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The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy Paperback – April 15, 2000

4.6 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

An English-language edition of La Gastronomie au Moyen Age: 160 Recettes de France et d'Italie, published in Paris in 1993, this volume of medieval recipes adapted for the modern cook is both usable and informative. Redon (Univ. of Paris), Fran?ois Sabban (L'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris), and Silvano Serventi, an independent researcher, have combined their knowledge of languages, food, and history to create this fascinating collection of 153 recipes, ranging from soups and pasta to meats, sauces, and desserts. Each recipe is presented in its original form, in translation, and adapted for modern cooks. A brief passage also explains the significance of the recipe and its relation to other dishes. Although it is not the only title covering medieval cookery (see, e.g., Madeleine Cosman's Fabulous Feasts: Medieval Cookery and Ceremony, LJ 1/15/77), this well-organized and entertaining work is recommended for specialized food or medieval collections in large public and academic libraries.AMary Martin, CAPCON Lib. Network, Washington, DC
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (April 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226706850
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226706856
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.9 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #407,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

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`The Medieval Kitchen', written originally in French by Odile Redon, Francoise Sabban, and Silvano Serventi, is the best of the three books I have reviewed so far on the cuisines of Europe before the arrival of New World produce. This volume surpasses both `The Medieval Cookbook' by Maggie Black and `Pleyn Delit' by Constance B. Hieatt, Brenda Hosington, and Sharon Butler in technical scholarship and in it's interest to the non-professional foodie, historian, or general reader.

The book is organized by chapters which are very similar to a contemporary cookbook, covering Soups and Pastas; Porees and Vegetables; Meats cooked in Sauces; Roasted Meats; Fish; Pies and Tarts; Sauces; Eggs; Fritters and Breads; and Sweetmeats. The selection of recipes is much more interesting than in `The Medieval Cookbook' and the `arrangement' is as good or better than `Pleyn Delit', with much more background given for each individual recipe than either of the other two books. See my review of `Pleyn Delit' for a complete list of interesting things to do with these books.

The most impressive contribution of `The Medieval Kitchen' is its generalizations about medieval cooking in 50 pages of introductory essays on aspects of these 600-year old French and Italian cuisines. The highlight of this overview is the observation that 14th and 15th century European cooking was in love with spices in general and the `cookie spices', cinnamon and cloves, in particular. One may think that this is due to the influence of contact with the Moslem world, especially as the use of these spices is still strong in Sicily and Spain, but the authors state that this influence is overstated. Interest in spices was home bred.
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Format: Paperback
Written by noted food historians and with a foreward written by one of the foremost historians of our time, this book is an excellent resource for anybody with an interest in food history.

Like other works, such as Pleyn Delit, the original recipes in their original language are given. Like other cookbooks, this one groups recipes by type (fish, meats, sauces, etc.). Unlike other works, however, this one has an appendix that gives complete lists of each source's recipes, allowing you to see, at a glance, all the recipes taken from a given work. This is, to me, the book's biggest strength. I can access all the recipes taken from the "Libro de arte coquinaria" and "Le Menagier de Paris", for example. There are even some unpublished sources, such a manuscript stored at New York's Pierpont Morgan Library with a couple of recipes of note listed.

The few recipes from this book that I've tried have been stellar--tasty and easy to make, such as the herb soup and the fruit-based meat sauces. Most of it's accessible to regular diners. Some of the recipes sound absolutely mouthwatering--"Summertime Cerulean Blue Sauce", for example, which is colored by blueberries and flavored by ground almonds and ginger, and officially used on meat, but would probably be absolutely delicious on desserts.

Among its other resources, the book also lists mail-order sources for some of the more exotic spices and ingredients, such as the verjuice called for in many recipes. It also has good information about the history of the region, with its foreward and the historical notes on most of the recipes--what dish to serve it with, other recipes it's similar to, and more. Its index is quite complete, also a boon to a history wonk.
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Format: Hardcover
Over the past 30 years I've been experimenting with different dishes and just when I think I've discovered something new I find out that someone has been doing it for ages..and ages. "The Medieval Kitchen" Recipes from France and Italy" contains wonderful, doable dishes to suit every diet. I don't eat red meat, so I won't be having the 'Stuffed Suckling Pig' or 'Roast Shoulder of Lamb', but with some minor adjustments, I can make the 'Split-pea or Dried Fava Bean Soup', the 'Herb Soup', or 'Winter Squash or Pumpkin Soup.' And, the book contains many lovely desserts and breads.
This book was developed by two French historians, Odile Redon and Fancoise Sabban, and Silvano Serventi, an Italian historian. Gorges Duby, a well known French historian who specializes in the study of the Middle Ages wrote the forward, and the book was translated by Edward Schneider.
The historical sources for the book are listed in a separate 'Bibliography' and the recipes are matched with their original documents in 'Recipes by Manuscript Source' -- just in case you feel the authors omitted something and you want to check it out.
The authors make suggestions for substitutions for ingredients that may be hard to find. Since I live in the U.S. I could have a problem finding 'Bitter Orange Juice' for my 'Dover Sole' -- or the Dover Sole for that matter. No problem, I can substitute an American fish of similar texture and lemon juice.
If you enjoy cooking and want to experiment, or collect cookbooks and enjoy reading them, or are interested in the history of the Middle Ages, you will want this little book. And, the next time you read one of Sharon Penman's novels, you'll have a better grasp of the dinner menu.
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