Table Settings

Eating

As members of the society, we receive a great deal of encouragement to be authentic. One of the more frequently cited examples is not to put modern bottles on the table, instead we are urged to either remove the labels or find some other form of container. I certainly agree with this, and would like to suggest some guidelines on what other items the well equipped Reveller would lay their place with.

To begin with, I believe some sort of place-mat is essential. In spite of the fact that these days a Revel usually has tablecloths available, it is the prudent Reveller who has a place-mat – just in case. This will also establish the seat that you have reserved for yourself and perhaps also identify your utensils.

My first place-mat was a simple rectangle of cloth, neatly hemmed, with my Runic initials embroidered in one corner. Since then I have been very fortunate to receive two place-mats as gifts, the first is beautifully embroidered with my device at it’s centre and is quite small while the second is simply a larger square of material with my initial once again in the corner.

I now use the two of these at Revels, the larger to accommodate my utensils and the other for identification.

Once your place at the tables is established, we should next discuss exactly what utensils you are going to use.

For the beginner, it is my opinion that a bowl is sufficient for most needs. I say a bowl rather than a plate because the latter doesn’t hold liquids so well.

However, once a person has decided that they wish to continue this pastime it is not unreasonable to suggest that they will acquire a plate and thus use one for liquids (e.g. Stews) and the other for solids (e.g. pies). This is also useful, for instance, when some dishes are served quickly and space is required for food you are not yet ready to eat.

Now what will you be eating with? A spoon is, for the beginner, more than adequate. However, eventually you will add a knife and probably a fork – though fingers are more than acceptable (providing they are clean).

Your choice of spoon is pretty wide, medieval forks had only two prongs and are perhaps a bit harder to come across – but an ordinary fork will suffice. The complications with eating utensils these days will be concerning your knife. The current legislation prohibits the carrying of a knife with a blade longer than 6” “unless you have a good reason”. I have tried to enquire about this at my local police station to little effect. It seems that “a good reason” will depend on Court decisions, and, at the moment there are no decisions on which to refer to as a precedent.

The final utensil which you may acquire is a bowl for your leftovers, and, with Revels running to some 20 dishes these days it is only realistic to expect that you won’t eat everything.

Drinking

Having discussed what you will use for your food, I would like to move on to what you will use for your drink.

The first item that springs to mind is, of course, a goblet. These will run from pottery to silver plated, but any medium is possible e.g. wood. However a goblet is not the only possibility, I have seen Bishop Theophilus drink from a wooden bowl or others use a tankard, how about an ordinary pottery cup (minus the handle of course).

Storing your drink is the next consideration, “no modern bottles” immediately springs to mind. So what else can you do? Well, if soaking the labels from the bottle is not sufficient then how about covering it. This can be done using cloth, paper or leather. Otherwise you can use a jug or some form of pot. Ideally this jug or pot will have a lid, even better if it is airtight. However, in no way am I suggesting that your refreshment should be transported in anything but it’s original container or a suitable bottle.

Lighting

Now, how are you going to see what you’ve got? Naturally the halls we choose will have a form of electric light but it’s hardly appropriate – that’s why we turn the lights off, so we need candles.

A candle alone is not sufficient however, the wax will drip and be unsightly. Therefore a candle holder is required. This need not be elaborate, as the Autocrat for one Revel I used foil covered cardboard with a drawing pin pushed through. Now Camcairndryth have purchased glass bases which are somewhat more durable (and washable).

Whatever your choice of base, I recommend using small wide candles wherever possible rather than tall ones. I have two reasons for this, the first is a matter of balance – tall candles are very simple to topple over. Secondly it is very difficult for a server to reach across a table and avoid the candles at the same time. To be honest I consider the circumstances of our revels to make tall candles downright dangerous.

Well I think that just about covers everything, of course, if you can improve upon this please do so. Now that you are suitably equipped to sit and eat the only thing left to say is – Enjoy your meal.

The original text has been authored by Astrid.