Wednesday, 3 August 2016

A honeyed life across the sea


One inch scale dolls house miniature food, raw honey by MedievalMorsels

Honey! MedievalMorsels has been inspired to add a new food to its range of Medieval and Tudor, Renaissance dolls house miniature foods. It’s about time honey was added you might say, we’ve been eating since time immemorial. So precisely what has been the source of this inspiration?

The hefty food history reference volumes in the town library? No, certainly not those...

A recent attendance at Leeds University International Medieval Congress - the second biggest annual gathering of Medievalist academics and their followers in the world - after all, its theme this year  was ” Food, feast & famine” ? Not that’s not it…

Stung by a bee? Thankfully not, no bees were hurt in the making of this blog post!


A sweet treat, honey,  for a Medieval, Tudor, Renaissance or rustic 1:12 dollshouse

Inspiration came from the image of a bee-keeping monk! This was no ordinary monk: he was young, he was keen to teach his craft to others, to ably demonstrate his know-how using the tools of his trade and the produce from his pastime. It was evident for all to see -  this young monk had a stinging passion for bee-keeping!


A monk bee-keeper with his wares at Bristol Elementary School’s Medieval Faire, Vermont , US

He had a primitive conical shaped bee skep, a bee hive to you and me, made from rushes wound around then fastened together with cord. He could tell you that monks needed bees to pollinate their monastery  herb and vegetable gardens and the crops on their lands. That monks also used the bees’ by-products. That honey was for the monks’ own consumption and to make mead, the first purposefully fermented alcoholic drink, known from earliest antiquity.  And that monks used beeswax to make fine, sweet smelling candles - much superior to tallow ones which were smelly and smokey, made from rendered (melted) animal fat. Eeew...

Was that alcoholic or non-alcoholic mead in this young monk’s jug? And had he brought a jar of honey, a fresh honeycomb and candles to sell from his market trader’s cart? Well, I judge that must be so…


Seth, then 12 a 6th grader, with bee keeper’s cart - culmination of weeks of medieval studies

But the marketplace in which this novice monk was selling his wares looked - erm - somewhat modern!  Was he a little out of time and place perhaps? Well, yes to both. Seth is the elder son of a miniaturist friend and he lives in the USA. So, not only is he in the wrong millennium (let alone the wrong century) for a Medieval monk, he is also on the wrong continent! But not to worry,  because he thoroughly looks the part in his bee-keeping outfit. And he certainly knows his stuff. Full marks all round - to our monk and the bees!

12th scale honeycomb for a dollshouse, handmade by MedievalMorsels

MedievalMorsels and honey bees have worked on this miniature honey project

A little bird, oops bee,  tells me that Seth, now at Mount Abraham Union High School has a younger brother Andrew who was a Medieval falconer back in 2014, and the family is wondering what Medieval trade their youngest, Meredith, will take up in 2018! And all of them love honey! But those are stories (with pictures) for another day...

Apple fritters dipped in honey or quinces stewed with honey anyone?

Let’s consider  the last words, researched by Seth, in praise of the indefatigable honey bee:

"A swarm of bees in May, is worth a load of hay.
A swarm of bees in June, is worth a silver spoon.

A swarm of bees in July, isn't worth a fly" - Unknown.