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Medieval Cookery - Oddities

Every now and then I come across something unusual or amusing in a period source. Here they are - in no particular order.

Odd Beliefs Odd Foods Odd Humor Odd Instructions

Odd Beliefs

On the diet of birds

Source [ Le Ménagier de Paris :
Et nota que trois paires d'oiseaulx sont, que les aucuns queux rostissent sans effondrer; scilicet aloés, turtres et plouviers, pour ce que leurs bouyaulx sont gras et sans ordure, car aloés ne menguent fors pierettes et sablon: turtres, graine de genèvre et herbes souef-flairans: et plouviers vent.

Source [ Le Ménagier de Paris , J. Hinson (trans.)]:
And note that there are three sorts of birds, which other cooks roast without cutting open; these are larks, turtle-doves and plovers, because their guts are sweet and without dung, for larks eat only pebbles and sand: turtle-doves, juniper seeds and sweet-smelling herbs: and plovers the wind.

The Health Benefits of Hedgehogs

Source [ Das Kochbuch des Meisters Eberhard , G. Balestriere (trans.)]:
Item eins ygels fleysch ist gut ausseczigenn menschenn. Wer seine dermm derret vnd zu puluer macht vnd sein ein wenig isset, den macht es prunczen, ob er sust nit mag.

The meat of a hedgehog is good for lepers. Those who dry its intestines and grind them to a powder and eat a little of that are made to piss, even if they can not do so otherwise.

Odd Foods

Sea Otter

(It should be noted that the animal referenced here is most likely the European Otter, Lutra lutra , which is native to Europe, instead of the Sea Otter of the north Pacific, Enhydra lutris . Adding to the oddness, both of these recipes were in a section of the cookbook devoted to fish dishes for meatless days - apparently otters were considered to be seafood.)

Source [La Varenne's Cookery, T. Scully (trans.)]:
Sea-Otter in a Court-Bouillon. Dress a sea-otter and prepare it for putting into court-bouillon, which you make up in the same way as for the brill. When it has cooked, serve it dry, with parsley in a napkin on top.

Source [La Varenne's Cookery, T. Scully (trans.)]:
Sea-Otter on the Grill. Dress the sea-otter and roast it. When it is done, make whatever sauce you like for it, provided it tastes strong and, because those large chunks don't readily take on a flavoring, split it or slice it on top. Simmer it in its sauce until it has soaked up almost all of it. Then serve it, garnished with whatever you have on hand.

Garbage (aptly named)

Source [ Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books , T. Austin (ed.)]:
.xvij. Garbage. Take fayre garbagys of chykonys, as the hed, the fete, the lyuerys, an the gysowrys; washe hem clene, an caste hem in a fayre potte, an caste ther-to freysshe brothe of Beef or ellys of moton, an let it boyle; an a-lye it wyth brede, an ley on Pepir an Safroun, Maces, Clowys, an a lytil verious an salt, an serue forth in the maner as a Sewe.

Roast Cat as You Wish to Eat It

Source [ Libre del Coch , R. Carroll-Mann (trans.)]:
123. Roast Cat as You Wish to Eat It. You will take a cat that is fat, and decapitate it. And after it is dead, cut off the head and throw it away because it is not for eating, for they say that eating the brains will cause him who eats them to lose his senses and judgment. Then flay it very cleanly, and open it and clean it well, and then wrap it in a cloth of clean linen. And bury it beneath the ground where it must be for a day and a night; and then take it out of there and set it to roast on a spit. And roast it over the fire. And when beginning to roast it, grease it with good garlic and oil. And when you finish greasing it, whip it well with a green twig , and this must be done before it is well-roasted, greasing it and whipping it. And when it is roasted, cut it as if it were a rabbit or a kid and put it on a big plate; and take garlic and oil blended with good broth in such a manner that it is well-thinned. And cast it over the cat. And you may eat of it because it is very good food.


Source [ Le Ménagier de Paris , J. Hinson (trans.)]:
Hedgehog should have its throat cut, be singed and gutted, then trussed like a pullet, then pressed in a towel until very dry; and then roast it and eat with cameline sauce, or in pastry with wild duck sauce. Note that if the hedgehog refuses to unroll, put it in hot water, and then it will straighten itself.

Squirrels (actually, this recipe is pretty good)

Source [ Le Ménagier de Paris , J. Hinson (trans.)]:
Squirrels are singed, gutted, trussed like rabbits, roasted or put in pastry: eat with cameline sauce or in pastry with wild duck sauce.


Source [ Curye on Inglysch , C. Hieatt, S. Butler (eds.)]:
Ermine. Hit schal beon ymad qwit & wel ysauoured of god poudre of gynger & quibibes & cloues, & þis mete schal beon perti wiþ vert desire.

Sheep's penis

Source [ Wel ende edelike spijse , C. Muusers (trans.)]:
.xxiii. Der leckers scapin roede dwaetse wel ende keertse ende dan nemt sof fraen ghewreuen die doderen van .x. eyeren ende enen lepel melken tem pert metten vetten ende vaerst die roede Ende wacht dat niet te vul en sy ende doetse zieden in eenen wal ende dan braedse ende pouderse met poudere van ghingebare ende Caneele ende een lettel pepers

Sheep's penis for the foodie. Wash it well and clean it. Then take brayed saffron, the yolks of ten eggs and a spoonfull of milk. Temper with fat and stuff the penis, but take care that it is not overstuffed. Blanch it, then roast it. Sprinkle with powder of ginger, cinnamon and a little pepper.

Odd Humor

Two "Good" Dishes

Source [ Ein Buch von guter spise , A. Atlas (trans.)]:
53. Ein gut lecker köstelin. So mache zum iüngesten ein klein lecker kö stelin. von stichellinges magin und mucken füezze und lovinken zungen. meysen beyn. und frösche an der keln. so mahtu lange on sorgen leben.

53. A good delicious fine food. So make for the young a small delicious fine food, from the stomach of a small fish, which has spines on its back, and sow's feet and bullfinch tongues, titmouse bones and frog legs. So you may live long on worry.

54. Ein gut gerihte, der is gern izzet. Wilt du machen ein begeriht so nim sydeln sweyz. daz macht den magen gar heiz. und nim kiselinges smaltz. daz ist den meiden gut. die do sin hüffehaltz. und nim bromber und bresteling. daz ist daz aller beste ding. bist du niht on sinnen taup. so nim grüen wingart laup. du solt nemen binzen. lubstickel un minzzen. daz sint gute würtze für die grozze fürtze. nim stigelitzes versen, und mucken füezze. daz macht daz köstlin allez süezze daz ist gut und mag wol sin ein gut lecker spigerihtelin. Ach und versaltz nur niht. wanne ez ist ein gut geriht.

54. A good dish, which people like to eat. How you want to make a good dish. So take a lazybones' sweat, which makes the stomach very hot. And take pebble's fat which is good for abstinence. Those who do are impotent. And take blackberries and garden strawberries, which is the very best thing, until you don't brood over sexual desires. So take green grapevine foliage. You should take rushes, lovage and mint. These are good spices for the large farts. Take goldfinch's heels and sows' feet, which makes the fine meal all sweet. That is good and may well be a good delicious dish. Oh! and only do not oversalt, when it is a good dish.

(The translator notes that these recipes "may be nonsense recipes. Source A refers to them as Spaß rezepte or 'joke recipes.' These two appear at the end of the first section of recipes in Das Buch von guter Spise .")

Odd Instructions

Buttered Wortes (emphatically without oatmeal)

Source [ Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books , T. Austin (ed.)]:
Buttered Wortes. Take al maner of good herbes that thou may gete, and do bi ham as is forsaid; putte hem on the fire wit faire water; put there-to clarefied buttur a grete quantite. Whan thei ben boyled ynog, salt hem; late none otemele come there-in . Dise brede small in disshes, and powre on the wortes, and serue hem fort. [emphasis added]

To make a Chicken be Served Roasted

Source [ The Vivendier , Terence Scully (trans.)]:
A faire .i. poullet aler rosti sur la table: preng ung poullet ou aultre oisiel tel qu'il te plaira, sy le plume tout vif a l'eaue chaude tresnettement; puis preng lez moioeufs de .ii. ou .iii. oeufs, et soient bastus avoecq pouldre de saffren et fleur de ble, et destempres d'eaue crasse ou de la craisse qui chiet soubz le rost en la paiele saininoire; et de ceste mistion, a tout une plume, dore et pains tresbien ton poullet tant qu'il ait coulleur pareille a viande rostie; et, ce fait, quant on vouldra servir a table, mettez la teste du poulet dessoulz son elle, et le tourne entre tes mains et le touppie tant qu'il soit bien endormis; puis l'asiies sur ton plat avoecq l'autre rot, et quant on le vaura trenchier il se esveillera et s'en fuira par la table et abatra pos et hanaps, etc.

To make a Chicken be Served Roasted. Get a chicken or any other bird you want, and pluck it alive cleanly in hot water. Then get the yolkes of two or three eggs; they should be beaten with powdered saffron and wheat flour, and distempered with fat broth or the grease that drips under a roast in to the dripping pan. By means of a feather glaze and paint your pullet carefully with this mixture so that its colour looks like roast meat. With this done, and when it is about to be served to the table, put the chicken's head under its wing, and turn it in your hands, rotating it until it is fast asleep. Then set it down on your platter with the other roast meat. When it is about to be carved it will wake up and make off down the table upsetting jugs, goblets and whatnot.

Determining the Age of Rabbits

Source [ Le Ménagier de Paris , J. Hinson (trans.)]:
Item, you can tell the age of a hare from the number of openings under its tail, for there will be as many openings as years.

Platter/No Platter

Source [ Le Ménagier de Paris :
Assiette: beurre, rien, pour ce qu'il est jour de char. Item, cerises, rien, pour ce que nulles n'en estoient trouvées; et pour ce assiette nulle.

Source [ Le Ménagier de Paris , J. Hinson (trans.)]:
Platter: butter, none because it is a meat day. Item, cherries, none, because none could be found; and so no platter.