Le Menagier de Paris, the 14th Century Cookbook, and My Inspired Recipe.
The Medieval French cookbook, Le Menagier de Paris, 1393, roughly translates as “the Housewife of Paris.” I've 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, 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, the Goodman did not expect his bride to prepare the dishes; instead, she, a medieval French wife of a particular class, needed to ensure that the dishes were well made by her staff. Though his directions would be tough to digest in today's society, it does appear that his intentions were good and were in her best interest.
The book is set up in three chapters or sections, though the husband passed away before completing the third section. The first section discusses her religious and moral duties, including obedience, virtue, and devotion. It also serves as a cautionary tale to his wife; through extensive reading, learning, and personal experiences, he provides the opportunity to note the fate of those who did not exhibit those qualities. In the second section, he turns from theory to practice, with advice on housekeeping and food selection and preparation. 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 learnings would develop her into a socially well-rounded hostess.
The recipe I selected for this inspiration was ‘Rissoles on a Meat Day.’ Often served around the time of St. Remy’s Day (October 1), the recipe included pork highly seasoned in salt and cooked in a heavy pot. Once the pork was cooked, it was finely diced and mixed with eggs and spices to bind the ingredients. The pork mixture would be stuffed into a roast pig or served as a pie. The author even goes to the extent of offering 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
I make this dish often for when guests come to visit. It is flavorful, presents beautifully, and is quite easy to make.