Pieter Bruegel, The Peasant Wedding

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Pieter Bruegel or also known as “The Old Man” was born in the Netherlands November 9, 1569 known to paint pictures with landscapes and scenes from the fields.

Considered one of the best Flemish painters of the 16th century he was the most important member of the family.

At one point Bruegel travelled to Italy where he produced a series of paintings. Ten years later he moved to Brussels permanently

He married to Mayken in 1553, the daughter of his master.

The painting

He painted scenes of everyday life such as this painting, full of warmth and life while describing a peasant wedding with different types of food (meat, cheese or the typical beer of Anthuerp).

Although it is a wedding attended by simple people it seems to be full of joy with warm colours like red and yellow, especially in the foreground.

There is actually a clear idea of perspective if we notice the size of the figures in the foreground and their smaller size and fading colours on the background.

Guests are either talking, eating or moving lending liveliness to the painting.

The bride is the person sitting in front of the green curtain. She’s wearing a crown and revealing a serene and calm appearance

The main food items: bread, soup, some meat, pudding, wine or water (within mugs and barrels) are served and gladly eaten by the guests.

Other features of this painting are two people who seem to be “whispering”,on the right side of the painting and on the left side in the foreground there is a boy eating the leftovers of a dish.

But essentially this painting depicts a typical peasant wedding in the 16th century where you can find various types of food that were served in the late Renaissance. One of which is Stewed Rabbit.

But not only meat is important in this period. Actually In Renaissance dining fruit is essentially an important element in completing a fine meal. Usually served last in forms of marmalades or salads or what we call now as desserts. The term “dessert” was not used during those times as it carries with it a point for debate. “Dessert” was simply called the last meal course. This rose into popularity when sugar became more available for European consumers as new crops of sugarcanes were brought in from the Americas. On the painting a large tray of custard puddings is being served to the wedding guests.

Common dishes on a peasant wedding:

Stewed rabbit

Custard

Ingredients for the stewed rabbit:

  • 1 large rabbit
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 onion
  • 8 ounces bacon, in one piece

  • 10 sprigs parsley
  • 10 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup small onion
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 12 new potatos
  • Fresh herb (chervil)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Advance Preparation:

  1. Chop rabbit into 12 pieces, discard the head and feet.

  2. Chop the onion and garlic finely.

  3. Slice and dice the bacon.

  4. Make a bouquet garni by tying together the parsley, thyme and bay leaf with string.

  5. Sear the rabbit pieces in olive oil, until lightly browned, remove from casserole.

  6. In the same pan, fry garlic, onion and the bouquet garni.

  7. Add the bacon and allow to color lightly.

  8. Pour off excess fat.
  9. Return rabbit to pan and deglaze with the red wine.

  10. Add 3 cups water, cover and cook for 1 hour 45 minutes.

  11. Peel small onions and remove root ends.

  12. Rinse well.
  13. Cook the onions in water to cover, add sugar, butter, salt and pepper.

  14. Cook until all water has evaporated and the sauce is caramelized.

  15. (20 min) Peel and cut potatoes into narrow rectangles.

  16. Add potatoes to rabbit stew after the stew has been cooking for 90 minutes.

  17. Cook covered until tender.
  18. Serve stew with caramelized onions and garnish with chopped chervil.

To make a Custard.

A Custard / the coffin must be first hardened in the oven / and then take a quart of cream and five or six yolks of eggs and beat them well together and put them into the cream / and put in sugar and small raisins and dates sliced and put into the coffin butter or else marrow / but on the fish days put in butter.

Ingredients:

  • One 9-inch pie shell, pre-baked

  • 1 quart cream
  • 5-6 egg yolks
  • Sugar
  • Raisins
  • Dates, sliced
  • Butter OR: Beef marrow, diced

Preparation in advance:

 

Add together and beat well the cream, eggs, & sugar. Add the raisins & dates. In the bottom of the pre-baked pie shell lay the butter cut in small pieces or the diced marrow. Fill shell with the cream mixture & bake at moderate heat until the custard is set.

A coffin is a pie shell.

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