Although medieval England is a country with devastating experiences of the Black Death, the Great Famine and the Peasants’ Revolt, the Canterbury Tales represents a society experiencing and enjoying a remarkable abundance and variety of food. In the Canterbury Tales food is not scarce for most of the pilgrims; on the contrary, it is through ‘eating well’ that the established social order is threatened and ruptured. This paper argues that recognising the control of food consumption as a disciplining mechanism, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales offers a critique of medieval food consumption and represents ‘eating well’, preferred by many pilgrims, as the violation of traditional social order and discipline and a symbol of food’s potential disruptive power for the system.
Despite their rise in the social ladder, the newly emerging bourgeoisie of late medieval England needed to display their wealth not only to secure their place in the social hierarchy but also to receive acceptance from the noble people in their communities. Hence, their public and private lives turned out to be arenas for social drama, in which their cooks and kitchens were of great importance as backstage elements as exemplified by the Cook of the Guildsmen and the cook of the Franklin in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to analyse Chaucer’s depiction of the cooks in the Canterbury Tales and discuss their necessity for and function in contributing to the social changes. Accordingly, the paper will also associate the architectural position of the kitchen with the status of the cooks in the bourgeois houses of late medieval England.
Despite the Rule of St Benedict advising that ‘nihil sic contrarium est omni christiano quomodo crapula’, Chaucer’s forty-five line portrait of the Prioress in The General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales contains several references to feasting, portliness, and gluttony. This paper shall examine the relationship between the Prioress’s eating habits and the discussions of sin in The prologue to the Second Nonne’s Tale. An original reading of The Prioress’s Tale will investigate the literary subtext for the Tale as an expression of grievance against the restrictions of the convent, and discuss Chaucer’s nuns, gluttony, and the Rule of St Benedict.