The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages, Paperback

The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages Paperback

4.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


The master cook who worked in the noble kitchens of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries had to be both practical and knowledgeable.

His apprenticeship acquainted him with a range of culinary skills and a wide repertoire of seasonal dishes, but he was also required to understand the inherent qualities of the foodstuffs he handled, as determined by contemporary medical theories, and to know the lean-day strictures of the Church.

Research in original manuscript sources makes this a fascinating and authoritative study where little hard fact had previously existed.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 286 pages, black & white illustrations
  • Publisher: Boydell & Brewer Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: European history
  • ISBN: 9780851154305



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The title is misleading as is very quickly explained. Mediaeval cooking had nothing to do with art but all to do with science, as they then knew it. What a well researched and thorough guide into early cooking and its place in our history. Fascinating. All based on the 'science' of the humours and balancing or counteracting the humours of the food with the guest humours using appropriate cooking styles. Then over that the religious prescripts as to when were lean, non meat days. On top of that the need to put on a worthy display to show the hosts obvious wealth, status and position. That in itself is absorbing but what comes through all the time is how we today are still inheriting this past, not in direct and obvious tangible ways but subtly. So though the 'science' of the humours of hot, moist, cold, dry have long been ridiculed and overturned, the early cooks striving to master and balance them survive to this day in the way we think of food sequences, food combinations and food preparations. Or today's sense of food normality is actually rooted in cooking practices going back to the C12, 13 or 14th! Not just food preparations but the colouring of dishes that so much a vital part of their presentation still survive today. Where would be without custard, or piccalilli? Yes of course it is heavily based on what few surviving records there are of banquets, ordinary working man's food just never gets written down. Again the general universality of the food preparations for these banquets comes across so strongly. Ensured by the need to establish ones status and the inevitable movement of cooks and trainee's spreading the techniques. Certainly not a romp, but neither a studious slog, but for me almost every chapter was a revelation that made me want to keep on reading. Well organsied from a dip into thew water all the way through to swimming in a strong current. A few obligatory recipes end the book, but more on those later.