A Creative List of Meat Carving Terms from the Middle Ages: “Splaye that Breme,” “Splatte that Pyke” & More

A less­er adver­tised joy of work­ing in food ser­vice is achiev­ing com­mand of the slang:

Mon­key dish…

Deuces and four tops…

Fire, flash, kill… 

As you may have noticed, we here at Open Cul­ture have an insa­tiable hunger for vin­tage lin­go and it doesn’t get much more vin­tage than The Boke of Kervyn­ge (The Book of Carv­ing).

This 1508 man­u­al was pub­lished for the ben­e­fit of young noble­men who’d been placed in afflu­ent house­holds, to learn the ropes of high soci­ety by serv­ing the sov­er­eigns.

Few fam­i­lies could afford to serve meat, let alone whole ani­mals, so under­stand­ably, the pre­sen­ta­tion and carv­ing of these pre­cious entrees was not a thing to be under­tak­en light­ly.

The influ­en­tial Lon­don-based pub­lish­er Wynkyn de Worde com­piled step-by-step instruc­tions for get­ting dif­fer­ent types of meat, game and fish from kitchen to plate, as well as what to serve on sea­son­al menus and spe­cial occa­sions like East­er and the Feast of St. John the Bap­tist.

The book opens with the list of “good­ly ter­mes” above, essen­tial vocab for any young man eager to prove his skills around the car­cass of a deer, goose, or lob­ster.

There’s noth­ing here for veg­e­tar­i­ans, obvi­ous­ly. And some 21st-cen­tu­ry car­ni­vores may find them­selves blanch­ing a bit at the thought of tear­ing into a heron or por­poise.

If, how­ev­er, you’re a medieval lad tasked with “dis­fig­ur­ing” a pea­cock, close­ly observed by an entire din­ing table of la crème de la crème, The Boke of Kervyn­ge is a life­saver.

(It also con­tains some invalu­able tips for meet­ing expec­ta­tions should you find your­self in the posi­tion of chaum­ber­layne, Mar­shall or ush­er.)

In any event, let’s spice up our vocab­u­lary while res­cu­ing some aged culi­nary terms from obscu­ri­ty.

Don’t be sur­prised if they work their way into an episode of The Bear next sea­son, though you should also feel free to use them metaphor­i­cal­ly.

And don’t lose heart if some of the terms are a bit befud­dling to mod­ern ears. Lists of Note’s Shaun Ush­er has tak­en a stab at truf­fling up some mod­ern trans­la­tions for a few of the less famil­iar sound­ing words, wise­ly refrain­ing from haz­ard­ing a guess as to the mean­ing of “fruche that chekyn”.

(It’s not the “chekyn” part giv­ing us pause…)

Ter­mes of a keruer —Terms of a carv­er

Breke that dere — break that deer

lesche y brawne — leach the brawn

rere that goose — rear that goose

lyft that swanne — lift that swan

sauce that capon — sauce that capon

spoyle that henne — spoil that hen

fruche that chekyn — ? that chick­en

vnbrace that malarde — unbrace that mal­lard

vnlace that cony — unlace that coney

dys­mem­bre that heron — dis­mem­ber that heron

dys­playe that crane — dis­play that crane

dys­fygure that pecocke —dis­fig­ure that pea­cock

vnioynt that byt­ture — unjoint that bit­tern

vntache that curlewe — untack that curlew

alaye that fesande — allay that pheas­ant

wyn­ge that partryche — wing that par­tridge

wyn­ge that quayle — wing that quail

mynce that plouer — mince that plover

thye that pegy­on — thigh that pigeon

bor­der that pasty — bor­der that pasty

thye all man­er of small byrdes — thigh all man­ner of small birds

tym­bre that fyre — tim­ber that fire

tyere that egge — tear that egg

chyne that samon — chine that salmon

stryn­ge that lam­praye — string that lam­prey

splat­te that pyke — splat that pike

sauce that playce — sauce that plaice

sauce that tenche — sauce that tench

splaye that breme — splay that bream

syde that had­docke — side that had­dock

tuske that bar­bell — tusk that bar­bel

culpon that troute — culpon that trout

fynne that cheuen — fin that cheven

trassene that ele — ? that eel

traunche that stur­gy­on — tranche that stur­geon

vnder­traunche yt pur­pos — under­tranch that por­poise

tayme that crabbe — tame that crab

barbe that lop­ster — barb that lob­ster

Here endeth the good­ly ter­mes.

Peruse a dig­i­tal copy of the sole sur­viv­ing copy of the first edi­tion of the Boke of Kervyn­ge here.

Via Lists of Note

Relat­ed Con­tent 

What Did Peo­ple Eat in Medieval Times? A Video Series and New Cook­book Explain

A 13th-Cen­tu­ry Cook­book Fea­tur­ing 475 Recipes from Moor­ish Spain Gets Pub­lished in a New Trans­lat­ed Edi­tion

A List of 1,065 Medieval Dog Names: Nose­wise, Gar­lik, Have­g­ood­day & More

Tast­ing His­to­ry: A Hit YouTube Series Shows How to Cook the Foods of Ancient Greece & Rome, Medieval Europe, and Oth­er Places & Peri­ods

Ernest Hemingway’s Favorite Ham­burg­er Recipe

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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