Medieval England: Medicine as Food, Food as Medicine

Let food be thy medicine, and let thy medicine be food. ~Hippocrates Food and medicine, always intertwined in the human  imagination. Because – obviously – the earliest English settlers brought their food habits and medicinal beliefs with them to what is now the United States, I relish books that provide background to the English way…

Hildegard von Bingen, First Female Food Writer in the West?

You may have come a long way, baby, but it’s taken a while. Food historians generally agree that Sabina Welserin of Augsburg, Germany wrote the first cookbook penned by a woman in the West (Europe) in 1553, Kochbuch.  Anna Weckerin’s Ein Küstlich new Köchbuch von allerhand Speisen (A Delicious New Cookbook) appeared in 1598 in…

Medicine (and Food) in Medieval England: A Select Bibliography

Let food be thy medicine, and let thy medicine be food. Hippocrates Food and medicine, always intertwined in the human  imagination. Because (obviously) the earliest English settlers brought their food habits and medicinal beliefs with them to what is now the United States, I relish books that provide background to the English way of viewing…

Food in Medieval England: Diet and Nutrition

Food in Medieval England: Diet and Nutrition (Medieval History and Archaeology), by C. M. Woolgar, Dale Serjeantson, and Tony Waldron (paperback, 2009) In the unending quest to find models for culinary historiography, here’s another fairly up-to-date addition to the growing list: This book draws on the latest research across different disciplines to present the most…

Fish Stomachs?????

Fish Stomachs???? You might believe that fishcakes, along with fritters and croquettes, began as members of the thrifty Leftovers family. But in fact, early medieval English cooks made fishcakes from fish stomachs, which many might consider carrying thrift just a little too far. There is actually a fishcake recipe, on page 170 of Madeleine Pelner…

The Random Herbalist: The Church as Farmer

The Catholic Church influenced many things, even (especially?) agriculture, as this passage from History of the English Landed Interest: Its Customs, Laws, and Agriculture, by Russell Montague Garnier (1908) 2nd. ed, vol. 1, implies. The monastery libraries also held much treasure, opening up the monks to the wonders of old knowledge and enabling them to…

At the Tables of the Monks: The Infirmary Cook

THE COOK FOR THE INFIRMARY (p. 204-205) [Note: The Abbey paid the infirmary cook for his services, since this person did not belong to the cloistered community.] For the infirmary, and especially for the use of those who had been subjected to the periodical blood-letting, there was a special cook skilled in the preparation of…

At the Tables of the Monks: The Fish-Cooks

THE FISH-COOKS (p. 206) [Note: The Abbey paid the fish-cooks  for their services, since these people did not belong to the cloistered community.] In the large monasteries, such as, for example, Edmundsbury, there were two cooks for the fish-dishes ; the first was properly called the “fish-cook,” the other was “pittance-cook.” Their appointment was made…

At the Tables of the Monks: The Guest-Hall Cook

THE GUEST-HALL COOK (p. 206) [Note: The Abbey paid the gust-hall cook  for his services, since this person did not belong to the cloistered community.] The cook to attend to the needs of visitors was appointed by the cellarer, and had under him a boy to help in any way he might direct. His office…