Sunday, 15 September 2013

Elizabethan Food At Plas Mawr, Conwy

An insight into Elizabethan Food at Plas Mawr, Conwy

Within the medieval 13th century city walls of the Welsh city of Conwy lies Plas Mawr. Plas Mawr is arguably the finest example of an Elizabethan home to be found within the British Isles and sits within close proximity to Conwy Castle, one of Edward I's 'Iron Ring' of castles built to contain the Welsh. For a foodie Plas Mawr offers an excellent insight into Elizabethan food. 

Lone Male on Tour
The entrance to Plas Mawr, Conwy
 Built between 1576 and 1585 by Robert Wynn, Plas Mawr translates as the 'Great Hall' and symbolises a period of prosperity Wynn was a celebrated trader and courtesan who had risen to a high position within the Welsh gentry so Plas Mawr clearly showcases a situation of class and grandeur.

As someone interested in food and eating habits Plas Mawr's kitchen represents an excellent insight into Elizabethan food and what a kitchen would look like during the period in British history. 

Lone Male On Tour in Conwy, Wales
An Elizabethan kitchen with lots of vegetables at Plas Mawr

The Elizabethan Diet

Lone male on tour at Plas Mawr, Wales
A selection of meats in the pantry
which would be used in an Elizabethan kitchen
In Elizabethan times the rich (such as Robert Wyn at Plas Mawr) ate exceptionally well. Meat was always on the menu for the affluent with a huge selection of locally caught animals available to feast upon. Typical meats included lamb, beef, pork, bacon, rabbit and hare. Fowl was also very common with goose, pigeon, swan, peacock and blackbird on the menu. In areas close to ports (such as Conwy) you would also find a selection of freshwater and sea fish available. 

Fruits and vegetables also took a common place in the Elizabethan diet based on seasonal produce. Locally grown season produce included turnips, leeks, carrots and garlic. Fruits such as apples, pears and plums were also commonly eaten although there was some suspicion at the time of the benefits of eating fruit and vegetable and it was therefore significantly common for a diet of mainly bread and meat for many. 
Lone Male On Tour In Conwy, Wales
Ceramic pots and pans in an Elizabethan kitchen at Plas Mawr
It is likely that traders like Wynn will have imported some fruits and vegetables from further afield due to the presence of Conwy as a busy fishing port. Over the course of history the Tudors introduced many foods to the UK from further afield. Turkey came to the UK from as far afield as Mexico and Red Kidney Beans were imported from Peru. Tomatoes were also bought in from the New World although at the time they were actually known as Love Apples.

Elizabethan culinary tastes were not as advanced as today and a lack of knowledge will have meant such foods will have been kept as special delicacies and the likelihood is that the cooks would not have been able to cook these foods to bring out their optimal flavours as we know know.

Elizabethan Desserts

Marzipan fish- a traditional Elizabethan dessert
The Elizabethans loved their desserts and in some ways desserts took a more significant role for cooks in the kitchens of the rich. Tarts and cakes were often made especially when guests were expected. Marzipan modelling was popular as per the fish featured above. Animals and fruits were often made out of marzipan to be enjoyed at the Tudor dinner table.

Why not visit Plas Mawr and see more for yourself.

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