would not have been used before

1066.  So tentatively the origin is 11th Century France.

 

Trenchers appear in references from England, France, Germany and Poland.

 

They do not appear in Ireland, Scandinavia, Russia, much of Eastern Europe,

Greece, Italy or Spain.   That there are no references does not prove

trenchers were not used in these countries, but it strongly supports the

possibility.

 

Trenchers appear in countries where the manorial system (11th to 15th

Centuries)was strong and the household would reside at each manor for

various periods.  Of the countries where references to trenchers do not

appear, Spain, Russia and much of Eastern Europe were continuously at war

with invaders or were uninhabited lands.  Greece, Russia and much of Eastern

Europe were also Orthodox rather than Roman Catholic tied more to the

Byzantine Empire than Rome.  And the leadership of the Italian city states

was mostly urban and cosmopolitan, being supplied by, but not living on

their estates and practicing a different form of patronage from their

northern counterparts.  Ireland and Scandinavia were culturally different

from most of Northern Europe.

 

Why the bread trencher came to be is an open question.  Tableware was

readily available and using the quantities of bread required is a major

expense.  My opinion is it represents conspicuous consumption.  That it is

meant to demonstrate that the lord of the manor is so wealthy he (or she) can

give those in service to him bread to use as a plate and that those who

serve him are so enriched by the service that trencher does not need to be

eaten, but can be given to the poor to feed them as is the Christian duty of

such a rich and powerful household.

 

Because the rise and decline in the use of bread trenchers appears to rise

and decline of the manorial system, there is the question of whether the

relationship is casual or causal.

 

I know of no household account information prior to the 13th Century.

Information from the 13th Century is pretty skimpy, but the quantities of

bread purchased suggest that trenchers were used daily.  Later household

accounts show marked declines (up to 25%) in the purchase of bread and food

stuffs without a similar decline in the numbers of the household.  The

decline in expenses is attributed by a number of historians to a decline in

the use of bread trenchers.

 

The books of etiquette covering trenchers are for the most part 15th and

16th Century when the rituals of preparing them and presenting them to the

table are most elaborate. One does need to consider that the instructions

were often copied verbatim from earlier texts and don't necessarily tell us

if the preparation of trenchers was a common event or if the instructions

had been retained in the event that trenchers might be required

 

Illustrations from the 15th Century show the squared trenchers and often the

carvers knives at the table suggesting that the preparation of the trenchers

was being done at the table.  The famous woodcut from Der Schatzbehalter

(Nuremburg, 1491) shows the ruling noble being served squared trenchers, but

leaves one wondering if the other diners are eating from round trenchers or

plates.  Trenchers are remarkablely absent from most 16th Century

illustrations.

 

As for Poland, in the 13th Century bread trenchers were used during meals.

By the 16th Century, the royal court commonly used silver plate, majolica,

and gilded pewter.  I believe bread trenchers would have been used on fast

days as an expression of piety and as alms.  According to Dembinska, the use

of bread trenchers in Poland continued into the 17th Century.

 

I am now searching for more illustrations and primary references in

languages other than English.  I'm trying to find further account

information.  And I'm trying to see if I can tie all of this to other

changes in feudal society.

 

Bear

 

 

From: "Decker, Terry D." <TerryD at Health.State.OK.US>

To: "'sca-cooks at ansteorra.org'" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: Bread trenchers was [Sca-cooks] Tableware

Date: Fri, 29 Mar 2002 09:28:38 -0600

 

> Yes, they these people travelled. Could the use of trenchers have

> minimized the amount of tableware that had to be transported?

 

That is a possibility, but manors were continuously staffed and appear to

have maintained stocks of tableware which were replenished two or more times

a year.

 

The manor staff was only part of the household proper when the lord or lady

was in residence, so the transported tableware would be only that of the

retainers and staff who travelled with the lord or lady. Normally this

would be 30 to 70 people depending on position of the house.  However, I

know of at least one military commander who had a household of 200 to 250

while his wife's household consisted of about 75.  The maintained separate

establishments, except when they joined households at their larger estates.

By my calculations, the baker made out like a bandit.

 

> And in the fourteenth century we have fairly major weather changes

> that are also clearly reflected in costume (in fact, it is believed

> to have been the beginning of a series of "mini-Ice-Ages" from which

> we are only now completely recovering), repeated bad harvests

> followed by a sufficient general weakness of the population as to

> allow the Plague to wipe out a third of Europe. That could be your

> 25% expenditure drop right there.

>

> Adamantius

 

Actually all of this doesn't account for the 25% drop. Household staffs

remained fairly consistent.  The population reduction increased the actual

wealth of the survivors.  And changes in agricultural technology actually

increased the available food stuffs.  In the 15th and 16th Centuries, Europe

experienced the highest standard of living prior to the 20th Century.

 

Along with the high standard of living, there was a creeping inflation which

increased as the Portuguese and then the Spanish brought wealth from their

explorations (the flow of gold from the New World in the 16th Century was

exceptionally debilitating).  This in turn increased the cost of grain,

making trenchers more expensive.

 

The manorial system was based on in kind payments and service for due.  This

began to change in the 13th Century to monetary based system of service for

fee.  The long term effect was to weaken the feudal structure of the

household, making the ritual of the trencher less useful in communal

binding.  At the beginning of the manorial period, almost all meals were

communal.  At the end of the manorial period, the lord or lady of the manor

would often dine privately.

 

During the rise of the manors, the households were strong, The crowns were

weak and needed the support of the houses.  During the 14th and 15th

Centuries, feudal kingdoms became nation states with strong crowns,

professional armies, and growing bureaucracies.  The government began to

take over charitable distributions.  This weakened the ties of the houses to

the people on and around their estates and made the distribution of

trenchers as alms a quaint and wasteful custom.

 

As conspicuous consumption, trenchers were replaced by imported porcelain in

the 16th Century.  (How many 16th Century illustrations have bread trenchers

in them?)

 

Anyway, my opinion is trenchers began as an ostentatious display, remained

as a useful ritual, and faded away in the face of rising costs and changing

fashion.  Dat's progress for yah.

 

All of this is a preliminary thesis based on limited evidence.  What I am

trying to do is find more references which will support or refute the

arguments, so any source references on trenchers, especially non-English

ones, are gratefully accepted.

 

Bear

 

 

From: "Vincent Cuenca" <bootkiller at hotmail.com>

To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org

Date: Fri, 29 Mar 2002 18:44:25 +0000

Subject: [Sca-cooks] re: trenchers

 

Just to fill out your trencher info a little, here's a quick and dirty

translation from Enrique de Villena's "Arte Cisoria" (1453):

 

"And so that the food may be kept hot on the platter that you are cutting

on, you  should have at hand [a loaf of] bread, flat on both sides, and one

hand high, hard and rolled out, which should not have holes [lit. "eyes"] or

hollows, which should be brought out from the pantry to the table with the

other bread; this bread should be carved across with the paring knife in

thin slices the size of the loaf, in such a way that they do not fold over

themselves, and on top of them, placed on the platter, you may carve with

greater cleanliness, and keep the piece you are caving from getting cold,

carve it, serve it to the King, moving it to the plate he is eating from,

and take it up with the serving fork and bring it to him."

 

Like I said, quick and dirty translation.  What we have here seems to be an

adaptation of the trencher.  Rather than being a squared-off round loaf cut

into slices and used as a plate, it's a loaf baked square, sliced

horizontally, and used as an insulator and sponge to catch meat juices.

 

Other sections of the book clearly state that the King is eating from a

plate, and that bread is served sliced or in small loaves, depending on its

nature.  Nothing about food being served on bread.

 

Vicente

 

 

Date: Thu, 4 Dec 2003 06:51:51 -0600

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Expert on trenchers

To: "Catherine Hartley" <catherine1966 at bellsouth.net>, "Cooks within

      the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

 

>said Bear:

>"I don't think I'm an expert on trenchers, but I wish them luck on finding

>someone who is.  The paper I started for CookCon2 was supposed to be a

>summary of available information.  It became a research paper in progress

>when I found no research specific to the history of trenchers. I'm still

>looking for sources to flesh out or refute what I wrote."

>

>Is this material available anywhere? The cook con 2 proceeding? The trencher

>material? I really would love to see at list your list of sources...for soe

>reasearch on table settings that I am doing...

>

>Caitlin of Enniskillen

 

The paper is in the Proceedings.  I believe copies are still available from

Mary Morman at Serve It Forth!

 

I am appending the bibliography as it appeared in the paper.  I need to add

a few more volumes, primarily of Medieval illuminations and art, to the

list, but haven't done so yet.

 

Bear

 

_____________, The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford

University Press, 1971.

 

Chambers, R.W. and Seton, Walter W., "A Generall Rule to teche euery man

that is willynge for to lerne, to serve a lorde or mayster in euery thyng to

his plesure," Fifteenth century courtesy book ... and Two fifteenth century

franciscan rules; Early English Text Society, 1914; excerpted at

http://www.hti.umich.edu/cgi/c/cme/cme-idx?type=HTML&;rgn=TEI.2&byte=11992541

 

Cosman, Madeleine Pelner, Fabulous Feasts; Medieval Cookery and Ceremony;

George Braziller, New York, 1976.

 

David, Elizabeth, English Bread and Yeast Cookery; Viking, New York, 1980.

 

Dembinska, Maria, trans. Thomas, Magdalena, ed. Weaver, William Woys, Food

and Drink in Medieval Poland; Rediscovering a Cuisine of the Past;

University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999.

 

de Worde, Wynkyn, The Boke of Kervynge; 1508, transcribed at

http://milkmama.tripod.com/kervynge2.html

 

Dupaigne, Bernard, The History of Bread; Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1999.

 

Glants, Musya and Toomre, Joyce, Food in Russian History and Culture;

Indiana University Press, 1997.

 

Halsall, Paul, ed., Medieval Sourcebook: The Assizes of Bread, Beer and the

Lucrum Pistoris;

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/breadbeer.html , 1998.

 

Hinson, Janet, trans., Le Menagier de Paris;

http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/Cookbooks/Menagier/Menagier_Contents.

html

 

Mennell, Stephen, All Manners of Food, Basil Blackwell, New York, 1985.

 

Pichon, Jerome, ed., Le Menagier de Paris; La Societe des Bibliophiles

Francois, Paris, 1846; excerpted,

http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/menagier/

 

Pouncy, Carolyn Johnston, ed. and trans., The Domostroi: Rules for Russian

Households in the Time of

Ivan the Terrible; Cornell University Press, 1994.

 

Redon, Odile, Sabban, Francoise, and Serventi, Silvano, Schneider, Edward,

trans., The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy; University of

Chicago Press, 1998.

 

Tannahill, Reay, Food In History, Stein and Day, New York, 1973.

 

Toussaint-Samat, Maguelonne, Bell, Anthea, trans., History of Food; Barnes

and Noble, New York, 1998.

 

Woolgar, C.M., The Great Household in Late Medieval England; Yale University

Press, 1999.

 

 

Date: Sun, 25 Sep 2005 10:19:24 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Was bread served warm?

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

 

> On Sep 25, 2005, at 12:29 AM, Terry Decker wrote:

>> Large loaves retain moisture better than small loaves.  Whole wheat and

>> rye retain moisture better than standard wheat flour. Trencher loaves

>> are small loaves between six and eight ounces.

>

> Are you sure about this? I mean, this is a loaf whose slices, after

> trimming square, were used to line plates or serve as plates. Would they

> really be no larger than a manchet?

>

> Adamantius

 

Yep, I did error (faulty memory), but not by much.

 

Here's a paragraph from a paper I did for the 2nd SIF! CookCon:

 

"Trencher bread, three dozen of half a foot in width and four fingers tall, baked four days before and browned, or what is called in the market Corbeil bread." is Menagier's description of a trencher loaf.

 

Such a loaf would weigh between 8 and 12 ounces. The Wroclaw bread laws provide for a similar loaf in Poland made of a maslin of wheat and rye. It weighed about 11 ounces. The size of trencher loaves probably varied between six and eight inches diameter and 3 to 4 inches in height.

 

The weight was dependent upon the mix of flours used.

 

Manchets tended to be round, while trencher loaves were flattened like galettes.  Trenchers tend to be denser bread than finely sieved wheat loaves, so they often have a smaller diameter for the same weight of dough.

 

The descriptions of trenchers we have are from the High Middle Ages into the Renaissance.  I place the start of trencher loaves sometime in the 10th Century.  They were initially split round loaves (early 12th Century) with the carving and shaping showing up in 13th and 14th Century sources.  There is no way to determine if the earlier trenchers may not have been larger loaves than those written about later.  Their use began declining after the 13th Century and disappeared in the 17th Century.

 

Given the cost, bread trenchers fall under the heading of conspicuous consumption.  Their use appears to tie to wealthy feudal household ritual, so a small loaf, daintily carved would probably add to the display of wealth and position.  They were a Rolls Royce kind of status symbol.

 

Bear

 

 

Date: Sun, 25 Sep 2005 12:36:28 -0400

From: "Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius"

      <adamantius.magister at verizon.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Was bread served warm?

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

 

On Sep 25, 2005, at 11:19 AM, Terry Decker wrote:

> Manchets tended to be round,

 

Some later source, such as Markham or perhaps May, speaks of slashing the small loaves around their circumference, which results in an interesting, high, nearly hat-box shape.

 

> while trencher loaves were flattened like galettes.  Trenchers tend

> to be denser bread than finely sieved wheat loaves, so they often

> have a smaller diameter for the same weight of dough.

 

It's conceivable that other factors, like lower gluten, a lower priority in the oven pecking-order. etc., might also limit the size of the loaves. It's just that the cut trenchers we see in illustrations look to be maybe six inches square, so I was wondering how you could get that from a loaf whose largest dimension before trimming was, at most, six inches. But then, I also vaguely recall references ("The Boke of Kervynge"?) to using more than one trencher on a plate.

 

> The descriptions of trenchers we have are from the High Middle Ages

> into the Renaissance.  I place the start of trencher loaves

> sometime in the 10th Century.  They were initially split round

> loaves (early 12thCentury) with the carving and shaping showing up

> in 13th and 14th Century sources.  There is no way to determine if

> the earlier trenchers may not have been larger loaves than those

> written about later.  Their use began declining after the 13th

> Century and disappeared in the 17th Century.

 

Replaced to a great extent by sippets and toasts...

 

> Given the cost, bread trenchers fall under the heading of

> conspicuious consumption.  Their use appears to tie to wealthy

> feudal household ritual, so a small loaf, daintily carved would

> probably add to the display of wealth and position.  They were a

> Rolls Royce kind of status symbol.

 

Some day I'd like to do a multilateral presentation on the effects of the "Mini Ice Age" of approximately the 12th through the 18th centuries. It would involve tying together a number of strings, including clothing styles of the period, the weather (obviously), plagues, harvests and famine, and from a foodie perspective, the role of the trencher and the emergence of edible pie crust.

 

Adamantius

 

 

Date: Sun, 25 Sep 2005 22:45:15 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Was bread served warm?

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

 

> It's conceivable that other factors, like lower gluten, a lower priority

> in the oven pecking-order. etc., might also limit the size of the loaves.

> It's just that the cut trenchers we see in illustrations look to be maybe

> six inches square, so I was wondering how you could get that from a loaf

> whose largest dimension before  trimming was, at most, six inches. But

> then, I also vaguely recall  references ("The Boke of Kervynge"?) to using

> more than one trencher  on a plate.

 

There are some German woodcuts that show multiple trencher slices stacked.

Wealthy households appear to have used them with regularity.  The less wealthy used them for special occasions and in single slices, as noted in Menagier's instructions for a wedding feast.  The middle class and poor made do with metal, ceramics and wood.

 

>> The descriptions of trenchers we have are from the High Middle Ages into

>> the Renaissance.  I place the start of trencher loaves sometime in the

>> 10th Century.  They were initially split round loaves (early

>> 12thCentury) with the carving and shaping showing up in 13th and 14th

>> Century sources.  There is no way to determine if the earlier trenchers

>> may not have been larger loaves than those written about later. Their

>> use began declining after the 13th  Century and disappeared in the 17th

>> Century.

>

> Replaced to a great extent by sippets and toasts...

 

Probably not.  Sippets and toasts are meant to be eaten at the table.

Trencher slices are used strictly as plates and are removed by the almoner to be given as charity to the poor.  Trencher bread was truly replaced by porcelain.

 

>> Given the cost, bread trenchers fall under the heading of conspicuious

>> consumption.  Their use appears to tie to wealthy feudal household

>> ritual, so a small loaf, daintily carved would  probably add to the

>> display of wealth and position.  They were a Rolls Royce kind of  

>> status symbol.

>

> Some day I'd like to do a multilateral presentation on the effects of  the

> "Mini Ice Age" of approximately the 12th through the 18th centuries. It

> would involve tying together a number of strings,  including clothing

> styles of the period, the weather (obviously),  plagues, harvests and

> famine, and from a foodie perspective, the role  of the trencher and the

> emergence of edible pie crust.

>

> Adamantius

 

The rise and decline of the bread trencher seems to match up geographically and temporally with the rise and decline of the feudal manor system. Trenchers predate the Mini Ice Age and their passing fits closer to change from a fealty based system to an employer-employee system and the growth of personal wealth between the 13th and 15th Centuries.  The trenchers were also heavily tied into the concepts of Christianity as practiced during the period and the final vestiges of their use were on fast days.

 

If you get around to writing the paper, I would certainly like to see how you think the Mini Ice Age affected the use of trenchers.

 

Bear

 

 

Date: Mon, 26 Sep 2005 09:34:18 +0200

From: Volker Bach <carlton_bach at yahoo.de>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] trenchers

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

 

Am Montag, 26. September 2005 06:12 schrieb Lonnie D. Harvel:

> Terry Decker wrote:

>> There are some German woodcuts that show multiple trencher slices

>> stacked. Wealth households appear to have used them with regularity.

>> The less wealthy used them for special occasions and in single slices,

>> as noted in Menagier's instructions for a wedding feast.  The middle

>> class and poor made do with metal, ceramics and wood.

>

> I have heard this before, and it amazes me. When did precious metals and

> fine porcelain start being used in table service? (or restart, as the

> case may be)

 

I don't think precious metal ever went out of use, but was always limited to the few who could afford it. Porcelain OTOH did not come into widespread use even among the upper classes until the latter half of the seventeenth century, and its spread to the middle and lower classes had to await another century or two. Glazed pottery made from white clay was in use earlier – lead glazes were established since the days of Rome, and decorated versions could be found throughout the early medieval Mediterranean, filtering north slowly (Theophilus Presbyter gives a recipe for such glazes). However, these were fairly expensive and not much like what we would consider porcelain. For the majority of people in period, tableware probably meant coarseware (unglazed earlier in period, glazed later) and wood, with pewter making an appearance late. I can't track wooden trenchers earlier than the 14th century, but there are some earlier wooden finds that may have been them, plenty of shallow bowls, and quite a few pottery fragments that may have answered the purpose. And the idea that everyone needs to have their own eating dish is not necessarily one that need have been held widely at the time.

 

Giano

 

 

Date: Mon, 26 Sep 2005 10:00:10 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] trenchers

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

 

Porcelain became available as an Asian import in the 16th Century. European porcelain manufacture began around 1575, but it wasn't perfected until the

17th Century.  One also needs to consider glass and very delicate stoneware as a stop gap between bread and porcelain.  I'm also certain that there was overlap between fashions.

 

Precious metals in plates were used all through period, but I think you will find they were more widely used in Southern Europe, where bread trenchers appear to be of limited use or non-existent.  Metal and wood were probably also used for dishes carried in one's baggage, as witness a painting of John of Gaunt at table.  Some manor accounts show an annual or semi-annual purchase of stoneware, largely mugs and bowls, to replace broken dishes.

 

Bear

 

 

Date: Mon, 26 Sep 2005 20:11:51 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] trenchers

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

 

> Ceramic/pottery trenchers. Maiolica ceramics.

> Lyse

 

While it's been around for a few thousand years, majolica came back into vogue in 14th Century Spain and was given widespread popularity in Italy by the Della Robbia family of Florence.  I don't have any information on the trade in majolica handy, do you?

 

Bear

 

 

Date: Tue, 27 Sep 2005 17:55:06 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] trenchers and the "mini Ice Age"

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

 

>> Sippets and toasts were used to absorb liquids intentionally poured over

>> them. They are already on a plate, right? Whereas the trenchers were

>> used to catch drippings, but the drippings weren't intentionally poured

>> over the trenchers. We have plenty of evidence that trenchers were not

>> really meant to be eaten by the guests,

>

> We have even more evidence, I suspect, that they were still eaten.

 

What's the documentation for eating trenchers at the table?  I won't say this was never the case, but from the documentation I've seen, trenchers were not intended to be eaten at the table and were cleared into the voiders under the direction of the household almoner for dispensing as charitable gifts to the neighboring poor.  Trenchers were meant to be eaten, but not by members of the household.

 

BTW, two trencher loaves per day (at 12 pence per quarter of flour [240 lbs], the lowest rate in the Assize) for a year costs roughly 2 ½ shillings and 1/2 ton of flour.  When you consider that a major household probably used 4 to 6 trencher loaves per person per day, this was a considerable expense representing as much as 20 per cent of the household provision budget.  The use of trenchers began to decline in the 13th Century (before the assigned start of the Little Ice Age in 1300) and continued into the 17th Century in some places.  I'm fairly certain rising grain prices, some of which can be ascribed to the inclement weather helped contribute to the decline.

 

> I'm thinking more along the lines of, climactic changes may have made

> some people need more calories, and more concentrated carb sources,  than

> before, combined with a scarcity of grain which might make it less

> advisable to create food-based items that aren't going to be eaten. This

> phenomenon, if it _is_ a phenomenon, isn't something I  made up; you see

> evidence of climactic change (as well as reading  specifically about it in

> things like the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles) in records of plague years (the

> plague doesn't go away, it just reaches  epidemic proportions when you

> have an entire population hammered by cold and poor diet for years at a

> time), in clothing styles, and in architecture (look at castle window

> sizes of the period in question, for example, and fireplace sizes).

>

> I'm not prepared to defend this as a thesis, at this point, but I   

> think it's an interesting idea. YMMV.

>

> Adamantius

 

IIRC, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles predates the Little Ice Age, so the calamities recorded there are probably not due to a massive temperature drop, but they could be used to provide a statistical correlation between fat and lean years in a warm period to fat and lean years in a cold period.

 

I think you will find the variables a little more complex than you let, but the thesis is interesting.

 

Bear

 

 

Date: Sat, 31 Dec 2005 14:08:45 -0500

From: "Micaylah" <dy018 at freenet.carleton.ca>

Subject: RE: [Sca-cooks] Bread for 'trenchers'

To: "'Cooks within the SCA'" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

 

> Anyway... I don't want to spend a

> great deal of money on the  bread-making since it's basically throw-away

> plating, yet I do want to encourage the diners to dig in to the top layer

> and enjoy the 'sops'.

 

Since I usually bring a trencher or 2 to feast (no dishwashing for me), and occasionally serve food groups and lunches, I have 2 ways I do this (with a little cheating).

 

For a full blown lunch I will usually go to the baker/grocer and buy day old pumpernickel bread, or some such, and make 2 trenchers from each, although this depends on the size of your bread.

 

For a smaller food group I will throw ingredients into the bread maker at the dough setting and shape them square-ish myself and bake. Not too labor intensive if you're only doing a few dozen or so. I usually get 3-4 trenchers per batch.

 

Micaylah

 

 

Date: Sat, 31 Dec 2005 14:28:22 -0600

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Bread for 'trenchers'

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

 

If you're looking for "poorman's authenticity" toss the idea of using bread trenchers.  They were conspicuous consumption in the Middle Ages and regularly used only in the Great Households.  In lesser noble households they show up only for special occasions (see Menagier).  A tavern would have used wood or possibly pottery trenchers.  Bread trenchers were never meant to be a cheap replacement for table settings.  They were a demonstration of wealth, power, piety and charity.

 

The bread trencher was cut from a small loaf lesser quality bread usually three or four days old and six to eight inches in diameter.  Early trencher loaves may have been larger, but it is difficult to tell from the illustrations.  Early trenchers were simply split loaves.  Carved trenchers and the show associated with carving and squaring them appears in the 13th Century.  The earliest recorded use is in the early 12th Century, but they may have been in use as early as the 10th Century.  The use of trenchers began declining in the 13th Century, but vestiges of their use appear into the 17th Century.  The primary region of their use is Northern Europe from England to Poland.  Their use in Scandinavia, far Eastern Europe and around the Mediterranean seems very limited or non-existent.  The primary region of use matches closely to that part of Europe which operated under the manorial system.

 

Trenchers were only used as plates for relatively dry solid food. They were not meant to hold much liquid.

 

Trenchers were not eaten at the dinner.  The Almoner, who was a chaplain of the household, had the duty of overseeing the removal of used trenchers and uneaten food to be dispensed to the poor as alms.

 

If you still want to use trenchers and you want to cheat a little, use a basic bread recipe of flour, water, yeast and salt and make the flour a 50/50 mix of wheat and rye.  Use a 3 pound coffee can as a baking tin with enough dough to make a 2 lb loaf.  Cut the resulting bread into inch thick slabs and use those for trenchers.  It won't handle thin liquids and anything other than a really heavy sauce will probably go through, but it will give you a "trencher."

 

I've considered making trenchers for a feast a couple of times, but the labor and the cost were too much.

 

Bear

 

 

Date: Sat, 31 Dec 2005 18:03:19 -0600

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Bread for 'trenchers'

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

 

> So we took round bread loaves of dark bread, cut them

> in half and figured that was a 'trencher' like we'd read about.

 

It's a fairly accurate version of an early bread trencher. Dark bread would be more likely the further East you went.

 

> So what I'm trying to come up with is an edible bread that is dense

> enough to serve as a 8" or so platter, that I can put some sauced  

> food on without the bread falling apart before the diner is done eating.

 

A basic bread of whole wheat, rye or maslin (mixed flours) will give you this.  Preferably, they should be staled for four days, but since you want people to eat them, I would go with a mix of rye and wheat a day or two old. Rye hold moisture better than wheat and makes a denser bread.  You probably want the crust a little tough, so don't wrap the loaves after you bake them.

 

> I'm sorry for using 'poorman's authenticity' as a phrase. I had been

> thinking, "what a poor modern researcher would have come up with limited

> resources", not "what a poor man in medieval times would have eaten".

 

> I like the pumpernickel idea. And the whole wheat - many of our folks enjoy

> that (we have some good bakers in the group, who are taking a vacation from

> cooking right now). It looks like I can use a blend of white and assorted

> grains (why bake all the same kind?) and it should work just fine.

>

> Hrothny

 

You haven't said how many plates you plan to serve or how much per plate you are willing to expend on trenchers.  Both of those are serious considerations when determining whether or not to continue.  If you have enough bakers willing to help the labor and time should not be problems.

 

When thinking about mixed grains, remember that blends of flours alter texture and taste and that unusual flours often cost quite a bit more than wheat or rye flour.  Otherwise, the idea sounds fine to me.

 

Bear

 

 

Date: Mon, 2 Jan 2006 14:02:04 -0600

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Bread for 'trenchers'

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

 

> I suspect that at least for the first few times I will >still need to use something under the trencher, at >least until I see how much seeps through, but this >could be a wooden plate about the same size or slightly >smaller than the trencher. Perhaps even something of >plastic since the trencher would hide it.

 

Just remember that except for the heels, slices of a coffee can loaf won't have a crust.  Putting something under them is a good idea.

 

> However, a 3 pound coffee can would make a loaf of a >size and a weight which I wouldn't expect to find in my >bread baking info. For this 2 lb. loaf would you want >to use the baking time given for a 2lb loaf? Or a bit >longer because of the round, fat shape? Or would you >use a lower temperature for a longer time? What about >if I'm working from the recipe for a 1 or 1 1/2 pound >loaf? I'm assuming rectangular or round loaves for the >original directions, rather than a long, thinner loaf >like "French" bread.

>    Stefan

 

A three pound coffee can has a little more volume than a 2 lb loaf pan, but the exposed surface is smaller which contains and channels the expansion. The can needs to be greased (I recommend solid vegetable shortening) before putting in the dough.

 

Weight is not the issue, mass to surface area is.  A basic bread of flour, water, yeast and salt formed into one or two pound loaves will bake in about 40-45 minutes at 425 degrees F, so don't worry too much about shape and weight. The thermal differences between silver and black baking tins will cause more variation in baking than size and weight of the loaves. Temperature and time differences are more critical for loaves enriched with fats or sugars, because they are easier to burn, underbake, or overbake.

 

Small loaves like rolls or odd shaped loaves like baguettes having less mass to surface area are also more likely to take less time or special temperature handling.  For example, the true French baguette goes into a 450-500 degree oven with steam to produce the aeration and crust for an initial period then the temperature is dropped to 350 degrees F and the baguette is allowed to finish baking in declining heat.

 

BTW, most breads are baked at an internal temperature of around 210 degrees F.

 

Bear

 

 

From: Sir Lyonel Oliver Grace <sirlyonel at hotmail.com>

Date: September 4, 2006 2:09:35 AM CDT

To: bryn-gwlad at lists.ansteorra.org

Subject: Re: [Bryn-gwlad] trenchers

 

Salut cozyns,

 

Funny you should mention trenchers, Stefan, I was just about to make a

similar suggestion.

 

I found that, as Tivar noted, pewter (and faux pewter) and brass tend to

conduct the heat of a meal to the feaster (me, damnit). Brass, of course,

has the added difficulty of tarnishing and transferring that nasty coppery

taste to the food. My response to both has been brass chargers with bread

trenchers. Technically, faux bread trenchers. Before we take off for a

feast, I stop at Central Market or Whole Foods and pick up either one plain

foccacio per feaster or a large pagnotta (about 12" to 15" in diameter)

which will provide trenchers for several feasters. If you use a pagnotta,

remember to pack a bow knife, 8" or larger chef's knife, or some sort of

long serrated knife.

 

When the meal is done, you can nibble on portions of your trencher, feed the

whole thing to the dogs (if dogs there be), or just throw it in the garbage.

The chargers will require less cleaning when you get home. Best of all, no

burns and no coppery tasting meats.

 

En Lyonel

 

 

From: Sir Lyonel Oliver Grace <sirlyonel at hotmail.com>

Date: September 5, 2006 12:05:13 PM CDT

To: bryn-gwlad at lists.ansteorra.org

Subject: Re: [Bryn-gwlad] trenchers and plateware

 

Salut cozyns,

 

In a manner of speaking, Dora, yes, plates went out of style. More

precisely, the practice of eating directly from plates went out of  

style.  The plates were often still there under the trenchers.

 

Consider the conditions: stewed and sauced dishes were a popular way to make

efficient use of spices. Fish in many parts of Europe was rarely fresh,

which meant it was bound to be pungent. Some dishes specifically called for

high meats (jugged hare, pheasant, and so forth), which also tended  

to leave a distinct aroma in porous dishes.

 

Plates made of wood or ceramic were difficult or impossible to clean due to

their porosity (ceramic glazes tended to be lower temperature

affairs--something like raku). Metal dishes tend add unpleasant  

flavor notes to delicate acidic sauces.

 

Bread trenchers were an elegant solution. They soaked up the smelly  

bits and made the plates or chargers easier to clean for re-use.

 

The same is true today. Try using a bread trencher at your next feast.

You'll find the clean up afterwards is much easier.

 

lo vostre per vos servir

Meser Lyonel

 

<the end>



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