Prices and Regulations for Medieval London Cook Shops – the equivalent of Fast Food in the Middle Ages

From H. T. Riley Memorials of London and London Life (1868), a compilation of Latin and French sources of London in Middle Ages.

Like all Medieval towns the aldermen of London were concerned with regulating prices of goods sold, particularly staple foods like the fast food sold by cooks, which was vital for feeding the workforce of London. These regulations make it clear that some cooks tried to pass off other meats as well, and that it was thought that certain cuts of rabbit and geese were not fit to be cooked in pies or pasties. It would be interesting to know why, but from the price regulations it easy to determine that meat such as pork, best roast goose and chicken were amongst the most sought after common meats for pies. Items such as heron or bitterns must have been luxuries and were no doubt ordered for consumption only by the wealthier merchant or noble households of London.

(a) 1378. (p. 426.) The Ordinance of the Cooks, ordered by the Mayor and Aldermen, as to divers flesh-meat and poultry, as well roasted as baked in pasties: The best roast pig, for 8d. Best roast goose, 7d. Best roast capon, 6d. Best roast hen, 4d. Best roast pullet, 21/2 d. Best roast rabbit, 4d. Best roast river mallard, 41/2 d. Best roast dunghill mallard, 31/2 d. Best roast teal, 21/2 d. Best roast snyte [snipe] 11/2 d. Five roast larks, 11/2 d. Best roast wodecok, 21/2 d. Best roast partridge, 31/2 d. Best roast plover, 21/2 d. Best roast pheasant, 13d. Best roast curlew, 6 1/2 d. Three roast thrushes, 2d. Ten roast finches, 1d. Best roast heron, 18d. Best roast bittern, 20d, Three roast pigeons, 21/2 d. Ten eggs, one penny. For the paste, fire, and trouble upon a capon, 11/2 d. For the paste, fire, and trouble upon a goose, 2d. The best capon baked in a pasty, 8d. The best hen baked in a pasty, 5d. The best lamb, roasted, 7d.”

(b) 1379. (p 438.) “Because that the Pastelers [Pastry Cooks] of the City of London have heretofore baked in pasties rabbits, geese, and garbage not befitting, and sometimes stinking, in deceit of the people; and also, have baked beef in pasties, and sold the same for venison, in deceit of the people; therefore, by assent of the four Master Pastelers, and at their prayer, it is ordered and assented to.—
In the first place,—that no one of the said trade shall bake rabbits in pasties for sale, on pain of paying, the first time, if found guilty thereof, 6s. 8d., to the use of the Chamber, and of going bodily to prison, at the will of the Mayor; the second time, 13S. 4d. to the use of the Chamber, and of going etc.; and the third time, 20s. to the use of the Chamber, and of going etc.”
Also,—that no one of the said trade shall buy of any cook of Bredestret, or, at the hostels of the great lords, of the cooks of such lords, any garbage from capons, hens, or geese, to bake in a pasty, and sell, under the same penalty.”
Also,—that no one shall bake beef in a pasty for sale, and sell it as venison, under the same penalty.”
Also,—that no one of the said trade shall bake either whole geese in a pasty, halves of geese, or quarters of geese, for sale, on the pain aforesaid.”

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