Constance B. Hieatt is one of the foremost experts of medieval English cooking. Her Pleyn Delit is one of my favorite books for cooks who want to start cooking in a more medieval style.
Medieval Fightclub have a range of metal and leather care products, from Traitement Royal, which would be of use to all kinds of re-enactors. I tried out the Le:Balm?Forever Leather Wax and Wax:On polishing compound. The products were supplied by Medieval Fightclub, but they have not otherwise compensated us for this review.
Scribes and Illuminators; Christoper de Hamel
This is part of a series on medieval craftsmen from the University of Toronto Press. (Must find some of these other titles, glass painters, armorers, goldsmiths etc)
The name gives it away, this is about paper and parchment makers, ink-makers and scribes and illuminators, binders and booksellers.
There’s a lot of references to period sources, including quotes from written sources and lots and lots of manuscript images. It’s not a how to, except in making the tools. There’s a fair amount of detail on how to stretch a hide and then scrape it to make the parchment and some photos of a modern reconstruction. There’s actually a lot of images in this book – photos of artefacts and modern reconstructions, and lots and lots of manuscript images. (including an adorable half finished 15th century sketch of French birds.)
Get it from someone who is a good goldbeater; and examine the gold; and if you find it rippling and matt, like goat parchment, then consider it good.
The tone is good and flows well without being too dry.The book is less than 70 pages so it can’t go into great depth about the subject matter, but it does present a good (and well researched) broad brush on the subject matter.
I would recommend this book for anyone getting started in making parchment, ink or looking at getting into illumination. It’s a good history of, and has some information about how to do it, but it is definitely not a “how to”.
[tabs] [tab title=”Publishers Blurb”] Illuminated manuscripts survive in great numbers from the Middle Ages. They are often beautifully preserved, enabling us to appreciate the skilled design and craftsmanship of the people who created them. Christopher de Hamel describes each stage of production from the preparation of the vellum, pens, paints and inks to the writing of the scripts and the final decoration and illumination of the book. He then examines the role of the stationer or bookshop in co-ordinating book production and describes the supply of exemplars and the accuracy of texts. He follows the careers of a number of specific scribes and illuminators who emerge not as anonymous monks but as identifiable professional lay artisans. He also looks at those who bought the completed books, why they did so, and how much they paid.His survey ranges from the eleventh century through the golden age of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries to the luxurious manuscripts existing at the invention of printing. [/tab] [/tabs]
By Peter Brears
This is a cute tiny little book. It’s like the size of my hand from pinky to thumb outspread. Adorable.
The initial recipe is given and then a redaction is provided in the modern manner with the list of ingredients required at the start. (There is a bibliography but the recipes aren’t linked back to their original texts which is a bit disappointing.)
Aside from the recipes, it talks briefly about various ingrediants that they had – the new ingredients coming from the new world (including coffee from Arabia and Turkey) and the changes to baking thanks to improvements in this technology.
There’s a brief section on the equipment available in Stuart kitchens and then finally a section on the tableware that would have been set out.
This is a pretty basic little book. Anyone who has other Stuart cooking books or others from the general time period would pretty much have everything this book has to offer.
But, for those just starting out, it’s a pretty inexpensive way to get a handle on what they had (both equipment and ingredient wise) and so it is a good book for beginners.
[tabs] [tab title=”Publishers Blurb”] Including over 30 recipes from the 17th century, this book also reveals the turbulent history of this troubled time when the country cast off its medieval traditions. It describes how new and more sophisticated tastes were reflected in the diet of the nation and the way people cooked and ate their meals. French cuisine became popular with the gentry; the medieval great hall was replaced by a smaller and more intimate dining room, and pottery dishes and bowls were used instead of wooden ones. The introduction of the fork improved table manners and the population enjoyed a variety of new foods – in particular, the exciting imported beverages of tea, coffee and drinking chocolate. The recipes include several that reflect the new baking skills developed during this period and the important introduction of the pudding cloth. Sack Posset (a favourite of Samuel Pepys), Knot Biscuits, Shropshire Cakes and Quaking Pudding are just a few of the many intriguing recipes to try at home. Illustrated in full colour and black & white, including some mouth-watering examples of Stuart delicacies. [/tab] [/tabs]
By Peter Brears
“So what’s a Petworth?”
“Well, it’s a Great Estate in England, built in the 12th Century….”
“It depends on what the pound is selling them for.”
“…. I’m putting that in my review now.”
Although the Estate was initially built in the 12th Century, this book is about the family and management of the estate between the First and Second World Wars. (there is virtually nothing about the earlier periods of the estate, which I was greatly disappointed by.)
Petworth was one of the last great kitchens to still be running and this book talks about how that was accomplished.
There are four chapters; The Family and it’s Kitchens; Lady Leconfield and her Chefs; Petworth Recipes; and The Dining Room.
Petworth has some fantastic recipes in it, including one for Rum butter, which was a popular tea time treat, served wither on bread and butter, cream crackers, or scones, or spread on hot toast.
I would definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in the practicalities of how estate kitchens worked in the 1920-1940’s and for anyone interested in recipes of this time (particularly puddings. There are some great pudding recipes in here.)
[tabs] [tab title=”Publisher’s Blurb”] Petworth House has been the home of the Leconfield family since it was granted to them by Queen Adeliza, the second wife of Henry I, in 1150. The kitchens dealt with a myriad of natural ingredients from eels and oysters to black pudding and quince jellies. The recipes include Oeufs Soubise made with onion and cream, Petworth Venison Pie, Mint Ice, Friar’s Omelette, an apple pudding which in fact has no eggs, and delicious Carrolines au Parmesan, savory cheese-filled eclairs.Peter Brears is former director of the Leeds City Museums and one of England’s foremost authorities on domestic artifacts, historical kitchens, and cooking technology.” [/tab] [/tabs]
Carving animals was an important part of medieval life. At feasts, the animal would be presented to the table, and then taken and carved into bit sized bits. For the most part, a meal could be eaten with just a spoon.
Here are some videos in which Elden is taught to carve a standing rib beef roast and a spatchcock.
For more information to learning to carve in a fifteenth century manner, we also have the below pamphlets available.
Carved Lady with Hawke is one of Adam McKay’s finer pieces of work.?Carved in the round, it portrays a young lady with a tame bird of prey. The form is modelled from a popular theme found across Europe and Scandinavia from c. 1200-1400 of young women with birds, dogs and musical instruments. Because extant examples are invariably from ivory, this reproduction is olive wood;?a fine carving wood and fitting substitute.
Beyond the sculpted handle, this is a fully functional carving knife, with a queen ebony bolster and high carbon tool steel blade. High carbon steels take and retain a razor edge, should you decide to put this artwork into service.
The accompanying vegetable tan leather?sheath is a suitable match for the carved handle. It?has been molded directly to the knife, hand stitched and decorated with hand-tooled panels, and finished with a beeswax polish for sheen and durability. The decoration is based on examples in the Museum of London.
More examples of carved handles can be seen at?Gothic Ivories Projects
While this knife is a unique work, Adam can be commissioned for similar knives via Mainly Medieval.
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.
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]
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]
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.