Amryw adar, mawr ydyn’,
The distribution of fish is similar to the distribution of meat as it signified a social division: freshwater fish was consumed by wealthy landowners and the gentry and preserved fish (salted or steeped in brine) by the rural poor. Freshwater fish such as bream, roach and pike were exclusively luxury items; this is possibly highlighted by the fact that salmon (eog and gleisiaid), trout (brithyll) and cod (penfras) are notable metaphors for patrons in the poetry. Medical texts from the late fourteenth century also state that fresh fish from running water had the healthiest qualities, mainly flatfish, trout and sea-urchin, while care should be taken with certain types of fish; a view which is later emphasized in the Renaissance dietaries.
However, although fish and seafood are mentioned in the poetry, we have no further detail of how these various types of fish were cooked. There are references to the choice of fish served at a feast and Guto’r Glyn refers to the various seafoods served at a feast at Oswestry castle:
Amryw adar, mawr ydyn’,
Amryw fwyd o’r môr a fyn,
Amryw fodd ar ansoddau,
Amryw saws yn fy mrasáu.
Various poultry, they’re large,
various seafoods is what he wants,
various kinds of delicacies,
various sauces fattening me.
Fish from the sea were probably bought at coastal fish-markets; rivers and lakes produced local fish, such as the Severn for salmon or Llyn Tegid in Bala for its famous gwynad or gwyniad (a species of freshwater whitefish). Fishponds were within reach of monasteries as fish played a prominent role in the diet of monks and abbots, because of the Christian dietary restrictions against consuming animals that applied several days a week as well as during Advent and Lent. Seafood is frequently associated with fasting in the poetry, often linked with Fridays as this was the traditional day of fasting.
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Bibliography: D. Serjeantson & C.M. Woolgar, ‘Fish Consumption’, in C.M. Woolgar, D. Serjeantson & T Waldron, eds., Food in Medieval England: Diet and Nutrition (Oxford & New York, 2006), 126.
: A.M. Edwards, ‘“Food and Wine for all the World”: Food and Drink in fifteenth-century Poetry’, in D.F. Evans, B.J. Lewis ac A. Parry Owen (eds), ‘Gwalch Cywyddau Gwŷr’: Essays on Guto’r Glyn and Fifteenth-Century Wales (Aberystwyth, 2013).
: Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, s.v. gwyniad³
: See for example E. Roberts (gol.), Gwaith Maredudd ap Rhys a’i Gyfoedion (Aberystwyth, 2003), 8.3-6.
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