People have had to eat to live since the beginning of time, and to learn how they went about supplying their food and keeping it available presents some problems, especially to a historical writer. As a teller of tales, I like to get the facts right, but something as common as food consumption and storage wasn't considered worthy of recording. We have learned some facts, simply from drawings and diaries, or sales records. If a soldier of the 13th century wanted to take food with him into a battle, he had to wrap it in cloth or put it into an animal skin. One of the reasons women went with the men into battle was the need to have them available to cook because an army had to be fed. The men hunted or found the food, and the women prepared it. Daily!
We know the spice trade was developed because the safe storage of food was difficult, if not impossible, so people ate tainted food. Spices covered up the taste. A pleasant thought. After all, nobody knew anything about bacteria, or the process of spoilage.
While vacationing in Barbados, I took a look at old church records looking for ancestors who supposedly died in Barbados in the 17th century. I couldn't believe the number of deaths attributed to indigestion. After I thought about it, it made sense. A warm climate, no method of preserving food, the obvious overuse of spices. Yep, people would have died from food poisoning. A yucky thought! But think about it. Salt was a precious commodity, so few salted their food. There was nothing like refrigeration. Some localities had winter ice, but only for a short time.
Sugar was also something only the wealthy had, so preserving fruits in jellies and preserves was only for those who could afford it. Drying food was the method of preference. And, storing food? Imagine today trying to exist without plastic bags, and wrap, inventions from the 20th century.
So what did people of earlier times do? We know that very early on, jars and pottery containers were used, as well as animals skins. (I agree - not a pleasant thought). Grains were stored in caves and later in buildings. There were rooms in the castle to keep supplies, and enemies made an attempt to get to those areas where the stores where kept. After all, everyone needed food to survive. Since water was often a source of illness, ale and wine were also stored in jars or animal skins. Barrels came along later.
Food preservation and storage have certainly come a long way. What would we do without our freezers and our plastic wrappings? We'd have to do like our ancestors did. Hunt and fish everyday, and pray the food we set aside wasn't going to kill us.
Release Date: August 2008
Author: Allison Knight
Author Website: www.AllisonKnight.com
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Historical romance, medieval romance
Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Allison Knight. Another year is upon us. I can hardly believe it’s 2010 when I so vividly remember the Y2K scare! What did the first decade of this century mean to you?
I've been very busy. We moved further south in '04. Been through three computers. I'm not fond of Windows systems redoing their operating system all the time. I've published six books, written two more, which I'm polishing, served two years as president of our local RWA chapter and lived through three hurricanes. Not bad for a country girl from Indiana.
Your blog post touched on food preservation of our ancestors. With this in mind, do you have a favorite period of time you like writing about?
I love the medieval time period, but I also like the early colonial time period as well. Actually any thing before 1900. Terrible that I can't pin myself down to a certain time.
Again, I really like medieval romance, but anything before 1900 is good.
Is there any period of time you would’ve liked to have lived in? Why?
I've done too much research for my historical romances to want to go back. I like this time period. Maybe the innocence of the time after the second World War, but certainly not the times I write about. We have too many advantages today that didn't exist years ago.
What are your plans, as far as your writing goes, for the New Year? Any hot releases coming up?
Battlesong, the sequel to Heartsong is coming in August. This is the story of the youngest brother of the family and boy, does he get into trouble. I have a gothic short coming from Red Rose Publishing in March. I'm currently polishing a tale about two very different people, forced to wed by the King, which is a lot of fun. Judith is probably going to be my all time favorite heroine. I'm also tackling another contemporary. So I have lots more going on.
Thank you for joining me, Allison. Is there anything else you'd like the readers to know?
I'd love to know which one of Rhianna's brothers I should write about next. She has five of them and Arthur's tale is Battlesong. I'm toying with brother number three right now. But I could do the oldest one or perhaps number four. It's a 'puzzlement'!