Category Archives: Research

Cookery in Spring

Spring is in bloom.  Our guest blogger, THL Johnnae llyn Lewis, is on here to tell us more about it.

Grimani Breviary April 1490-1510This is a year of a late Spring. Here in Michigan, we had scant snow in February, but it snowed off and on in April.  One must move along and think seasonally, so one might as well look for recipes which specify spring. Here are a few English recipes mentioning the season.

Spring flowers feature in our nursery rhymes and sayings today; they also can be found scattered in our culinary references. John Partridge in his 1573 The Treasurie of Commodious Conceits, includes a chapter titled “To know what time in the yeare Herbes and Flowres, should be gathered in their full strength. cap.lxi.” Therein he explains when herbs and flowers should be gathered. He writes:

“Camimamill shalbe gathered in Apryll… Addertung should be gathered in Apryll.

Uiolet should be gathered in the Month of March, & in this month should Uiolets be put into Sugre and to Syrop.

Roses should be gathered in April and in May: and of them shoulde be made Suger ro set in Syropes of Roses and in this same Month should Oyle be made of Camamyll.

Rosemary flowres should be gathered in May. Centory whe he begieth to flowre.

Origanum in ye Month of Iune.

And as to what might be done with those roses gathered in May and June, he writes:

“Here foloweth, the sundrie Uertues of Roses, for dyuers Medicines. Ca.lxii.

Roses, be colde and moyste, in two degrees: it hath these Uertues. Stampe it, & lay it to a sore that brenneth & aketh: and it shall cease both the brennyng & akyng.

Also, it is good for the feuer in the stomacke, & against all euyelles that are gendred in hot humours.

Also, lette any woman drynke it with Wyne, and it shal foorthwith restrayne bleedyngs, and helpe the Marowes of the wombe.

Also, make Oyle of Roses, & that is a principall Receipt for pricking in Sinewes & the water threof is good for sore eien, and for hot euils, and the Oyle is good for head ache to anoynte therwith the timples, and ye roote of him is good, & drawynge for Iron: or other thing in a man’s foote, & the red Rose is much better then the white.”

Partridge, John. The Treasurie of Commodious Conceits, and Hidden Secretes. 1573.**

 Here is another recipe for a dish to be made of all those gathered herbs. From 1598 comes this recipe:

To make a Herboletta of hearbes in the month of May.

Take as much new chéefe as aforesaid and stampe it, then take fiftéene or sixtéene Egges and some milke, good store of Bettonie, Margerum, Sage, Mint, and a little Parsely, stampe these hearbes very well and wring out the iuice and straining it, you must put it into the Chéefe and other things aforesaid, with halfe a pound of Butter, halfe a pound of Ginger, and ten ounces of Sugar, and mixe all these together and set them on the fire in a pipkin not ouerwhote, and stirre it with a spoone vntill it begin to thicken like pottage: that done, hauing made paste you shall put the composition into it, and set it to bake in a pan with a soft fire, both vnder and ouer it. And when it is well baked, take it out and straw fine Sugar and Rosewater vpon it. This kinde of Tarte is best when it is gréenest.

[Rosselli, Giovanne de.]Epulario, or The Italian banquet. 1598.

 In the 1597 The Second Part of the Good Hus-wiues Iewell,

 Thomas Dawson advocated that one confite orange peels “cheefly in May.”

To confite Orenge peeles which may be doone at all times in the yeere, and cheefly in May, because then the saide peeles be greatest and thickest.

Take thicke Orenge péeles, and them cut in foure or fiue péeces, and steepe them in water the space of ten or twelue daies. You may know when they be stéeped enough, if you holde them vp in the sunne and sée through them, then they be steeped enough, & you cannot sée through them, then let them stéepe vntil you may. Then lay them to drye vpon a table, and put them to dry betwéen two linnen clothes, then put them in a Kettell or vessell leaded, and adde to it as much Honny as will halfe couer the saide peeles, more or lesse as you think good, boyle them a little and stirre them alwaies, then take them from the fire, least the Honny should séeth ouermuch. For if it should boyle a little more then it ought to boyle, it would be thick. Let it them stand and rest foure daies in the said Honny, stirring and mingling the Orrenge and Honny euery day together. Because there is not honny enough to couer all the saide Orrenge péeles, you must stir them well and oftentimes, thus doo thrée times, giuing them one bobling at ech time, then let them stand thrée dayes then strain them from the honny, and after you haue let them boile a small space, take them from the fier, and bestow them in vessels, putting to them Ginger, cloues and Sinamon, mixe all together, and the rest of the Sirrope will serue to dresse others withall.

Dawson, Thomas. The Second Part of the Good Hus-wiues Iewell. 1597.

          From Robert May’s The Accomplisht Cook, from 1660 comes this menu for April:

A Bill of Fare for April.

Oysters.

1 A Bisk.
2 Cold Lamb.
3 A Hanch of Venison roste.
4 Goslings four.
5 A Turky Chicken.
6 Custard of Almonds.

A second Course.

1 Lamb, a side in joynts.
2 Turtle Doves eight.
3 Cold Neats Tongue Pie.
4 8 Pidgeons four larded.
5 Lobsters.
6 A Coller of Beef.

Tanseys.

Lastly, the agrarian writer Thomas Tusser offers this advice for April regarding the keeping of the dairy by the good housewife. He regarded the milking and making of cheeses and butter to be the sole province of the women of the house and chided them in a number of verses should they prove negligent or fail in these tasks.

From Aprill beginning, til Andrew be past,
so long with good huswife, her dayry doth last.
Good beast & good pasture, good husbands prouide
ye resdue, good huswiues, know best how to guide

Tusser, Thomas. Fiue hundreth points of good husbandry vnited to as many of good huswiferie. 1573.

Happy Springtime.

Sources are as indicated.

** The Partridge, John. The Treasurie of commodious Conceits of 1573 may be found online in a transcription © 2010 by Johnna Holloway. Web. Medieval Cookery.com. http://www.medievalcookery.com/notes/treasurie.pdf

The article originally appeared in The Citadel, Spring 2015.

©Holloway 2015, 2018.

Advertisements

Discussion: Cookbooks and Where to Start

I’d like to welcome a new guest writer for the blog, Johnnae llyn Lewis. She is a very knowledgeable food historian and writer. I’ve asked her to reprint several of her articles in order to get her work more out to the world (and these are great so I hope you all enjoy her perspective as well as I do).

Discussion: Cookbooks and Where to Start
By THL Johnnae llyn Lewis, CE

gm_00278701In late March 2016, the local Cynnabar Baronial Book Club section focused “on period cooking.” The instructions read: “Please bring a short list of your favorite food related books. Discussion is Round Robin format.” This is the guide which local member and librarian Johnnae prepared for the session. She has updated for readers here.

In the spirit of Ranganathan’s laws of librarianship and the ideal of “Every reader his [or her] book,” my question as to which cookery books and works on food history might be appropriate for a reader would be: what do you the Reader want to accomplish? By this I mean what do you want to achieve in cookery or play with in terms of food and cookery? Are you looking for some, perhaps just a few easy standby recipes for suitably historical dishes? Perhaps you need suitable recipes for potlucks, luncheons, or contributed tables of dessert items. Are you interested more in the history and foodways of a certain period or place? Are you interested in the role food played in the culture of the medieval period or in the lives of famous Renaissance or Elizabethan personages? Do you want to know what dishes or foods your persona might have eaten back when? Or are you interested in cookery of a specific type? Are you interested in baking bread, cakes, spit cooking or roasting over an open fire, creating your own cheeses, or even creating sugar subtleties and confections? Do you want to throw caution to the wind and become a feast cook responsible for feeding 100 plus diners?

Despite this being a short article on books, I am going to start by advocating heresy and suggest that all a beginner or even a moderately established cook needs when starting out is to use the very marvelous website medievalcookery.com. The Midrealm’s Master Edouard Halidai (Daniel Myers) created the site. It offers over 100 carefully tested redacted recipes, a bibliography, and a database of recipes with an ingredient keyword index. Plus it provides a gateway to all the online cookery texts of period or appropriate interest which are already housed on the web. As a secondary source, take a look at Stefan’s Florilegium http://www.florilegium.org//. [Librarian’s Note: When using the Florilegium, please be aware that the editor, THL Stefan, does not edit or remove faulty information or references. Be sure to read all the sections through from the start to the end, as later posts may correct misinformation cited earlier.]

My one invaluable tip: When embarking in cookery, make it a practice to keep files and notebooks. If you want to engage in redacting recipes, note your attempts. It takes practice before a reader can easily redact, render, or work out his/her own versions of an actual historic recipe. Keeping track will give you the all-important record of attempts and successes, trials and errors. If you are saving your work on a computer, be sure it is backed up on the cloud. Far too often, recipes and sources have been irretrievably lost due to computer crashes or software malfunctions.

Also be sure and note sources carefully if you copy or Xerox a section of recipes. There’s nothing worse than an original or redacted recipe with no source attached. Likewise, if you copy something off the Internet, get the source (www.address) copied. (It’s not a bad idea to do a page grab.) Please be aware online quality varies even in terms of Society websites and recipes. Some are great; some are awful; some are just plainly inauthentic or worse! Verify, research, verify. Do not think for a minute that all you need to do is just get on Yahoo and type in medieval and that your hits will be authentic enough for any sort of A&S contest. Facebook groups these days may provide hints or links but it’s not for serious research. The hive mind may be convenient to poll off one’s phone, but it’s a matter of authority. The person who replies to a Facebook question may mean well, but their information may be just a folktale or false. Did they actually look it up? Do they have any real experience? Do they research and have a collection in the topic? Again– Verify, research, verify! Lastly, be honest. If a recipe came from a modern website or off the Food Network, say so. Lastly, never claim another’s recipe or handout as your own. Chances are, you will get caught!
As to books, suggested Works in English to buy or use. Both of these are widely available and can be downloaded into your Kindle e-readers. As with all suggested volumes, if funds are short, please consider buying used copies or look at the volumes mentioned here at your local library or request through interlibrary loan.
Brears, Peter. All the King’s Cooks. The Tudor Kitchens of King Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace. London: Souvenir Press, 1999. Paperback ed. 2011. Excellent text with 82 recipes from 16th century England. Highly recommended. Excellent photos and drawings. Great Tudor source. KINDLE version available.

Hieatt, Constance and Sharon Butler. Pleyn Delit. Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks. 1976. 1979. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996. The second edition is credited to Hieatt, Brenda Hosington, and Butler. Good basic text with 142 documented recipes of English & French origin. KINDLE version available.

For French and Italian recipes, then I recommend starting with:
Redon, Odile, Francoise Sabban, and Silvano Serventi. The Medieval Kitchen. Recipes from France and Italy. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1998. The American edition is translated by Edward Schneider. Available in paperback. A favorite of many Society cooks with 150 14th and 15th century French and Italian recipes.

If you want to spend some money or are looking for a suitable gift, then consider:

Brears, Peter. Cooking and Dining In Medieval England. Totnes, Devon, UK: Prospect Books, 2008. 557 pp., 75 B/W line drawings. [Notes: 485-503. Notes on Illustrations: 504- 511. List of Illustrations: 512-514. Bibliography: 515- 528. Indexes: 529-557.] [Paperback ed. 2012. ISBN: 978-1-903018-55-2] This is Peter Brears’ award winning volume on English medieval cookery. 200 plus recipes. Tournaments Illuminated published my review. I highly recommend the book.

Brears, Peter. Cooking and Dining In Tudor and Early Stuart England. London: Prospect Books, 2015. 670 pp., 141 B/W line drawings/figures. [Notes: 613-632. Bibliography: 633-641. Indexes [both general and recipes]: 642-670.] Marvelous new companion volume to his earlier volume. 370 plus recipes and variations. Includes menus, calendar customs, banquets, banqueting fare, etc. Essential and highly recommended volume. Tournaments Illuminated again published my review. I again highly recommend the book.

Culinary Readers interested in a more serious way may find my bibliographies of interest. The Citadel recently carried a few of my special bibliographies as part of the “Starting Points” series. These include bibliographies for England, Spain/Italy, Scandinavia, and Poland. These original bibliographic guides list original printed works, manuscripts, historical and reference works as well as bibliographies and online sources and projects.
Contributed by THL Johnnae llyn Lewis, OE ©Johnna Holloway, 2016, 2018