Wednesday, 3 July 2013

A New Way To Follow My Blog - Bloglovin'

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Rumours are flying like sparks in blogsphere that Blogger is changing the way you can 'follow' a blog. I'm not 100% sure this is true. However, if Blogger 'friends' disappears, you can still get blog updates by following my blog on Bloglovin...It'll make me real happy if you do! 

Saturday, 29 June 2013

New Beginnings...

via Pinterest

Well, after a rather long absence, I'm back! I really apologise to my dear blog encouragers and viewers for this unforeseen prolonged absence. Since I posted last in December 2012, a lot has gone on in my life...especially in my life as a student with the work load expectedly increasing as I come nearer to finishing my degree. 

Throughout those last few months I've been really thinking and praying about blogging. However, I found it very difficult to get much inspiration for this blog for the time being...that is, that would be in tune with the main purpose of this blog, namely history and faith in history. 

What I needed was a new place to share those things freely without the constraints of the main purpose of this blog, which does tend on the more academic/literary side. 

So, I decided to launch a new blog - 'Of Simple Things'! A place with more 'scope for the imagination', as I like to say! You'll probably find this new blog a little different in tone, a bit more conversational and personal. I hope it is a blessing to you and it would make me extra encouraged if you would join my blog and be a regular encourager. Thank you very much!

Of Simple Things

Many Blessings, 

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Jesus is the reason for the season!

Christmas is a very special time for most of us, being with family and friends, and doing many other wonderful things together, like shopping for gifts, going to Christmas parties and singing Christmas carols.
However, what really makes this time most special, at least for me, is the true joy, the hope, and the peace that comes from knowing and having the best Gift of all in my life, Jesus Christ. 
I never cease to wonder at God's amazing love in leaving His glorious throne in heaven above to be born into our sin-sick world, become a man, and be born is poverty in a dirty stable in an obscure place and in an obscure family.
Not only that, but He came to live among us and be one of us, serving us, healing us, and showing us His way. 
Then, making us His children through His suffering on the bitter cross. 
Oh, but the wonder still continues....
He rose from the dead to give us eternal life and give us eternal make us BORN AGAIN! 
What a perfect, holy way!
What a Salvation! 
Thank you, Lord Jesus!

via Pinterest
So, remember to seek Him this Christmas!

May you be abundantly blessed this Christmas and may you have a wonderful and happy New Year in Him.

Come on, ring those bells!
Jesus is the King born for you and me!

sung by Evie Tornquist-Karlsson

God Bless, 

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Echos of Jericho

via Wikipedia
Well, everyone, I'm back! I know it's ridiculous to go on telling you how busy I've been lately with studying and all, but I won't bore you with that now :) Though, I have to add that there are also times when I don't really know what to share with you. This is exactly what I've been experiencing in the past weeks. But I've been praying about this,  asking the Lord for ideas. During last week I've been researching for an essay on the end of the Cold War in Europe (i.e. how the Communist regime ended in the Eastern European Countries and the former Soviet Union). I found it really fascinating and I thought it would be lovely to share some of what I've learned, considering also that this month is the anniversary of these extraordinary events...I hope it bless you :)


On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan delivered a sensational speech in West Berlin in sight of the famous Brandenburg Gate. In it, and in reference to the Berlin Wall that had been a stark symbol of the Cold-War division between East and West since 1961, he dramatically called: 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!' In other words, Reagan was calling for an end to the Cold War. That possibility had always seemed very far-fetched with neither the West nor the Soviet Union willing to give in to the other and with nuclear war continually dangling like Damocles' sword over humanity. However, Gorbachev (the new leader of the Soviet Union) also decided it was time to end the Cold War and the mad nuclear arms race. Gorbachev introduced many changes that brought on many unexpected revolutionary events in Eastern European countries which eventually culminated on November 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall did finally come down. This basically heralded the end of Communist rule in East Germany and the rest of Eastern Europe and two years later, even, the Soviet Union. 

via Google Images
One of the most extraordinary things about the events that lead to that amazing ending, was the relatively quick and peaceful way in which it was achieved (especially in East Germany). In her book, Candles Behind the Wall: Heroes of the Peaceful Revolution That Shattered Communism, Barbara von der Heydt* relates the event beautifully and compellingly, drawing attention to some very interesting details behind this extraordinary historical event. I thought it best to share it here - in her own words as much as possible:  

(Context: By that time, Eastern Germans, with the help of the Lutheran Church who had been praying and calling for peaceful protests, had already started to peacefully protest in the streets against the Communist regime. They were hoping for an end to the oppression they were living under.) 

It is clear that during this critical time, Gorbachev withheld explicit approval for a bloodbath to put down the demonstrations, and the East German regime may not have dared to give the order to fire on its own. But this was a radical change for the Soviets, in light of the Soviet response in 1953 in East Germany, in 1957 in Hungary, and in 1968 in Czechoslovakia. And the Soviets had threatened Poland with invasion as recently as 1981. There was nothing inevitable about a peaceful end, as Chinese demonstrators had found out in Tiananmen Square only months before. Had the Soviets themselves changed? Recent behaviour gives no consistent answer: they used violence again in Lithuania in January 1991. But for some reason, the situation in East Germany turned out differently. (emphasis added) 

The East German regime was now in disarray. In a tense politburo session on October 18, [1989,] Erich Honecker was unceremoniously dumped and replaced by Egon Krenz. The number of demonstrators swelled to 200,000 in Leipzig, then 300,000. City after city followed Leipzig's example, with millions filling the streets. A nation was on its feet because the people found their voice. The regime was scrambling to meet their pent-up demands to be able to speak freely, to travel, to organize, to reform. So many things were different, including the fresh creativity, wit, courage, and humour that people used to illustrate the banners they carried. It was as if they were negotiating by poster board as their appetite for change was whetted by new victories.
The turning point in Berlin came on November 4, 1989. One million people assembled in the Alexanderplatz, with the "best and brightest" of the country addressing the huge crowd. The mass of people moved in procession to Unter den Linden, then to the Palace of the Republic, then back to the Alexanderplatz. The critical point came at the Palace of the Republic, where the street continues straight on to the Brandenburg Gate, the huge, well-known archway that is the gateway between East and West Berlin, and symbolically between the two parts of the divided country.
Marchers in Leipzig 1989
via google images
Anyone who could think militarily knew that if a million people continued marching straight ahead, the tanks would have to roll and the soldiers would have intervene to stop them. But those in the procession also knew the Stasi and their methods. If the Stasi put a few hundred provocateurs into the crowd to keep marching ahead, to draw the crowd toward the Brandenburg Gate, that would provide the needed reason to attack. It was not discussed, but all the genuine participants knew that even if hundreds broke away they must not.

Von der Hydt then  relates the impressions of one of those who were participants in that demonstration....
What he remembers most is the silence: "Hundreds and thousands of people walked around this curve without saying a word. It was a silent march at this point. One heard only the soft sound of the feet of these people. Everyone knew this was the critical point." There was no provocation, there was no attack. A million people silently signaled with their feet they wanted change, but peaceful change.

Five days later, the Berlin Wall fell...
via Pinterest

The news reached the airwaves with lightening speed and people swarmed to the cross-points in Berlin some still in pajamas, mobbing the surprised border guards, who knew nothing about what had happened. When the people told them what they'd heard on the radio, the guards were unsure what to do. After trying to hold back the growing, jostling crowd, some guards in exasperation and confusion simply shoved back their caps and let the people charge through. The crowd became jubilant, and the people of a nation that had been divided fell into each other's arms. There were tears, flowers, and streams of uncorked champagne.

Shortly thereafter, on New-Year's Day, young people danced on the Wall in exhilaration, and the nation wept in disbelief and joy. Reunification, which occurred on October 3, 1990, took place less than a year from the moment the Wall fell.

On the night that the Wall fell, people leaving the Nikolikirche marched through the centre of the city. Week after week during the fall of 1989, they had marched in a circle around Leipzig after the Friedensgebete. On November 9 they marched for the seventh time, commemorating the fifty-first anniversary  of Kristallnacht, the beginning of violence against the Jews leading up to World War II. An on that night, people left the Nikolaikirche praying for their country. As they walked through Leipzig for the seventh time, they heard a crash as resounding as that one heard in Jericho: it was the sound of the Berlin Wall falling. The German Democratic Republic had been in existence for exactly forty years.
The biblical allusions are startling. (emphasis added) 
Christian Fuhrer, an East German pastor, had this to say about what happened - that it was 'a powerful testament to God's Spirit at work on earth':

"Non-violence is clearly the spirit of Jesus. With these people who grew up with pictures of class enemies, and whose parents grew up with the Nazis and violence and racial hatred, you can prove that it didn't come from here. It's not a question of one's upbringing. And the few Christians that there are in this unchristian country - they didn't do it either....That was the spirit of God at work. We [Christians] couldn't have done it....God honoured by letting us play this part in His plan." 
(Candles Behind the Wall, pp. 187-189) 

Little further comment is needed. The story speaks of itself of God's amazing grace and providence in it all. Not to mention the power of prayer! 

Here is a documentary video of those events (a first hand source):

Episode 22: 'Star Wars'

Episode 23: 'The Wall Comes Down'

Episode 14: 'Conclusions'

via Google Images
* Barbara von der Heydt is an American journalist who lived in Germany and reported European news on U.S., Canadian, and Australian television from 1984 to 1989. She was a presidential appointee to the White House Office of Public Liaison (1981) having served at the Heritage Foundation (1978-81), where she was director of Legislative Information on Capitol Hill. (Bio Info from back flap of her book Candles Behind the Wall)

Von der Hydt, Barbara, Candles Behind the Wall: Heroes of the Peaceful Revolution That Shattered Communism, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdman's Publishing Company, 1993.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Food in Days Gond-by - Meat and Fish on the Menu

Not very long ago, I've started a mini-series dealing with food and its social significance during the period historians call, the early-modern European period (approx. 1450-1800). The first post in this series dealt with the kind of bread people ate at the time (see Flour and Bread crumbs). 
Now its time for another post in the series: 

Meat and Fish

via Pinterest

In the early modern period, meat was an important part of any good diet. Before the late fourteenth century (1300s), meat was a bit of a luxury for the lower social classes and only the nobility ate meat regularly. However, between the late fourteenth century and fifteenth centuries, the European population was drastically reduced as a result of the Black Death. With this came a greater abundance of food and meat became more common for all classes. 

After the fifteenth century, there was a population boom again, and meat became more expensive. It was at this time that different kinds of meat began to be divided into social categories. There was now 'lordly' meat and 'lowly' meat - meat for nobles and meat for the lower classes and the peasants - for 'rustical' stomachs. 
via Pinterest
For example, a veal's or boar's head was considered 'food for princes' and it was usually presented whole with garnishes on a large platter. Fowl, such as game birds, chicken, pheasant, partridge, swan, or peacock, was another kind of meat considered fit only for the nobility for a long time. Birds were close to the heavens and thus fitter for softer and nobler stomachs, it was believed. This was demonstrated at times (usually in the earlier part of the early-modern period) by a pie with live birds inside. The host would tear it open and release the birds into the room. It was a form of dinning entertainment.  

By the sixteenth century, however, fowl became available for the common people, too. The story behind this is quite interesting. It is said that it was King Henry IV of France who decided that every Frenchmen should have the right to eat fowl at least once a week. The nobility were upset, accusing the king of 'democratizing' it. However, it became a common practice in France to eat fowl each Sunday, especially chicken. Soon eating poultry became cheap and common. It was at this time, also, that turkey was introduced from North America, becoming another popular kind of fowl to eat for both rich and poor. 

Generally, however, meats eaten by peasants or common people was not considered fit for the nobility to eat. This included, for example, sausages, tough old beef, and salted and preserved meats. Organ meats, such as livers, kidneys, lungs, spleen, heart, and intestines, were particularly associated with peasants. They were were considered tough and hearty and, therefore, better suited to more 'rustical stomachs'.   

via Pinterest
However, in early modern Europe, especially before the Reformation (in the 1500s) and during the period of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, the Church prescribed between 140 and 160 days per year of abstinence from meat and other animal products, such as eggs, milk, and butter. This period included Lent, Advent, and every Wednesday and Friday. Fish, therefore, succeeded as an excellent alternative, becoming the cultural definition of a meatless diet. However, even fish became divided into social levels, with salted and preserved fish seen as a symbol of poverty and subordination, while fresh fish was seen as a sign of wealth. This was because fresh fish was very difficult for common people to come by, with most of the fishing lakes or rivers 'owned' by the nobility.  However, by the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with the ability of fish wagons to transport fresh fish over longer distances, fresh fish became more common and popular. 

All this social dividing of the meat and fish began to fall away as time went on and it came to depend more on who could afford what kind of meat or fish to eat. 


Albala, Ken, Eating Right in the Renaissance, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002, 184-216

Albala, Ken, 'Religion and Food', in Food in Early Modern Europe, 2003, p. 193-208

Montanari, Massimo, ‘To Each His Own’, in The Culture of Food, Oxford, UK & Cambridge, USA: Blackwell, p. 84-89

'Culinary History: The Evolution of Cooking', Episode 2: 'Feasting in the Middle Ages' ,  written by Michele Barriere and Phillippe Allante,  Jean-Yves Huchet and Nicolas Goldzahl (Executive Producers), VM Group,  2005

'Culinary History: The Evolution of Cooking', Episode 3: 'The Delights of the Renaissance',  Written by Michele Barriere and Phillippe Allante, Executive producers: Jean-Yves Huchet and Nicolas Goldzahl, VM Group,  2005

'Culinary History: The Evolution of Cooking', Episode 4: 'Enlightened Savours' ,  Written by Michele Barriere and Phillippe Allante, Executive producers: Jean-Yves Huchet and Nicolas Goldzahl, VM Group,  2005

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Pride Cometh Before An Iceberg

Exactly 100 years ago a great tragedy occurred at sea that has both haunted and fascinated us ever since. Today I've got a very special guest-post by Elizabeth Rose from Living on Literary Lane. She is on a month-long blog tour promoting her new novel, Violets Are Blue. I haven't read her novel, yet, but I can assure you that I can't wait to do so! The novel is set in the context of the tragedy of the Titanic, so I asked Elizabeth to share with us what she learned from her research into this historical event which holds many lessons for us today as it did then.  

So, dear readers, I give you, Elizabeth Rose!

via Google Images
It is known as the greatest marine disaster in the world. Mention the name Titanic to anyone, and they will immediately think of the "unsinkable" ocean liner and her tragic end on April 14th, 1912. The film of the same name is one of the highest grossing movies in the world (though whether that has to do with the historical background [flawed though it may be] or the romance is a subject worth debating). Everyone knows about the Titanic.

Having reached the centennial of her infamous sinking just this April, the Titanic seems to be present in everyone's minds now more than ever. Why is that? What lures us to the heartbreaking story? Perhaps it is the courageous way in which men of all classes stood aside to let their beloved wives and children go first in the lifeboats, knowing full well that it meant perishing in the icy waves. Perhaps it is purely the drama and excitement of the night. Or perhaps it is the fact that this grand ocean liner whose makers claimed was unsinkable actually struck an iceberg and went down, causing the deaths of nearly fifteen hundred people.

It has always amazed me that the Mayflower — a tiny vessel only used for carrying wine across the Atlantic — managed to convey one hundred and twenty Pilgrims to the New World in the year 1620. They withstood tumutuous waves and horrid sickness, but by the power of the Living God, they arrived on the shores of Cape Cod relatively unharmed. Surely if the Mayflower can make it across the ocean in 1620, a fabulously outfitted ocean liner such as the Titanic can carry her twenty-two hundred passengers safely nearly three hundred years later. After all, if it was good in the "old days", it's sure to be better in modern times, right?

Well, whether that's true or not, it was the mindset that governed the makers of the Titanic and nearly everyone living in the early 1900s. Bigger is better. Size means everything. And if you aren't willing to match the grandeur of your new ship with your confidence, you may as well go home, because you'll never survive in this era. (A bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point.) Yet, when we study history, we see that such an opinion does not last forever, and all those who are not humble eventually will meet their end.

This isn't sounding good for the Titanic, is it?

Before we continue discussing this particular ocean liner, let us move backwards a few centuries. Good, good. You're looking at two ships docked in the harbor, but the vessels are much smaller than the one on which you previously laid your eyes. Yes, you are watching the aforementioned Mayflower, as well as her sister ship, the Speedwell, though the latter will not be making the journey across the ocean. You glance cautiously at those around you — a seemingly solemn group, but still cheerful. Some of the younger children are chasing each other around the cargo waiting to be loaded, but their mother silences them with a few quick words, pulling her little ones back to her side. You look up at the ship that is to carry you and your one-hundred and nineteen companions, and wonder if you'll ever make it.

You were right to worry — the journey alone was tumultuous. Seasickness, monotony, and the crowded place 'tween decks where all of the passengers are required to spend their hours. The worst part was probably during that terrible storm, when the main beam broke and needed to be secured with the large screw some of your companions had brought from England. Of course, Mistress Hopkins' expected child would choose that very moment to arrive, and John Howland would keep falling overboard and being blown back on again.

But somehow, despite all those troubles, you and your family and friends managed to travel across the cold ocean safely. Though you are landing at the barren Cape Cod, with little in the way of shelter and winter fast approaching, you kneel when your feet have finally touched the shore. You lift your face to Heaven, praising the Lord and thanking Him for His mercy on your small ship. By the hand of  Providence, you have made it to the New World.

We will be leaving the 1600s for a while now and moving forward to 1912. Once again, you're standing on a dock and watching a ship (this is all becoming rather familiar and predictable, is it not? Just wait until 11:49 P.M. on the 14th, and you'll get enough adventure to last you your life). You watch as men, women, and children are loaded on to the ship. A young Irish mother, walking slowly because of the child she bears, clutches her toddler's hand as they cross the gangplank. You watch her turn back for a moment, a single tear caught in her blue eye like a gem, but then she enters and you can no longer see her in the bustle of people around you. Trying to catch a glimpse of the object of her attention, you see her husband standing a few yards behind you, his expression identical to hers.

A man's loud voice to your right shakes you and makes you turn curiously towards the noise. His wife is so covered in satin, fur, and pearls that you can barely tell where they leave off and she begins. Her hat, so enormous it could have its own staircase, threatens to be knocked off by the wind, were it not for the gloved hand she kept on it. The husband is the one you heard speaking, and he is dashing man in the clothes of the upper class. He is shaking his head at his wife as they stroll towards the gangplank.

"Nonsense, my dear, you speak utter nonsense." His voice is loud enough to carry through all of Southampton, but the speaker doesn't seem to notice.

"I only said that there was a slight chance—" she begins, but he cuts her voice off.

"A slight chance of what? Exactly." He knods his head confidently. "Nothing. Why, of all the ships in the world, you say this one will sink? The idea alone is positively preposterous. Come, Claire, I believed you were above such superstition."

"I am not being superstitious," his wife argues, a bit of fire in her tone.

"Good. Then we are agreed." He takes her arm once more, and they continue towards the gangplank.

I hardly need to continue this story, as we all know how it is going to end. At 11:49 P.M., the Titanic's hull was scraped by a large iceberg, and at exactly 2:29 A.M., she sank beneath the waves, leaving what little was left of her passenger stranded in lifeboats and clinging to other flotation devices. It would be several hours before the Carpathia would arrive to rescue them, and for many, that was several hours too late.

You may be wondering why I gave this little history lesson. (I assure you that boring my readers with dull facts they already know was not one of my motives.) In truth, it was not entirely to relay an old story of a famous marine tragedy, but to issue a warning. In Proverbs 16, verses 17 through 18, it says, "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." Though you have most likely heard the story of the Titanic too many times to count, you may still be in the dark as to the destructive effects of pride. Too much pride and self-confidence has been the downfall of many an ancient leader who thought himself indomitable, and now it has even caused the end of a ship thought so "unsinkable" she didn't need half her lifeboats. You see how ridiculous it is to argue against the sovereignty of God?

(Also, if you ever set foot on a ship and they say that lifeboats for all of the passengers is a waste of deck space, I suggest you find another way to get home.)

. . .

Elizabeth    Rose

Elizabeth Rose is a follower of the Most High who seeks to live every day of her life in accordance with 1 Corinthians 10:31. She loves all sorts of books (the thicker the better), is convinced that Irish Breakfast tea is the closest thing this world will get to heaven, dances until her feet ache, stays up until all hours writing, wears pearls at every opportunity, and obsesses over Les Misérables and The Scarlet Pimpernel. Her debut novel, Violets Are Blue, was published in May 2012. You can find her on Literary Lane, most likely with The Count of Monte Cristo in hand, and ink on her fingers. 

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Worthy of Praise and Glory

This week I'd like to share with you a lovely Latin doxology that has blessed me greatly. I love the old hymns of the early Church centuries. There is something about them that is not matched in later Church music, most especially in our time. These old Church chants and hymns, including, for example, the Gregorian chants, were simple but so deep and profound all at the same time. Their melodies are so deep, they touch the heart and soul. They are so reverent and truly worthy of the greatness of our Lord, God, and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Many of them were also sung by the martyrs in the early centuries - that's how early they are. Yet they are still just as new for us now.

The one I'm sharing today is 'Gloria in Excelsis Deo'. It is sung by the choir, Libera. The melody is based on Saint-Saens's Organ Symphony. 

Here is a short history of this hymn: 
The Gloria is an ancient hymn of praise to the Trinity that has been in use in the Church since the second century. The opening line of the hymn is taken from Scripture (Lk 2:14), where the angels announce the birth of Christ to the shepherds. The hymn was composed in Greek some time in the second century and can be found recommended as a daily morning prayer in book VII of the Apostolic Constitutions (3rd/4th century). It was introduced to the west by St. Hilary of Poitiers (d 368), who was the first to introduce hymns into the Western Church. 
St Hillary was an uncompromising foe of Arianism, a heresy which denied the divinity of Christ and was condemned at the Council of Nicea in 325. St. Hilary's opposition to Arianism earned himself the title of "Malleus Arianorum", the Hammer of the Arians, along with the ire of the Arian Emperor Constantius, who exiled him to Phrygia in 356. While St. Hilary was in Phrygia, he was exposed to the hymns in use amongst the eastern Christians of the time. Upon his return home he began to introduce hymns into the western liturgy, borrowing the Gloria from the east, as well as composing some of his own. The Latin translation of the Gloria below, which has been used since the late 4th century, is likely his.

Here is a close translation of the Latin Lyrics (as best as I could make them out): 

Glory to God in the Highest
And on earth peace to men
We bless Thee, we praise Thee
We worship Thee, we glorify Thee

1. Thanks we give to Thee
Because of Thy great glory

For Thou alone art Holy, 
Thou Lord alone, Most High

Chorus: Gloria in excelsis deo....

2. Who take away the sin of the world, 
Have mercy on us
Who sits at the right hand of the Father, 
Have mercy on us

Father God, Almighty 
Lamb of God
King of Heaven, Father God

Chorus: Gloria in excelsis deo... 
Here are the original lyrics of the hymn and the translation:

GLORIA in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.GLORY to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will.
LAUDAMUS te, benedicimus te, adoramus te, glorificamus te, gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam, Domine Deus, Rex caelestis, Deus Pater omnipotens.WE praise Thee, we bless Thee, we adore Thee, we glorify Thee, we give Thee thanks for Thy great glory, O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.
DOMINE Fili unigenite, Iesu Christe, Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis; qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram. Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, miserere nobis.O Lord Jesus Christ, only begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, Thou who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us; Thou who takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. Thou who sittest at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.
QUONIAM tu solus Sanctus, tu solus Dominus, tu solus Altissimus, Iesu Christe, cum Sancto Spiritu in gloria Dei Patris. AmenFOR Thou alone art the Holy One, Thou alone art the Lord, Thou alone art the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Taken from:

God bless, 

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Food in Days Gone-By... Flour and Bread-Crumbs

Have you ever wondered what food you would eat and how you would eat it if you lived long ago in Europe?  What and how did people eat in those famous eras such as in the Tudor or Reformation or Renaissance or even Enlightenment times (these times together are known by historians as the Early Modern Period) - eras that have become the subject of histories, stories, novels, and movies? 

Well, last semester, I had the opportunity to do a bit of research on this. So, here are some interesting things I've learned! My plan is to cover this subject in a small serial - each time covering a different kind of food or eating habit. 

By the way, I've never done anything like this before. So, please excuse any crude beginnings:)


For early-modern Europeans the staple food was bread, eaten with almost anything and at every meal. If there was other food available but there was a scarcity of bread, it was considered a famine! That's how essential it was. 

Bread, however, was not just a staple food. It also had a lot of social significance. There were three main different kinds of breads that suited three different kinds of social status. A person from any particular social class would not dream of eating bread belonging to a higher or lower status than that of his or her own! 

Imagine these three scenes (fictional characters) to find out which bread would have been eaten by whom. 

Scene 1: 

Master Giovanni
via Pinterest
Michael hurried towards the town bakery in the early hours of the morning. He had to collect a special supply of flour for Master Giovanni, Chief Cook of Lord Shaftsbury's household.  There was to be a banquet of special magnificence to be held that night with many distinguished guests invited.  Last night, Master Giovanni went into a panic when he discovered that they had ran out of the best white flour in the kitchen, purely milled with no mixed grains or any chaff. The poor man could barely sleep. Before dawn he jerked Michael  awake and sent him on this urgent errand. He had to get to the bakery before the long queues.
Finally, weary and breathless, Michael reached the bakery. 
'Mr. Jones! Mr. Jones!' he cried. 
The baker was just opening his bakery. Yes, he reached him on time. 
'What is it, Michael, my lad? Why the hurry? Hold on a minute and catch your breath....yes, that's good...well, now, what can I do for you?' 

'Please, Mr. Jones, have you got any white flour in stock? Master Giovanni needs it urgently. There's to be a banquet at the house tonight.' 

'Ah, yes...I've heard about that already. Come, with me to the back of the shop, I'm sure I've got some there.' 
Sure enough, and to Michael's relief, Mr. Jones had a large sack of the best white flour to be found in the whole county. 
Helping Michael haul the sack unto his shoulder, he bid him 'Good Day, Michael, my lad!' 
'Thanks, Mr. Jones. Good day to you, too!' 
'And greet Master Giovanni, for me,' he shouted as Michael started off.
'Yes, Mr. Jones, sir.' 

Mr. Jones, the baker, and Michael
via Pinterest
Michael set off to the Manor as quickly as possible with his heavy load. Now Master Giovanni has all the flour to make his special bread and bake all those delicious bakeries that the lord, his family, and his guests love. 


Scene 2: 

10 year-old Harry stirred and opened his eyes. He lay awake in bed for a while listening. Mother was already up. He could hear her working hard in the kitchen downstairs preparing breakfast and, probably even lunch and supper, too! 
Father had been up even earlier. He must be out in the fields by now. He had to work really hard to pay the rent on the farm and have left over to put food on the table and provide clothing for his family.
Harry groaned as he pulled himself out of the covers and shook off the sticking hay. The loft has become his bedroom now since there was no room with his younger brothers, Willie and Johnny, in the bedroom. 
He looked out of the dirty window...
'Cold and damp as usual,' he muttered to himself. 
Then he heard his mother call...
'Harry! Are y'up yet? Come down quick and h've some're father needs ya to help him with planting the lower field today.' 
'Yes, mother, coming down,' he called back as he buttoned-up his shirt and slipped down the ladder. 
Willie and Johnny were already munching at their slices of brown bread with slices of goat's cheese and drinking down their glasses of warm milk. 
mother cooking
via Pinterest
'Come on,'s a slice of bread for you, yourself now with the cheese...hurry 'aven't got all day...' his mother directed as she continued kneading the bread dough for dinner. A nice hot stew was obviously in the making as well. Evidence of turnips was all over the kitchen table!

Harry bit on his slice of bread and cheese. It was warm and good. He then paused and asked, 'Mother, Mr. Jones, the baker, once told me that Lord Shaftsbury and his family eat white bread everyday!'

Willie broke in, 'What's white bread? What does it taste like?' 
'Oh, don't you know anything,'s bread with no bran or's pure white inside and very soft and fluffy,' answered Harry with an air of possessing superior knowledge. 
'How d'ye know?' retorted Willie. 
'Mr. Jones, told me,' he shot back. 
'Really soft? Oh, I'd like to try that someday, wouldn't you like mother?' asked little Johnny. 
'Well, now, children...that's enough,' answered mother. 
brown bread
via Pinterest
'Don't even think of it, Johnny, lad. That kind'of'bread is not for our kind. Only folks up in the big manor get to eat that. We're poor farmers...brown bread with bran is what's for us,' mother explained.
'You've got be grateful to the Good Lord, though, m'boys. Never complain, eh! There can be worse. There're poorer folk than us and harder times can come to us, too,' she continued. 
'Yes, mother,' they all said in unison. 
'Now, finish up and start y're chores nice and quick.'

Stuffing their mouths with the last crumbs, they quickly dashed out the kitchen in obedience. 


Scene 3: 

Master Giovanni sighed with great relief upon seeing Michael returning with his precious load of white flour. 
'Well, done, m'boy,' he exclaimed as he helped Michael lower the sack and soon began opening it and retrieving a measure of it's precious contents for the first recipe. 

Michael was exhausted. He hadn't done so much running in a while. 
He settled down before a table at the back of the kitchen, next to the side door, to eat the little breakfast Penny, one of the kitchen staff, had left for him. Just a slice of brown bread with cheese. No ale. Master Giovanni forbade it on days like this. There was plenty of work to be done. 

Suddenly, he heard a bit of a scuffle out the side-door, then a feeble knock. 
'Oh, dear....must be Jane, the maid, with buckets of water, or it could be a beggar looking for handouts...' he muttered under his breath as he opened the door cautiously. 
Sure enough, it was the latter. A shaggy-headed, dirty-looking tramp.
'Please, sir, 'ave anything to spare a poor'old'chap?' he asked pitifully. 
'Ah, yes, sure,' said Michael, 'Just wait here a moment. Won't be long.' 
He went to a side pantry...where is that basket? Ah! Yes, here it is! Master Giovanni always kept something for such poor folk. 

He returned to the door and gave the poor chap a couple of slices of very dark brown bread. The man took it gratefully. Folks like him were used to that sort of filled with chaff and bran, it was almost black...not necessarily delicious, but filling nonetheless!  
Black Bread
via Pinterest
Michael, then went to the table and gave him some warm water, which the poor man also took gratefully and then hobbled away onto his next destination. 

End of Scenes 

Well, what do you think? Can you guess now what kind of bread was eaten be whom? This applied generally to the entire early-modern period. Not only in Britain, but throughout Europe, too. 


Albala, Ken, Eating Right in the Renaissance, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002, 184-216

Camporesi,  Piero, "Bread of dreams", History Today, Apr 89, Vol. 39 Issue 4, pp. 14-21

'Culinary History: The Evolution of Cooking', Episode 2: 'Feasting in the Middle Ages' ,  written by Michele Barriere and Phillippe Allante,  Jean-Yves Huchet and Nicolas Goldzahl (Executive Producers), VM Group,  2005

'Culinary History: The Evolution of Cooking', Episode 3: 'The Delights of the Renaissance',  Written by Michele Barriere and Phillippe Allante, Executive producers: Jean-Yves Huchet and Nicolas Goldzahl, VM Group,  2005

'Culinary History: The Evolution of Cooking', Episode 4: 'Enlightened Savours' ,  Written by Michele Barriere and Phillippe Allante, Executive producers: Jean-Yves Huchet and Nicolas Goldzahl, VM Group,  2005

Montanari, Massimo, ‘To Each His Own’, in The Culture of Food, Oxford, UK & Cambridge, USA: Blackwell, p. 84-89

Wiesner-Hanks, Merry E., Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008

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