Fish and Fairs

The supply and control of the quality of food seems to have taken up most of the authorities time until modern age. Weights and measures were scrupulously checked, and if food or drink was unfit for consumption it was generally destroyed, sometimes burnt, in public, and the vendor fined or put into the pillory for the locals to express their displeasure. But the king could also manipulate diet for what was claimed to be national interests. This is from Honor Ridout’s ‘Cambridge and Stourbridge Fair’:

“From the Middle Ages, large quantities of fish were eaten because the Church banned meat-eating on Fridays and other fast days. Fish was acceptable and widely available. Not only was fresh-water fish easily caught, but sea fish could be carried considerable distances inland. In addition, vast quantities were dried or salted to keep longer. Stourbridge had good supplies of all kinds, and many medieval households, particularly te religious houses, stocked up. Newnham Priory in Bedford in one year spent £5 on seven different forms of fish, including ling, salmon, herring and sprats. In later years. The government extended fast days to Wednesday and Saturdays, to develop the fishing industry. (Not because they thought fish was good for people or that meat was bad – they wanted a good supply of fishing boats and fishermen to supplement the royal fleet in time of war.)

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