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eating-plates-msg - 7/25/09


Period eating plates. Roundels.


NOTE: See also the files: p-tableware-msg, mazers-msg, utensils-msg, trenchers-msg, Trenchers-Hst-art, merch-pottery-msg, forks-msg, spoons-msg.





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: vcarpentier at berksys.com (Victoria Carpentier)

Newsgroups: rec.food.historic,rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Request:medieval feast

Date: 23 Sep 1994 23:15:06 GMT

Organization: BSI


> >I want recipes to cook a medieval feast, with my kids.  We have read a few

> >kids books that describe the royal banquet.  They didn't have plates, they


> "They didn't have plates" is an overstatement.  I believe at least the

> wealthier feasters would have trenchers ON plates. Anyway, many rich


You can find references to wooden and pewter plates in art works and old

writings.  At least for the Rennaissance.  Bowls were also common.





Date: Wed, 20 May 1998 08:53:47 -0500

From: vjarmstrong at aristotle.net (Valoise Armstrong)

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: Wooden feast gear documentation


>A question has been put to me by a member of my canton, as to

>documentation for a set of wooden feast gear she would like to make -

>what it might look like (plates vs. trenchers, for instance), what kind

>of wood to use, etc. She has been having some trouble finding adequate

>resources locally.


There are some pictures in Essen und Trinken: Tafelsitten bis zum Ausgang

des Mittelalters by Guenther Schiedlausky that show round wooden plates.

These are simple rounds of wood with no rim of any kind - soupy stuff would

run off the sides. One group of plates is completely unadorned, but there is

another set that has scenes painted in the center, like sewing, harvesting,

etc. from different months of the year. There is lettering running around

the the outside the painted scene. Schiedlausky doesn't say what kind of

wood it is, but hardwood seems reasonable. Should be easy to make.


Have you looked at any Brueghel peasant paintings? He depicts feasts in

simple settings, maybe he shows some wooden tableware along with the






Date: Thu, 15 Oct 98 00:30:49 -0500

From: Dottie Elliott <difirenze at usa.net>

Subject: Re: SC - feastware question


>I just got through looking at a site that has beautiful late anglo-saxon

>reproduction pottery on it.


If this is a web site, I would love to see the address.


As someone who has been studying medieval pottery (and learning to make

pottery) for a while now I will try to answer this. First of all, our

knowledge of the middle ages is based on what archeologist have found,

and drawings, paintings and writings or the period. Its my opinon that

its impossible to tell from an illuminated manuscript or painting whether

an item is metal, pottery or wood. Plates in England aren't found until

the late fifteen hundreds and those were square and made of wood. Now,

they did have silver plates before that. It was an ostentatious show of

wealth and was used as such. Often such plates (and even the more

beautiful pottery) was displayed during feasts rather than used as

another show of wealth (you have so much you don't need to use it all).


Most of the pottery that survives from England are pots, jugs, pitchers,

pans and later cups, bowls and so on.  Pottery in England in the 10th &

11th centuries was mostly rather simple (well compared to Italy). It was

crudely made and decorated possibly not all. Pottery was mostly very

functional. Cups of the time are mostly wood (bowls) or metal. Things got

better as time went on. I have read that the pottery industry in England

collapsed when Rome withdrew and that explains why their pottery was crude

early on. Certainly, it was not nearly as finished looking nor as highly

decorated as Italy's pottery.


Also, let me say that of the cups, bowls and plates I am making, plates

are the hardest. You must be careful to leave enough clay for the bottom

to be able to use the item but if you leave too much it will warp on

drying and be too heavy. My teacher agress that they are one of the

harder items to make.


Its my personal opinion that poorer folks used simple wood bowls in their

own homes because they would have been eating bread (not using it as a

plate and throwing/giving it away). This was something they could make

themselves as well. Wood doesn't break as easily as pottery either.


Please also remember that at feasts folks shared food containers.  How

many people you might share with depended on your social rank.  The type

of bread and amount and type of food was dictated by this as well.  The

trencher was a place to put your portion that you removed from a communal

bowl. There is a whole realm of ettiquette on how to share food (like its

bad manners to eat the trencher), share cups, etc. Its my opinion that

when serving large groups of people, bread trenchers were the only way to

give that many folks their own 'plate'.


I started learning about pottery with the single intent of making period

looking items for displaying my food in A&S contests. I was sadly

disappointed to find that for England and France, bread trenchers are

what I must use. For Italy, at least, I can do plates & bowls.





Date: Sun, 05 Jul 2009 08:57:16 -0700

From: David Walddon <david at vastrepast.com>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Simple plates was Size of Trenchers

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>


I have to dig through my books but I am fairly certain that I have a

reference to "paper" plates (oiled parchment?) being used as an plate in

Italy in the 1400's. IIRC it was Venetian.

Does anyone else recall the reference?

Otherwise I will start digging.





Date: Sun, 5 Jul 2009 09:35:46 -0700 (PDT)

From: avrealtor at prodigy.net

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Size of Trenchers

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>


I have used Bamboo veneer plates mundanely and they work out pretty well. They run about a $1 plate and are bio-degradable. Yes, I know bamboo is probably not period, but they look alot better then paper and would be less expensive then making your own probably.


A quick search found bulk suppliers.






--- On Sat, 7/4/09, David Friedman <ddfr at daviddfriedman.com> wrote:

I've been corresponding with a lady who is thinking of trying to set up a period cookshop at Pennsic next year. One issue is what tos serve the food on. Bread bowls are modern, paper plates are strikingly modern and cost something, reusable plates have to be washed and risk theft.


One obvious answer is bread trenchers--which raises the question of how big they were. The only figure I can find is from _Le Menagier_ and seems to be 4"x6", which would be awfully small for serving food on. I'm wondering if we have other sources, and if one can make a reasonable case that trenchers were sometimes substantially larger than that--large enough to serve moderns as plates.


Anyone have anything?

-- David/Cariadoc



Date: Sun, 5 Jul 2009 11:07:37 -0700 (GMT-07:00)

From: lilinah at earthlink.net

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Size of Trenchers

To: SCA-Cooks <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>


An alternative to paper plates is disposable dining ware made of leaves. No, i don't mean finding them on site. They are commercially made. Probably more expensive than paper, not necessarily period for Europe (but fine for India), but less glaringly modern.


I buy them at Whole Foods and sometimes bring them to camping events to avoid a lot of washing up and because i don't want to risk breaking my irreplaceable expensive period-type Middle Eastern dinnerware (some by a Laurel in Australia, some by a Laurel from Kentucky).


When i ate at an Indian restaurant in Singapore back in the late 1970s, all diners communally sat on long benches at long tables. Someone came down the rows and slapped down a clean fresh leaf - large and long, having an area equivalent to a dinner plate, although not the shape - in front of newly arrived diners.


Then someone else came down the rows with a stainless steel "bucket" of rice, scooped out a serving and dumped it on the leaf. Then another person came by with a "bucket" of vegetarian "curry", and another with condiments.


One ate with one's hands. And when a diner was finished someone came a refuse bucket, and swept the leaf and crumbs off the table.


No washing up and all biodegradable. And not particularly Medieval European...


Urtatim (that's err-tah-TEEM)



Date: Sun, 5 Jul 2009 13:27:15 -0400

From: Barbara Benson <voxeight at gmail.com>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Simple plates was Size of Trenchers

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>


I have not seen this reference, but I doubt that they were using

parchment for this purpose. If the reference is to "paper" plates then

it is most likely actually paper. Paper was being manufactured in

Spain as early as 1150 and the first of the Fabriano mills were

established in Italy in 1276 with paper being recorded as being used

in the same Italian area as early as 1154. By the 1400's paper would

have been widely available and used in Italy as well as many of the

other European countries.


It was considerably less expensive to manufacture than parchment and

would have been seen as "disposable" whereas parchment was much more

highly valued for it's other uses. I would love to hear more about

this reference to paper plates - paper things are one of my "special"

interests and particularly challenging due to their very ephemeral



Serena da Riva


On Sun, Jul 5, 2009 at 11:57 AM, David Walddon<david at vastrepast.com> wrote:

<<< I have to dig through my books but I am fairly certain that I have a

reference to "paper" plates (oiled parchment?) being used as an plate in

Italy in the 1400's. IIRC it was Venetian.

Does anyone else recall the reference?

Otherwise I will start digging.

We are having a Scappi cooking day today so it might be tomorrow.


Eduardo >>>



Date: Sun, 5 Jul 2009 19:49:55 -0400

From: Robin Carroll-Mann <rcarrollmann at gmail.com>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Size of Trenchers

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>


There's an article about Tudor and Stuart table-settings by Peter

Brears in "The Appetite and the Eye".  Data from the records of the

Pewterers' Company in 1533 suggest that pewter trenchers were about 7

or 8 inches in diameter.  He mentions wooden trenchers, both square

and round, but doesn't give sizes.


Brighid ni Chiarain



Date: Sun, 5 Jul 2009 19:10:24 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Size of Trenchers

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>


IIRC, there is a painting of John of Gaunt with two square metal trenchers

joined book style on the table before him.  They appear to be about 12

inches square.


A kitchen scene by Campi shows round dished plates standing in a plate rack

on the wall.  They appear to be able to serve as plates or bowls and appear

to be about a foot in diameter.  The color appears to be a dark blue so they

might be metal or stoneware.





Date: Mon, 06 Jul 2009 08:00:55 -0400

From: Elise Fleming <alysk at ix.netcom.com>

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Trenchers, Etc.  Was Size of Trenchers

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


Peter Brears, in his new book "Cooking and Dining in Medieval England,

says (regarding bread trenchers) that "portions of solid foods were

placed [on them] - once they had been cut out of the joints on the

dishes - so that they could be cut into smaller pieces and lifted to the

mouth...they were not plates.  Food was never piled on them, and sloppy

foods never placed on them...Their function was to preserve the

tablecloth from knife-cuts and any form of soiling, not to hold the

whole of a person's entire course before them."  So, our idea of

trenchers being equal to our modern plates would seem to be erroneous.


He cites use of silver trenchers in the 1360s and wooden trenchers being

shipped in quantity in 1499 (16-25 cost a penny).


Marina (Jane Boyko) mentioned dessert trenchers (aka "roundels").  There

are some photos of some in the V&A and one at Hampton Court on my Flickr

page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8311418 at N08/sets/72157604451045938/ .


 Unfortunately, the V&A ones aren't clear.  Her guess of 6 inches would

seem to be accurate.  I found one modern source that said they were made

of sycamore or beech and were about 5 - 5.5 inches in diameter.  In 1391

the Earl of Derby had pewter "spyce-plates" which had weights from 6

ounces to 1.5 lbs.


Besides being made of wood, roundels could be made of sugar paste or

marzipan.  The banquet course (dessert) "plates" came in various shapes

and could even be made of glass (which could be rented!).  Some were

oval shaped, some had a handle on one side with which to hold the plate.


Here are some "poesies" that were I found in various books which were

taken from period "roundels" or dessert trenchers.


1. Be neither dumb nor give your tongue the lease, But speak thou well

or hear and hold your peace.  (Elizabethan)


2. I thou be young, then marry not yet/ If thou be old thou hast more

gette/ For young men?s wives wil not be taught/ And old men?s wives be

good for naught.  (16th c.)


3. Beshrew his heart that married me/ My wife and I can never agree/ A

knavish queen by this I swear/ The goodman's breeches she thinks to

wear.  (16th c.)


4. The Ape would have half Leonard?s tayle/ To hide his bum naked as his

nayle/ The meaning is, such as have store/ Should be more liberal to the

poor.  (early 17th c.)


5. Biblical:  All they will live Godly in Christ Jhesu must suffer

persecution 2 times 3.


6. We must enter the kingdom of God through much trouble and affliction.


People ate off the plain side and then turned over the roundel to read,

sing, or perform the words on the back.  Designs came from many sources.

 Sometimes colored prints were cut out, glued to the back, and

varnished over.


Alys K.


Elise Fleming

alysk at ix.netcom.com




Date: Mon, 06 Jul 2009 21:38:15 -0400

From: Johnna Holloway <johnnae at mac.com>

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Roundels was

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>


Continuing what Countess Alys has already said,


Roundels appear in a number of museum collections.


Birmingham has this set with this description

"11 sycamore roundels in a circular beech box dating from around 1550



scroll down to see other examples to click upon.


Searching the collection at the V&A



one finds a rather splendid set of 12

Twelve Wonders of the World




Sycamore, with painted decoration in white and gold on black




St Albans





Searching under just "roundel" turns up more photos.

Try *http://tinyurl.com/kk2umw




*What's interesting is that prints begin to appear in books in the 17th

century that might be used

for roundels and trenchers. *

"*/12 Plates for cheez trenchers"

see http://bpi1700.cch.kcl.ac.uk/printsMonths/may2008.html/


*As to paper being used as suggested by   Eduardo

I came across this mention "I've been intrigued by the Elizabethan

roundels, thin wooden (sometimes just varnished paper) placemats. The

examples I've seen have poems or verses with an illustration. They were

typically handed out in box sets, very much like the cork placemats

elderly aunts today invariably give as wedding gifts. I like the idea of

producing a set for personal use, as well as possibly producing a set

for a feast, with the menu on one side and songs on the other. I'm still

in the experimental stage with these, looking for suitable artwork or

artwork styles. I think they'd be very handy as an encouragement to

singing for the hundreds of songs we know the chorus to but can only

stumble through the verses. (The example shown here has the verses for

/Greensleeves/." This is from an SCA member's website.

webcentre.co.nz/kk/printing.htm <http://webcentre.co.nz/kk/printing.htm>;


I'll to check some books. I think I have more references to this also.




<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org