I was born a few years before
the Great Pestilence came to England. I have no memory of that terrible
event which took both of my parent's lives. We were living in London at
the time, a city sorely affected by the plague. My brother is a member
of the Cistercian Order and he placed me in his monastery to be raised
& educated by his brother monks. Thus I had a happy & secure
childhood, free from the sins of the outside world.
When I was fourteen my brother & I both decided that I would benefit
from an extended leave from the monks, in order to gain a better
understanding of God's universe & the natural world. I made
arrangements to accompany a group of pilgrims to the Holy City
Jerusalem, and while there, was hired by a group of English merchants to
aid them in their trade with the Saracens. Since I could read &
write, I was a valuable assistant to them. I learned many things during
this time of my life: the ways of the Infidels, the qualities of herbs
& spices, & the wisdom of God's mercy throughout the world. I
eventually became the cook for my merchant friends as we traveled back
to England with our goods of spices, silks, and exotic plants; this
skill would benefit me greatly in my later life.
On my return to England, I chose not to return to the Cistercian Order
but instead worked as a merchant in London for many years, selling
diverse wares obtained from other lands: bolts of cloth, fine peppers,
rosewater, and a host of spices drawn from the River Nile. By 1377 my
cooking abilities had improved to the point where I was hired to be one
of the cooks for our Lord King Richard's coronation. Having excelled
well & good, I was chosen by my Lord to stay on in his
household, for which I am truly grateful.
I now live in Southwerk, just across the Thames, where I have the
opportunity to meet the pilgrims on their way to St. Thomas' shrine in
Canterbury. I work throughout the week, making the many loaves of
manchet and cakes that my Lord Richard requires for his table. My Lord
is a good & gracious Lord and it is a pleasure to provide his mete.
In the evenings I enjoy the many inns & taverns that inhabit
Southwerk, though I avoid the bawds of the stewehouses as if they were
the plague. No leman have I and I shall probably die fruitless with no
children, but that is the way of the world. My origins in the Order
resonate with me still deeply, and one day when I am no longer able to
serve King Richard I shall return to the monastery to spend my final
days in quiet contemplation & reverence.
Our merciful Lord God has sent us the miracle of His son Emmanuel, a
gift which must not be squandered or abused, for fear of His
righteous judgment at the end time. Pax vobiscum, all & sundry!
In the year of our Lord 1391,
Master Huon Damebrigge