Friday, January 28, 2011

In which I get to combine my three loves: art, history and foodl

The Performance of a Crusade Play at King Charles V's Feast (detail), Master of the Coronation of Charles VI, Paris, about 1375–80. From Great Chronicles of France (Grandes chroniques de France). Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris. Ms. fr. 2813, fol. 473v

Fascinating essay at the Getty Blog (which reminded me again of their brilliant exhibit). They've included recipes for Marinated Leeks in Mustard Vinaigrette, Grilled Fish Fillets with Yellow Sauce (Poivre Jaunet), French Country Sausage (Saucisse a Cuire)

You can also download the full recipe pack, complete with notes.

"In the French Middle Ages, as today, banquets were opportunities for the well-heeled to entertain guests in style.

The set-up was simple: boards placed on trestles topped with white cloths, wine diluted with water in clay vessels, meats on five-day-old slabs of bread serving as rustic plates. Forks were absent. Meals began and ended with hand-washing and a prayer.

Food and entertainment, however, were lavish. Peacock, heron, and swan were frequently on the aristocrat’s menu. Spices from exotic lands, such as saffron, cumin, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, and cinnamon, reflected hosts’ wealth and their ties to far-off realms. Dancing, singing, short plays, and readings from lavish manuscripts full of romantic intrigue and knightly derring-do—such as those featured in the exhibition Imagining the Past in France, 1250–1500—accompanied entremets, or tidbits between courses."

The Story of Adam and Eve (detail), Boucicaut Master, in Concerning the Fates of Illustrious Men and Women, about 1415. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 63, fol. 3
 Everything you wanted to know about medieval food and cooking (except how to do the dishes and maybe we'd better leave that to the imagination. No running water, no scouring power except sand and no soap. There are numerous PDF downloads with complete texts of the papers - from the basic elements of medieval food to a very interesting paper on poor nutrition and alcoholism among the Mongols, leading to infertility and early death.

This is an older website for medieval cooking. It lacks some of the bells and whistles of the Getty Site but it is more comprehensive.

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