In the fourteenth century, feasts became ever more elaborate and ceremonial, with many courses, each marked by a "sotelte" -- an elaborate, often allegorical, construction which helped define the "theme' of the feast. For a royal feast in 1387 (which Chaucer might have attended, though perhaps not at the high table) and an archepiscopal feast (with descriptions of the "soteltes") in 1447 see:
It is hard to believe that people actually ate, much less enjoyed, so many dishes and so many courses. Not every one was priviliged to partake of such abundance, even at the feasts: some menus specify that those seated elsewhere than at the high table are served with a different menu, with fewer dishes to each course. Nevertheless, the tables of the nobility even on ordinary days were characterized by an abundance of different dishes.
This is demonstrated by the expense accounts for an embassy from Aragon, which spent 58 days in England; their expenditures for food and lodging are recorded for each day:
Given the high fat content of this diet, the peasants may have been better off than the nobility. The humble fare of the poor old widow in the Nun's Priest's Tale has litle in common with the that of the Ambassadors from Aragon or the guests at royal feasts:
Ful sooty was hire bour and eek hir halle,
In which she eet ful many a sklendre meel.
Of poynaunt sauce hir neded never a deel.
No deyntee morsel passed thurgh hir throte;
Hir diete was accordant to hir cote.
Repleccioun ne made hire nevere sik;
Attempree diete was al hir phisik,
And exercise, and hertes suffisaunce.
The goute lette hire nothyng for to daunce,
N' apoplexie shente nat hir heed.
No wyn ne drank she, neither whit ne reed;
Hir bord was served moost with whit and blak --
Milk and broun breed, in which she foond no lak,
Seynd bacoun, and somtyme an ey or tweye,
For she was, as it were, a maner deye.
(Nun's Priest's Tale, VII.2832-2846)
The Franklin would not have been happy with such a diet. For some of the dishes that might have appealed to him, adapted to the modern kitchen, see:
Pleyn delit: medieval cookery for modern cooks, ed. Constance B. Hiett, Brenda Hosington, and Sharon Butler. 2nd ed. Toronto, 1996 [TX 162.H53 1966].
For an excellent treatment of food and feasting in Chaucer see "> A Chaucerian Cookery, by James L. Matterer.