Although this blog focuses mostly on book learnin' for conducting medieval research, there are, of course, other ways to "experience" the Middle Ages, after a sort. If you're a cook, then try making and sampling a medieval dish. Some books that contain medieval recipes include Fabulous Feasts: Medieval Cookery and Ceremony, by Madeleine Pelner Cosman; Pleyn Delit: Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks, by Constance B. Hieatt and Sharon Butler; and The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy, by Odile Redon, Francoise Sabban & Silvano Serventi.
Alas, I hate to cook, but don't let that discourage you from doing so! Until I overcome my personal reluctance (I suppose "laziness" is closer to the truth!), I'll have to continue to rely on my overly active imagination and trust in my characters' palates. (Don't worry. As one of my favorite plaques says: "I live in my own little world, but it's okay. They know Me here!")
Music is another way to sample what life might have been like in the Middle Ages. Now music is something I can do! Or at least, I can happily listen to it. (I suppose I could happily eat medieval food that someone else cooked for me, too, if I could find someone else to do the cooking.) You have only to visit Amazon.com and type in the words "medieval music" into the Music category to come up with a plethora (I love that word...plethora!) of CDs that feature music from the Middle Ages. One of my favorite albums from clear back when it was an old fashioned LP (thankfully converted to CD and MP3 versions) is Music of the Crusades. And my very favorite musical selection on that album...actually, my all time favorite medieval selection of all!...is called Ja nus hons pris. This song is credited to Richard the Lionheart, supposedly composed by King Richard while imprisoned on his way home from the 3rd Crusade and held for ransom. You can listen to a snippet of Ja nus hons pris on Amazon (though I downloaded my copy from iTunes) and read an English translation of the words at These Vintage Years!
If you follow my JDP NEWS blog, you'll know that one of the highlights of my year is attending the Arizona Renaissance Festival. Renaissance and Medieval Festivals are, admittedly, fantasy versions of those time periods, but still, they're great places to "pretend" and soak in at least a little bit of historical atmosphere. And there are other "living history" experiences you can take part in, such as the Society for Creative Anachronism.
Whether researching in the comfort of your own home or at a public historical re-enactment, let's not underestimate the power of wearing an authentic medieval outfit to really get one in the spirit of the times! Here are a few Medieval/Renaissance clothing websites that I've come across. They all carry Medieval, as well as Renaissance (and occasionally Tudor) costumes:
The Renaissance Store
Pearson's Renaissance Shoppe
You can also find these links in the right hand sidebar of this blog under (appropriately enough) "Medieval, Renaissance, and Tudor Clothing"
To be totally upfront, The Renaissance Store is the only "store" I have personal experience with, and that was only to buy medieval jewelry, not clothes. But they're all very enjoyable websites to browse, and Pearson's Renaissance Shoppe has the added benefit of maintaining a companion blog.
Do you have any favorite medieval recipes, medieval songs, medieval re-enactments, or medieval shopping places? If so, I'd love to have you share it in the comment section!