Huge Medieval feasts were done on special holidays, special events like a wedding, or just because company dropped in. A Celt was always big on hospitality, in fact there was an occupation assigned to this. The virtue of hospitality was very high on their list. No matter who the person was, stranger or friend, at the door, a Celt always took them in as a guest and gave them food, water, shelter and entertainment or be shamed.
We know that the dishes served at these Medieval feasts, depended on the type of food available in the area where the tribe or fine lived. If the Celt was rich, he or she could order from abroad and would have more types of food available. The key to serving the right amount for any guest, is to serve them above and beyond what you would serve yourself without harming your family financially. There was no such thing as going cheap to the Celts! You shared what you had with all! A Celts is definitely not modest and at some Medieval feasts the guests were served up to 6 or more courses.
In Earlier years the people in the tribe worked for the Chieftains or Kings for free, at these affairs and within the tribe! In turn, these Lords were responsible for provide food, training, & safety to them in return. Everybody had their part to play at these feasts and every single person was considered important. No one would be abused or starved and no one was without respect for each other, even the servants.
What will you buy to serve? Don't panic. Choose food that naturally grows in your area or food from the hosts particular culture, no matter what that is. Please remember that the Celts were not a race, as they embraced all peoples and even adopted some customs and even treated all learned hostages with respect.
Next, decide on whether your feast will be for peasants or nobility. If nobility, you would have been able to import exotic meats, fruits, vegetables and nuts. Nobility also had lots of spices and herbs to flavour the food. Sugar would be expensive so you might want to use Honey instead, as this was the most popular in Europe in medieval times.
Okay the grocery list is planned and now you must plan the evenings events. Even though Medieval feasts were elaborate, don't let that scare you. Its not that hard to put on a Medieval feast. Just think of it as eating in a fancy restaurant with each course served separately. Start out slowly. For your first one, just do 4 courses! I will guide you step by step. You can get more creative, when you get good at it. If you have a friend or two that can help serve even better but not necessary if a smaller crowd. Just remember, light fruits and veggies at the beginning to more Heavier foods to digest go towards the end. Cheese was always served before and after the meal because this is what physicians of the time believed was good digestion.
Your guests will have a riot eating with their fingers, though sometimes a fork was used, but not often. Usually the only utensil to be seen was the persons personal hip Dirk or sock Sgian dubh. The forks were only used to either hold the food while you cut a slab off with your dirk (Dirk just means long knife).
Put out cloth napkins, lemons and water bowls. There were water bowls and cloth napkins, that yes everybody shared, so don't have one for each have one for every 3 persons who know each other. Today, we do this for hygiene purposes and maybe you'd like to use the sanitary wipes for after.
Don't forget they had tankards, drinking horns and goblets, both metal and wooden as well as clay. A serving spoon would come from the kitchen help but soup was slurped and sopped up with bread! Bowls and Plates were used and these were wooden and sometimes of precious metal but only for the hierarchy.
Medieval feasts would usually be followed by hours of dancing, singers, acts, and musicians but there were always acts in between the courses.
Always seat according to rank. In the Fairs or royal house, this is where the Heralds (who were also trumpet and shield holders) would come in first in parade fashion and hang their parties shield in the appropriate place behind their seat on the wall before anyone would even see the guests. The Kings table would always be seated prior to anyone entry to watch this parade done in very ceremonious way and no one would dare to get the order wrong. In other words there was much training in every occupation & one was proud of each as was the Hierarchy of everyone who nodded in approval.
1) Have appetizers and light beer and wine out as guests arrive and mingle. Have the rules and things to do posted on a whiteboard for them to read and discuss. This is a great way for guests to easier mingle with strangers and saves you some time. All you have to do is show the way for coats and show them the white sign. Have a lone harpist or violin or CD with medieval music playing in background. if you are going elaborate, have your head table seated, and have the servants get the door. If it is your own group, then have them come in in the order of hierarchy.
2) The 2nd round is a light one such as with a soup or salad. Serve with water! Make sure the second entertainer goes after this course, while the plates are cleared. He or she has the shortest act - 10 to 15 minutes.
3) Serve a drink now that will go with the 3rd course, just before it comes out. Choose a watered down mead, if you have any, and a white or red wine. In the Third Round you serve the meats and vegetables with bread to sop up the juices. Have the third entertainer last approximately double the length of time as the first one while plates are being cleared.
4) Serve another drink that will be a desert drink like a sweet Mead is a fantastic choice because the 4th course ends with something sweet. The general rule depends on the Medieval Feast occasion, the more formal, the more fancy the dessert. The only thing different than today is the reasons for the choices of foods eaten. Every recipe and preparation had to be done in a ritual protocol that could not be strayed from.
5) Now that people are fed, have boasting events and other games start, the evenings left over acts. If you have a Bard, he or she will be responsible for the order of the entertainers. After about an hour and a half, put out more cheese and appetizers.