The Tudors had a more varied diet than you might
think. This is a recipe for gingerbread from the house
in the English used at the time.
Take good honey & clarifie it on the fere, &
take fayre paynemayn or watel brede & grate it, & caste it into
the boylenge hony, & stere it will togydr faste with a sklse
that bren not to the vessel. & thane take it doun and put thein
ginger, long prepare & saundres, & tempere it up with thin
handel; & than put hem to a flat boyste & strawon suger, & pick
therin clowes round about by the egge and in the myundes if
it plece you.
Here is the 'translation' with extra details:
500g fresh breadcrumbs (at the time it was likely to be from
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
box leaves and whole cloves, to decorate
Warm the honey until quite runny (commercial honey
doesn't need to be skimmed). The Tudors loved brightly coloured
foods, and would have used a natural dye to colour this treat.
Pour into a large bowl and mix in the breadcrumbs and spices. It
should be very stiff, if not add a more breadcrumbs.
Line a shallow rectangular cake tin with non-stick paper and press
the mixture into it. If it is a little difficult to do this, then
press down with your fingers dipped occasionally in cold water.
Ensure the top is quite level, allow to firm up for an hour or
two. Turn out onto a sheet of baking paper and cut into small
squares. If you have any, decorate each square with two small box
leaves and a clove.
The loos in these times (above right) were
very basic. Henry VIII’s courtiers at Hampton Court shared a
‘great house of easement’ with 28 seats over brick-lined
drains that took the waste into the River Thames. Tudor people
would ‘pluck a rose’ (have a wee) almost anywhere, like the
fire place. Poor people would wipe themselves with leaves,
moss or stones; better off people used old bits of cloth. They
called the loo 'the jakes'. In 1596, Sir John Harrington,
godson of Elizabeth I, invented the first water closet with a
flush. Queen Elizabeth was so impressed that she had 'a john'
built at Richmond Palace.