What better way to venerate the Bard than to throw a party in his honor!
Food makes any lesson more memorable. The end of a Shakespeare unit, Shakespeare's birthday (April 23rd), or the end of the academic term are all great occasions for an Elizabethan feast -- or as much of one as you care to create.
Below are links to an assortment of recipes for Elizabethan fare. Try printing out the recipes and asking for volunteer cooks (students or parents) to prepare each one. Students might also select Shakespearean verses appropriate to each dish, or even compose their own "Elizabethan" verses.
If you're looking for real authenticity, remember that:
- Guests generally sat at benches; chairs were for the really important people. Common folk ate most food using wooden bowls & spoons.
- Salt was highly prized, and usually resided at the head of the table. Hence the phrase "below the salt."
- Forks weren't in common use. Fingers worked fine.
- Meat was in short supply in common homes, whose inhabitants made do with grains and vegetables.
- The nobility loved meat and sweets. When they got enough to eat, the lower classes may have had the more healthy diet. (Ask your students to compare Elizabethan fare to the things we're told are healthy today.)
If "close is good enough," try several of these contemporary recipes for dishes whose roots go back to Elizabethan days.
- Steak & Kidney Pie - Several different versions
- Yorkshire Pudding - There should be a good roast along side.
- English Trifle - Thousands of calories
- Shepherd's Pie - Long-standing favorite
- Mincemeat Pies - No meat, but they're tasty
- Roast Suckling Pig - the ultimate feast (like our picture above)!
Warning: This is a two day recipe.
For the purists: check out these sources for Medieval/Elizabethan recipes:
- Recipe for an apple and orange tart, as posted at Carnegie Mellon University
- If you'd like to go straight to the source, the Medieval & Renaissance Food Page contains simple links to a variety of 15th century recipes. Most of these have been transcribed in their original form, so it can be tough to tell what and how much is supposed to go into the pot.
- The fabulous site created by senior English Literature/Composition students at Springfield (IL) High School has great information about Elizabethan food, banquets, and feasts.
- The Boke of Gode Cookery is a surprisingly eclectic collection of recipes and other medieval information. Strictly speaking, these recipes are a little too old, but students will get the idea!
- For more on Elizabethan Life - Here's a link to A Compendium of Common Knowledge, which contains lots of information on all things Elizabethan.
Looking for more great ideas to teach Shakespeare? See TeacherFirst's Shakespeare Resources