[Sca-cooks] FW: TMR 12.04.01 Schianca, La cucina medievale (Pfeffer)

Sandra J. Kisner sjk3 at cornell.edu
Tue Apr 3 13:23:27 PDT 2012

Those who can read Italian may find this interesting.  This isn't the whole review; to see it, either click on the link, or send me a request and I'll forward the whole thing.


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Schianca, Enrico Carnevale. <i>La cucina medievale: lessico, storia, preparazioni</i>. Biblioteca dell'"Archivum romanicum" 386. Florence:
Leo S. Olschki editore, 2011. 49 Euros. Pp. 755. ISBN: 8822260732,
ISBN-13: 9788822260734.

   Reviewed by Wendy Pfeffer
        University of Louisville
        pfeffer at louisville.edu

The formal study of medieval cuisine has grown in interest and activity over the last forty years; a good deal of leadership in this discipline has come out of Italy, following the lead of Massimo Montanari, his students and colleagues.  To these scholars we must add the name of Enrico Carnevale Schianca, who, though formally trained in law, has devoted himself over the last thirty years to the study of medieval cuisine in Italy. I hesitate to say "medieval Italian cuisine" because Carnevale Schianca himself suggests that there is more than one cuisine represented by the extant documents from Italy.

The subtitle of <i>La cucina medievale</i> tells the reader what to expect in format; the volume is, in essence, an Italian dictionary, an alphabetical listing of every term, ingredient, or relevant material found in culinary sources from the Italian peninsula. Carnevale Schianca lists twenty-three primary sources, all representing food and drink in Italy from before 1492, the date of Columbus' first voyage to the New World.  The author describes his work as having the structure of a glossary--there are 2500 keywords, pulled from more than 7000 recipes, of which close to half are also included in the volume, arranged so that they can be compared one to the other. The title is, however, somewhat misleading, as the volume covers Italy and only Italy; other medieval traditions are evoked only when they shed light on the Italian case.
<major snippage>
One can always criticize. For example, I would have liked to find the specific names of cheeses used in medieval Italy. However, Carnevale Schianca is forced to rely on the materials available--cheese names are not often found in recipes, but rather in other sources, such as business documents or the remarkable <i>Summa lacticiniorum completa</i> by Pantaleone da Confienza (1477, ed. by Irma Naso, 1990). Some of the cheeses mentioned in the "Formaggio" article, however, do get their own entry: Bria (Brie), Buffalino, Candia, Casciata, Casocavallo, Comino, Giuncata, Guaimo, Luchardo, Marzollino, Moza, Parmesano, Piaxentino, Provatura, and Ravigiolo.

In conclusion, this is a remarkable work by an active participant in discussions of medieval food culture. Carnevale Schianca has collected a tremendous amount of material, organized it intelligently and made it available to the general Italian-reading public. The price is not unreasonable, in part because there are no illustrations.  The volume will surely become an invaluable resource in all future discussions of medieval cuisine, in and outside of Italy.

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