trencher warfare

I was thinking about people in other times who lived and died in the narrow space allotted to them by their position in life. Most people stayed where they grew, unless they were Crusaders and then they were hellangone for a long time if not forever.  The men, that is.  The women stayed  home and ran the castle and chafed at their chastity belts. Peasants worked the land and were lucky if they were allowed some of what they produced.   I remember a schoolboy's joke about serfs who were "chained to the land" (I always wanted one).  Hungry folk gathered outside the castle waiting for handouts after a feast.  And that's what got me onto trenchers.  I made trenchers  once, for a medieval feast.  I was in a gourmet club and it was my turn.  I had received for Christmas a cookbook, updated for readability and edibility but based on 13th century recipes, and accompanied by a box of herbs and spices appropriate to 13th century tastes and availability.  It was fascinating.  No sugar; honey was the sweetener.  No salt; other spices were used.  No beef, as I remember; I cooked chicken.  You know after a big dinner nowadays - beef, potatoes, gravy, etc. - you have a deep, meaty taste in your mouth.  The aftertaste of the medieval meal was high and round.  Apples, saffron, honey, hyssop, elderflowers (in a sort of cheesecake) - very different flavours for a main course than we are used to.  Anyway, that's when I made trenchers, one for each dinner guest.  Trenchers were a plain yeast bread that I shaped like dinner plates to hold the food I served.  Apparently, trenchers carried the food for diners in those days; if a person left food on his "plate" and he/she was encouraged to do so, I think, then the trenchers, food and all, were distributed to the hungry serfs waiting in the courtyard. I'm not sure whether the phrase "a good trencherman" referred to a person who ate a lot or to a person who gave up a lot of food that others might eat. I'll tell you, I couldn't eat my trencher; it was too much food. Oh, I found appropriate wine at the liquor store.  It was mead, the honey-based drink people drank in those days.  Too sweet for me, but after the meal was over and my guests were analyzing the food, one couple said they loved the wine.  They didn't eat their trenchers, either. Unfortunately, no one was waiting for our leftovers.