In the Tudor kitchen we prepare and cook the type of food that would have been eaten by the occupants of Bayleaf farmstead in the 1540s. You can taste much of the food: hand-made butter and cheese, griddle bread cooked over an open fire, fried ‘chewits’ (pastry filled with spinach, onion and other vegetables), pottage made from seasonal vegetables (including many older varieties) and herbs or – to our palates – unfamiliar combinations of sweet and savoury (such as beef and prune pottage with walnuts).
Many of the herbs and vegetables we use in the kitchen are grown in our period gardens. Herbs such as winter savory, lovage and alexanders played an important part in the Tudor diet, helping to enhance the flavours of what would have been a fairly unvarying menu. A wide variety of green leaves were eaten, including spinach and kale, nettles, Good King Henry, fat hen, coleworts, red and green orach. All of these can be tasted in our kitchen at different times of the year.
Food supply was dictated by the seasons and – until the religious changes brought about by the Reformation – men and women were required to abstain from certain foods during Lent and Advent and on Fridays and Saturdays. So, in our kitchen we only prepare food that would have been seasonally available and we do not serve eggs or meat on ‘fasting’ days.
All our cooks, both Interpretation staff and volunteers, enjoy working in the kitchen and undertake many other domestic kitchen demonstrations such as cleaning, preserving, collecting firewood and managing the fire, brewing ale, picking herbs and vegetables as well as spit-roasting meat over the fire or baking bread in the wood-fired bread oven. Sometimes we are very modern for the 1540s and put hops in our brewing to make the increasingly fashionable drink called beer!
We are able to serve food in our Tudor kitchen because we have a modern, fully-equipped kitchen next door, which complies with the Environmental Health standards and enables us to store, prepare and serve all foodstuffs under suitable conditions. We follow stringent procedures and undertake training as required by the Environmental Health Department who carry out regular inspections.