The very first Anglo Saxon toast?
By Andrea Maraschi
Introduction: Geoffrey of Monmouth lived in the twelfth century. For a long time he was considered as one of the more notable historiographers for what concerned Britain. Nowadays, even though historians believe that his most famous work, the Historia regum Britanniae, is not a reliable source, this doesn’t mean that we’d better ignore it. In fact, if the Historia should not be used to accurately retrace the history of Britain, it nonetheless features some of those tiny hints historians must seriously attend to. One of them is the description of what we may consider the first ever recorded case of a toast in England with its relative verbal formula. Curiously enough, that same formula echoes still today somehow or other.
Geoffrey’s work follows the typical pattern of other famous medieval historiae: according to the author, Britain was settled by Trojans (led by Brutus, Aeneas’ great-grandson), and in this way the cleric was linking its fate to that of the Romans. This background, along with other unverified facts, indicates that we are probably talking about a legendary myth rather than a proper historical account, but often many sources from the past contain credible details that we may not notice at first glance. It’s just a matter of separating what it’s fictional from what it could be part of the writer’s cultural baggage. And, believe it or not, this latter is frequently an information-rich soil for food historians.