Flesh Hooks

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The Medieval Household: Daily Living c.1150-c.1450 Food, Eating and Identity in Early Medieval England

A flesh hook is a tool that medieval cooks used to grab and lift pieces of meat from a pot.

Medieval illustrators often depict flesh hooks as being used as implements of grabbing victims for punishment or torture, as in illustrations of Death (Douce 88, fol. 121v) or devils in hell (BNF Fr. 19, fol. 38r), or the torture of St. Margaret (the Queen Mary Psalter, Royal 2 B VII, fol. 308v).

The Pilgrimage of the Life of Man also describes Envy with such an implement – “She hadde also a long flessh-hook, / Double-fforkyd at the ende, / Sharp and krokyd for to rende” – which also appears in illustrations (e.g. BNF Fr. 376, fol. 59v).

(This list concentrates on culinary usage of flesh hooks, but also includes some examples of marginalia with people playing on grills with flesh hooks, as if they were playing bowed instruments.)