Marc Meltonville

Marc Meltonville

I work as a Food Historian for the Historic Royal Palaces. I get to look at the food stories across our 6 Palaces spanning 1000 years of dining history.
The story of food takes us everywhere.

Location Hampton Court Palace


  • @DawnL Definitely not sure on this.
    We need to look up the chemicals in deer horn.
    The baker's ammonia does not have any gelling effect, but would work if you wanted the ammonia.

  • As for PR the Tudor Rose is a Logo that has been going for 500 years.
    Both Henry and Elizabeth were continually referenced in plays and art as the start of the new, and importantly, Protestant England. They were taken on by the Victorian era as symbols of a True, Noble, perhaps merry, England. A green and pleasant land that all Englishmen should yearn for.

  • Thank you.
    You only learn if you are having fun.

  • Hi,
    Classically there are two sorts of cordial.
    One a simple sweetened and flavoured syrup, like elderflower cordial.
    The majority of cordials were made by taking fruits, and some spices and covering them in a base alcohol, (Vodka would do, but brandy and Rum were popular)
    Leave them together for a few days and strain off the liquid that now has all the...

  • Be careful with nutmeg; only use small amounts.
    large amounts are harmful.
    A light grating is all you ever need.

  • Hi,
    Ginger is always a good go-to spice for cordials.

  • Hi,
    It is often a good idea getting a good herb book, or look online, to check the medicinal properties of each herb, as they do have effects on the body.
    I suggest making cordials from sugars and fruits.
    Many were made by drawing the flavour from fruits and berries using a simple alcohol base.

  • Talking to an historic miller yesterday, apparently it is the husks in the grain that wear the teeth down as much as any stone grit in the flour.

  • Only buy a mill if you have the same amount of money that it cost, to invest in the upkeep!
    I was learning to set the stones to the right grind distance for grinding malted barley. We ground about 200lbs. All flours need a different grind.

  • Hi,
    Remember all the meals are a buffet.
    Your trencher is only ever used for small amounts of food at any one time.

  • I agree with Megan; get baking, (and boiling)

  • Jumbles are great fun to do with kids.

  • Hi,
    if you have a go at the recipes you can always send pictures.

    Good cooking!

  • If you can get a capon it is really nice.

  • Quite so.
    The word banquet is normally used during the 16th century and earlier to mean the course after the main meal, but even then there is confusion, as sometimes they will use it to mean the meal as well.
    Words meanings are tough.

  • Sometimes the modern world does have the answer.

  • Lovely,
    send us pictures.

  • Hi,
    I always say to my students,
    'we eat when we are hungry, we dine for every other reason'.

  • Hi,
    Yes, and 'Officers Mess' etc.
    The route word of mess means either a 'bringing together' or a 'table'
    Messa, messo etc.

  • Hi,
    It seems very few of those that survive were used much.
    Just too nice to ruin.

  • Interesting. i will look up the cork mats
    Trenchers are more plates than place mats.

  • I suppose, if they are witty and fun....

  • Hi,
    No apparent link, they are separate crafts.
    Just both beautiful.

  • Everything in moderation; then we would be fine.

  • Hi,
    Deer antler is more like finger nail. it is only the outer part of the horn, not the core. You can buy it today. It is very ammonical (high in ammonia) so is hard to use.

  • Hi,
    he was a businessman and adventurer. Much like entrepreneurs today, but with a sword.
    Not only did he want to discover new trade, but earn money from his efforts so trade licenses were very important.
    £700, is a lot of money, but sailing around the world was very costly too.

    Most of our wine comes in from France.

  • A whole subject in itself.
    At first they were traded by setting up bases called factories.
    Over the years different nations worked on new ways of getting them more cheaply. Move the plants to lands you own, bring in slave labour etc.

  • Period joke for you.

    Master; my eggs at breakfast were hard.
    Maid; Sorry Sir, I boiled them a full hour, but will try two tomorrow.

    Not mine, but John Taylor, the Water Poet.

  • Sadly both statements are as true as each other.

  • Hi,
    Yes there is a shift in the recipes in cook books. Most early Tudor ones are simply copies of mediaeval ones going back hundreds of years. it seems that a new wave of experimentation bring in new idea. the whole era is one of possibilities.
    Also, with printing taking off, we have many more cookery books for the end of the 16th century than for all of the...

  • Hi,
    You will also find images on-line at the British museum and the Museum of London.

  • Hi,
    if the only sugars you have ever had are plant based, or a little honey, then refined sugar will be like a drug. You will buzz with energy.

  • You are correct.
    We always see the Early Tudors as the end of the mediaeval times and the later Tudors as the start of the modern world.

  • Hi,
    As far as I know diabetes is tissue based and does not leave a trace in skeletal remains?
    So my answer is I do not know. Perhaps there is documentary evidence, but you are out of my field of study.

  • yes, more and more chocolate next week.
    But for you; first chocolate shop open in London in 1657.
    They mix it with water, milk or wines.

  • There are, but I do not have any to hand. (in Virginia at present)
    The Museum of London has a good collection. Try their on-line catalogue.

  • Hi,
    Only for those with lots of money, and even then not too much.
    They lived in an unheated world where you walked around a lot and burn off many calories.

  • Hi,
    Good question.
    Words are great, words are confusing as their meaning changes.
    Meete, as it is often written means food. You have Meete and drink as your diet.
    Flesh is more often used for animal products.
    So sweet-meetes is simply sweet foods.
    We do mix sweet and savoury together a lot, but still do without noticing.
    Pork and apple sauce, Turkey and...

  • Hi,
    They seem to be like Ice sculptures today, a one off to show some skill and wealth.

  • They are related. Both forms of night-shade. Night shades are poisonous so we were suspicious of the new plants.
    Tomatoes were first grown as decorative plants.
    Neither really enters the food culture in a big way until the 18th century.

  • Hi,
    It did, but in a very limited sphere. Although cheaper, it was still a luxury item.
    The biggest impact on peoples teeth was the grit from mill stone that went into the bread. When we look at skeletal remains the back teeth are usually worn flat by the age of 40.

  • He was a bit of an adventurer to say the least.
    Sadly Astrolabes had been around for many centuries; perfected by the Arabs in the middle ages.
    Perhaps he just had a really nice one.

  • Hi,
    Yes, the potato story is odd; Raleigh took the to his estates in Ireland to grow as food for the labourers. This worked well and when people left Ireland for North America they took potatoes with them. So the plant went South America, to Ireland, to North America.

  • That is a hard question.
    History is the science of chance. Some things survive, some things do not.
    Big cites are great because they are a melting pot of so many cultures.
    This brings in new ideas, but also means that local one get forgotten.
    Traditions are kept more easily in small villages.

  • Maybe next week when we have discussed this module.

  • Hello,
    This week I am in Virginia;
    which is rather apt for the week we are looking at Elizabeth I
    Perhaps I am exploring new lands looking for exotic spices....

  • It is actually from some islands a little further east, but it is the Persians who start to cultivate it and turn it into a world crop. Until westerners take it west it only comes via the Arab trade.

  • It is true, that when ever a commodity becomes cheaper it looses its shine for those with money. It also stops being considered an aphrodisiac.
    Sadly for the commonfolk it takes until the 19th and in many cases the 20th century for many exotics to become common place enough.

  • Hard question,
    I think the main thrust of the era is the development of better and faster ships which mean that all of the worlds produce become available to a wider, (still those with money, but now including the growing middle or merchant class) set of people. Better shipping means we set up trading sites all over the world.

  • That's a good one.
    I think it has to be nutmeg.

  • Hi,
    Sort of, no.
    Potatoes take until the 18th Century to get established. pasta and rice are available in Mediaeval cookbooks.
    Really the grain and pulses stay the main part of working diets for many centuries to come. Often grain as a stew, as many had no access to an oven, nor the money to buy bread.

  • Hi,
    I have some free time, so am dipping into the question before Wednesday, so more get answered.

  • Hi,
    The food was purchased by the Clerk of the kitchens department by men called Purvayors. They went to farms and merchants to order food, set a delivery date and fix the price. Much like a modern supermarket chain.

  • Kitchen were kept clean. Perhaps not a good as some modern standards, but clean and tidy with washed floor and clean equipment.

  • Well done,
    I am always pointing out that you have to do the maths. It does not come out very much when you add up 400 people ( average) for a year.

  • Kitchen wages seem to be about average, but the were a lot of them. The reason for it being so attractive is that even though you wages are average, you have no living expenses. Food lodging and a clothing allowance make it well paid.

  • OK, we'll look into that.
    Religious reason seem to be the predominant historical route to not eating meat.
    yesterday, down in Southern Maryland, I saw a copy of an 18th century English cookery book that said that it was for the preparation of dishes without the use of meat or fish. Lots of interesting recipes, but many with meat in!

  • My Tutor in food history still does not have a fridge, just a marble topped table down in the cellar.
    21st century boy...

  • Hi,
    The needs of any of the Palaces were too great to grow the foods at the sites. This added to the fact that a King does not live on a farm, he has beautiful gardens.
    The Clerks department sent out pervayors who visited merchants and farms to order food and set the price they would pay. All very much like a modern supermarket chain. Even with all this an...

  • Enjoying the sunshine, and now the rain.

  • Next week; 2nd May

  • The Lord Steward.
    He had a big team of Clerks.

  • Hi,
    We have to remember that although Hampton Court is now 500 years old, they had been building, learning and designing Royal Courts for well over 500 years before.

  • Tghere was some concern as the oldest cook book we have in English was written, not just by the King's cooks, but his physicians as well.
    Tudor medicine is based on the Humoric system with means that all food were put together as a kind of balance that was seen as good for you, based on your traits. If you were too hot headed, you needed cold, damp and moist...

  • Yes today's milling will be fun. We have to set the stone further apart as we are grinding malt for beer, not flour for bread.

    Henry had a French cook. (this means less than it does today. As French cookery was not the talk of Europe yet, he is just interesting for being foreign.)

  • Ah,
    This old one.
    No with the time difference I had not seen those yet.
    Lead makeup is bad.
    lead pipes not so. lead is very dangerous in solution and as an oxide. The oxide is in the makeup.
    Most drinking water is not acidic enough to put the lean into solution. in fact much of our water is high in calcium so coats the inside of the pipe with...

  • Hi,
    sugar starts off being cultivated in what we now call Persia, the Iran/Iraq area and comes into England from the early middle ages.

  • Hi,
    I must thank you, I had a wonderful time in Japan last October making Tudor pies. We handmade over 7000, I think a record since Tudor times!
    The wafer recipe can be found by looking in two books that can be found online.
    The 'Forme of Cury' and a manuscript known as 'Two 15th century cookbooks'

  • The two meals are called Dinner and Supper. Dinner late morning and Supper late afternoon.

  • Hi,
    Yes all the Royal Courts of Europe seemed to have pan European foods. All the same sorts of dishes appear in all of them along with the best of that country.
    All the Courts are trying to be the most lavish, competing in a Royal top ten.
    Out job in the UK was to have all to good things from around the World so we did not look like 'some rock off Calais'.

  • 1; about 18 months. it went too high once during a mini heat weave in June.

    We are not very good at poisons in the West. Most of the food tasting we hear about is actually to 'pass it' as 'fit for a King'.

    Both sadly, and fascinatingly, the kitchens have changed every century givening us lots of glimpses into there 200 year history. They change and adapt...

  • See my other answers, but basically yes, it went to the Poor. The deserving poor, not the idle poor. There is a difference in Tudor eyes.

  • Hi,
    If you look up the recipe on line there is a video of how to on you-tube.
    Should be a link on the Historic Royal Palaces website.

    Saffron grows in England. it is from the Autumn crocus. Most towns grew some saffron, my town had a road called 'Saffron Plat' meaning the old Saffron Field.

    It has always been expensive as it has to be picked by hand...

  • Hi,
    Not just Italy, but probably all over. Wafers are used in the Church across Europe. A simple batter is not difficult to come up with.
    What the word cake. it still means a 'piece' or 'lump' of something, like a 'cake of soap'. The risen baked cake we all think of is coming up in week three or four.

  • The King is the King; It's good to be King. You get the best of the best cooked for you at the times you need for your Royal life. The Great kitchens feed the rest of the Court a lot more like school dinners, (just really nice ones!)

  • I'll pass that on to her....

  • I have a copy and would have to look through a huge book to give a full answer. They are, from memory, most interesting and most infuriating in equal measure.
    They will tell you a persons position, and then miss out what he actually does.
    You can look them up on line.

  • Another great question that links us to the world today.
    Recycling, as we now call it has been around for centuries, just they did not notice. Without any packaging that is not a crate, basket, barrel to sack, there is no waste. All can be used again. Barrels were taken apart into the sticks they are made of and shipped back to London to be remade into new...

  • Cinnamon and ginger.
    They come the furthest and therefore are the most costly and so the most sort after. By the later Tudor you get to add nutmeg.

    You serve your fresh Royal beef with a ginger sauce; ginger, that comes all the way on a boat from China! And you just say, "yes, I've got these guys. They get it for me.."

  • Good question.
    When we reconstruct period food, we can only do what any cook has done through the ages; make it taste nice to us with the ingredients given.
    So we have no idea if our tastes mirror those of the past.

    From the little we know, from recipes for spiced wine etc. we would find some of the spicing very heavy. But at the same time i think our...

  • Great comments.
    It often helps to realise that the same problems are present in our world and are solved in much the same way. Lot's of people running around in the background.
    Yes they had table heaters for the winter. Little dishes called 'chaffers' (from the French meaning heater) that had hot coals in them to keep things warm.
    There is no sign of any...

  • Hi,
    There are many dishes of vegetables and they do not get much press, as they are not a 'show off' and a roasted swan. Our Western vegetarianism, to be fair, comes partly out of having a large choice of the things we can eat. For most people in the past there was little choice and often little food. Outside of religious regulation most people eat what they...

  • yes to the Spice. We lose touch with them when the Romans leave and regain the knowledge with trade and the Crusades of the middle ages.

    The raw fruit answer in a lecture in itself. I'll see if i can make it short.
    Most of us live in a safe world, many do not and in those parts where there is little functioning medicine any tummy bug is not a little...

  • Many people think this because of the modern layout of the Palace. If you walk at a normal pace and follow the old route, you can be from kitchens to Great Hall in 40 seconds.

  • Hampton Court does have one of the first ice-house in the UK, but it is 17th century, do the next century after the Tudors. The cold stores work by being made of stone and put away from the sunlight.

    Women do not have a role in the Royal kitchens. It is the same for almost all jobs in a Royal Household. Even today women are only just breaking into the world...

  • We now know more about the names of some of the people that worked in the kitchens, but almost nothing about them. Much of their work will have been working your way up, and recommendation. Starting as a son of someone and hoping to do well. Or perhaps being found at another noble house and moved over. Any job in the Royal Household was sort after and not only...

  • Hello everyone.
    I hope you are enjoying the course.
    Today I am answering your questions from a wet, but warm Pennsylvania.
    Here learning about old flour milling by working in an 18th century mill.

  • Tough question. I have been working in food history for 25 years now and I think the thing that keep coming up is that people are always 'modern' in their world, doing many thing just like us, but with different tools.
    At the Palace kitchens I think the 'cold stores', (I think you get them later), are really great.

  • England famously bland food is a product of the cities and the 20th century. Country food in England has always been good. One of the down sides of being the first industrial nation is the taking of working people away from the land and good food.

    The King had a kitchen as did the Queen. Most of the time he dined along. For state visits and special...

  • Yes, we know much more than a few years ago.
    I am in America at present, so do not have the lists, but the Kitchens at Hampton Court are about to reopen with new displays along with much more about the people that worked there.
    I'll try and get the info mailed to me.

  • There are many vegetable dishes, often not mentioned in the lists to show off, but the notion of vegetarianism does not figure. Many veggies are cooked in meat stock. Leonardo de Vinci has a go at only eating vegetables, but out of pure interest rather than some moral ground.

    And yes, spice were imported, so expensive.

  • Hello,
    This often confuses. We are talking about a 'dinner' as it is called mid morning and a supper mid afternoon.

  • Hi,
    Well spotted; the modern wedding is the last vestige of the high dining of the past. A time when we pull out traditions, many of which people do not even know why they do them.
    Wedding breakfast; the first meal where you eat as a married couple; you break your fast.

  • Hello,
    Marc here, hope you enjoy the course.
    I will do my best to come up with answers to your questions when I can.
    My live chat session this week is this coming Wednesday at 1pm BST.

  • Hi,
    Sorry for the delay;
    The tower was a prison for Nobles and very important prisoners. Not the 'dungeon' of films. You were kept there to keep you out of the world of the Court and general politics. This is not a good thing for someone wanting to move up and on in the Tudor world. Most of the prisoners at the Tower lived in apartments, or suits of rooms....

  • Hi,
    As mentioned above Jumbles are more like the pretzel or even a bagel.
    It action of cooking them twice, once boiled, then baked makes the, in French, 'bis cuit', (cook twice) now pronounced biscuit.

  • Following the designs of the middle ages kitchens were separate buildings for both noise, smoke and mostly fire safety. The kitchens at the Tower are thought to start off as wooden structures and then stone. They were probably all cleared away during the rebuild overseen by the Duke of Wellington in the 19th century. One of the buildings cleared away at that...

  • Rare heats horn. Deer antler is another source of gelatin. Powdered deer horn makes a good, but expensive setting agent, it can also be a source of ammonia.
    Most other gleatin is sourced from beef or pork.

  • The tower occupies much the same footprint as in the past.

  • Most kitchens and certainly a castle has a well or wells for water. it might be a little way outside, but it will be within easy reach. Both lead and wooden pipes were used for the movement of water.