I confess I did get a bit carried away, so I decided to break this up into two posts. This week will feature from the medieval period through the 17th century, and next time I'll cover the Regency and the Victorian period.
The most well-known early cookbook is The Forme of Cury, a compilation of recipes written about 1390 by cooks in the court of King Richard II. “Cury” is taken from the French “cuire,” meaning “to cook.” You can find several versions of this book on GoogleBooks. I consulted a copy published in 1780, which I admit was rather hard to decipher. There were a number of other books that are not quite so readily available now, but do a search for medieval cooking and you will find the following interesting sites, as well as others:
Both of these are wonderful resources, particularly for recipes that can be made today.
Another really interesting post on medieval cooking is on Eliza Knight’s fabulous blog, History Undressed. I also like this "History Learning Site" primarily for the chart at the bottom, which gives you a sample day’s eating for both lords and peasants.
|Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, 15th Century|
If you spend more than a few minutes reading Cury, you will doubtless discover that much of the terminology is somewhat hard to identify. This site offers a helpful discussion of medieval cooking terms, as well as links to other medieval cooking references: http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~cpercy/courses/6361taylor.htm. References to more academic tomes and videos on the subject of medieval cookery can be found at http://www.medievalists.net/2011/01/27/medieval-food/.
I was going to skip the 17th century entirely, given that I know astonishingly little about the time period,. Then I discovered both coffee and tea were introduced to Europe in the 1600s, so I thought that attention really must be paid.
Coffee was introduced in England mid-century, with the first coffeehouse opening in Oxford in 1650. They spread throughout England during the remainder of the century, and became social venues--for men. Women were not happy about being excluded, so they staged demonstrations and tried to convince their menfolk that coffee caused impotence.
Tea was introduced to England a decade later, reportedly by the Portugese wife of Charles II, Catherine of Braganza, in 1660. Initially it was considered medicinal in nature, and it wasn’t until the 18th century that it became the quintessential British beverage.
Potatoes and tomatoes were also introduced to England during this century as well (although they were considered poisonous until the end of the 18th century). Chocolate also became popular among the wealthy, with the first chocolate house opening in London in 1657. All in all, a seriously big century for new culinary experiences.
As for food, GodeCookery.com is again a wonderful resource, as it features recipes in the original language as well as a translation for modern cooks. The cookbooks featured have great names, including “The Accomplish'd Lady's Delight In Preserving, Physick, Beautifying, and Cookery,” written in 1675.
This recipe, from "The Closet Of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digby Kt.," was simple, but everything from the title to the instructions made me chuckle:
A plain ordinary Posset
Put a pint of good Milk to boil, as soon as it doth so, take it from the fire, to let the great heat of it cool a little; for doing so, the curd will be the tenderer, and the whole of a more uniform consistence. When it is prettily cooled, pour it into your pot, wherein is about two spoonfuls of Sack, and about four of Ale, with sufficient Sugar dissolved in them. So let it stand a while near the fire, till you eat it. Source: http://www.godecookery.com/engrec/engrec45.htm.
Until next time, when I'll finally get to those folks dining in 1835,