Interpreting the Manuscripts - My Process
- The first is not to interpret based on what others have written. This is easier said than done, as I have discovered several times that what I have read and interpreted is vastly different from what others have done.
- The second rule is to find ingredients which can be purchased locally and would fall within a reasonable budget should the recipe be created for a large (100+) feast. Oftentimes, when an ingredient is difficult (or impossible) to locate or is prohibitively expensive to purchase for me, and/or ultimately for a large group of 100 diners, I will research a suitable substitute for that product. This has the benefit of creating a "mostly" period recipe but substitutions can change the final product.
- The third rule I adopted was to make "sample" sizes of recipes that could be easily adapted to feed a larger dining crowd. This meant that I had to spend some time in researching typical portion sizes for catered, large group events.
- My last rule is to use sources as close to the primary source as I could find. Most of the sources I use are secondary sources because obtaining primary documentation, that is, original works that have not been interpreted, analyzed or evaluated by another person is impossible for me. However, secondary resources can be found relatively easily nowadays and when I use a secondary resource I tend to bolster that information from multiple secondary resources.
Courtesy of the British Library
|Secondary sources used for research are primary documents or artifacts which have been analysed, evaluated amd/or translated. They have been created after the creation of the primary source they are based upon.|
Take veal, boiled and grind it small. Take hard boiled eggs and grind it with whole prunes, dates cored, pinenuts, raisins, whole spices and powdered, sugar and salt. Make a little coffin, fill them and bake and serve it forth.
- Project Gutenberg
- Medieval Cookbook Search at Medieval Cookery
- Ancient, Middle Ages or Medieval, Renaissance or Early Modern Cookbooks online (note some links are broken)
- Gode Cokery Presents A Boke of Gode Cookery
- Stefan's Florilegium Copies and Translations of Period Food Related Manuscripts
- Cindy Renfrow's Historical Culinary & Brewing Documents Online
- Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse
- British Library Learning Texts in Context Books for Cooks
- Monumenta Culinaria et Diatetica Historica Corpus of Culinary and Deitetic Texts of Europe from the Middle Ages to 1800 Thomas Gloning
- Recreational Medievalism David Friedman
Tartlett - Take pork y-sode and grynde it small with saffron, medle it with ayren and raisons of coraunce and powdre fort and salt and make a foile of dowgh and close the fars (the)einne. Cast (the) tartlette in a panne with fair (broth?) boillyng and salt take of the clene flesh with oute eyren and boile it in gode broth cast (the) powder douce and salt and messe the tartlet in dishes and helde the the (broth?) thereone
- Gode Cookery presents Glossary of Medieval Cooking Terms
- Cindy Renfrow's Glossary of Medieval and Renaissance Culinary Terms
- Medieval Cookery A Dictionary of Middle English Cooking Term
- Online Etymology Dictionary
- The Century Dictionary: An Encyclopedic Lexicon of the English Language
y-sode - boiled
- Feeding a Large Group - Quantity Calculations for Large Groups of People
- Chef Menu's Food Quantity Chart
- Tips for Calculating How Much to Cook for a Crowd
- Ellen's Kitchen Quantities for 100
- Buffet Formulas
.xlix. Tartlettes. Tak pork y sode & grynde hit smal with safroun, medle hit with ayroun & raysouns of coraunce & poudour fort & salt, make a foyle of dowh & close the fars therinne, cast the tartlettes in a panne with fayre watur boillyng & salt, tak of the clene flesche withoute ayroun & boyle it in gode broth cast therinne poudour douce and salt & messe the tartlettes in dysches & held the sew theron.
1/2 pound ground pork - remember the recipe calls for pork that has first been boiled and then minced (ground small). Assuming a quarter pound of meat per person two people would be 1/2 pound of ground pork. Half of which (1/4) will be made into the stuffing and the other half will be cooked in the broth ( take of the clean flesh without eggs and boil it in good broth). To make the broth that is needed, boil the pork in 1 cup water or stock. I would use chicken or a mix of 50/50 beef and chicken because I do not normally have pork stock on hand.
For example, this recipe was created to make two servings as a main meal or up to four as a side dish. The number of servings is 2, but I want to serve 8. I would simply divide 8 by 2 and my conversion factor is 4. The converted recipe would then be:
2 pounds ground pork
If I have the recipe for 8 and I want to serve six, I would divide 6 by 8 and the conversion factor would be 0.75. I would then multiply each of the ingredients by the conversion factor of 0.75 to get the correct scale for six servings. The new recipe would look like this.
1 1/2 pounds ground pork
For a quick conversion of any recipe you wish to try use the Recipe Converter Calculator.
Once I have created a recipe that follows the instructions I cook up my sample batch and taste test it. I have hijacked people working around the house, my kids, their friends, unsuspecting family members and the neighbors. If the recipe can pass a modern taste test then I did well. I request commentary and watch reactions. There have been a few times I have made something that I or one of the taste testers did not enjoy. I make sure to include that in my blog posts.
Sometimes I have to go back and tweak something based on commentary, which I will do, making note of the changes. Once the interpretation has been finalized, and *before* creating a blog post I compare with my peers. This recipe is a great example of the reason to compare. The instructions as interpreted create a broth with meat and meat filled dumplings. One of my peers created a meat filled tart, while another created a dish of dumplings with meat sauce.
When I am checking my work against my peers and I find that I have done something vastly different from what they have created I ask myself several questions. Where did I deviate from their interpretation? Why did I deviate? How does the deviation impact the final interpretation? What was the deviation? Do I need to research this further?
A good example of this process is my interpretation of Arbolettys, which created a cheese "soup" instead of the more often found scrambled eggs with herbs. Since I found the recipe in the pottages section of Two fifteenth-century cookery-books : Harleian MS. 279 (ab 1430), & Harl. MS. 4016 (ab. 1450), with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1439, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS. 55 by Thomas Austin amidst a selection of recipes that create custard or pudding like dishes I believe that the deviation is cooking the eggs till they form a curd similar to scrambled eggs rather then forming a smooth dish. Further research is needed to determine what the final outcome of this recipe should be.
Finally having come to the end of the process I create a blog post. In creating the post I attempt to include a little bit of history relating to one of the primary ingredients as well as including the interpreted instructions into a modern day recipe.
I hope that this post has given you some ideas on directions that you can go to start interpreting your own recipes. I would love to hear your thoughts, suggestions or ideas. Feel free to comment below.