Who Do We Eat With: The Feast of the Great Khan

The 13th Century AD saw the rise and spread of the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan and his descendants. Strict rules governed every aspect of life, including eating together at banquets.

The doorways of their large, circular, portable dwellings always faced south. Opposite, raised and at the northern most point, sat the Khan. From this position he could observe all that went on and was himself visible to all.

Guests were arranged with women to the Khan’s left and men to his right. They would never mix. A person’s rank was dictated by their proximity to the Khan.

At the entrance stood pitchers holding a symbolic drink of fermented mare’s milk. During the feast, servants would serve the drink to the Khan first with others following in rank order. This process made the power distinctions visible to all assembled.

Is eating together more about power relationships than food? Have you experienced these sorts of relationships? Please leave a comment below and join the discussion!

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