The Kitchen                        

The monastic kitchens were overseen by the Kitchener, or monk assigned to that task.  A few monks might work in the kitchen on a rotating basis, but most of the kitchen work was assigned to lay brothers or sisters, or trusted servants of the monastery.

Much ritual surrounded the serving of food, what type must be served, and in what amounts.  In some institutions, servings were carefully measured on plates beforehand, and in others, meals were served in a manner similar to that of the manor house, on shared plates from which the monks would eat.   

Depending on the size of the monastery, the work of procuring supplies, keeping the supplies, distributing the supplies and overseeing the work of cooking might be done by several different officers and their assistants, but most everyone would report to the Cellarer, who would oversee most of the entire business.  

The work of the kitchen tended to be segregated according to what needed to be prepared and the quantity of food needed.  In a larger monastery, the main kitchen would be used primarily for making pottage, sauces, custards, and roasting meats.  Bread and pastry (such as for pies) would be baked in a separate kitchen, with the bread of the communion baked in a sacred space set aside for that purpose, perhaps in the kitchens, but perhaps also in an area of the church itself.

Yet another kitchen would serve the monastery servants and guests those who had come on pilgrimage or seeking charity (alms) or rest (such as the infirm, should the monastery include a hospital).   This kitchen would be located on the grounds, but not within the gates of the cloister.   Important guests would be served from the monastery kitchen itself.  Butchering and cleaning of animals would be done away from the monastery gates.

Beverages were not the domain of the kitchen, but instead were prepared and stored in the buttery.  (Many beer concoctions included things like milk, eggs, sugar, spices and butter.  A raw egg in warmed beer was common. Yum.)  Some monasteries also had a brewhouse for brewing ale or beer, or cellars for fermenting their own wine, or even distilleries for making the quintessential spirits.  Though it was not only liqueur which was distilled.  Monks experimented with the distillation of many things, including chickens.




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