Ironically, the horrific bubonic plagues in 14th-century Europe produced societal shifts that led to a resplendent era in food. In today’s podcast we’re going to look at the influence of three seminal Gothic era cookbooks and the craze for spices and sugar in the flourishing of “Gothic” cuisine. We’re going to study specific recipes, take a look at gothic cooking techniques, and even discuss the culture of medieval court banquets.
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Culinary Activities for this Episode:
• Taillevent—Cinnamon Brouet
Although the name brouet in this dish is cognate with broth, this is more of a thick stew. The flavors are absolutely typical of the Middle Ages, as is the technique of cooking twice. For a comparison of the four surviving manuscripts of this cookbook, see Terence Scully, ed., The Viandier of Taillevent, p. 55–56. The following translation combines the four manuscripts for the greatest sense and ease of cooking. Grains of paradise, or melegueta pepper, can be found online or in some specialty shops. It comes from the west coast of Africa and is similar to pepper, though much fruitier and more closely related to cardamom. Do not substitute what is referred to as malaguetta in South America, which is a chili pepper. Also, verjus is the juice of unripe grapes; any tart grape juice will work fine.
Cook your chicken in wine or in water. Or use whatever meat you like. Cut it into quarters and fry in lard. Then take dry unskinned almonds and toast them and mix with a great deal of cinnamon, pound them and mix with hot beef broth and strain. Let this boil with the meat, with a little verjus, and add ginger, cloves, grains of paradise. It will be nice and thick.
• Seymé of Chicken or Veal
Gravé or seymé is a winter pottage. Peel onions and cook them all cut up, then fry them in a pot; now you should have your chicken split down the back and browned on the grill over a charcoal fire; and the same if it is veal; then you must cut the meat into pieces if it is veal, or in quarters if it is chicken … and put it into the pot with the onions.
Then take white bread browned on the grill and soaked in broth made from other meat; then crush ginger, cloves, grains of paradise, and long pepper, moisten them through with verjuice [that’s the unripe grape juice] and wine without straining this, and set aside; then crush the bread and put it through a sieve [remember, everything wants to be smooth], and add it to the brouet [brouet is sort of the ancestor of the word broth], strain everything, and boil, then serve.
Notice that the flavoring has changed dramatically—some of the spices are now completely extinct in the West now; the sauce, the bread-crumb thickener—but on the other hand, this dish wouldn’t be completely unfamiliar: It’s grilled chicken over a charcoal fire and it’s in a thick, kind of spicy, let’s call it barbecue sauce
• Vegetable-Cheese Tart
To make a tourte, take four handfuls of chard, two handfuls of parsley, a handful of chervil, a sprig of fennel, and two handfuls of spinach, trim them and wash in cold water, then chop very fine [actually, you can use any greens here]. Then crush two kinds of cheese, soft and medium, and mix in eggs, yolks and whites, and beat into the cheese. Then put the herbs in a mortar and pound everything together, and put in some fine powder [that’s the spice mix] …take it to the oven, have a tart made and eat it hot.
Adamson, Food in Medieval Times.
Adamson, Regional Cuisines of Medieval Europe.
Albala, Cooking in Europe.
Austin, Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books.
Heiatt and Butler, eds., Curye on Inglysch: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth Century
Henisch, The Medieval Cook.
Keay, The Spice Route: A History.
Santanach, ed., The Book of Sent Soví: Medieval recipes from Catalonia.
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