Stock Medieval Meal YKTTW Discussion

Stock Medieval Meal
Fantasy meals consist of foods such as cheese, peasant bread, stew/broth and sausages.
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(permanent link) added: 2011-05-09 08:13:43 sponsor: SlimBrady edited by: Antigone3 (last reply: 2015-06-02 16:11:45)

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When the protagonists of a fantasy novel stop for a meal, they don't get much of a choice on what to eat. If the setting is anything close to "generic copy of Europe", they'll be handed cheese, bread, stew or soup, and beer.

If the characters are fixing a quick lunch on the road, they might have a pasty or meat pie or some sausage with them, but otherwise it's cheese and bread. Beer would only be available if they just left a town where they could have bought some, anything cooked requires a longer stop (so is normally reserved for the evening meal).

Actual medieval cookery was far more advanced than this [[note]]admittedly the extant cookbooks were written for noble households[[/note]] , but unless the author is a history and/or cooking buff you won't see any sign of this. You also won't see anyone eating plant-based foods other than bread, unless it's being used in the stewpot. Poor people or travelers could gather wild plants, nuts, and mushrooms, but only rarely will fictional characters do likewise.

That said, there's a certain amount of Truth in Television here for poor people. Peasants didn't eat much meat, but bread would have been a staple item, and the stewpot was an efficient way to cook.

A subtrope of The Dung Ages, but can also be found in works that avert that trope.

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Examples

Film
  • In the opening scene of They Call Me Trinity Trinity stops in a saloon and gets stew & bread (not sure about the cheese).

Literature
  • Andre Norton's Operation Time Search. While on a spying mission in Atlantis, Ray Osborne orders food at a tavern and is served a bowl of stew and a hunk of bread.
  • Mocked in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, naturally.
  • Raymond E. Feist's Magician features this as the go-to meal at any inn.
  • David Eddings loved this trope, it shows up in just about all his books. Possibly justified as he also loved sending his heroes on long trips, and they'd need foodstuffs that won't spoil too soon.
    • The Belgariad: Sendaria grows a variety of crops, but according to Belgarath good luck being served anything but turnip stew in a Sendarian inn.
    • The Elenium: On one occasion when Kalten is suckered into fixing breakfast for the knights, he slices bread and cheese for everyone and asks if this gets him off the hook.
  • Comes up a few times in the Gor novels, always mentioning "yellow Sa-Tarna bread, hot out of the oven, baked round and cut into eight wedges."
  • Heralds of Valdemar: Higher-class inns have more variety, but the "menu" at poorer inns/taverns like the Hollybush from Take A Thief is stew made from better inns' scraps, coarse bread, and stale beer.
    • The Collegium Chronicles novels have a lot of "traveler's pies", at one inn visited in Bastion different versions of these pies are the only things on the menu.
  • In Dragon Bones, while fighting bandits, the heroes live on (increasingly mouldy) bread and cheese.
  • Lady Blade, Lord Fighter. When Timper and Softalis eat dinner at an inn their meal includes soup, bread and cheese.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones, pot shops in the poorer parts of King's Landing will sell you a hunk of bread and a "bowl of brown", an indeterminate stew made of meat, vegetables, and the occasional political undesirable.
  • Elminster in Myth Drannor. While traveling to the elven city of Cormanthor, Elminster stops at the Herald's Horn Inn and gets bread, cheese, and soup.
  • In the Brother Cadfael novels, whichever unfortunate fugitive the monk-detective is helping elude an unjust execution or unwanted Arranged Marriage is liable to eat bread and cheese, smuggled to them by a Love Interest or Cadfael himself.

Live-Action Television
  • Merlin seems to have several instances of the bread and cheese popping up, but Gaius and Merlin often had meat as well. Averted with the scenes of Arthur, Merlin and the knights traveling, they seem to have often brought food from the castle (usually stew ingredients) and added to it whatever Arthur could hunt. Probably justified in both cases, since all of them had access to the king's kitchen, even if Gaius and Merlin still got less luxurious meals.

Tabletop Games
  • Basic Dungeons & Dragons module B2 Keep on the Borderlands. The menu of the Traveler's Inn includes bread, soup, stew and cheese.
  • Several inns and taverns in the Judges' Guild supplements serve bread, stew, cheese and sausage.
  • Lejendary Adventure Essentials, introductory adventure "Moon Slaves". The Savory Swine tavern serves an evening meal of stew (made from wild game, herbs, roots and mushrooms) and plenty of crusty bread.

VideoGames
  • Houses in Oblivion usually have cheese, bread, and an assortment of fruits and vegetables strewn across the table. They aren't prepared in any specific way — there are full loaves of bread, full heads of lettuce, etc. It seems like nobody ever actually cooks, but just eats stock pieces of food. It might also be worth mentioning that this is a universe where putting cheese on bread would be considered "alchemy."
  • In a random conversation in Dragon Age, Leliana asks Alistair what the recipe was the party had for dinner last night. Alistair says it's a traditional Fereldan stew: you throw meat and vegetables in a pot and cook until everything turns uniformly brown. Leliana says it was awful.
  • Knights and Merchants: Original release has three types of food: loaves of bread, barrels of wine and strings of sausages. The game has a medieval setting and food production involves making use of farms and then Refining Resources. In one visit to the tavern, a hungry worker won't eat more than one of each and will return to work only partially sated if one or two types are not available.

Real Life
  • A "ploughman's lunch" consists of bread, cheese, pickle, and beer.
  • During World War II, a British prisoner of war making his escape from Italian-occupied Greece into Yugoslavia was hosted by peasant families and resistance fighters in the Balkans. He described a way of life unchanged domestically for centuries, and noted that a communal meal involved a stew-pot being placed centrally on the table where everyone could reach it to fill their bowls. he noted that had they needed to run for safety mid-meal, the Germans could have deduced how many people were in the partisan group from the number of slopped trails radiating out from the central pot.

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