The French Medieval cookbook,Le Menagier de Paris, 1393, roughly translates as “the Housewife of Paris”. I used many of the recipes in this book as inspiration for my cookbook, A Thyme and Place; Medieval Feasts and Recipes for the Modern Table. As I was crafting the recipes, I noticed something different with this cookbook; this was written as a guidebook to a subject (person). The voice of the cookbook is of the Goodman of Paris, an elderly merchant husband to his new (very) young wife, teaching her the proper way to behave within the household and in society. In addition to recipes, the book contains general guidance and practical housekeeping notes, sprinkled with tales of morality and how to keep the husband happy in the bedroom. oh boy. The Goodman, who was around 60, was a wealthy, educated man and a member of the haute bourgeoisie, and his new wife all of 15, was expected to prove her worth and comfort the man in his declining years. Also to note, the Goodman did not expect his bride to personally prepare the dishes instead she, a French medieval wife of a certain class, needed to ensure that the dishes were well made by her staff. Though in today’s society his directions would be tough to digest, it does appear that his intentions were good and were for her best interest.
The book is set up in three chapters or sections, though the husband did pass away before he could complete the third section. The first section discusses her religious and moral duties, including being obedient, virtuous and devout and using learning’s from his extensive reading and personal experiences to note the fate of those who did not exhibit those qualities. The second section he turns from theory to practice, with advice on housekeeping, and the selection and preparation of food. For example, “Item, carp with pale-colored scales and no yellow or red, are from good water. One with large eyes starting out of its head, and whose tongue and the roof of the mouth are smooth and oily, is fat. And note, if you wish to carry a live carp for a whole day, wrap it in damp hay and carry it belly up, without giving it any air, that is to say in a sack or a bag”. The third section was focused on games and riddles; the learning’s would develop her into a socially well-rounded hostess.
The recipe we selected was ‘Rissoles on a Meat Day’. Often served around the time of St. Remy’s Day (October 1), the recipe included pork that was highly seasoned in salt and cooked in a heavy pot. Once the pork was cooked, it was finely diced, mixed with eggs and spices to create a binding of the ingredients. The pork mixture would be stuffed into a roast pig or served as a pie. The author even goes to the extent to offer a menu suggestion for the evening. In medieval times, the more grand the dinner the higher in society the individuals were.
Meat-Day Dinner, Thirty-One Dishes in Six Platters
Grenache wine and toast-rounds, veal pies, pompano pies, black-puddings and sausages.
Hare stew and ribs, strained peas, salted and coarse meat, smoked eels and other fish.
Roast: coneys, partridge, capons, etc., eel-pout, brill, and a soup of chopped meats
Water-fowl a la dodine, smothered rice, and a mold of eels with hot sauce.
Shad pies, rissoles, sugared milk, sugared flans.
Pears and~sugared almonds, medlars and shelled nuts. Hippocras (mulled wine)and wafers.
Fried Pork Rolls with a Creamy Coriander Dipping Sauce
2 large cloves garlic, finely diced
1” piece fresh ginger root, finely diced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 pound ground pork
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cumin
1 egg, separated
1 cup currants
1 package egg roll wrappers
Cooking oil, we used a mix of vegetable oil and bacon fat
Ingredients for Coriander Dipping Sauce
8 ounces crème fresh
1 ½ tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ tablespoon ground coriander
Remove the pork from the pan and add it to a mixing bowl. Cool for a few minutes and then add the pepper, salt, cinnamon, cumin, currants and egg yolk. Combine.
Spread out an egg roll wrapper. It should look like diamond in front of your, rather than a square. Whip the egg white in a bowl. Brush the egg roll wrapper with the egg white all sides. At the bottom, add a tablespoon of the mixture. Fold the bottom corner and roll the mixture, tucking the sides in as you roll. It will look a bit like a round envelope when you are done.
These can be made in advance and tucked away in the refrigerator, but cover with plastic wrap so that they do not dry out.
In a deep, heavy pan, heat the cooking oil until it is hot. To test the oil, either drop a bit of water in the oil or take a dry wooden spoon and dip it in the oil. If the oil bubbles for either technique, it is ready.
Gently place a few of the prepared rolls into the hot oil. We recommend medium heat; this prevents the items from burning and hopefully saves you from being hit from a grease dart. Once the rolls are brown on all sides, remove and place on a plate covered with a paper towel. Repeat process. Note to self: don’t eat right away or you will loose a layer off of your tongue.