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Mainly Medieval is a Book Depository Affiliate

A founding principle of Mainly Medieval was that good books underpin research in historical re-enactment. By collecting the best specialist books and bringing them to re-enactors, we felt we could support the community. This has largely been a success at festival and fair events. Online, however, we simply cannot compete with the big players.

The largest and most economical of all is Book Depository. They have an excellent range, very low prices and offer free shipping. Seeing as most of our regular customers buy their books from Book Depository anyway, we’ve become a Book Depository affiliate. This means that if you go to Book Depository via our site and buy a book, we are eligible for a $1-2 credit. Buy a pile of books from Book Depository, and you’ve bought one of us here at Mainly Medieval a beer. The price for you, dear reader, is identical. You need only click through once per ‘session’, and not for every single title you’re buying.

By shopping on Book Depository via our site, you’re supporting our endeavours and earning our enduring gratitude, totally free!

With the time we’re not spending ordering books and populating our inventory system, we will instead be reviewing re-enactment books on our new blog. We will still be giving our honest opinion, as ever, on each book and aim to help you know what to expect before you order.

Not all of our books will be moving to Book Depository, either. We carry some publishers like Stuart Press and Society for Creative Anachronism which are not available elsewhere online, and we will always be looking to make more specialised titles available.


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Pleyn Delit – Review

Pleyn Delit: medieval cookery for modern cooks (second edition) Constance B. Hieat, Brenda hosington and Sharon Butler.

[dropcap style=”no-background”] W [/dropcap]hen I decided to start reviewing books in order to help people decide on the right book for them, my immediate first choice was Pleyn Delit. It is the book I recommend the most when asked about what sources I use myself and at A5 and 173 pages including the bibliography, is slim enough to carry around without being overly cumbersome.

Pros: recipes are divided up into categories (pastries, stews/pottages, desserts etc) and all recipes are simple enough for a beginning cook. The original (translated) recipe is at the start of the redaction, allowing more experienced cooks to tweak the recipe based on their personal tastes and desires,while less confident cooks can follow the recipe, assured that the end result will be tasty. Any ingredient which is not easily found in the local supermarket has an appropriate substitution (although as the book was written 20 years ago, some of the ingredient such as almond milk as now easily found) and so the shop can be done fully in a supermarket run if so desired.

Cons: the recipes are all fairly straightforward and the recipes, while containing the same ingredients, I believe have been redacted to appeal to modern tastes more often than not. This book is not for very experienced cooks or those looking to challenge their palette.

The first reason that I recommend Pleyn Delit over other sources is the receipts are very straightforward. Each recipe has the original recipe translated as the first item, along with where the recipe is originally from, then a redaction of that recipe. Every recipe that I have tried from Pleyn Delit turns out well and when I give the book to other less experienced medieval cooks, everyone has been able to turn out an excellent end result as well. while measurements are given in ounces for a North American audience, translations of the measurements can be found in the introduction and the simple

Many favourites can be found in Pleyn Delit, including Tart on Ember Day, Fennel in soppes, frumenty, pepper sauce and chicken in cumin sauce.

Almost all receipts are taken from 14-15th century manuscripts, with the majority being English or French.

In short, I highly recommend this book for everyone who wants to do more period cooking but doesn’t want to work out a redaction themselves, who lacks confidence in their skills?or who just wants to eat some delicious and different foods.

 

On my re-enactment blog, I make the castle subtlety from this book and it turned out fairly well.

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The Book of Sent Sovi – Review

The Book Of Sent Sovi – Medieval Recipes from Catalonia
Edited by Joan Santanach
Translated by Robin Veogelzang

[dropcap style=”no-background”] N [/dropcap]ormally, when I recommend a cooking book, it’s for the redactions. Someone has translated a medieval manuscript, and then given a redaction of that recipe in an easy to understand modern format. There’s an ingredient list, and a step by step method – in the order the steps have to be done in. Sometimes the original recipe (Translated to english is given), sometimes just the source of where the recipe was taken from.

The Book Of Sent Sovi is a little bit different. On the left, the original text in Catalonia. On the right, the English translation. So it’s up to the reader to determine quantities of each of the ingredients listed. Fortunately, aside from the quantities, it is quite specific, listing the various herbs and spices to be used in the dish. (It even specifies to use white carrots for carrot puree which is a very important distinction speaking as someone who tried to make orange carrot puree. No. Just no.)

But for the inexperienced, there are plenty of ways to mess up these recipes up. Too much spices to one dish will cause it to be inedible, not enough, and it’s too bland.

The recipes are not in any particular order. Some things are loosely together – various sauces for instance are found one after the other. But mostly it’s in the order that the meals came to the original author and were jotted down.

Various foot notes are sprinkled through the text from the editor/translator, explaining various aspects which may have been obvious to a 14th Century Catalonian but not necessarily to the modern reader.

Who this book is for

  • Experienced cooks who are looking to branch out a little
  • people who like experimenting with recipes
  • people interested in Catalonian recipes

Who Shouldn’t Buy this book

  • People just learning to cook
  • People who like following known recipes


[tabs] [tab title=”Editor’s Blurb”] Indeed, The Book of Sent Sovi, like any other gastronomic treatise, was seen as a practical text, a working tool at the service of cooks, and, as they used it, they added to it, cut out some of the recipes, and added refinements and futher details on specific aspects of the dishes. Far then, from being the work of a single authour, we a dealing with a text that reflects a great swathe of the culinary tradition and the tastes of a whole period of history that we might describe as the dawn of Catalan Cusine. [/tab] [/tabs]

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The Medieval Kitchen – Review

The Medieval Kitchen, Recipes from France and Italy

Odile Redon, Franciose Sabban & Silvano Serventi

[dropcap style=”no-background”] T [/dropcap]he Medieval Kitchen is a collection of recipes from 14th and 15th French and Italian sources.?It separates the recipes into the various categories – Soups, pasta, meats cooked in sauce, pies etc. This?makes it a lot easier for a cook who knows what kind of food they want to cook, but not what exactly they want to cook.

Each recipe has a modern English translation and the original source text. There is often a brief explanation to put the dish in context and explanation of?any unusual words that don’t have a straight translation..

The redactions are quite good and Redon et al take care to provide the most typical version of?recipes when more than one source has a version.
They have also made things a bit easier on themselves by choosing not to show some recipes which are particularly jarring to modern sensibilities (like a?sweet creamy dessert made with fish broth – ick!) but the redactions that they have provided are all simple and straightforward and they work reliably. I would still recommend Pleyn Delight over The Medieval Kitchen for a beginning cook but The Medieval Kitchen is a good one for cooks looking to try dishes slightly more exotic. Like Pleyn Delight, The Medieval Kitchen provides easy alternatives to ingredients that the modern supermarket is unlikely to stock.

My all time favourite recipe is one I first found in this book. Haricot of Lamb. Originally from Le M?nagier de Paris, this is a fairly simple lamb recipe (well, mutton. ?You can’t really buy mutton any more though, ?only lamb. Delicious, tender lamb.) with only a few other ingredients. That makes it an easier dish?to cook on a campfire and the simplicity can be a very?welcome change to some of the other more involved recipes.

NB:
There are some colour pages in the middle showing various cooks in manuscripts miniatures. I use my copy a lot and these colour pages have now fallen out as the glue couldn’t keep up with my use. So some care should be taken here.

[tabs] [tab title=”Publishers Blurb”] The Medieval Kitchen is a delightful work in which historians Odile Redone, Fran?oise Sabbon and Silvano Serventi rescue from dark obscurity the glorious cuisine of the Middle Ages. Medieval gastronomy turns out to have been superb- a wonderful m?lange of flavour, aroma, and colour. The recipes are expertly reconstructed from 14th and century sources and carefully adapted to suit the modern kitchen. The Medieval Kitchen vividly depicts the context and tradition of authentic medieval cookery [/tab] [/tabs]

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Medieval Pets – Review

Medieval Pets

Kathleen Walker-Meikle

It can sometimes be hard to find information on pets in the medieval world. Larsdatter has various links and sources on her webpage Larsdatter sitemap

but like most of her pages it’s mostly the manuscript images of the various animals that she describes.
Walker-Meikle talks a bit more about the literature references but the most valuable part is the inferences that she makes and the detailed descriptions of how pets such as small dogs, pampered cats and trained squirrels (I love that. Trained squirrels!) were kept.

There’s a couple of illustrations but not a great deal, Larsdatter would be better for any interested in manuscript images. The text can be a bit dry in places but is very informative. The bibliography and notes are extensive, everything is carefully referenced.

[tabs] [tab title=”Publishers Blurb”] Animals in the middle ages have often been discussed ? but usually only as a source of food, as beasts of burden, or as aids for hunters. This book takes a completely different angle, showing that they were also beloved domestic companions to their human owners, whether they were dogs, cats, monkeys, squirrels, and parrots. It offers a full survey of pets and pet-keeping: from how they were acquired, kept, fed, exercised, and displayed, to the problems they could cause. It also examines the representation of pets and their owners in art and literature; the many charming illustrations offer further evidence for the bonds between humans and their pets, then as now. A wide range of sources, including chronicles, letters, sermons and poems, are used in what is both an authoritative and entertaining account. Dr Kathleen Walker-Meikle is a Wellcome Trust Fellow at the University of York, working on animals and medieval medicine.[/tab] [/tabs]

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A Proper Newe Booke of Cookery – Review

A Proper Newe Booke of Cookery; Margaret Parker’s Cookery Book

Edited by Anne Ahmed

 

This facsimile is based on the Corpus Christi copy of “A Proper Newe Booke of Cookery”, which was lost for several hundred years before being found again. It’s in the best condition of all the copies that still exist and the font of the facsimile is clear and easy to read. And if it wasn’t, the translation by Catherine Hall on the left is definitely easy enough to read.

The redactions of the recipes at the end of the book are a little conservative. Good recipes which would work and easy enough for a beginning cook to follow. But based on personal experience with medieval dishes, it is my opinion that they could be more than this redaction allows for.

But it is a good book for anyone interested in 16th century cooking, which shows how they thought of their food and how it should be prepared. Unlike other books, there is no talk of other things around food, such as the serving hall, but it does give the “order of meats” and how they should be served which is good tips for anyone interested in doing a period banquet.

A Proper Newe Booke of Cokerye

 

 

 

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Cooking & Dining in Medieval England – Review

Cooking & Dining in Medieval England – Peter Brears

 

Ah Brears. Brears, Brears, Brears. This is my all time favourite cooking book. While it helps that the time period I re-enact is 14th Century English and this book is bang on for what I do, it is also a fantastic resource.

While I recommend Pleyn Delight to beginning cooks and those who just want recipes, Cooking and Dining is the one I recommend to anyone wanting a bit more depth and knowledge to their medieval cooking. Brears goes through all aspects of cooking and dining, describing in detail the places where cooking and dining happened and separating out by categories of food. The Dairy, the brewhouse, the bakehouse, the pastry, the kitchen etc. Brears goes through each one detailing finds and written sources to bring the areas to life.

 

Although it has recipes, it is not a recipe book. Brears does not provide the original transcript of the recipe before his redaction but does have a comprehensive bibliography. (Which is an excellent place to find the primary sources) and the recipes make up only a small fraction of this book. First and foremost it is one of the most knowledgable books about all aspects of cooking and dining and is a good information source to anyone wanting to take their medieval cooking to the next level.

[tabs] [tab title=”Publishers Description”] This new work by Peter Brears, perhaps Britain’s foremost expert on the historical kitchen, looks at these important elements of cooking and dining. A series of chapters looks at the cooking departments in large households: the counting house, dairy, brewhouse, pastry, boiling house and kitchen. These are illustrated by architectural perspectives of surviving examples in castles and manor houses throughout the land. There are chapters dealing with the various sorts of kitchen equipment: fires, fuel, pots and pans. Sections are then devoted to recipes and types of food cooked. The recipes are those which have been used and tested by Peter Brears in hundreds of demonstrations to the public and cooking for museum displays. Finally there are chapters on the service of dinner and the rituals that grew up around these. Here, Peter Brears has drawn a strip cartoon of the serving of a great feast (the washing of hands, the delivery of napery, the tasting for poison, etc.) which will be of permanent utility to historical re-enactors who wish to get their details right. [/tabs]

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Market Day – 13th February 2016

Hi All,

Mainly Medieval will be selling pewter ware, pamphlets and medieval beauty and cosmetics products at 75 Mary St, 13 February 2016. Come along and check us out!

Market Day

Where: Precinct 75 Mary St, St Peters NSW 2044 (750 metres from Sydneham station, parking available but can get crowded)

When: Saturday 13th February from 10am – 4pm

 

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Treasures of the Black Death -Review

Treasures of the Black Death Ed. by Christine Descatoire

 

I?m very excited by this book. Treasures of the Black Death is finally available somewhere other than the physical Wallace Collection Museum. (Which is an excellent museum?and well worth going to)

Buy from Book Depository

Treasures of the Black Death is a collection from two hoards found at Colmar and Erfurt. What makes it unique is that they are hoards buried by Jews fleeing persecution during the Black Death (coins in the finds have dated it to 1349). Many of the surviving pieces of jewellery are religious in nature and this collection shows some of the surviving secular pieces of the time. It also has photos of Jewish jewellery, such as the Jewish wedding ring used as the cover photo.

The test?is a bit dry for my taste in places – there?s a lot of text on the history of the Black Death, on the history of the artifacts found, and on scientific analysis on the metal make up of the pieces. I’m mostly interested in jewellery books for the prettiness, but if the analysis of the metal used and detailed descriptions of how the finds were likely made .
But it also has some beautiful photos of the artifacts and some very detailed descriptions which is good for anyone interested in 14th jewellery and silver work.

 

[tabs] [tab title=”Publisher’s Blurb”] In the middle of the 14th century, Europe was devastated by an appalling epidemic which killed a third of its population. Accused of having spread the disease, Jewish communities faced terrible persecutions, which often led them to bury their most valuable goods. Two of these hoards, discovered at Colmar in 1863 and at Erfurt in 1998, are discussed and illustrated here. Comprising a great variety of jewelry, gold- and silversmiths’ work, and coins, these two hoards constitute an exceptional source for the study of secular metalwork in the 13th and 14th centuries, very few examples of which have otherwise come down to us. They provide precious evidence of the economic activities and daily life of the medieval Jewish communities, but also of their precarious position within Christian Europe. In Erfurt over 1,000 people were killed, the entire Jewish population. Some of the objects, because of their very personal character, are deeply poignant. [/tab] [/tabs]