Saturday, 6 December 2014

Partridges in pears trees?

Well its almost Christmas, there is a Cadbury's advent calendar in the house. But my thoughts turned to the old rhyme "The Twelve Days of Christmas". Surely it must be medieval in origin?

Specifically I was keen for MedievalMorsels to offer 12th scale miniature pears by this December, to accompany my dollshouse miniature partridges. Mission accomplished this week!
Bowls of pears, 12th scale dolls house food, by MedievalMorsels

A beautiful British Christmas stamp (1 of 12!) issued in 1977

Roasted partridges one inch dollhouse miniature by MedievalMorsels
 Strictly a ground bird the partridge was never likely to be found in pear trees! This misunderstanding seems to have arisen from mistranslation of the French song. Une perdix is French for a partridge and une perdrix for a pear tree! An easy mistaken association for an English speaker to make in translation.  I have an ambitious plan for next year, which will rely on abundant medieval themed poultry!
The full 1977 Christmas set of British commemorative stamps

Namely scale models for a Medieval or Tudor dolls house. Two turtle doves and three French hens will be required. I think either in their plumage, or toasty and spit roasted!  There is little obvious difference between a pigeon and a turtle dove when its roasted luckily for me. I suspect from research I have done, and the stamp seems to bear this out, that French hens were a short-legged variety. At the minute I just model a standard chicken - but is a fat neutered male - a capon.
Not hens but capons modelled by MedievalMorsels
Two turtle doves or at least common or garden pigeons

Four calling or colley birds - I will certainly need to find out about these. From the stamp they look like a member of the corvid (crows, ravens etc) family but perhaps the smaller blackbird, known for its beautiful song and thus a calling bird?  Six geese present no problem, nor their eggs.
MedievalMorsels takes on roast goose for a Tudor dollshouse 

One inch scale dollshouse miniature food - geese eggs

My biggest challenge will be seven swans swimming atop medieval pies. There are some stupendous models out there. I may have to make a medieval swan-shaped biscuits instead. Lets see how my modelling progresses in 2015!

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Purple carrots - who would believe it?

I visited the city of Gdansk in Poland at the end of October. I had not realised what a medieval treasure it is, one of Europe’s largest historical centres apparently. A most welcome revelation in fact.  But what impressed me greatly amongst some of the largest surviving  medieval brick buildings in the world  was….wait for it….a market stall full of colourful carrots!

Gothic Town Hall photo by Gdansk City Guide
But first, some architecture -  lovingly and painstakingly restored. Because in 1945, at the end of World War II, Gdansk was reduced to rubble. The city authority took a decision to rebuild from the bombed ruins, faithfully reproducing  original external architecture and internal decoration.
Gate in City wall, Mariacki Street. Photo: Gdansk City Guide

St Mary's cathedral photo Gdansk City Guide
This was achieved first, by using historic and contemporary sources and second, by using as much reclaimed medieval brick and other building material as could be sorted and salvaged from the devastated townscape. The project is still ongoing, witness medieval warehouse walls on the city’s Granary Isle still to be restored. However, one restored granary now serves as the home of the Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra and another is an enticing four star hotel.  

Today in Gdansk’s Stare Miasto (Old Town) you are carried back to the Middle Ages. In amongst the reconstructions are many authentic old buildings. According to the Gdansk City Guide  most streets are located where they were in medieval times, and many retain their original 500 year old names.

Above all Gdansk was a medieval harbour town, a Hanseatic trading port whose storerooms and warehouses on the wharves lay side by side with entry gates through the medieval walls, allowing daytime access to people and produce. Nestled amongst these impressive utilitarian buildings, all made of brick, are the town houses built by rich merchant guildsmen as well as palatial houses built for barons and kings. My home town of King’s Lynn in Norfolk was also a Hanseatic trading port, there is absolutely no doubt that  sailing vessels laden with timber, wool, grain, herrings and more plied between the two.

As a student of geology I did wonder where the nearest stone quarry was - obviously many miles distant to make it cost effective for medieval man to fire clay bricks instead. A labour intensive process demanding forests of wood, or charcoal produced from the trees, to fire those brick ovens. This area of Europe was in fact heavily glaciated as recently as 20,000 years ago. The present landscape is swathed in hundreds of metres of loose glacial deposits, including glacial clays laid down directly by continent-wide the ice sheets. So solid bedrock was inaccessible. Itinerant medieval stone masons would find no work in Gdansk!

Now to those Gdansk carrots, an ancient variety whose natural colour is purple. And in Medieval times this was the case, but genetic variation commonly resulted in yellow and white carrots too. It is from such carrots that the today’s now common orange variety was bred, probably by Dutch horticulturalists.
MedievalMorsels authentic carrots for a historic dolls house!

The real thing - display of multi-coloured carrots in Gdansk market!

Here too are MedievalMorsels one inch scale carrots, modelled at one inch scale for your medieval, gothic or Tudor dollhouse! Or to collect as a desirable miniature!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Boars' Heads

I spent last weekend at a miniaturist workshop working with modelling clays. We learned several new clay techniques. And, importantly, corrected faults in our improvised processes under the tutelege of Angie Scarr. Angie is a renowned polymer clay miniaturist who has taken the miniaturist polymer clay art-form leap years forward. She has over 30 years experimented with and fully understands the properties of the clay. But she also closely observes colour, texture, repeating patterns in nature so that her models are truly lifelike.
Now I don’t want to bore you (I’m sorry but a pun is intended here) with an account of the magnificently realistic peeled apples, oranges and bananas that we made. Or the strawberry plants that were left in various stages of assembly at the end of our second day. Yes, some of us were rather slow workers even though we had a small strawberry planter to fill!  Nor shall I “show and tell” the wonderful cuts of salmon and whole fish we made, with shrimps on the sid. These will no doubt feature in a later blog. and they will certainly feature in my MedievalMorsels online shop.  Except the bananas which, without checking, I am reasonably sure did not feature in a Middle Ages or early Renaissance diet. But every other food type we modelled over three days  could be found on the Medieval high table.

I do want to mention that I was intrigued that we drove daily to and from the course in Kent through a village called Boar’s Head. Here I should thank my brother-in-law Jon for driving my sister Lucy and I rather early each morning - yes we were keen.

Now I have always felt exposed to criticism, ever since I first opened my MedievalMorsels online shop in February of this year, because I did not model a boar’s head. Afterall it is what most people think of when first considering Medieval and Tudor food. Well admittedly we might think of the more usually served pig’s heads as well…

So I had to bite the bullet and model one. Well last night I modelled three and here they are.

One is decorated with strawberry flowers, leaves and berries. Oops I’ll never finish that strawberry plant now! 

They make an outing to a new UK Miniatura event in Solihull tomorrow Sunday 16 November - lets see if any dolls house enthusiasts out there like them enough to buy them! To do that they would have to drop by the “Abasketof…” stall where my sister and her friend Gillian’s beautiful contemporary food and table settings will be on display. We both hope for a successful day at this new event in the internationally renowned Miniatura calendar.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Rabbits and hares abound

I was in Cirencester again the other week, showing off this lovely market town to family - as you do! An important ancient Roman settlement in the rolling Cotswold Hills of conquered England, Cirencester sat at an important intersection of painstakingly constructed, long distance Roman roads.

What we noticed was that hares abounded - literally - in classy shop windows and in sophisticated courtyards. These hares were big - about 5 feet high - and beautifully decorated in a variety of styles to complement the elegant model. I remembered that other hares, now missing, had been much in evidence on a previous visit Easter to Cirencester, part of a town-wide charitable sponsorship event.  

But why hares you may ask? Well several important mosaics have been unearthed within the remains of excavated Roman villas, municipal bath houses and the like in Cirencester’s environs. One of the most impressive mosaics, discovered during town centre redevelopment in the 1970s, features a lovely hare. I think therefore we have the answer to our hare question.
 The Corinium Hare, a Roman mosaic 
Members of the biological family Leporidae, early Roman hare and rabbit husbandry involved keeping them in “lepotaria” or walled gardens on villa estates. Here they happily reproduced and were periodically caught using ferrets, to be served up as gourmet dishes. Romans believed that the meat of the hare helps to preserve beauty, the Emperor Alexander Severus 222-235 AD ate it every day!

MedievalMorsels models one inch scale dolls house miniatures
12th scale rabbits on butcher's block
In Medieval times  in Britain the Roman practice continued at least as far as rabbits were concerned. Walled and paved courtyards forcing them to breed above ground. However it is unlikely that hares, which do not burrow, continued to be kept in this way. Records, such as they are, from earliest Medieval times hares were considered game to be hunted.

Pre-dating the Romans, Greek hunters on the island of Crete trained fast, slender greyhounds to hunt their hares. Apparently the Greeks enjoyed hare plainly spit-roasted. Back in 350 BC Archestratus, the Greco-Sicilian father of gastronomy and author of one of the world’s first cookbooks, stated “the true gourmet is he who is not disgusted by an undercooked hare”. Sounds like a dish that would divide opinion even today!

 MedievalMorsels models one inch scale rabbits set on medieval butcher’s blocks. Dollhouse food that will equally suit Tudor, Gothic or rustic miniature settings.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Breaking news. Neanderthals ate roast pigeon!

Neanderthal man’s eating habits, as well as his cave art, hit the headlines this summer in the UK and further afield. New discoveries made on the edge of Europe, from sea caves at the foot of the Rock of Gibraltar, have literally been ground breaking in academic circles. Published results have shed new light on aspects of Neanderthal life, challenging previously held assumptions.

The Rock of Gibraltar rising to 1396 feet, Africa in the distance

 Now I have a family connection to Gibraltar and have visited many times. So I have been eagerly  awaiting the results from the most recent archaeological excavations. Okay, you may say, but surely Neanderthals’ diets from tens and even hundreds of thousands of years ago cannot be directly compared to a Medieval diet enjoyed between 500 - 1500 AD? Well surprisingly the two do have foods in common - including pigeon, quite possibly “roasted”.


Perhaps this is all the more surprising because Neanderthals, who became extinct about 39,000 years ago, are not even our direct ancestors!!  Homo sapiens is in fact the ancestor of Modern Humans, not our hairy Homo neanderthalensis. Neanderthals were in fact only distant cousins of modern humans, reaching Europe from Africa some 300,000 years ago before Homo sapiens arrived on the scene


Being brainier and thus more readily able to adapt to changing environmental conditions, Homo sapiens in fact contributed to Neanderthals’ eventual extinction. Actually Gibraltar, situated on the edge of Europe and presently facing Africa across just a few miles of water, is a plausible candidate as the last stronghold for Homo neanderthalensis as a species. Hunted to the point of extermination, or gradually dying out "naturally" alone in all the world - either way its a sad end of the line for this ancient ancestral hominid. 


So lets get back to that, possibly, roast pigeon! The 70,000-year-old charred bones of Gibraltar’s Gorham’s Cave  have many cut and tooth marks and conclusively show that rock doves - the ancestor of all today’s pigeons - were a favourite caveman delicacy. The research team speculates that a moderately skilful climber would have found it easy to snatch 'squabs’ (young birds) from their nests. Even though it must be admitted  by those familiar with the Rock, that Gibraltar has some mighty sheer cliffs that would have certainly been off limits to scramblers.  And probably a little vertiginous and exposed for the rock doves too!


One inch scale Medieval/Tudor dollhouse food - roasted pigeon

In medieval times pigeons were raised in pigeon houses and dovecotes, or in specially constructed niches in the castle walls. Pigeon eggs would rarely be eaten but instead fattened squabs, fed by industrious parents foraging nearby, would
Barbary Partridge - a native bird of Gibraltar
be harvested
 during the long breeding year. Meat destined for the pot, pies, spit-roast or the street brazier.  Medievalmorsels 

12th scale miniature food - roast partridge

has modelled roasted pigeons, as well as other small birds such as the partridge. Gibraltar, by the way, is also home to the Barbary Partridge, more commonly found in North Africa, which is featured on its coinage.


Earlier  research from the Gorham’s cave caves showed that fish, dolphin, monk seal and mussels, as well as many types of bird, were eaten by Neanderthals. Again, not so different the Medieval diet which certainly did include plenty of fish and shellfish, as well as birds of all types, and dolphin and porpoise but probably not the feisty seal!

One last gem from Gorham’s cave.  Announced just last week (2nd September) to the world's press is the oldest known example of abstract art - a series of criss-crossed lines cut into stone, looking not unlike a noughts and crosses  (tic tac toe) board or, in more modern parlance, a hash-tag! Previously Neanderthals were considered incapable of abstract thought and expression. So now archaeologists admit they must redefine their perception of Neanderthal culture - even though the art is difficult to interpret.

 A last thought. Which is more civilised? A tribal society of non-modern humans who share all the foods they gather or hunt?  Or a society of modern humans living some 300,000 to 40,000 years later in Medieval times, who use access to food to shore up their power base - passing divisive legislation so that only a chosen few, the nobility, are allowed to eat the “best”, most refined and rarest foods?

This very morning (8 September 2014) on BBC Radio 4 the ancestry of ancient humans and the relationship of Homo sapiens to Homo neanderthalensis was being discussed. How nice to be on trend even when talking about old bones!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Buckets of eels, eels in pies and eels "reversed"

Eels were commonplace in rivers and thus a popular food for the taking in Medieval times. In fact there is ample evidence that they were fished, or indeed I think we can say farmed, for centuries beforehand in Egyptian and even earlier civilisations. Eel traps woven from flexible willow strands are familiar to archaeologists throughout the world.

In Medieval towns, eels like other fish were kept in “stew ponds” until required for the table. For obvious reasons carniverous (meat eating) pike, eels, and tench were kept in separate ponds from less feisty and flesh friendly fish - carp, bream, perch etc. Otherwise pretty empty stew ponds would result!

In the early Middle Ages the "canny" Holy Roman Emperor and King of France Charlemagne (742-814) ordered stew ponds for pike, eels and tench to be made on all his estates. The proceeds raised swelled the imperial treasury’s money chests!

The King’s Pike Ponds at Southwark on the south side of the Thames supplied the English Royal table. The moat of the Tower of London was also used for fish production. Take a look at this eel trap found there, now on display in the Museum of London.

Medieval willow eel trap excavated from the moat of the Tower of London
 At one time in the English countryside willow eel traps were such a common sight on rivers that laws had to be passed to limit their numbers. Some historians suggest that whoever wrote the paragraph in the Magna Carta mentioning ‘fish weirs’ probably meant eel traps!
Eels are opportunistic nocturnal carnivores, scavenging on dead meat. This meant traps could be baited with whatever carcass, tainted fish or meat was to hand. A pleasing haul of live eels was practically guaranteed when the trap was lifted! 

The colours of eels vary widely with the bottom on which they live. MedievalMorsels’ dark eels for a 12th scale Medieval or Tudor dolls house or gothic/rustic setting are typical of the dark, putrid mud of the medieval River Thames, where so much discarded meat was thrown by butchers, along with animal carcasses. And let us hope hapless human beings did not end up in London's Thames as well.

One inch scale medieval  dolls house food -a bucket of eels!
An intriguing French 13th century recipes is for “eels reversed”.  Skinned and de-boned, then sliced lengthwise and flattened into long rectangles, they were then filled with a mixture of meat and spices and sewn back together, inside out. The eel is then cooked and served.
Eels by Medievalmorsels, 12th scale dollhouse food 

Eels are very rich in fat, but smoked they proved a bit more digestible. But a fatty fish would be a welcome addition to the medieval diet, served as a stew or in a pie! Especially during meat-free Lent. Overindulgence would probably lead to indigestion, or, if tainted, to food poisoning. In fact folklore has it that two Kings of England fell prey to over-eating, not eels but lampreys. Similar looking, they are probably highly fatty too. Lampreys are fodder for a post another day!

I have eaten smoked eel, probably locally sourced, at a  "guinguette" or dancehall on the River Seine beyond Paris. They tasted just like aged, smoked trout- very pleasant indeed.

The life cycle of the European eel
The European eel, Anguilla anguilla, is born and dies in the ocean, spawning in the Sargasso Sea. But it lives in freshwater for most of its life. Unbeknown to Medieval peasants who simply farmed or ate them, European eels have a complex life history and were exploited in most life stages. Those that were fished did not have the chance to breed. No surprise then, that their numbers - very numerous in the Middle Ages - have dwindled drastically in modern times.  In England the eel is now officially a critically endangered species! A sad reversal of fortune for the eel. Its the same story for the formerly numerous guinguettes on the River Seine.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Badges and banners - Richard III's boar, Henry Tudor's dragon, antelopes and the Tudor rose!

When Lancastrian Henry Tudor seized the crown of England at the Battle of Bosworth on 22nd August 1485, almost 530 years ago to the day, he defeated Yorkist King Richard III, who was killed on the battlefield. Henry was close to ending the 32 year old political and military conflict between the Houses of Lancaster and York that came, later, to be known as the “Wars of the Roses”. The final cessation of hostilities between cousins actually came two years later with the Lancastrian victory at the Battle of Stoke Field in 1487.

Richard III seasoned military strategist at age 32 and confident of victory, rode out from the medieval town of Leicester behind his personal badge, a white -  or  “argent” in heraldic terms - boar.
Richard III's  motto in Latin reads "Loyalty binds me"
But before 48 hours had elapsed the town worthies and populace were to turn out once more, this time to pay homage to their new monarch Henry VII. He had fought and won under his personal badge - the dragon - of his native Wales.
Henry Tudor's banner incorporated a red dragon, symbol of Wales
Henry's father was Edmund Tudor from the House of Richmond, and his mother was Margaret Beaufort from the House of Lancaster. In January 1486, now King Henry VII, he married Elizabeth of York to bring all factions together. And with her he went on to have a second son Henry who was, following the death of his older brother Arthur, to become Henry VIII.

 The historian Thomas Penn writes:“The "Lancastrian" red rose was an emblem that barely existed before Henry VII. Lancastrian kings used the rose sporadically, but when they did it was often gold rather than red; Henry VI, the king who presided over the country's descent into civil war, preferred his badge of the antelope.
A chained antelope, house badge of Plantagenet King Henry VI
Contemporaries certainly did not refer to the traumatic civil conflict of the 15th century as the "Wars of the Roses". 

For the best part of a quarter-century, from 1461 to 1485, there was only one royal rose, and it was white: the Yorkist badge of Edward IV (elder brother of Richard III).”  
I photographed this Medieval stained glass window in Leicester’s Guildhall, built by the Guild of Corpus Christi -clearly a white Yorkist rose. 

On his marriage, Henry VII adopted the Tudor rose badge joining the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster. But according to contemporary accounts, the white rose was much in evidence at Elizabeth'of York's coronation and during the remainder of her lifetime.
The Tudor rose is depicted as a double rose, white on red
And what sorts of foods were likely to be served at the Yorkist or Lancastrian Plantagenet royal feasts in medieval times? Well there are good records, including pictorial ones, where we find boar's heads and all types of fowl are probably overepresented for artistic reasons! Even considering the range of dishes that the English nobility ate it cannot nave been easy to convincingly convey a dish of meat stew in a medieval woodcut illustration could it? 

The first English cookery book "The Forme of Cury" was written at the end of the fourteenth century by the master-cooks in the court of Richard II (1377 - 1399).  'Cury' is the Middle English word for 'cookery'. The book contains 196 recipes, some plain but some unusually spiced and spectacular dishes for banquets. As the culinary compilers tempt us  "...curious potages and meetes and sotiltees for alle maner of States bothe hye and lowe." 
A 12th scale medieval subtlety complete with egg custard filled moat!
The word 'sotiltee' or subtlety refers to the elaborate sculptures that often adorned the tables at grand feasts. And here is
version of a subtlety for such a medieval feast or Tudor banquet, crafted historic miniature food at one inch dollhouse food scale!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Richard III rides out from the towne of Leicester to defend his crown!

This weekend 16th and 17th August 2014 sees the re-enactment of the Battle of Bosworth, and my cousin will be one of several hundreds of re-enactors! On the morning of 21st August 1485 the town worthies and people of Leicester turned out to fete their king, Richard III. Richard set out from the Blue Boar Inn to join battle with the usurper to the English throne - Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond. Richard’s supporters, estimated at 12,000 already billeted in and around Leicester and had massed outside that Inn on High Cross Street to follow him over Bow Bridge, out of the town and towards Bosworth Field some miles distant.
City of Leicester informations boards document Richard III's route out of the medieval towne
Photo: Dot Roberts

A seasoned military strategist at age 32 and confident of victory, he rode out behind his personal badge - a white boar. He and the assembled Yorkist army were to spend the eve of battle under canvas, before engaging with the Lancastrian forces.

Photo:Dot Roberts
Less than 48 hours later those same town worthies and populace were to turn out once more, this time to pay politically expedient homage to their new monarch Henry Tudor, now Henry VII. And inadvertently to witness the wretched treatment of the body of their former king, the last ever English monarch to be killed leading his army in the field. Henry had returned to Leicester on the evening of 22nd August by the same route, wearing the captured crown. He had Richard’s body displayed for two days before the Greyfriars could retrieve it and hastily bury it in the choir of their church, facing the high altar.
A plaque in the Newarke commemorating the visit of two Kings to Leicester within 48 hours. Note the opposing heraldic emblems Yorkist on the left and Lancastrian on the right.
The plaque on the wall of the Judges’ Lodgings in Castle View Leicester reads as follows:
"This is to commemorate the occasions five hundred years ago when the people of Leicester greeted and honoured two kings of England within two days. RICHARD III on his solemn departure from the town on the 21 of August 1485 to do battle for his kingdom and HENRY VII on his arrival in the evening of the 22 of August 1485 from his victorious field near Market Bosworth bringing in his train the body of the vanquished Richard III."
 The Greyfriars priory church was demolished at the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII and folklore had it that Richard’s disinterred body was thrown into the River Soar. Of course the archeaological excavations by the University of Leicester in 2012 showed this to be nothing more than Tudor propaganda.
Photo: Dot Roberts
How old are these beams?
The Blue Boar does not still survive today. It was demolished in 1836 and a new inn of the same name built 200 yards away on Southgate Street. Contemporary engravings of the original do exist but recently the University of Leicester discovered amazingly detailed technical drawings which have allowed an accurate 3D model of the Blue Boar’s timber frame to be made. The site of the original building is now suitably enough a Travelodge. More immediately the basement of the adjacent hairdressers "Danique's" is believed by some to have been part of the inn! See what you think - my sister Dot just happened to have her hair cut there and managed, in a cramped space, to take these photographs!
Photo: Dot Roberts
The impressive Blue Boar was perhaps an “odd” choice for Richard to stay because Leicester Castle would have provided suitable accommodation for the king and his immediate entourage. He had stayed at the Castle just two years previously. One thought that occurs to me is that perhaps it was already overcrowded with billeted troops waiting for Richard to arrive from Nottingham Castle, from where incidentally - as was common practice - the baggage carts brought his personal four poster bed.
Amongst those City worthies seeing off their king would have been one William Wyggeston, son of the Mayor and aged 18. Female and younger members of the important Wyggeston family probably stood at the stained glass windows of William’s uncle Roger Wygston’s house which directly overlooked the route Richard took from Highcross Street to Bow Bridge, spanning the River Soar nearby. Today’s city worthies have commissioned landscaping of a large square in front of Wygston's House meaning that soon visitors to the Richard III walking trail will be able imagine standing in the shoes of those ancient town worthies, guildsmen and common peasants lining his well documented and fateful route out of Leicester that morning.
The stained glass from Wygston's House is now in the Jewry Wall museum. Photo: Dot Roberts 
Not so very many years later William himself was several times Mayor of Leicester and Calais, a British possession in France and key to England’s  lucrative wool and other trades with Europe. Wyggeston’s will of 1536 led to the founding of a Free Grammar School in St Peter’s church. A purpose built school followed in 1574 on High Cross Street opposite the Blue Boar Inn and still stands to this day, one of Leicester’s finest and most ancient buildings, now used as a restaurant.

The frontage of Wyggeston's Free Grammar School, built 1574. Photos:Dot Roberts

Later benefactors to Wyggeston's school included Queen Elizabeth I
Now it happens that my father and three uncles earned county scholarships between the 1920s to 1940s to study at a school still bearing this wealthy medieval merchant’s name. But first, a further re-incarnation as Wyggeston Hospitals Boys' Schools in 1877, before Wyggeston Grammar School was built on an out of town in 1921 - the school attended by my father! 
My father's science prize, 1935

Wyggeston School crest

William Wyggeston's benevolence accorded with medieval church belief that such acts of charity would speed the departed soul's progress through purgatory onward to heaven. Whatever truth lies in that Wyggeston's pious act had an indirect impact on my family’s education! Even now, William’s name is still carried by Wyggeston & Queen Elizabeth I College for boys. And my one remaining uncle alive today has recently set up a mathematics bursary for boys of that very college jointly in his and his three brothers' names (Thornton). There is a lovely symmetry to all of this isn't there?

But what might you have eaten on the eve of battle in the Yorkist (Plantagenet) or the Lancastrian (Tudor) military camp? Well it would have been quite easy for the camp kitchen to carry small (or even  large) spits which would be placed around the campfire.  And pigs are so fertile that there could have been little problem in sourcing young piglets or “shoats” for the spit, just like this medieval/Tudor dollhouse miniature food modelled at one inch scale by MedievalMorsels
12th scale dolls house food: camp spit roast pig and cauldron of pease pottage 

Medieval fare: one inch dolls house food - pease pottage with bacon 
And certainly there could have been a pot of meat stew or a rich pottage for the noble elite. But more likely pottage based on plenty of peas or beans and cereal but little meat for the massed army of commoners- pikesmen, longbow men and the like, paid to fight for their noble Lords’ cause whether Plantagenet or Tudor.