Medieval people may have eaten more veggies than turkey legs : Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! Comedian Adam Burke and Emma meet a knight in shining armor, get the latest gossip about the Medieval era and uncover a skeleton in the closet.

Medieval people may have eaten more veggies than turkey legs

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Hi, everyone. I'm Emma Choi. And welcome to EVERYONE & THEIR MOM...


CHOI: ...A weekly show from Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me. This week we're talking vegetables with Wait Wait panelist, comedian and a man who I feel like should really be named Samuel. It's Adam Burke. Hi, Adam/Samuel.


ADAM BURKE: (Laughter) Hi, Emma. Thanks for having me.

CHOI: Oh, thanks so much for coming. And I'm so excited to talk to you about this fun story. And that sounded sarcastic, but it wasn't. OK.


CHOI: So when we think of people in medieval times, we usually picture them eating lots of juicy turkey legs, right? But a recent study found that they actually didn't eat that much meat. They actually mostly ate vegetables.

BURKE: Oh, that kind of ruins every sort of "Game Of Thrones" type movie, because, you know, you want the king, like, chomping down on a giant turkey leg...

CHOI: Yeah.

BURKE: ...Not just sort of, like, picking some carrots out from his teeth.

CHOI: I know. Like, Adam, scientists analyzed over 2000 skeletons - and probably churned up a ton of ghosts - and found people through the medieval period, including royalty, mainly ate vegetables, bread and cereal. So think less sausage McMuffins, more rutabaga Frosted Mini-Wheats.

BURKE: (Laughter).

CHOI: Historians think that some of the extravagant food lists they found may have just been just bragging.

BURKE: So it's like, yeah, so those menu lists were just like the Instagram...

CHOI: Yes.

BURKE: ...Of - yes.

CHOI: Yes. They were the old foodies.

BURKE: (Laughter) Right.

CHOI: Well, speaking of turkey legs, Adam, have you ever been to Medieval Times?

BURKE: I have been to Medieval Times.

CHOI: Yeah, me too. Oh, my God. Okay, can we describe this for anyone who hasn't been to Medieval Times? I feel like we have to really make sure everyone listening knows what a weird, liminal space Medieval Times is.

BURKE: (Laughter).

CHOI: How would you describe it, Adam?

BURKE: It's great. It's NASCAR...


BURKE: ...For people who really dig Henry V.

CHOI: Yeah. Yeah.


KENNETH BRANAGH: (As King Henry V) Upon St. Crispin's Day!


BURKE: And it's bonkers.

CHOI: Okay, so my school brought us for, like - we went on a school field trip to Medieval Times, which is - like, nothing about Medieval Times is historically accurate...

BURKE: (Laughter).

CHOI: ...Not even the $40 turkey legs. And (laughter), like, each section gets, like, a knight to root for. And, like, the black knight is the evil knight.

BURKE: Yeah. They need to update that.

CHOI: They've got to update Medieval Times big time.


BURKE: Yeah.

CHOI: And if it was accurate, it would be, like, so disgusting. There would be pee everywhere. There'd be dead bodies. Everyone would stink. And also, no one over 30 would be there because they all died from the black flu or whatever.

BURKE: (Laughter) I went once in Dallas, and it was so funny because - it was just so funny to see the knights. The knights would hang out in the - like, by the gift shop.

CHOI: Yeah.

BURKE: They were just (laughter) - they were, like, waiting to get hit on (laughter). And they were just - and someone came up and asked them for an autograph (laughter).

CHOI: Do they sign it as their real name or as the green knight?

BURKE: Yeah, that's what I - you know what? They signed it with a ballpoint pen, not a quill...

CHOI: (Laughter) Oh, my God.

BURKE: ...So, it was, like, straight away, that's some nonsense over there.


CHOI: Can you introduce yourself to us?

PHILIP LA CROIX: Sure. My name is Phil La Croix. I've been working with Medieval Times for almost 14 years now.

CHOI: So what do you do at Medieval Times?

LA CROIX: I am a knight. That's - my title is senior knight speaking role, but I also do a whole bunch of other things.

CHOI: Do you have a knight name?

LA CROIX: My name is Sir Philip.

CHOI: Oh, classic. Keeping it simple.

LA CROIX: Mmm hmm.

CHOI: So I've never met a knight before. What do you do as a knight?

LA CROIX: Well, when it comes to the show - we joust, and we fight. We use swords, bolas, maces, hallebardes (ph), which is just, like, a big ax on a pike.

CHOI: Yeah.

LA CROIX: We use real weapons. They're made out of titanium, and...

CHOI: Oh, my God.

LA CROIX: ...We swing for the fences.

CHOI: So you're really jousting up there?

LA CROIX: Oh, yeah.

CHOI: I notice you have long, luscious hair. Is that for Phil, or is that for Sir Phil?

LA CROIX: I - after 14 years, the line's kind of been blurred.

CHOI: (Laughter).

LA CROIX: I mean, I - they prefer when I have long hair...

CHOI: Yeah.

LA CROIX: ...And it saves me money on, you know, barbers. So I'm happy.

CHOI: Absolutely. I feel like your LinkedIn - having, like, knight on it - it's incredible. I mean, if you have a Tinder, that's, like, the best pick up line in the world. Have you ever tried the line - I'm a knight - on ladies?

LA CROIX: I try not to.

CHOI: (Laughter).

LA CROIX: I try not to lead with that. I've definitely seen bigger heads on knights, and it's not attractive.

CHOI: No. I mean, you've been living as a knight for, like, the past 14 years. What do you think we should all do more medievally (ph)?

LA CROIX: Nice. Be nice to each other. We call it chivalry in action. But, I mean, there are so many things that are just three or four moments where you can just take out of your day and just be - take that effort. Be nicer to the people who are around you. Or when you're - this is a big one...


LA CROIX: ...When you're driving on the freeway and somebody is trying to get over, let them get over, you know? I...

CHOI: (Laughter)

LA CROIX: It seems so small, but I've seen a lot of road rage, myself included, so...

CHOI: Sure. Thanks so much, Sir Philip. An honor to meet you.

LA CROIX: Right back at you. Thank you so much.


CHOI: Adam, do you think medieval people were actually much gentler about everything than we thought?

BURKE: Yeah, they probably were because all that stuff is boring, right? So that's the stuff that doesn't make it into the movies. But yeah, they're probably like - it's probably, like, just chilling over a light, you know, beet consomme.

CHOI: Yeah. I feel like, especially like, you know, courtly love with, like, the knights writing beautiful love sonnets to the queens, like...

BURKE: So do you know where that came from, the notion of courtly love?

CHOI: Oh, tell me.

BURKE: I'm saying courtly love, not (laughter) Kurt Cobain's ex-wife.

CHOI: (Laughter).

BURKE: The - I'd always heard that the notion of love and the notion of romantic love was invented by troubadours. So it was like - so let's say - right? - you're a king - right? - or you're...

CHOI: Yeah.

BURKE: ...A monarch or, like, you're a duke or whatever, and I'm a duke. And we have kids, and my kid's gross, and your kid's kind of boring, but we want to connect our lands. You know, we want to have a bigger sheep farm. So then we hire a dude who's a troubadour, and he goes around with, like, a little lute...

CHOI: Yeah.

BURKE: ...And he goes, oh, this guy's kid is madly in love with your kid.

CHOI: (Laughter).

BURKE: And then we trick them into thinking they're in love. But it didn't really exist as a concept until they made it up. And it was a way to get - to make bigger lands.

CHOI: (Laughter).

BURKE: It was probably lots of more just awkward hookups, you know? Well, you know what? Although - I've seen a few of those happen at Medieval Times.

CHOI: It's true (laughter).

BURKE: So I was - I heard something about this. The jousts were actually really expensive, and they were, like, a real pain. So you wouldn't really do them that often. But, like, the way it's portrayed in the movies, they would have jousts over, like, parking spaces. You know what I mean?

CHOI: I know. It seems like they happened all the time. But, Adam, back to the story. I mean, the fact that they've, like, tested 2,000 skeletons to figure out that they used to eat vegetables - that feels, like, made-up. That doesn't feel real.

BURKE: To figure out that someone eats a lot of vegetables, would you had to really test the skeletons, or could you just have, like, smelled the burial pit? You know what I mean? Like, this is...

CHOI: Yeah.

BURKE: ...A very fibrous community.

CHOI: It smells like Whole Foods down here.

BURKE: (Laughter).

CHOI: Yeah (laughter). I don't know. I think they tested, like, the nutrients or, like, chemicals in the skeleton bones. Well, Adam, do you think skeletons are funny or gross because we've been talking about this, and we're very split on this issue.

BURKE: Oh, skeletons are absolutely hilarious.

CHOI: OK. Tell me why.

BURKE: Because when you knock one over, it makes the sound of a xylophone.

CHOI: (Laughter) Yeah, that's true. I'm on the side that skeletons are very funny just because...


CHOI: ...It's like, look at his face. There's no skin on it. Ha ha ha.

BURKE: And they're in - it's a grin. The skeleton is always kind of smiling. It's almost like the punchline of life.

CHOI: And, I mean, I feel like skeleton tester has to be the best job description.

BURKE: (Laughter).


CHOI: Hello, Sam.


CHOI: Hi. Thanks so much for being here.

LEGGETT: Thanks so much for having me.

CHOI: So you are Dr. Sam Leggett, the scientist who discovered that people in the medieval times were mostly vegetarian. And we understand that this discovery came from testing medieval bones. So we've been calling you a skeleton tester because that sounds dope as hell. Is that how you would describe your job?

LEGGETT: (Laughter) Yeah, I guess so. So, you know, usually when I'm at a party and someone sort of asks what I do, I say I put dead people in acid and work out...


LEGGETT: ...What they ate and where they came from. So, yeah, that's pretty accurate.

CHOI: So in your expert opinion, are skeletons funny or scary?

LEGGETT: Funny - and I think quite nice in a way. Yeah.

CHOI: (Laughter) Really?

LEGGETT: Yeah. I mean, you kind of get attached to these people. Most of them you don't have names for, and so it's kind of nice to kind of bring their stories to life. I don't find them scary at all.

CHOI: Can you give us an idea of what, like, a typical meal would have looked like for a person back then?

LEGGETT: Yeah. So probably what they did was went out to the back to their garden, got, you know, they really liked a leek in early medieval England - leeks, garlic, any of that, onions, you know, that sort of family - loved a bit of that. You chuck it in a stewing pot, probably with some cabbage. They also really liked cabbage and pulses, like peas. You can imagine the flatulence. That was a lot of...


LEGGETT: ...You know, not tummy-friendly things.

CHOI: Wow. I love imagining medieval people just farting all the time and having pea mash.

LEGGETT: Oh, yeah. It's an image, but probably quite accurate (laughter).

CHOI: Do you know what Medieval Times is - the restaurant?

LEGGETT: Oh, I have heard about it. Yeah. There's, like, a big medieval, like, conference that happens every year in Kalamazoo, in Michigan.

CHOI: Really?

LEGGETT: Yeah, it's one of the biggest things. Like, if you want to go find some more medieval nerds - May...

CHOI: In Kalamazoo, Mich.?

LEGGETT: ...In Kalamazoo, Mich. Yeah, but lots of people often then go to that restaurant before...

CHOI: Really?

LEGGETT: ...Or after because, yeah, it's not in Europe so (laughter)...

CHOI: Can we run their vegetarian option by you and see if it's historically accurate?

LEGGETT: (Laughter) Yes, please.

CHOI: OK, OK, OK. So the vegan option has hummus with carrot and celery sticks with a main course featuring three bean stew with fire-roasted tomato and browned rice, and a choice of fresh fruit or Italian ice for dessert?



CHOI: Why not?

LEGGETT: I mean, so many different things. Italian ice? Definitely not.

CHOI: Yeah.

LEGGETT: They didn't have ice houses yet. You know that whole, like, Victorian thing of, like, an ice house. Hummus? Probably not. I mean, they would have had things like it. You know, so garlic was definitely around.

CHOI: Right.

LEGGETT: There were other types of, like, pulses, but chickpeas were probably not in England yet.

CHOI: Sure.

LEGGETT: Carrots? Yeah. Sure. What else did you say - like, celery?

CHOI: Brown rice, fire-roasted tomato, celery sticks...


CHOI: ...Fresh fruit.

LEGGETT: Fresh fruit definitely, yeah.

CHOI: Yeah.

LEGGETT: Tomatoes were not in Europe for another couple of hundred years.

CHOI: (Laughter).

LEGGETT: That's a definite no. Rice - likewise, not in Europe.

CHOI: They should hire you as a consultant, and everyone will be having mushy peas the whole time.

LEGGETT: People aren't going to like that, are they? You're not going to, like, sit down...

CHOI: Oh, that's true.

LEGGETT: ...To watch a joust and be like, mmm...

CHOI: (Laughter).

LEGGETT: ...Mushed-up peas with bitter leek - my favorite. Yeah, no.

CHOI: Does anything about studying medieval people inspire you in your actual life?

LEGGETT: Yeah, like a - just a lot of their, like, stories and stuff were just really, really hilarious. And these are people who told jokes - usually about farts, to be fair. They were very self-aware.

CHOI: OK. Cool. It's great to know that the fart joke is immortal.

LEGGETT: Goes way back.

CHOI: Before you go, do you mind if we fact-checked a few things our friend Adam said about the medieval period?


CHOI: OK, awesome. I love Adam. You would love Adam too. OK. The first thing he told us was about courtly love - like, dating. So he said it was invented when monarchs' parents wanted to set their kids up with other monarchs' kids so they would get married and everyone would get more land. So they would get, like, a troubadour to play music and convince the kids that they were in love. Do you know that's true?

LEGGETT: My memory is, yeah...


LEGGETT: ...Those sort of - that sort of thing and, like, love games people would play to kind of make themselves sort of be convinced that they really did like this other, you know, very well bred, very moneyed person rather than, you know, the fact that your parents set you up. Yeah.

CHOI: Yeah. That's so funny. It's like a really long-winded Tinder, but I guess actually effective.

LEGGETT: Well, yeah. I mean, if you like having half of France, like, that's pretty good.

CHOI: If that's your sort of thing. OK. The other one we have is that Adam said that jousting didn't happen as often as we think because it was expensive and kind of a pain to pull off. Is that true?

LEGGETT: Yeah, 100%.



CHOI: Really?

LEGGETT: Such a pain, but yeah - really, really irregular.

CHOI: Wow, that's - I always imagined they were, like, jousting every day and then, like, gobbling down a huge pig.


CHOI: But I guess that's all wrong.

LEGGETT: No. The drinking - they did drink a lot. But, yeah, the jousting and the pig - no.

CHOI: (Laughter) OK. Amazing. OK, I can't wait to tell Adam. In the meantime, thank you so much, Sam. This was not only educationable (ph), but very fun, so thank you.

LEGGETT: Great. Thanks so much.

CHOI: We were so excited that Adam's facts were true, we couldn't wait to tell him.


BURKE: Hello?

CHOI: Adam?

BURKE: Hi, is this Emma?

CHOI: Yeah. Hi, Adam. How are you?

BURKE: (Laughter) How's it going, Emma? I'm OK.

CHOI: Good. Well, I wanted to tell you we called a scientist - a skeleton scientist - about, you know, the skeletons we were talking about.

BURKE: Oh, yeah.

CHOI: Well, I just wanted to let you know that it turns out you were right about the troubadour thing - tricking people to fall in love - and that jousts didn't happen that much, so congrats.

BURKE: Oh, wow. Wow, I got something right. That never happens.

CHOI: Yeah. All right, well, you know, treasure that knowledge forever.

BURKE: I will. I will indeed. And, yeah, next time you see a troubadour, you know...

CHOI: Yeah.

BURKE: ...Give them hell. Thanks for inventing romantic love, you dork.


CHOI: Well, Adam, toddle-doo (ph).

BURKE: Toodle-doo to you, too.


CHOI: Here's the most old-timey part of the podcast - the credits. This show is brought to you by Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me! This episode was produced by Hayley Fager, Zola Ray and Nancy Saechao, with help from Lillian King, Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis and all the veggies from "VeggieTales," especially the tomato, who is a fruit. Our supervising producer is Jennifer Mills, and our sleep paralysis demon is Mike Danforth. Once again, Lorna White, thank you for helping us with our sound. You're the best, and we love you - especially me. Thank you to Sir Phillip for being our knight in shining armor.

LA CROIX: That's some good stuff.

CHOI: And Dr. Sam Leggett, thank you for talking to us about your work and letting me ask you so many dumb questions about ghosts.

LEGGETT: No. No. No hauntings.

CHOI: Thank you to water for being so wet and taking the form of a liquid, solid and a gas. Who are you? Why you do that? Thank you to my co-host, comedian, Wait Wait panelist and real good buddy, Adam Burke.

BURKE: I'm so predictable.

CHOI: You can see Adam in person at the Palace Theatre in San Francisco on May 27. I'm Emma Choi, and you can find me @WaitWaitNPR and at the playground teaching those kids how the monkey bars are done.


CHOI: OK, I'm done. This is NPR.

You guys got a guillotine?

LA CROIX: Actually, we do, I think.

CHOI: What?

LA CROIX: Do we still have a guillotine in the torture chamber? Yes, we do.

CHOI: You have a torture chamber?

LA CROIX: Oh, yeah.

CHOI: Is that a special package?

LA CROIX: No, but it is, unfortunately, temporarily closed 'cause it's too confined of a space to let people really get into, but eventually it will be open again.

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