“A Hastiness of Cooks”: A How-to Handbook for Lovers of Historic Cooking and Cookbooks

You’re probably wondering what “A Hastiness of Cooks” means. Read the following definition and you’ll see why the phrase inspired me in writing my new book, “A Hastiness of Cooks“:

A word game, popular in the great households of late medieval England, had at its heart the creation of collective nouns. In the lists of these names, alongside the laughter of hostellers, the glossing of taverners, the promise of tapsters and the fighting of beggars, were household references – a carve of pantlers (who looked after the bread), a credence of servers, (‘credence’ was the process of tasting or ‘assaying’ foods against poison), a provision of stewards of household – and a hastiness of cooks. The pressures of the medieval kitchen, the precipitate hurry and irritation of the cooks are all captured in the medieval meanings of ‘hastiness’.

~ C. M. Woolgar, The Culture of Food in England, 1200 – 1500

You’ll find many cookbooks today filled with recreated, or “redacted,” recipes. Authors provide few details on just how to recreate the original recipes, usually opting to present you with the done deal, a modern and do-able recipe springing forth from the pages.

So you follow the recipes provided by the author. Perhaps the thought of recreating these recipes yourself seems out of reach, even daunting. Examining the original sources, deciphering the archaic language, gleaning the essence of kitchens past, well, it can be a bit much.

But can you be sure of historical accuracy – or close – in those recipes you see in all those cookbooks?*

That’s why I’ve written “A Hastiness of Cooks,” a handbook for anyone interested in exploring food from the past.

By the time you’ve finished reading “A Hastiness of Cooks,” you will be able to 1) recreate period recipes and 2) analyze the subtexts of historic cookbooks. You will then possess a key, one that leads to opening the books of secrets, making you less dependent upon the authors of those cookery books filled with their interpretations of historic cookery books. Your culinary repertoire will expand – and so will your understanding of the culinary past.

If you’re a writer of historical fiction, a chef, food writer, historian, archaeologist, museum docent, reenactor of historical events, Medieval and Renaissance Fair enthusiast, artists, and, of course, just a plain cook, you’ll want a copy of “A Hastiness of Cooks” sitting on the shelf, next to the rest of your books about food and cooking.

Anticipated publication date is April 15, 2019.**

*Note that you will never achieve true authenticity – whatever that means! Soil, plant and animal varieties, wood for cooking, etc., etc., all these factors cannot be recreated down to the smallest detail. BUT you can approximate the same foods eaten by lords and nobles and ladies of the past.

** I’m working on the pre-order thing. The book will come out first in paperback.

Frontispiece to “A Hastiness of Cook” (Illustration by Courtney Nzeribe)