Really Old Medieval Cookbook Found

Researchers have discovered a collection of recipes written in Latin by monks of Durham Cathedral in 1140. Some are calling it the oldest such collection of the Middle Ages.

Many of the dishes sound like they would work on a modern restaurant menu. Faith Wallis, an expert in medical history and science based at McGill University, translated a few for Discovery News:

“For “hen in winter’: heat garlic, pepper and sage with water.”

“For ‘tiny little fish’: juice of coriander and garlic, mixed with pepper and garlic.”

For preserved ginger, it should kept in “pure water” and then “sliced lengthwise into very thin slices, and mixed thoroughly with prepared honey that has been cooked down to a sticky thickness and skimmed. It should be rubbed well in the honey with the hands, and left a whole day and night.”

Re – the “hen in winter” dish, Giles Gasper from Durham University’s Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies said, “We believe this recipe is simply a seasonal variation, using ingredients available in the colder months and specifying ‘hen’ rather than ‘chicken,’ meaning it was an older bird as it would be by that time of year.”

Gasper added, “The sauces typically feature parsley, sage, pepper, garlic, mustard and coriander, which I suspect may give them a Mediterranean feel when we recreate them. According to the text, one of the recipes comes from the Poitou region of what is now modern central western France. This shows the extent to which international travel and exchange of ideas took place within the medieval period. And what more evocative example of cultural exchange could there be than food?”

Monks needed to eat simply and often without meat, but that doesn’t mean they had to forgo seasoning and good taste. If you’re looking for a solid collection of simple but appealing monastery cooking, try Twelve Months of Monastery Soups.

About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.


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