[Sca-cooks] "I ricettari di Federico II: dal Meridionale al Liber de coquina"

Christiane christianetrue at earthlink.net
Wed Oct 24 09:41:42 PDT 2012

This book has recently come into my hands, and I thought I'd give my impressions of it so far.

The author, Anna Martellotti, argues that the Liber de coquina is not Angevin in origin, but from the Swabian court of Frederick II, which in turn owes a debt to the Norman/Arab/Greek syncreticism of the Norman court of Palermo (where Frederick was raised).

First, if you don't read Italian, the intro that talks about the history, the people, and the state of cuisine in Frederick's day won't do you much good. But if you do, it's fascinating to see mentions of scholars who had been at Frederick's court in Naples and where they dispersed to later. Martellotti also argues that Frederick had been as interested in cookery and cuisine has he had been in falconry. I think (I will have to go back and re-read this bit more closely) that she also mentions that the library at the Norman court of Palermo, with its Arab and Greek books, had been transferred to Naples and after his death, dispersed by the Angevins. She seems to surmise that the library had included copies of Arab dietetic books like the Tacuinum Sanitatis by ibn Butlan.

The most valuable part of the book for SCA cooks is how she goes recipe by recipe from the two manuscripts of the Liber de coquina (the Parisian ones), a currently unpublished cookbook now in the Vatican Library that dates from the mid-15th century, the Anonimo Toscano, and the "Meridionale," an early 14th century-15th century manuscript that was also copied in Latin. 

Ultimately, what Martellotti is surmising is that there was some early 13th century manuscript that was the progenitor of all of these cookbooks, and that it was from Frederick's court.

I found a forum where people are giving their own theories, with charts, about the order that these manuscripts were published:


In looking at the recipes side by side, the similarities in the language of the instructions of ingredients and preparation of certain dishes are striking. 

Martellotti also talks about the traditional dishes of Apulia and the South that seem to be descended from the medieval dishes, arguing that the economic and cultural isolation that the South endured while "Italian" cooking traditions were codified in the North helped preserve some of the medieval traditions (stuff like fava bean mashes). 

I hope this review is helpful; I can say that this book is now readily available on outlets such as AbeBooks for a fairly reasonable price, so you can take a look at it yourselves.


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