Medieval Menagerie

Saturday, July 11

I think this is such a touching image of courtly love. I thought it really epitomized what this week was all about. Sadly, today is the last day of our Medieval Romance Week. But I did not want to end this week on a melancholy note so I have a few of my favorite tidbits about medieval life, and I will reveal a few of my favorite medieval romances that were not featured this week, but have earned a place on my keeper shelves.

Some interesting and maybe little know medieval tidbits (don’t know if they are all true, but they are fun):

  • Most houses during this time period had thatched roofs. Thick straw, piled high, with no wood underneath. When the weather turned colder it was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the pets... dogs, cats and other small animals, mice, rats, bugs lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really mess up your nice clean bed, so they found if they made beds with big posts and hang a sheet over the top, it addressed that problem. Hence those beautiful big 4 poster beds with canopies. (totally ruined my romantic visions)

  • Again, most floors were made of dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, ergo the saying "dirt poor". The wealthy had slate floors which in the winter they would get slippery when wet. So they spread thresh on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on they kept adding more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed at the entry way, later named a "thresh hold".

  • Sometimes the working class could obtain pork and would feel really special when that happened. When company came over, they would bring out some bacon and hang it to show it off. It was a sign of wealth and that a man "could really bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat."

  • Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests or nobility got the top, or the "upper crust".

  • If you were rich you would probably own a variety of clothes, in the latest styles and colors. If you were a poor peasant, you may only own one tunic. Although it was possible to obtain silks and other luxurious materials from abroad, they were very expensive. Most clothing therefore was made out of wool. This meant that clothing in the medieval period was itchy, difficult to wash and dry and very hot in the summer. (I can't wear wool no matter what time of year, makes me itch just thinking about it)

  • In Medieval times people who couldn't write their names signed with an ‘X’ in front of a witness. The ‘X’ was then kissed as a gesture of sincerity. Many believe this is how the ‘X’ came to symbolize the kiss.

  • In medieval times, guests brought small cakes and piled them on a table. The bride and groom then attempted to kiss over the cakes. Eventually, a young baker decided to put all the cakes together and cover them with frosting, thus the tiered wedding cake was born.


Speaking of desserts, how about a recipe for Traditional Medieval French Custard Tarte, courtesy of Famous French Desserts….my mouth is watering already.

Traditional Medieval French Custard Tarte
Tarte Médiévale… This delicious flan in a pie crust is not only typical of medieval dessert recipes, but is also a real pleasure to the palette! Enjoy!

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes


4 cups Milk
4 Eggs
2/3 cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 cup Cornstarch (optional)
Pinch of Nutmeg
1 - 2 tsp. Cinnamon
Butter and flour for Pie dish

1 Pie or Tarte Crust (see bottom of page for a delicious and easy crust recipe!)

How to Make It:

Preheat oven to 450°F
1. Combine milk and sugar in a pot and gently bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. Mix cornstarch with 3/4 cup of water and then stir into warm milk. Put milk back on a low heat, and stirring constantly bring to a boil and then remove from heat.
3. Beat the eggs well, and then gently stir into the milk until homogeneous.
4. Butter and flour pie dish. Roll out pie crust and place in dish. Pour in milk mixture and bake for 30 minutes. Let cool off before serving.

Tip: You can make this tarte earlier in the day and let stand at room temperature.


If you would rather make a crustless flan, go right ahead by following this recipe! The only difference is that you will want to cook the flan in a bain-marie (double-boiler). In fact, crustless custards were also very typical among medieval dessert recipes... so, don't worry, you'll be just as authentic!

The most common spices for medieval dessert recipes were: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, saffron, and cloves. So, feel free to make your own combinations with this recipe!


Modern Day Medieval
  • Have any of you ever attended one of those Medieval Dinner theatres ? Much to my surprise they are all over the country, so apparently they are popular enough, and YouTube has tons of videos of it. If you have been, and are brave enough to admit it, tell us what it was like.

  • Did you know that they are building a replica of a medieval village here in the USA (Colorado), almost like a living history themed park? It appears to still be in the planning and fundraising stages, but you can find more about it at Medieval World.

  • And let’s not forget all of those medieval and renaissance fairs. Should you feel the need to dress the part there is a great resource for how to recreate the medieval look. With articles like “The Dreaded Muffin Effect” and “Upbraid Your Friends” you can’t go wrong. Very fun and informative at the same time. Check it out here.


Last, but definitely not least, here are a few of my favorite medieval romances not mentioned this week, but are excellent reads that I highly recommend (in no particular order):

Bertrice Small
(vintage Bertrice is not to be missed)

Julie Garwood (no medieval romance list is complete without at least a few JG titles I loved them all but these were my favs)

Various authors

  • Candle in the Window by Christina Dodd (atypical romance with a blind hero and heroine)
  • Highland Bride by Hannah Howell (one of my favs by Hannah, I've reread this one a couple of times too)
  • Bold Angel by Kat Martin (Kat really puts the heroine through the ringer on this one...gotta love that)

What about you, do you have favorites that aren’t on my list?

If so, share the love!

I want to thank my guest authors, all of you who visited each day, and my fellow bloggers who helped me spread the word about this week (you guys are the best!). I didn’t know how well an entire week devoted to medieval romances would be received, but I feel that I have found some kindred spirits in my love of this genre of romance. Don’t forget to comment on each post to be eligible to win the great books featured this week, but hurry some of them end today. Thank you all!

p.s. we have a very special week planned for July 27th – Aug 1, so mark your calendars, because you won’t want to miss it!


Estella July 11, 2009 at 4:09 PM  

I had not heard of some of the tidbits before.

Caffey July 11, 2009 at 5:14 PM  

Neat on the research! Add THE WEDDING by Julie Garwood as that's connected to THE BRIDE that's listed there. I've read both and absolutely wonderful reads!
You found some great pics to go with the info! I too love those I read of Bertrice Small. All this great chatting about Medieval Romances has me looking for more. Thanks for a great week here and looking forward to visiting often and too when you have another week planned in July/August!

Patricia Barraclough,  July 12, 2009 at 12:19 AM  

Julie Garwood was the first romance writer I ever read. Love her historicals and miss them now that she is doing modern suspense (although she did throw in a historical as back story to the FBI series). My first book was THE PRIZE and it is still my favorite. SAVING GRACE and RANSOM are also on the top of my list. She is one of the few authors I have reread, many times. THE WOLF AND THE DOVE by K. Woodiwiss is also a favorite.
I just found your site tonight. Really have enjoyed the info on medieval times. I could follow these links forever. I'll be back. Now to check what you did earlier this week.

Cheri2628 July 12, 2009 at 12:46 AM  

I love reading Medievals, but I would never wish that I had lived during that time. The closest I want to get is our local Renaissance Festival! ;-)

Julie Garwood's books are wonderful. In fact, I am re-reading Saving Grace right now.

I also liked Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught and The Warrior by Nicole Jordan.

Patricia Barraclough,  July 12, 2009 at 1:01 AM  

oops, forgot to leave my email in my post a few minutes ago.

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