Alternative names Frumentee, furmity, fromity, fermenty
Type Pudding
Main ingredients Wheat, milk, eggs or broth
Cookbook: Frumenty  Media: Frumenty

Frumenty (sometimes frumentee, furmity, fromity, or fermenty) was a popular dish in Western European medieval cuisine. It was made primarily from boiled, cracked wheat—hence its name, which derives from the Latin word frumentum, "grain". Different recipes added milk, eggs or broth. Other recipes include almonds, currants, sugar, saffron and orange flower water. Frumenty was served with meat as a pottage, traditionally with venison or occasionally porpoise (considered a "fish" and therefore appropriate for Lent[1]). It was also frequently used as a subtlety.

For several centuries, frumenty was part of the traditional Celtic Christmas meal. In England it was often eaten on Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent. On that day many servants were allowed to visit their mothers and were often served frumenty to celebrate and give them a wholesome meal to prepare them for their return journey. The use of eggs would have been a brief respite from the Lenten fast. In Lincolnshire, frumenty was associated with sheep-shearing in June. A diarist recalled of his youth in the 1820s that "almost every farmer in the village made a large quantity of frumenty on the morning they began to clip; and every child in the village was invited to partake of it".[2] A second batch, of better quality, was produced later and taken round in buckets to every house in the village.

Frumentee is served with venison at a banquet in the mid-14th century North Midlands poem Wynnere and Wastoure: "Venyson with the frumentee, and fesanttes full riche / Baken mete therby one the burde sett" (334-5).[3] The dish also appears, likewise paired with venison, at the New Year feast in the Middle English poem known as The Alliterative Morte Arthure (c.1400): "Flesh flourisht of fermison, with frumentee noble."[4]

The dish, described as 'furmity' and served with fruit and a slug of rum added under the counter, plays a major role in the plot of Thomas Hardy's novel The Mayor of Casterbridge. It is also mentioned in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass as a food that snapdragon flies live on.

It has been asserted that frumenty is England's "oldest national dish".[5]

A dish made with boiled cracked wheat and soured milk was made in antiquity in Persia, and is still used, often as the basis for a soup, in Greece and Cyprus (as trahanas), and in Turkey (tarhana).


A compendium of "traditional" "English" date-related activities includes three recipes for frumenty.[6] They show considerable variation with place and time.

A "healthy" dose of spirit is often mentioned as accompanying the frumenty.

See also


  1. Almond Milk Frumenty with Porpoise
  2. quoted in James Obelkevich, Religion and Rural Society: South Lindsey 1825-1875 (Oxford, 1976), p. 57.
  3. "Venison with the frumenty and pheasdants full rich; baked meat by it on the table set".
  4. The Death of King Arthur: A New Verse Translation. Trans. Simon Armitage. New York: W. W. Norton, 2012. Line 180.
  5. White, Florence (1932) Good things in England, London: Jonathan Cape, reprinted London:Persephone, 1999
  6. Roud, Steve (2006) The English YearISBN 978-0-141-02106-5; p.536
  7. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 257
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