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Shakespeare's Kitchen: Renaissance Recipes for the Contemporary Cook Hardcover – October 7, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

According to food historian Segan, we inherited much of what we now think of as "American" food from the English: "The Pilgrims who arrived at Plymouth Rock were Shakespeare's contemporaries and they brought their cookbooks from England." Updating dozens of classic Elizabethan recipes, Segan leads a culinary foray into Shakespeare's time. Each recipe is supplemented with a historical note that places the dish in context. For instance, Individual Meat Pies with Cointreau Marmalade were served by vendors catering to the theater crowd. The recipes have been adapted for the modern kitchen: all references to cauldrons have been removed. Section titles are in period English (Kickshaws instead of Appetizers, Fysshe instead of Fish, Pottage instead of Soups), but Renaissance scholars are not the only readers who will get a kick out of this book. Its playful tone, fascinating side-notes, and apt citations from the Bard's plays make this book as fun to read as it is to cook from. And for the person who spends time in the kitchen hoping to satisfy curiosity as well as appetite, recipes like Lemony Sweet Potatoes with Dates and Lobster Tails with Wildflowers are sure to appeal. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Not since Lynne Rossetto Kasper's lauded The Splendid Table (1992) introduced cooks to the world of the seventeenth-century Italian kitchen has a historical investigation turned up so many compelling recipes as has Francine Segan in Shakespeare's Kitchen. Although not a literal gleaning of recipes from Shakespeare's plays and poetry, this volume delves into sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English cookbooks and makes them accessible, reproducible, and attractive. Segan presents each original recipe in its quaint, abbreviated form. Working from that sketchy data, she faithfully converts the antique into instructions that an experienced cook can understand and can reproduce either for a special party or for an adventuresome family. Although reading the original recipe and comparing it with its modern version makes the process look virtually transparent, it's clear that Segan spent hours in a kitchen testing proportions and measurements to make dishes palatable. Simple cauliflower chowder or Italian pea pottage show the Elizabethan fascination with exotic spices such as mace and anise seed. Kids will get a giggle out of the scatological association in the original name of the airy dumplings floating in a thirteenth-century Portuguese soup. Royals watchers will delight in Queen Elizabeth's Fine Cake and the spicy scones named King James Biscuits. Renaissance "Apple" and Steak Pie may serve as a spectacular focus for an elegant dinner party. Segan's appendix gives clever ideas for wording invitations to dinner parties featuring the book's recipes. Students of both history and literature may mine Shakespeare's Kitchen for inspiration for class projects and celebrations. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (October 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375509178
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375509179
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 1 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #502,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Lady Roana de Laci on October 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Close but not quite there. As a member of a rather heralded Guild of (amatuer - we do it for love not money) Medieval and Renaissance Cooks, I was anticipating less 'making it up as I go along" and more true redactons of the books Ms Sagan references.

I was delighted that in roughly half the recipes, she quoted the original recipe and acknowledged the source. I was less delighted when she deliberately changed ingredients, left ingredients out or in one case where it was clear that the intent of the recipe was for periwinkles (snail like mollusks greatly esteemed in Elizabethan and slightly post Elizabethan times) and she admits that in a fit of whimsy, she substituted periwinkles the flower.

Not having hauled out the books and done the research I cannot attest that the unattributed recipes come from period, nor may I suggest that they do not. Where I to serve these unattributed recipes, I would label them as "peroid" (period like) rather than period.

For the most part even those period-like recipes do sound delicious!

This is a nice book, and if it piques an interest in Medieival and Renaissance cookery,then it has served its purpose.

Do NOT take her redactions as Gospel - read them, think of the aim of the dish you are making and consult other sources, both modern and medieval period. If you need help google MEdieval Food....

The photos and garnishes are lovely however.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
When I opened this book, I did not expect I would have any interest in actually preparing any dishes from it. Rather, I was looking for some insight into the history of cuisine in England around 1600. I was pleasantly surprised to find things which are really interesting to cook.
The book does not strictly cover meals mentioned in Shakespeare's plays, however, it is liberally seasoned with quotes from the Bard's plays making reference to foodstuff and spirits. The recipes are taken from cookbooks of the period which are enumerated in the very good bibliography. The volumes of this period were published from between 1560 through 1650 and all but one (Italian) are written in English and appear to be directed to the English housewife rather than the court of Elizabeth or James.
The biggest surprise is the prevalence of sweet ingredients in almost all savory dishes. If not sugar itself, then sweetness from fresh or dried fruit. The book even states that the English of the period had a serious sweet tooth. The complement to this tendency is the appearance of savory ingredients such as spinach in sweet desserts.
Another common theme in the cuisine of the period was the use of pastry crusts. They used it with just about everything. The remnants of this method can be found in dishes such as beef Wellington, savory pies, and cooking fish in a pastry crust. The method of making pastry crust may be a little unusual to the casual baker, but it is in fact based on a French technique used today for incorporating butter. Instead of cutting in the butter with forks or a pastry cutter, it is `smeared' into the dough with a kneading type of motion using, of course, very cold butter. It would be interesting to know how butter was kept cold in summer.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Basbenee on February 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book for my husband, who loves Shakespeare's works, history and cooking. This book is perfect for anyone with those passions (especially all together). A bit of history is included throughout, along with original recipes gleaned from Renaissance texts. Quotes from the Bard's plays are peppered about, before each recipe, etc., and most of the recipes have been beautifully photographed, just another way to whet the appetite. The recipes are fun, do-able, a little different, yet not so far out there that you'd never try them. And in the back are suggestions for parties, invitations and so on. A delight for fans of cooking, cookbook collectors and for bibliophiles with taste.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Steven Smith on April 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I loved the unique way this author took the historical recipies and translated them into something accessible for today. These are wonderfully unique and exciting and relatively easy to make. I own hundreds of cookbooks and enjoy this one as one of my top 20 . . .
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. Wright on May 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I made several of these recipes for a Shakespeare Festival at my school and they were all wonderful. I served over 80 people and the reviews were very positive - even from some teenagers who initially said, "Gross! I'm not eating THAT!" but went on to enjoy their meal. The combinations are as interesting as they are delicious.

The culinary highlights of the evening were the "Renaissance Salad" and "Olepotrige Stew" which were sensational. For the festival I needed to choose recipes that could feed a crowd, but I'm looking forward to trying some of others for upcoming dinner parties.

This cookbook is destined to become one of my favorites.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Rahn on May 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love this book. The recipes are as accurate to period as you would want to eat and it contains some great little bits of history along the way. The flavor profile of this style of cooking would best be described as "sweet and savory", and often include dried fruit and fresh herbs. This is a bit different from most modern foods that I would describe as "salty and spicy". Be sure to approach each dish with an open mind and you will not be disappointed. In particular the "Old Pottage Stew" has become a real favorite among my friends. If you are looking for a change of culinary pace, give the recipes in this book a try.
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