[Sca-cooks] New Constance Hieatt book?

Wanda Pease wandap at hevanet.com
Fri Nov 6 21:13:06 PST 2009

Stefan li Rous wrote:
> I just saw this on the Lochac list. Anyone have more details? Johnnae?
> Hieatt, Constance B. <i>A Gathering of Medieval English Recipes</i>.
> Brepols: Turnhout, Belgium, 2008. Textes Vernaculaires du Moyen Age.
> Pp. 170. $87.50. ISBN: 9782503528984.
> Reviewed by Christine M. Rose
> Portland State University
> --------
> THLord Stefan li Rous    Barony of Bryn Gwlad    Kingdom of Ansteorra
>    Mark S. Harris           Austin, Texas          
> StefanliRous at austin.rr.com
> **** See Stefan's Florilegium files at:  http://www.florilegium.org ****
Here is the review I have seen of it:

Reviewed by Christine M. Rose
       Portland State University
       rosec at pdx.edu

This slim volume is an essential addendum to the corpus of printed
Middle English culinary records, presenting scores of recipes that
have not before been edited and documenting the heretofore unmarked
existence in manuscripts of many recipes that resemble closely those
in other edited collections.  Professor Hieatt is the foremost
specialist on medieval English manuscripts containing culinary
materials. She is the author of <i>An Ordinance of Pottage: an Edition
of the Fifteenth Century Culinary Recipes in Yale University's MS
Beinecke 163, with a Commentary on the Recipes and Adaptations for the
Modern Kitchen</i> (1988); co-author (with Sharon Butler) of <i>Cury
on Inglysch: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth Century
(Including The Forme of Cury)</i> (1985); and with Butler and Brenda
Holsington <i>Pleyn Delit: Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks</i>
(1996), as well as having written a host of scholarly essays on
English cookery texts and medieval cuisine. Thus, her latest
"gathering" represents the expert product of years of poring over
manuscripts, some of which contain only a small group of recipes, or
recipes in isolation, as well as those that were overlooked in earlier
editions. This volume brims with learned and painstakingly detailed
study of individual recipes and recipe collections, and while not
undemanding reading, provides a crucial resource for scholars of the
culture of medieval England and its dining tables. Plus, one gets a
welcome glimpse of the manuscript contexts of culinary materials.

After a brief explanatory introduction, Hieatt presents her key
bibliographical references for the study of these culinary
manuscripts, and then follows an alphabetical list--by location--of 82
(primarily British) MSS containing Middle English culinary recipes
that have not been printed or listed until this volume, noting dates,
editions, critical discussions, unedited materials in each, or those
materials in need of re-editing. Graduate students and scholars
interested in the field might detect here possible new editing tasks.
Noted too are any other published books, <i>Forme of Cury</i>, for
example, that contain recipes resembling the ones in the manuscript
under consideration. This manuscript inventory provides a wealth of
information on medieval English household books (although one might
wish to have the Table of Contents from each MS at hand to determine
what company the various recipes keep--but that is extraneous to
Hieatt's project), and the author provides references for MS
descriptions where possible.  The manuscript list is followed by the
gathering of each MS's newly-documented Middle English recipes
preceded by a headnote adding more detailed information about the
recipe contents of the MS, including a description of the MS, notes on
the problems Hieatt encountered with each MS and relevant points of
interest about individual codices. She then lists the recipes, either
complete where warranted--if the recipe is unknown--or simply the
title, often with notes about the significant differences in content
from other versions of the recipe, having cited the source of the
edited version in the headnote. Also included, at the end of this
volume (155-170), is a supplement to her <i>Concordance of English
Recipes: Thirteenth through Fifteenth Centuries</i> prepared with
Terry Nutter and Johanna Holloway (2006).

Intended as a reference work, the volume may best be used in
conjunction with Thomas Austin's edition of <i>Two Fifteenth-Century
Cookery Books</i> (EETS o.s.91, 1888, repr. 1964) and Hieatt's <i>Cury
on Inglysch</i>, since some recipes supplied in the present volume
duplicate and/or occur in the same order as recipes in those earlier
collections--in which case, Hieatt merely notes the recipe's name and
those significant differences from individual recipes edited in those
existing collections and does not reprint the entire recipe if it is
readily accessible elsewhere. Many recipes included in this volume are
to be found more or less recognizable in the other major collections
of English medieval recipes: <i> An Ordinance of Pottage</i>, the
<i>Noble boke of cokery</i>, and <i>Diversa Servicia</i>. The recipe
books generally proceed in the order of the early English meal:
pottages (first), fish, fowl, meat; then to fried foods and sauces,
compotes or drinks (last). In the present volume, some divergences
from these models are considerable--such as the addition of more or
different ingredients or processes, or the additions or deletions of
entire recipes from the order in which they are listed in other
collections, which call attention to themselves by their inclusion or
exclusion in such a close relative of other compilations. But,
ordinarily, there is little marked disparity between collections of
the same sets of instructions. Recipes tend to be copied from their
exemplars in virtually the same order, as one would expect, so whole
sections of recipes are identical to those listed in <i>Forme of
Cury</i>, or <i>Ordinanance of Pottage</i>, for example. Yet some
recipes edited here have no identifiable parallel elsewhere, and thus
this volume is significant for the project of completing the records
of Middle English recipes. Hieatt wisely does not include a glossary,
and refers the reader to the glossaries in both Austin's edition and
<i>Cury</i>, but does elucidate some of the more impenetrable terms in
footnotes. Even experienced Middle English scholars are likely to
require those additional glossaries, since one of the joys of
encountering this book's ample selection of recipes is the
extraordinary variation in orthography for even common words
designating ingredients or culinary operations. These recipes, as well
as those in the other notable Middle English culinary collections,
possess the flavor of late Middle English colloquial speech, use
expressions and sentence structures rare in literary texts, and of
course employ the specialized vocabulary of food. A selection of them
would make a beneficial addition to any Middle English class ("Take
faire clene befe and gobbe it small..."; "but stere hem well fro
brynnyng to the potte, & yff it be not tendyde it is loste..."; "& kepe
the parynges, & whash the rasynces in clene water; then putte hem in
warme water iii howres..." ).  The scribes employ a whimsical lack of
uniformity of spelling, as they transcribed the words they heard or
found in their exemplars. "Gridiron," for instance, appears in late-
fifteenth century contexts as grydyrne/grydyrn/gryndyryn/gredern;
"verjuice" as verjuis/veryous/verys/vergous; and "boil" as
buyle/boyle/boile/biyle/boyl/boyll/bule. Not even the available
glosses and the MED satisfactorily solved every odd spelling for
Hieatt (or me) without recourse to other versions of a particular
recipe, and some terms remain obscure, due to blurring or damage to
the manuscript, scribal error or undecipherable graphemes. The
questioned terms "tanersale" (127) and "buron" (121) are probably
versions of "tavorsay"(a spiced fish-head dish) and "brawne" (flesh)
This volume also corrects various errors in <i>Cury</i> and emends
some of the published Handlists from the <i>Index to Middle English
Prose</i>, noting recipes neglected or incorrectly listed.

One wonders when reading some of the garbled directions given in the
manuscripts (see Bodleian MS Ashmole 1393, recipe #5 for Chawdrow--
chauden? "Take broun bred tostid & of the bloud of the foule, than drawe
it & caste in vinegre & peper, with mawe & lyvere mycid, & the fotte the
nonys wrapped in the same sauce") how or if any cook ever used some of
these recipes and why no contemporary reader/cook rectified obviously
weird or incorrect instructions for dishes that appear in another
collection in more or less accurate form. Some recipes present
themselves in the MSS in highly abridged form, as if notes for an
experienced cook. As ever with medieval culinary texts, one is struck
by the amount of almond milk used, for example, and the variety of
birds, fish, and beasts found on medieval English tables, whether
frequently, or, as in the case of swans or peacocks roasted and re-
dressed in their feathers, on festive occasions.

Hieatt has contributed yet another crucial tool for the study of
English material culture, Middle English manuscripts, and cuisine in
the late Middle Ages. Her legacy is an important one, and all
subsequent scholars of medieval cookery are in her debt.

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