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Worksheet 2: Renaissance food - Examines the cookery and food of the Renaissance; information about feasts and the availability of foods

Grace before the Meal, by Anthonius Claessins, c. 1538-1613

Grace before the Meal, by Anthonius Claessins, c. 1538-1613.

Renaissance Cookery

Medieval and Renaissance cooking was not, as is so easily assumed today, a dubious practice that produced inedible dishes filled with strange spices and dangerous ingredients. Cooks of the time used many of the same type of foodstuffs that are in use today, in addition to forms of food preparation that would be familar to any of us. The dishes and recipes they prepared were neither inedible nor dangerous, but extremely delicious and tasty products that employed the finest meats, grains, fruits, and vegetables their society was capable of developing. Then as now, mankind knew what tasted good, and the sauces, stews, pies, roasts, and soups that satisfied the 14th century family are just as wholesome and enjoyable today.

Dirk de Bray (c. 1620 to 1678) Domestic SceneDirk de Bray (c. 1620 to 1678) Domestic SceneDirk de Bray (c. 1620 to 1678) Domestic SceneDirk de Bray (c. 1620 to 1678) Domestic Scene

Dirk de Bray (c. 1620 to 1678) Domestic Scene

Indeed the hardest part of creating Renaissance food is often understanding the recipes. The measurements, if any, are unfamiliar as is the spelling and at times the terms used. Look at this recipe, what do you think it is for?

Curye on Inglysch p. 154 (Goud Kokery no. 18)

To make gingerbrede.

Take goode honey & clarifie it on + e fere, & take fayre paynemayn or wastel brede & grate it, & caste it into + e boylenge hony, & stere it well togyder faste with a sklyse + at it bren not to + e vessell. & + anne take it doun and put + erin ginger, longe pepper & saundres, & tempere it vp with + in handes; & than put hem to a flatt boyste & strawe + eron suger, & pick + erin clowes rounde aboute by + e egge and in + e mydes, yf it plece you, &c.

Curye on Inglysch p. 154 (Goud Kokery no. 18)

Note: Some of the early English recipes use the thorn (+ ), a letter that is no longer used in English. It is pronounced "th."

Here are some of the terms defined:


clean; nice; fairly good; fairly large; moderate-sized; pretty; fresh.

paynemayn brede

bread of the manor, lordly bread, the finest white bread.






type of spoon.




sandalwood spice.


mix; season.


A boxlike container.


strew; sprinkle; scatter.




Yes, it's a recipe for Gingerbread, here it is again in modern English.


Bring honey to a boil, simmer two or three minute, stir in breadcrumbs with a spatula until uniformly mixed. Remove from heat, stir in ginger, pepper, and saunders. When it is cool enough to handle, knead it to get spices thoroughly mixed. Put it in a box (I used a square corning-ware container with a lid), squish it flat and thin, sprinkle with sugar and put cloves ornamentally around the edge. Leave it to let the clove flavor sink in; do not eat the cloves. An alternative way of doing it is to roll into small balls, roll in sugar mixed with a pinch of cloves, then flatten them a little to avoid confusion with hais. This is suitable if you are making them today and eating them tomorrow.

Gutting a Hare, Hans Burgkmair, early 16th century

Gutting a Hare, Hans Burgkmair, early 16th century

Foods of the Renaissance

Many foods of our time have been discovered, developed or introduced since the Renaissance. Indeed, the Renaissance did bring many new foodstuffs to Europe, but it took considerable time for many of these things to become generally accepted and known. Here is a list of some of the foods which did not come into use until late or after the Renaissance.

This did not mean that there was less variety of flavours - on the contrary, cooks of the Renaissance worked with many foodstuff and herbs which we no longer use today. and still created fantastic meals. Basically, people have always known what tasted good and good cooks have always found ways to improve on the flavour of their raw materials.

Kitchen Scene, Artist Unknown

Artist unknown, c 1490 kitchen scene

A Renaissance feast

Here is an example of a Renaissance wedding feast, as you can see the flavours are varied. You will notice that there is a lot of meat served, meat was not necessarily on your everyday diet, but was served on special occasions. It is likely that little meat was eaten on a daily basis, and that occasions such as these were used to display the largesse of the host. A good thing too as this food is observeably heavy in fats, proteins and stuff guaranteed to make your capillaries scream for mercy.

bill of fare for the nuptual dinner of master Baulde Cuvillon 1571

first course

second course


Medieval feast.

Artist unkonwn - Feast c 1420


Cariadoc's Miscellany David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook, 1988, 1990, 1992.

A Glossary of Medieval Cooking Terms 2000 James L. Matterer & Darell W. McCormick

Stefans Florilegium Mark Harris,1989


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