Within My Teaching Box – the magic of the Middle Ages

Open with care…

There are several pottery fragments in my teaching box. They always make students dream. The students’ eyes become greedy and they want to take these sad scraps home. They’re shy about touching them, even though these fragments are probably the most robust items in the teaching box.

These bits of pots are from Germany in the later Middle Ages. They’re hard to date, but they could be as early as late thirteenth century or as late as the sixteenth. I rely on others for the dating, for this is nothing near my area of expertise. I have the shards because it’s very much a friend’s area of expertise, in fact.

What’s particularly cool about them is that they date from the period when we have written cookbooks. I have my students read the recipes in the original language, take translations home, cook with them and then see and feel actual fragments of Western Europe that match those dishes. History students, foodie students, writing students: they all get a lot of inspiration from a few fragments of old pots.


About Gillian Polack

Gillian Polack is a historian as well as a fiction writer, which means that history is likely to creep into her blogposts. She is also Australian, a foodie, and has a strong love of things ranging from chocolate to folk dance. All her jokes are good jokes, even the ones that aren't funny at all.
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3 Responses to Within My Teaching Box – the magic of the Middle Ages

  1. Zena says:

    I’ve been ensconced in the Middle Ages this year in several of my university courses (Arthurian Literature, and the History of the English Language). It was a fascinating period.

    Funny though: as distant a time as it may seem to be in years, it becomes familiar, like yesterday, when we become immersed in it. Time really does expand and contract, never allowing itself to be totally pinned down for long.

    • I love it that you did Arthurian literature :). It was part of my postgraduate studies and remains one of my besetting sins.

      So much of who we are comes from the Middle Ages. This is why, no matter what else I do with my research, a part of me will always remain a Medievalist and there will always be this kind of object in my teaching box. It helps explain who we are. Every writer needs to know this!

  2. I suspect you might have meant this comment for a different post. Scraps of cooking pots are generally considered non-violent.

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