A Medieval Menu

If you’re looking for some truly authentic classic recipes for your next dinner party —and you can read Middle English —you may want to check out Forme of Cury, a cookbook by King Richard II’s master chefs. The 14th-century collection of recipes, perhaps the best-known medieval guide to cooking, is being digitally scanned by the University of Manchester’s John Rylands University Library, and should be online by late 2009.

The British Library says, “The Forme of Cury is the first English text to mention olive oil, cloves, mace and gourds in relation to British food. Most of the recipes contain what were then luxurious and valuable spices: caraway, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger and pepper. There are also recipes for cooking strange and exotic animals, such as whales, cranes, curlews, herons, seals and porpoises.”

Seeing the book’s original pages online will be inspiring, but if you’re just interested in the recipes you can download a free e-book version of Forme of Cury from Project Gutenberg, or buy the book from Amazon.com.

The British Library has an image of one recipe: Pygges in sawse sawge. It translates to: “Take pigs scalded and quarter them and seethe (boil) them in water and salt, take them and let them cool. Take parsley, sage, and grind it with bread and yolks of eggs hard boiled. Temper it up with vinegar somewhat thick, and lay the pigs in a vessel, cover it with the sauce and serve it forth.”

Mmm, seething pigs.

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