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Food and Drink in Medieval Poland: Rediscovering a Cuisine of the Past Hardcover – July 23, 1999

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press (July 23, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812232240
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812232240
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 7.5 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,790,976 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

You could start with Chicken Baked with Prunes, prepared in the 14th century for the Bishop of Zeitz. The ingredients include sliced onion, shredded white cabbage, large prunes with their pits, chopped parsley, juniper berries, a large roasting hen cut in half, bay leaf, bacon, ginger, cinnamon, a red Hungarian wine, and a little dill seed. This bakes, covered, in an earthenware pan, and is served on boiled millet refried in oil or butter and accompanied by green mustard sauce. What you would taste, according William Woys Weaver, the editor and coauthor of Food and Drink in Medieval Poland, is the spirit of 14th-century Polish cuisine. Not French, mind you. Not Italian, or German even. But Polish.

First published in a much more academic form in 1963 (not to mention in academic Polish), Maria Dembinska's groundbreaking study of the foods and eating habits of the Polish in the Middle Ages took until now to find its way into English. The text remains true to its scholarly spirit, for perhaps no one admired Dembinska more for her academic rigor than Weaver, author of the recent Heirloom Vegetable Gardening. And it was Weaver who brought Dembinska's book to life, took it on as a personal challenge and mission, all of his considerable work done gratis. To read his introduction, which properly places Dembinska in a scholarly pantheon, is to read a spy novel, for all that is in this book was gathered under police-state scrutiny.

Dembinska has an interdisciplinary approach, including the all-important ethnographic perspective and historic archaeology. One discipline was used to confront and/or confirm the theories of the other, because much of what might have been a written record was lost to warfare, both modern and historic. Dembinska's challenge was not only to chronicle the food ways of medieval Poland, but to try to define what in fact was Polish. Who were the Poles? Where were the Poles? What unfolds in chapters such as "Toward a Definition of Polish National Cookery," "Poland in the Middle Ages," "The Dramatis Personae of the Old Polish Table," and "Food and Drink in Medieval Poland" is a document of how people lived in a land caught between Europe and Asia, with influences pouring in from Cyprus and Byzantium, Russia, Germany, Italy, and France.

In a sense, Dembinska's greatest gift has been to give a real Polish history back to a living Poland. And William Woys Weaver gives us Maria Dembinska, a wonderful scholar who died before this long, long project could be completed. The recipes Weaver researched and included with the text combine to make this a history, ethnography, archaeology, and a powerful friendship you can sit down and taste. It's a rare taste, and one to be savored. --Schuyler Ingle

About the Author

Maria Dembinska conducted her research on food consumption in medieval Poland at Warsaw University and at the Institute of Material Culture of the Polish Academy of Sciences. A noted food historian, she authored nearly two hundred articles and papers on medieval foods and foodways. William Woys Weaver is an internationally known food historian and author of numerous books, including America Eats, The Christmas Cook, Pennsylvania Dutch Country Cooking, and Heirloom Vegetable Gardening. He began his collaboration with Maria Dembinska on the publication of Food and Drink in Medieval Poland in 1977.

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Manley VINE VOICE on June 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is filled with a wealth of educational material. This book is comprised of mostly history regarding the culture, the food, and the people. The recipes are well written with measurements in english and metric, temperatures are also given in standard and celcius degrees. Most recipes are from the peasant folk with a few meat dishes sprinkled in. Some recipes are common to today's standards while a few of the others would not typically be seen served in today's kitchen. There are approximately 30 recipes or so in this book. Each recipe has its history in terms of how it was served, to whom it was served, and when it was served. The book is a worthwhile read.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By "judwiga" on September 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is really more of a history book, to my reading. It has wonderful little known facts that I would never have learned otherwise. There is a lot of research that went into this book, and she obviously worked long and hard to get this book and the history into order. This is a wonderful book for anyone who is interested in Poland or Slavic areas, and the recipies, to me, almost seemed as an afterthought, though I do not doubt they are correct and proper for Poland. Enjoy!!!
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