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Records and Reminiscences: Some Interesting Aspects of Chiquart’s Du fait de cuisine (1420)

By Sarah Peters Kernan

Sion/Sitten, Médiathèque Valais, S 103: Maître Chiquart, Du fait de cuisine, 1420, fol. 113r (http://www.e-codices.unifr.ch/en/list/one/mvs/cuisine).

With the holiday season behind me, I am already reminiscing about my family’s recent celebrations and thinking ahead to next year. I have gathered recipes I would like to try next year, made notes about recipes that worked (and those that didn’t), and listed the menus of the many meals my husband and I hosted for friends and family. When I starting thinking about appropriate topics for a Recipes Project post, I realized this was the perfect opportunity to consider the 1420 Savoyard cookbook, Du fait de cuisine. In it, Master Chiquart Amiczo, the chef of Amadeus VIII, Duke of Savoy, dictates seventy-eight recipes to a scribe, provides an extensive description of how to acquire food and provisions for days of feasting, and records a menu of one particular feast. In October 1403 Chiquart prepared two days of lavish feasts in honor of Mary of Burgundy. Although Amadeus VIII and Mary of Burgundy had been contracted in marriage since 1393, due to a number of political complications the bride had not left her Burgundian home. The feast celebrated her arrival at the Savoy court when she would join Amadeus VIII’s household as his wife.[1] Chiquart’s menu and notes on preparing for a feast describe a much grander event than any I might prepare during the holidays, but the intention is the same: describing a successful event so that one might remember it or even replicate it.

Despite being a very accessible medieval cookbook, Du fait de cuisine has had relatively little scholarly attention. This cookery exists in a single manuscript, held at the Médiathèque Valais in Sion, Switzerland (MS Supersaxo 103). While the manuscript has been digitized, Terence Scully has been the only scholar to devote significant attention to the book, producing a French edition and two English editions.[2] Du fait de cuisine is particularly interesting when considered among the larger corpus of contemporary cookbooks. While there are many similarities among the recipes, the surrounding text is remarkably different from most contemporary Continental and English cookbooks.

First among these differences is the amount of text and detail provided to the appointment of a kitchen for a feast. Folios 12r to 18v are devoted to this topic; Chiquart describes the necessary kitchen staff, how to order food from various purveyors, how much food to order, the vessels and equipment necessary for cooking, and the proper serving dishes. This section seems to be an attempt at describing the art of the kitchen, part of the aim of Du fait de cuisine.[3] The only other medieval cookery with such an extensive section on these aspects of the cooking process is Le Ménagier de Paris, produced in 1390s Paris for a wealthy administrative, but not noble, household. [For  more on the Ménagier de Paris, see my previous Recipes Project post on “A November Feast.”]

 Du fait de cuisine stands apart from contemporary texts in the level of detail included in the recipes. Many fit on a single folio, but others span up to eight folios. Other cookbooks describing lavish entremets, like the Viandier of Taillevent pale in comparison to the description of the final products. Chiquart’s creations of performative, edible art come alive on the page; even without illustrations, it is easy to imagine his castle with four lighted towers defended by various soldiers. Characters breathing fire are part of the creation, as well as a Fountain of Love spouting rosewater and mulled wine. Roasted and redressed peacocks and hedgehogs also make an appearance. As if this weren’t enough, Chiquart’s glorious entremets includes a faux sea filled with ships attacking the aforementioned castle. The entremet is naturally accompanied by a small group of musicians.[4] Each aspect is described in such a manner that it can be replicated, provided that the cook has some knowledge of creating pastry and sugar and meat pastes which constituted the basis of construction.

Another difference is a variety of brief texts that Chiquart includes after the culinary recipes. This includes a verse the Chiquart composed to honor Amadeus VIII and his family on fols. 107v to 109r and several other types of brief writings on the final nine folios. These are mainly non-culinary writings, including a verse against the plague, a note on Virgil’s Georgics, and several aphorisms. It is not unusual to find such an array of writings alongside cookery books in late medieval manuscripts, especially in English manuscripts. Du fait de cuisine is unique in its inclusion of these items within the cookbook itself, seemingly at the request of the author, self-described as lacking learning and wit (“n’ay grand science ne sens”).[5] I find these elements one of the most intriguing of the cookery and deserving of much more exploration.

The combined coat of arms of Amadeus VIII and Mary of Burgundy. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Français 18982, fol. 9v. (http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8528579f/f20.item.zoom)

A final difference is the menu of the feast in honor of Mary of Burgundy.[6] Many medieval cookbooks provide generic menu suggestions or menus for unspecified events, and many non-culinary records provide menus for historically important feasts. However, relatively few cookbooks include menus for actual events.[7] Amadeus VIII and Mary of Burgundy’s wedding feast was certainly a magnificent affair and a significant event in the House of Savoy. Mary was the eighth child of Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, and Margaret III. Philip the Bold had arranged Mary’s marriage to solidify a political alliance to Savoy in the midst of the Hundred Years’ War. The bride was only seven when her marriage was contracted; she would not arrive at the Savoy court for another ten years. While the alliance was only initially important to the House of Burgundy, the Savoy court benefitted greatly from this alliance. Amadeus VIII needed to welcome his bride to Savoy with all the opulence he could muster. His chef was tasked with preparing two days of lavish feasting to accomplish the goals of proving his wealth and status to his new bride and her family.

The fact that Chiquart recorded an account of the wedding feast seventeen years after the event is quite interesting; this is the only specific event the author describes. While Chiquart was evidently asked by Amadeus VIII to write the cookbook as a compendium of culinary knowledge, Chiquart does not provide any reason for recording the wedding events at the end of the cookbook.[8] The menu is also written after what seems to be the original ending, the poem glorifying and thanking Chiquart’s employing household. I wonder if it was associated with the birth of Amadeus and Mary’s ninth and final child in 1420; perhaps the pregnancy or birth was particularly difficult, and Chiquart attempted to garner favor with his lord by crafting a glorious recollection of Mary’s arrival in Savoy after his original culinary text was complete. However, my guess is merely that, as the text does not indicate a specific intent.

 Du fait de cuisine is an imaginative and detailed record of culinary information. There is much to explore in its similarities to and differences from other contemporary texts. For the moment, however, I take heart that some of my post-holiday recordkeeping habits are a bit like Master Chiquart’s.

NOTES

[1] Richard Vaughan, Philip the Bold: The Formation of the Burgundian State (Reprint, Boydell Press, 2002), 89.

[2] Terence Scully, “Du fait de cuisine,” Vallesia 40 (1985): 103–231; Chiquart’s On Cookery: A Fifteenth-Century Savoyard Culinary Treatise (P. Lang, 1986); and Du fait de cuisine / On Cookery of Master Chiquart (1420): “Aucune science de l’art de cuysinerie et de cuisine” (ACMRS, 2010). Another French edition was also published: Florence Bouas and Frédéric Vivas, eds., Du fait de cuisine: Traité de gastronomie médiévale de Maître Chiquart (Actes Sud, 2008).

[3] Sion, Switzerland, Médiathèque Valais, MS Supersaxo 103, fol. 11r.

[4] S 103, fols. 30r–33r.

[5] S 103, fol. 108v.

[6] S 103, 111v–114v.

[7] A couple exceptions are the Ménagier de Paris (multiple manuscript copies) and London, British Library, MS Harley 279.

[8] S 103, fols. 11v–12r.

“Bonny-Clabber Physicians”: Eating Clean in the Seventeenth Century

Michael Walkden

NPG D31284; Thomas Tryon by Robert White, after Unknown artist, line engraving, 1703. Credit: WikiCommons.
NPG D31284; Thomas Tryon by Robert White, after Unknown artist, line engraving, 1703. Credit: WikiCommons.

The concept of ‘clean eating’ is nothing new, but ideas about what constitutes ‘clean’ or ‘dirty’ food have varied within and across cultures. In the later seventeenth century, the popular health writer Thomas Tryon promoted a “radically clean” vegetarian diet as a route to longevity and clarity of mind. However, Tryon’s meat-free menu was rather different from the quinoa bowls and kale smoothies of modern-day clean-eaters. His 1694 Pocket-companion contains the following recipe (easy to follow, but emphatically not to be tried at home):

Boniclabber is made by letting your Milk stand till it sowers, which will be in Twenty-fours hours, if the weather be very hot. [1]

Tryon’s ‘bonny clabber’ – an Irish country dish that was later enjoyed by immigrants to the USA – would have great difficulty in meeting twenty-first century Western standards of food hygiene. Writing well before the advent of pasteurization, Tryon would likely have used raw milk straight from the cow, which would have been rich in bacteria that could be both beneficial and harmful to the human body. If it was left at just the right temperature and for the appropriate length of time, the finished product would be a thick, fermented milk, similar to yoghurt or kefir.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, not all of Tryon’s contemporaries shared his enthusiasm. Gideon Harvey wrote that “Bonny-Clabber Physicians” routinely endangered their patients by their over-use of milk products, which he viewed as highly corruptible and prone to curdling in the belly. [2] Harvey had the weight of medical tradition on his side. Humoural physicians since Hippocrates frequently expressed mistrust or even fear over the coagulability of milk, with Galen writing that it “turns to wind in the stomachs of most people, and there are very few who avoid this.” [3]

Clabbered milk. Credit: WikiCommons.
Clabbered milk. Credit: WikiCommons.

Tryon attempted to forestall this sort of criticism in his own writing. Since he believed that digestion operated by a process of fermentation, it logically followed that fermented foods should be easier on the stomach, having already undergone the initial stages of this process. While he was prepared to admit that it “may not be so agreeable to the Pallat at first”, Tryon assured his readers that “a little Custom will make it familiar and pleasant.” [4]

Attitudes towards the healthiness of clabber were also closely tied up with racial stereotypes about the Irish, whose perceived gluttony and barbarism were ridiculed by many English Protestants. In 1652 the parliamentarian Samuel Sheppard wrote of an anonymous royalist that “his Intellect is as foule, as an Irish Firkin of Bonny Clabber”, suggesting that many viewed it as a disgusting or dangerous substance. [5] By contrast, in a 1635 letter from Dublin, the English royalist and Lord Deputy of Ireland Thomas Wentworth described clabber as “the bravest freshest Drink you ever tasted.” [6]

The example of bonny clabber raises some interesting questions about the relationship between ideology and diet. As Carla Cevasco has flagged up elsewhere on this blog, the categories that shape affective responses to food can be highly variable, ranging from the genetic makeup of a population to its social norms. Disgust that feels instinctive or biologically hard-wired might just as easily be the product of a specific cultural moment. As the debate over clean eating continues to rage, we need to pay closer attention to the ideological fault-lines upon which we construct our ideas about food and hygiene.

[1] Thomas Tryon, A pocket-companion, containing things necessary to be known by all that values their health and happiness (London: Printed for George Conyers, 1693), 6.

[2] Gideon Harvey, The art of curing diseases by expectation (London: Printed for James Partridge, 1689), 38.

[3] Galen, Galen on Food and Diet, ed. Mark Grant (London and New York: Routledge, 2000), 165. See also Ken Albala, “Milk: Nutritious and Dangerous,” in Milk: Beyond the Dairy: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, 1999, (Devon, UK: Prospect Books, 2000), 19-30.

[4] Tryon, Pocket-companion, 7.

[5] Samuel Sheppard, The vveepers: or, the bed of snakes broken (London: Printed for Thomas Bucknell, 1652), 6.

[6] Thomas Wentworth, The Earl of Strafforde’s Letters and Dispatches, Volume 1, ed. William Knowler (London: Printed for the editor, by William Bowyer, 1739), 441.

Michael Walkden is currently completing his doctoral thesis in History at the University of York, UK. His research explores understandings of the relationship between emotions and digestion in early modern English medicine. He is particularly interested in the intersection of diet, health and spirituality in the seventeenth century.

Happy holidays!

Dear Readers,

The book of household management by Mrs Beeton
Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

It’s been a wonderful and busy year at the Recipes Project headquarters. We’ve featured more than 100 posts from contributors old and new covering topics from how to cure headaches the Mesopotamian way to recipes for magic to a themed series on seasonality.  In celebration of our 5-year anniversary, we organised and hosted the “What is a Recipe?” virtual conversation and featured a series of reflection posts from our editors and contributors. It’s been super lots of fun and we’ve enjoyed our rich discussions over the last 12 months. All four of us are incredibly grateful to be part of such a dynamic community of recipe enthusiasts and to have this space for our virtual conversations.

After all this activity, the RP editors will be taking a short 2 week break to hang out with our families and to test out some winter recipes. New posts will resume on 9 January 2019. We look forward to 2019 to continue our collective and collaborative explorations in recipe studies.

With very best wishes for the happiest holiday season!

Amanda, Elaine, Laura, Laurence and Lisa.

A Taste for the Rare and the Well-Done: Recipe Texts and the Book Trade

By Anke Timmermann

Part II: The thrill of the hunt

Rare book dealers working on recipe collections are in the enviable position to be able to do original work on unique and little-researched materials, and to learn from the collections they handle, as well as from collectors, whether private or institutional. Collectors’ ambitions to acquire interesting and rare material in as comprehensive a manner as possible (including later editions, which were, for a long time, considered inferior to the first edition) have made it possible to piece together at least part of the history of the cook book. It is important to understand that, as a genre, cook books really are rather complex: they were popular publications, and somewhat ephemeral in that they were constantly replaced with more fashionable versions, revised editions or new titles. The example of one female cook book writer of the eighteenth century, Elizabeth Raffald, née Whitaker (bap. 1733, d. 1781), illustrates this point well.

Image 2: Elizabeth Raffald’s woodcut facsimile signature, intended to prevent the publication of pirated editions. Elizabeth Raffald, The Experienced English Housekeeper, for the Use and Ease of Ladies, Housekeepers, Cooks, &c. Written Purely from Practice, and Dedicated to the Hon. Lady Elizabeth Warburton, whom the Author Lately Served as Housekeeper: Consisting of Near Nine Hundred Original Receipts, Most of which Never Appeared in Print… The Tenth Edition. With… Two Plans of a Grand Table of Two Covers; and A Curious New Invented Fire Stove, wherein any Common Fuel may be Burnt instead of Charcoal. London: R. Baldwin, 1786, p. 1. From archive.org: https://archive.org/details/experiencedengl00raffgoog.

Raffald was a food writer whose books, among her other enterprises, afforded her much success. Raffald had her own shop for ‘cold Entertainments, Hot French Dishes, Confectionaries, &c.’ (ODNB), expanded it into a cookery school, ran two inns, and, with the publication The Experienced English Housekeeper, became ‘after Hannah Glasse, the most celebrated English cookery writer of the 18th century’ (Virginia Maclean, A Short-Title Catalogue of Household and Cookery Books Published in the English Tongue 1701-1800 (1981), p. 123 n1). The Experienced English Housekeeper is remarkable in many ways and, among other things, a landmark in the development of the English wedding cake, recording the use of marzipan and royal icing for the first time. It was issued in fifteen authorised editions between 1769 and 1810, but also inspired some twenty-five unauthorised editions. In order to prevent such piracies, Raffald issued her authorised versions with a woodcut facsimile of her signature on the first text page. Enthusiasm for Raffald’s work outlived the author herself, and a ‘new edition’ appeared posthumously in 1807, promising more additional recipes on the title than the text actually provides. Only a comparison between different exemplars, and detailed bibliographical information on other editions, can fully chart the authors’ attempts to protect their work and thwart others’ efforts to benefit from their popularity; the cunning imitations that yet bypassed these measures; and, amidst these struggles, the constant evolution of recipes, their ingredients and methods. And since many of these editions only survive in a handful of copies (due to their replacement, historical neglect or destruction by use in the kitchen), the collections that do preserve little known or rare editions are the best, and often only, means for the diligent bibliographer or bookseller to make such comparisons.

~

Manuscript recipe collections, by contrast, are unique by definition, and have long been very highly sought after, although not for all historical periods alike. In the late twentieth century, manuscripts produced before 1800 were the main focus for collectors, but more recently manuscripts from the early nineteenth century have also attracted much interest. No matter when acquired or how old, manuscript recipe books are often the defining features of the collections of which they form part. The Folger Library in Washington DC is, famously, home to the largest collection of early modern western European recipe books in the United States (see https://recipes.hypotheses.org/tag/folger-shakespeare-library for an example from the collections), and other collections prize their manuscripts on a smaller and perhaps more modern but, overall, no less significant level – see, for example, the New York Historical Society’s holdings of recipe compendia, extending to the 1950s to 1970s, all instructive in their own right.

So how much is a recipe book worth? And is it worthwhile starting a collection today, now that collecting cook books, recipe collections and manuscripts is no longer a niche interest? For recipes as for any other collecting activity, it is the individual that makes the mark on a collection, beyond any perceived restrictions of a canon of literature or any financial constraints. One recent example for how collecting interests can flourish and develop is a young collector who won an honourable mention in booksellers Honey & Wax’s Book Collecting Prize: Ashley Rose Young, a doctoral candidate in history at Duke University, ‘began by collecting historic Creole cookbooks, then expanded her focus to the food markets of the port of New Orleans, a local economy historically dominated by African-Americans and immigrants’ . Further, it could be argued that some of Christopher Hogwood’s cook books were not collectibles when they first caught his eye, but have now, through their distinguished provenance, earned a place in other collections. Recipe books are, then, certainly a subject in which each collector can develop their own taste, and which will be valuable to their owners on many different levels. It also seems certain that they will continue to be valued in the book market, and that our knowledge of them will continue to grow over time, thanks to the endeavours of all those who handle them – be they private collectors, institutions, book dealers, or scholars.

Dr Anke Timmermann FLS is a historian of science-turned-antiquarian bookseller, and the author of Verse and Transmutation: A Corpus of Middle English Alchemical Poetry (Brill, 2013). Anke joined Bernard Quaritch Ltd, one of the oldest antiquarian booksellers in London, after finishing her Munby Fellowship in Bibliography at Cambridge University Library in 2014. She recently set up as an independent bookseller (A T Scriptorium), and specialises, among other things, in the history of science, and recipe books including culinary, medical and alchemical recipes. She tweets as @ElixirLibri.