Tag Archives: richard II

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
it.’]

[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.