Tag Archives: Forme of Cury

History of Britain as seen by Samuel Pegge

Some interesting points, made as far as I can tell about History, by Samuel Pegge in the 18th Century (which was published in the forward of “The Forme of Cury” cookbook):

The Aborigines of Britain, to come nearer home, could have no great expertness in Cookery, as they had no oil, and we hear nothing of their butter, they used only sheep and oxen, eating neither hares, though so greatly esteemed at Rome, nor hens, nor geese, from a notion of superstition. Nor did they eat fish. There was little corn in the interior part of the island, but they lived on milk and flesh; though it is expressly asserted by Strabo that they had no cheese. The later Britons, however, well knew how to make the best use of the cow, since, as appears from the laws of Hoel Dda, A.D. 943, this animal was a creature so essential, so common and useful in Wales, as to be the standard in rating fines.

Hengist, leader of the Saxons, made grand entertainments for king
Vortigern, but no particulars have come down to us; and
certainly little exquisite can be expected from a people then so
extremely barbarous as not to be able either to read or write.
‘Barbari homines a septentrione, (they are the words of Dr. Lister)
caseo et ferina subcruda victitantes, omnia condimenta adjectiva

Some have fancied, that as the Danes imported the custom of hard and deep drinking, so they likewise introduced the practice of
gormandizing, and that this word itself is derived from Gormund,
the name of that Danish king whom Ãlfred the Great persuaded to be christened, and called Ãthelstane, Now ’tis certain that
Hardicnut stands on record as an egregious glutton, but he is
not particularly famous for being a curious Viander; ’tis true
again, that the Danes in general indulged excessively in feasts and
entertainments, but we have no reason to imagine any elegance
of Cookery to have flourished amongst them. And though Guthrum, the Danish prince, is in some authors named Gormundus; yet this is not the right etymology of our English word Gormandize, since it is rather the French Gourmand, or the British Gormod.

So that we have little to say as to the Danes.

I shall take the later English and the Normans together, on account of the intermixture of the two nations after the Conquest, since, as lord Lyttelton observes, the English accommodated them elves to the Norman manners, except in point of temperance in eating and drinking, and communicated to them their own habits of drunkenness and immoderate feasting. Erasmus also remarks, that the English in his time were attached to plentiful and splendid tables; and the same is observed by Harrison. As to the Normans, both William I and Rufus made grand entertainments; the former was remarkable for an immense paunch, and withal was so exact, so nice and curious
in his repasts, that when his prime favourite William Fitz-
Osberne, who as steward of the household had the charge of the Cury, served him with the flesh of a crane scarcely half-roasted, he was so highly exasperated, that he lifted up his fist, and would have strucken him, had not Eudo, appointed Dapiser immediately after, warded off the blow.

For more of Samuel Pegge’s opinion/history and all the references that I edited out (as well as the recipes), download a Form of Cury here for free.

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

Edited text (by me) from “Forme of Cury” discussing Sugar and Spice used during their period and previously. Some interesting points, made as far as I can tell, by Samuel Pegge in the 18th Century (which was published in the forward of the cookbook):

“Honey was the great and universal sweetner in remote antiquity, and particularly in this island, where it was the chief constituent of
mead and metheglin. It is said, that at this day in Palestine
they use honey in the greatest part of their ragouts. Our cooks had a method of clarifying it, which was done by putting it in a pot with whites of eggs and water, beating them well together; then setting it over the fire, and boiling it; and when it was ready
to boil over to take it and cool it. This I presume is called clere honey. And, when honey was so much in use, it appears from Barnes that refining it was a trade of itself.

Sugar, or Sugur, was now beginning here to take place of honey;
however, they are used together. Sugar came from the Indies,
by way of Damascus and Aleppo, to Venice, Genoa, and Pisa, and from these last places to us. It is here not only frequently used,
but was of various sorts, as cypre named probably
from the isle of Cyprus, whence it might either come directly to us,
or where it had received some improvement by way of refining. There is mention of blanch-powder or white sugar. They, however,
were not the same. Sugar was clarified sometimes with wine.

Spices. Species. They are mentioned in general, and whole
spices, but they are more commonly specified, and are
indeed greatly used, though being imported from abroad, and from so far as Italy or the Levant (and even there must be dear), some may wonder at this: but it should be considered, that our Roll was
chiefly compiled for the use of noble and princely tables; and the
same may be said of the Editor’s MS. The spices came from the same part of the world, and by the same route, as sugar did. The spicery was an ancient department at court, and had its proper officers.

As to the particular sorts, these are,

Cinamon. Canell. Canel, Editor’s MS. Kanell, ibid. is the Italian Canella. See Chaucer. We have the flour or powder, See Wiclif. It is not once mentioned in Apicius.

Macys, Editor’s MS. 10. Maces, 134. Editor’s MS. 27. They
are used whole and are always expressed plurally, though we
now use the singular, mace. See Junii Etym.

Cloves. Dishes are flourished with them, Editor’s MS.
10. where we have clowys gylofres, as in our Roll. Powdour gylofre occurs. Chaucer has clowe in the singular, and see him v. Clove-gelofer.

Galyngal, and elsewhere. Galangal, the long rooted cyperus,
is a warm cardiac and cephalic. It is used in powder and was
the chief ingredient in galentine, which, I think, took its name
from it.

Pepper. It appears from Pliny that this pungent, warm seasoning, so much in esteem at Rome, came from the East Indies, and,
as we may suppose, by way of Alexandria. We obtained it no doubt, in the 14th century, from the same quarter, though not exactly by the same route, but by Venice or Genoa. It is used both whole, and in powder. And long-pepper occurs, if we read the place rightly.

Ginger, gyngyn. 64. 136. alibi. Powder is used, 17. 20. alibi. and
Rabelais IV. c. 59. the white powder, 131. and it is the name of a
mess, 139. quÃlre whether gyngyn is not misread for gyngyr, for see Junii Etym. The Romans had their ginger from Troglodytica [109].

Cubebs, 64. 121. are a warm spicy grain from the east.

Grains of Paradice, or de parys are the greater cardamoms.

Noix muscadez. nutmegs.

The caraway is once mentioned and was an exotic from Caria,
whence, according to Mr. Lye, it took its name: ‘sunt semina, inquit, carri vel carrei, sic dicti a Caria, ubi copiosissimè nascitur.’

Powder-douce, which occurs so often, has been thought by some, who have just peeped into our Roll, to be the same as sugar, and only a different name for it; but they are plainly mistaken, as is evident from where they are mentioned together as different things. In short, I take powder-douce to be either powder of galyngal, for see Editor’s MS II. 20. 24, or a compound made of sundry aromatic spices ground or beaten small, and kept always ready at hand in some proper receptacle. It is otherwise termed good powders or powder simply. White powder-douce occurs, which seems to be the same as blanch-powder, called blaynshe powder, and bought ready prepared, in Northumb. Book. It is sometimes used with powder-fort for which see the next and last article.

Powder-fort, 10. 11. seems to be a mixture likewise of the warmer
spices, pepper, ginger, &c. pulverized: hence we have powder-fort of gynger, other of canel. It is called strong powder, and perhaps may sometimes be intended by good powders. If you will suppose it to be kept ready prepared by the vender, it may be the powder-marchant found joined in two places with powder-
douce. This Speght says is what gingerbread is made of; but Skinner disapproves this explanation, yet, says Mr. Urry, gives none of his own.

Name of the Cook

How did cooks socially rank in the 14th century England? How about in BC Rome? “The Forme of Cury” (from 1390) has some ideas for you to chew on. Some interesting points, made as far as I can tell, by Samuel Pegge in the 18th Century (which was published in the forward of the cookbook):

Though the cooks at Rome, as has been already noted, were amongst the lowest slaves, yet it was not so more anciently; Sarah and Rebecca cook, and so do Patroclus and Automedon in the “Ninth Iliad.”

It were to be wished indeed, that the Reader could be made acquainted with the names of our “master-cooks,” but it is not in the power of the Editor to gratify him in that; this, however, he may be assured of, that as the Art was of consequence in the reign of Richard, a prince renowned and celebrated in the Roll, for the splendor and elegance of his table, they must have been persons of no inconsiderable rank: the king’s first and second cooks are now esquires by their office, and there is all the reason in the world to believe they were of equal dignity heretofore. To say a word of king Richard: he is said in the proeme to have been ‘acounted the best and ryallest vyaund [curioso in eating] of all esten kynges.’ This, however, must rest upon the testimony of our cooks, since it does not appear otherwise by the suffrage of history, that he was particularly remarkable for his niceness and delicacy in eating, like Heliogabalus, whose favourite dishes are said to have been the tongues of peacocks and nightingales, and the brains of parrots and pheasants; or like Sept. Geta, who, according to Jul. Capitolinus, was so curious, so whimsical, as to order the dishes at his dinners to consist of things which all began with the same letters.

Sardanapalus again as we have it in Athenæus, gave
a præmium to any one that invented and served him with some novel cate; and Sergius Orata built a house at the entrance of the Lucrine lake, purposely for the pleasure and convenience of eating the oysters perfectly fresh. Richard II is certainly not represented in story as resembling any such epicures, or capriccioso’s, as these. It may, however, be fairly presumed, that good living was not wanting among the luxuries of that effeminate and dissipated reign.

[Addenda: after “Ninth Iliad,” add, ‘And Dr. Shaw writes, p. 301,
that even now in the East, the greatest prince is not ashamed to
fetch a lamb from his herd and kill it, whilst the princess is
impatient till she hath prepared her fire and her kettle to dress

[Addenda: after heretofore add, ‘we have some good families in
England of the name of Cook or Coke. I know not what they may think; but we may depend upon it, they all originally sprang from real and professional cooks; and they need not be ashamed of their extraction, any more than the Butlers, Parkers, Spencers, etc.]

Handwashing, Serving and Gifting in 14th Century

In about 1390, The Forme of Cury was compiled by Samuel Pegge (18th Century Vicar and Antiquarian). The actual book was written by the Master-Cooks of King RICHARD II, then much later, presented to Queen Elizabeth. Elizabeth, queen of king Henry VII. was crowned A. 1487.

As with many historic cookbooks, the forward has a great amount of historic data about their current life (what they ate), social commentary, as well as some ideas as what happened before them. I will be posting some of the more interesting comments they make over the next few months in the blog.

Here is something about meat, how it is usually served, and why handwashing is done. There is also some other interesting points, however made by as far as I can tell, Samuel Pegge in the 18th Century:

“My next observation is, that the messes both in the roll and the
Editor’s MS, are chiefly soups, potages, ragouts, hashes, and the
like hotche-potches; entire joints of meat being never served, and animals, whether fish or fowl, seldom brought to table whole, but hacked and hewed, and cut in pieces or gobbets [77]; the mortar also was in great request, some messes being actually denominated from it, as mortrews, or morterelys as in the Editor’s MS. Now in this state of things, the general mode of eating must either have been with the spoon or the fingers; and this perhaps may have been the reason that spoons became an usual present from gossips to their god-children at christenings [78]; and that the bason and ewer, for washing before and after dinner, was introduced, whence the ewerer was a great officer [79], and the ewery is retained at Court to this day [80]; we meet with damaske water after dinner [81], I presume, perfumed; and the words ewer plainly come from the Saxon or French eau water.