1 April 2013


Yesterday was Easter, which meant one thing for me - finally! no more Lent! Huzzah!

I officially made it all the way through, though. Himself was not quite so good, succumbing to a milky tea a few weeks ago. ;)

It was an interesting challenge, and one I'd consider doing again (although Himself, the house chef, has vetoed this...). It certainly made me think about the implications of the medieval fast more than before. For example, for at least the first half of the fast I consistently got hungry 2 hours earlier than I would normally. This eventually abated in the last 2-3 weeks. However, unlike my 14th Century counterparts, I did not have any restrictions on the number and timing of meals, nor did I insist upon maintaining a non-Lent meal size and a lack of snacking. So, I'm betting a real 14th Century Lenten fast would leave one feeling quite hungry for several hours every day ... quite unpleasant, though perhaps something that could be used as a focus-point for meditations upon Biblical deprivations.

Another consideration - both of us have lost a noticeable amount of weight (though I thoroughly expect to put it all back on again, preferably probably through the medium of cheese!). I estimate I've lost at least half a stone. Now, of course, some of that can probably be attributed to being fatter and heavier than my medieval equivalent and so having more 'excess' to lose, but it does make you wonder how the fast would have affected peoples' bodies - particularly those who were underweight to start with. (Although, one can argue that those who lacked food would have had a hungry early spring whether or not Lent existed, as it was the 'hungry gap' when the previous year's stored were running out but the current year's crops had not yet come to fruition.)

One thing that certainly made things easier was Sundays. Having a no-fast day a week (and having the first week not be a full 6 days, but only Weds to Sat) made things much more bearable (I completely confess to having once-weekly cheese binges). I presume the Sunday feast day would have also helped to use up any eggs or milk that had been produced during the week, though I'm still not clear as to whether by the 14th Century it was a complete no-fast day (i.e. dairy, eggs and meat) or whether the fast was just slackened (i.e. meat, and perhaps other items, were still not allowed). More reading is needed....

Throughout the fast, I was thinking about reasons that it might have come into use. Or, at least, reasons that might have made it beneficial other than simply religious benefits. Now, perhaps this is a wrong-headed way of considering a religious action. However, one thing that stood out was when I was chatting to my mum, who said 'I always thought it was rather perverse that Lent generally starts just when there's beginning to be milk and eggs again after winter'. I wonder if this was rather the (or one of) the point(s): if you forbid the first clutch of eggs to be eaten, then those eggs will be hatched into birds which will be the oldest birds laid that year and so might have a better chance at survival over the winter. Equally, if you let the calf have exclusive (or near-exclusive) access to its mother's milk for nearly two months before you start taking some for human consumption, then that calf would thrive better and be more likely to survive. I don't know nearly enough about medieval farming practices to say whether this logic is faulty or not, but I still think it's an interesting idea.

Anywho, enough musing from me. Adieu! I hope you are all enjoying your chocolate. ;)

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