Medieval London

Cooking Pot

Dublin Core

Title

Cooking Pot

Subject

Household Items, Tools

Description

The cooking pot is an object that has stood the test of time. People all over the world have used it for thousands of years. A cooking pot is a pot that can be made out of many different types of materials and is used to cook numerous types of food. In medieval times, a cooking pot may have been more to people than simply a pot. A cooking pot may have represented security because it provided people with a basic need: cooked-food. It also was heavily associated with communal and social practices revolving around eating and sharing meals, as the cooking was an object that brought people together.

In medieval London, cooking pots as a whole were very common among people from all different backgrounds and essentially every household used them. The people in the household that mainly used them, however, were women. A cooking pot is a particularly gendered item, as it is clear that women did the majority of the cooking during the Middle Ages. The types of cooking pots used however, differed depending on a person’s socioeconomic status. Many pots that have been recovered have been made of pottery. Cooking pots made of pottery were more common among people of lower socioeconomic status because they were inexpensive to make or buy. The cooking pots made of pottery that have been recovered are mostly handmade. Cooking pots made of metal were more common among the wealthier classes. In medieval London, wealthier people frequently had giant cooking cauldrons made of metal, while the poorer people had smaller cooking pots made of pottery. A traditional cooking pot in medieval London had a width that was greater than its height, which allowed for more food to be cooked in closer proximity to the flame over which it rested.

Cooking in these pots was so popular during the medieval period because it was economically efficient, and also the accustomed method by which most cooking was done during that period. Common types of cooking methods included stewing and boiling. The meat used during the medieval period was not always of the best quality, and thus, long slow cooking processes associated with the cooking pot were preferred as the best and most effective method to cook rough meat, which made it edible and easier to eat. Although many cooking pots appear to be similar- whether in materials, shape, or size- there were many different types of cooking pots during the Middle Ages, some of which were used for different types of cooking. For example, skillets or pipkins were smaller cooking pots, primarily used for specialized cooking, such as sauces, or used as regular cooking pots in smaller households. Bigger cooking pots included large cauldrons with three legs. These pots either hung over the fire from the ceiling or were placed directly over the flames. The three legs of these pots allowed them to be close to the flames, but not directly on them.

Archaeological evidence provides some insight into what exactly was cooked with different cooking pots in medieval London. Cooking pots that were excavated from the Trig Lane site in London contain trace amounts of residue of meat and dairy products such as milk, butter, cream and cheese. Butter was a common ingredient in sauces during this period, and milk and cream were often used to make desserts.

This particular cooking pot was produced sometime in the Saxo-Norman period; that is, between the middle of the eleventh to the middle of the twelfth centuries. This pot is ceramic 80 mm (about 3.15i n.) in height, 123 mm (about 4.84 in.) in diameter. It is dark gray in color, seemingly accented with other lighter colors. The wear on the color is most likely due to the age of the pot and the conditions it was in before its excavation. This cooking pot was most likely handmade, like many of the other ceramic cooking pots at the time.

Source

Cherry, John. "Pottery and Tile." In English Medieval Industries: Craftsmen, Techniques, Products, ed. by John Blair and Nigel Ramsay. London: Hambledon Press, 1991.

Vince, A.G.  "The Saxon and Medieval Pottery of London: A Review." Archaeology Data Service.

Weinstein, Rosemary. "Kitchen Chattels: The Evolution of Familiar Objects 1200-1700." In Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery, 1988 the Cooking Pot: Proceedings, ed. by Tom Jaine. London: Prospect Books, 1989.

Date

High Medieval (1000-1300)

Contributor

Emma Fetonti

Type

Still image

Collection Items

Cooking Pot
This particular cooking pot was produced sometime in the Saxo-Norman period; that is, between the middle of the eleventh to the middle of the twelfth centuries. This pot is ceramic, 80 mm (about 3.15 in.) in height, 123 mm (about 4.84 in.) in…

Metal Cooking Pot
This particular cooking pot is made of copper alloy and was excavated in London. Because this cooking pot is made of metal, it was most likely only used by the wealthy. The three legs allowed for the pot to be placed directly over the open fire.

Cooking Pot (Detail from Pierpont Morgan Library, MS M.769, Fol. 112v, Moses: Miracle of Quail)
This particular scene displays communal dining in the medieval period. Multiple cooking pots were used to in order to serve larger groups of people. The cooking areas in houses were also many times in the same rooms in which people did other…

Cooking Pot (Detail from Pierpont Morgan Library, MS M.27, Fol. 003v, Month, Occupation: February)
This MS depicts a man warming his feet over the open fire. What seems to be a metal cooking pot hangs over the fire. It is right to assume that the woman of the household had started the fire prior to the man returning home.
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