John Saturnall’s Feast by Lawrence Norfolk
John Saturnall, after many hardships and trials, is sent away to the local Lord’s castle to apprentice in the kitchens his mother had worked in long ago. John has an aptitude for the fast paced realm of cookery and has a nose for spices that is without match. Yet as all seems to finally be good in his life his past catches up with him. Don’t read this book if you’re feeling even a little hungry. The medieval banquets are over-the-top but described in sumptuous detail. Each section starts with a description of part of a grand feast that is enough to make your mouth water. (Unless you’re a vegetarian, there is a lot of roasting meat in this book.) You learn a lot about the kitchens of a castle needing to serve large numbers of people and get to see all aspects of kitchen work from the scullery all the way to the role of the head of the kitchens. Most interesting is seeing the role of food in a medieval castle during feast and famine and how the kitchens, household and other staff interact.
If you want medieval history from the working man’s point of view, this is a comfortable and engaging read to enjoy with a steaming hot beverage of spiced wine, tea or apple cider.