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Are y’all ready to go to a wedding? Put on your fancy pants and loosen your belt, because there’s feasting ahead.
Matthew laughed. “Almost indistinguishable–so long as the menu includes grilled eel and a gilded peacock.”
The recipes, flavors, and techniques we associate with modern French cooking didn’t develop until after the Renaissance. This isn’t to say that pre-modern cooking was simple–in fact, for the ruling classes, it was quite the opposite. Medieval food “relied on combinations of sweet and sour, huge quantities of spice, heavy processing (so that no ingredient was identifiable or distinct), and trompe-l’oeil, a French term for optical illusion. Nothing was meant to taste as it looked.” In the height of the Renaissance, cooks attempted to return to the recipes and techniques favored by the Greeks and Romans and attempted to heighten the taste of foods rather than alter or disguise them. The French culinary tradition began to change in 1533, when Queen Catherine de Medici came to France from Italy to marry King Henry II. Queen Catherine introduced fricassees, pot roasts, pies, and sorbets to the French culinary lexicon and reportedly required France to learn table manners. This article from National Geographic has extraordinary detail (and images!) to accompany the development of Renaissance table manners — I thoroughly recommend it.
The dishes Matthew mentions would be at home on most medieval or Renaissance tables. Should you be inclined to eat a gilded peacock, you first need to clean and roast the bird, leaving its skin and feathers intact. Once the bird is cooked, you re-dress the bird in its own skin and feathers (not remotely creepy) and then either gilt the whole bit or just the beak. Your call.
If you’re so inclined, Food52 has suggestions for a medieval dinner party prepared in a modern kitchen: chickpea stew, roast chicken, garlic confit, roasted potatoes, and an almond cake. You can also find a rather extensive list of medieval recipes here. I wish you particular luck with the dish called “Garbage.”
Artemis Agrotere, renowned huntress, Alcides Leontothymos beseeches you to hold this child Diana in your hand. Artemis Lykeie, lady of the wolves, protect her in every way. Artemis Patroia, goddess of my ancestors, bless her with children so that my lineage continues. Artemis Phosphoros, bring the light of your wisdom when she is in darkness. Artemis Upis, watch over your namesake during her journey in this world.”
In his incantation, Philippe refers to a number of “epithets” of Artemis. Epithets could be used for literary or ritualistic emphasis to identify the deity (or the aspect of the deity) to whom one prayed.
At the height of the classical period, one could find those worshiping Greek deities from Spain to Afghanistan. Without a standardized image of a deity and without established worship practices, the various cults of Greek gods and goddesses developed different forms of address that reflected both the desire to avoid addressing the divine directly (HEY DEMETER, ARE YOU LISTENING? v. “I beseech you, great lady of the hearth.”).
Philippe’s incantation lists several of Artemis’s epithets, but there are dozens of others, including:
- Brauronia – protector and keeper of girls
- Parthenos – “virgin”
- Hegemone – ruler of nymphs
- Limenia – protector of harbors
- Limnatis – goddess of transition, goddess of the marsh
- Lokhea, Genetyllis – protector of women in childbirth
- Aeginaea – wielder of the javelin
- Coryphaea – goddess who inhabits the summit of the mountain
- Daphnaea – “of the laurel”
- Heurippe – finder of horses
A hero with dark hair and green eyes named Peleus left his home to seek his fortune.”
As we discussed in Episode 25 – Partyfamilias, Philippe uses the wedding banquet as an opportunity to tell the story of Peleus and Thetis, the sea nymph, parents of Achilles. The myth of Peleus and Thetis is a complicated one, but it’s useful to know that their wedding is the one that started the Trojan War. P&T failed to invite Eris, goddess of strife, to the wedding and so she sent the golden apple inscribed with the words, “To the fairest.” Chaos ensued. Many died.
The part we haven’t talked about yet is the potential connection between Philippe — Alcides Leontothymus, or maybe Heracles–and Peleus. See, Peleus was a friend of Heracles who served with the great hero in his expedition against the Amazons. Philippe sings the invocation to the heroes from Catullus at Matthew and Diana’s wedding banquet. Catullus wrote that the Fates sang a magic song–this magic song–at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, much as Philippe does for Matthew and Diana.
To be fair to Marie, La Robe (I thought of my ensemble only in French, and always in capitals) was spectacular,
In the Real-Time Reading Companion, Deb reveals that she based Diana’s 16th century wedding gown on the costume pictures in Lavinia Fontana’s “Portrait of a Lady of the Court.” Fontana “is considered to be the first woman to become a successful professional artist in Europe.”
She completed over seventy works and became a renowned portraitist in her native Bologna, Italy.
The “Portrait of a Lady of the Court” depicts an unknown sitter dressed in the rich textiles of sixteenth century Bologna. It is “likely” that the portrait depicts a prospective bride based on the imagery of the flowers and cornucopia adorning her costume. Fontana was well-known for her ability to render clothing and jewels in exquisite detail and, as a result, many upper-class Bolognese families vied for her portrait services. Apparently, one often included dogs in marital portraits as a symbol of fidelity.
Marriages take place at the church door to avoid bloody disputes later over whether or not the ceremony took place as reported. We can thank God there isn’t a blizzard.”
Matthew’s correct — medieval marriages often happened outside to ensure multiple witnesses. In an era where most marriages took place for financial or political reasons, everyone had a rather vested interest in legitimacy — both of the marriage and of any offspring who resulted from the match. This is odd, I think for a period of history in which it was relatively easy to get married by accident. This is the plot of several Hallmark movies and Lauren Willig’s Deception of the Emerald Ring (good fun, would recommend).
To my great surprise, Medieval Times (yes, THAT Medieval Times) has a reasonably-sized article on medieval marriage ceremonies. Around the internet, you can find a wealth of trivia regarding medieval weddings — did you know, for example, that the tradition of throwing the garter (which I detest) comes from the Middle Ages? People used to bundle the bride and groom forcibly into bed and then rip off bits of their clothes as tokens. The garter is a convenient way to do that without, you know, committing assault. Tiered wedding cakes also appear to come from the medieval period, when guests of the bride and groom would bring tiny cakes to stack on top of one another as a part of the marriage feast.
For your entertainment, here’s an unrelated article on weird wedding traditions from Mental Floss. Should you be interested in planning your own medieval or Renaissance wedding, Pinterest has you covered.
We’ll catch up to Matthew and Diana on 17 December at the end of their honeymoon. In the meantime, feel free to join us in our Facebook group, the Chamomile and Clove Clovers, or follow us on Twitter @chamomilenclove. You can also e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until then, take care.
Cait and Jen