Friday, August 28, 2009


Rebecca Reid's Spice of Life: A Reading Challenge appealed to me because I have several cookbooks and knew I'd post about cookbooks in some way. Some of my cookbooks are basic, while others have a foreign flavor (sorry, couldn't resist).

Although I already have enough cookbooks to choose from, my original plan was to go to the library and take out Julia Child's Mastering The Art of French Cooking. (Some of you already know this, having read my post, Potluck, and to you I offer my apologies for being repetitious.) The book was already taken out, so I asked the reference librarian to put me on the list for it. But I did find a couple of other cookbooks, some culinary library loot which seemed right for the Spice of Life Challenge. I could have gone crazy in the library, surrounded by such an impressive array of cookbooks, but instead I checked out only two books, The Medieval Cookbook by Maggie Black, and a huge one called The Way to Cook by Julia Child (not the one I wanted, but still Julia Child).

For this post, my second for the Spice of Life Challenge, I'll focus on The Medieval Cookbook, which was published in 1992, and which attracted my attention for a few different reasons. I liked the idea of learning about the cookery of a past era, namely the Middle Ages. Also, when I was in college, my school held an annual Medieval Feast which I enjoyed greatly, a lavish, six-course extravaganza, complete with costumes and skits. This cookbook also has reproductions of Medieval art, as well as recipes from manuscripts written in Old English (followed by modern English). It features Medieval fare such as Roast Pheasant, Civey of Hare, Grilled Quail, and Sweet-sour Spiced Rabbit. Since I don't eat pheasant nor hare nor quail nor rabbit, I was pleasantly surprised to find a recipe for Lasagne Layered with Cheese in this cookbook. It actually sounds delicious enough to try.

Here it is, from the book, in Old English:
"Losyns. Take good broth and do in an ethen pot. Take flour of paynedemayn and make therof past with water, and make therof thynne foyles as paper with a roller, drye it harde and seeth it in broth. Take chesrucryn grated and lay it in dishes with powdour douce, and lay theron loseyns isode as hoole as thou myght, and above powdour and chese; and so twyse or thryse, & serue it forth. (CI. IV. 50.)"

Maggie Black also writes out the recipe in modern English, and lets us know that we can use ready made lasagne noodles (how about the no-boil kind?). This recipe, which is basically lasagne noodles layered with grated cheddar cheese, calls for a pinch of ground mace and cardamom or cinnamon, and white pepper, which sounds interesting, and seems very easy. The author suggests that this would have been an ideal last course in the Middle Ages, " to 'seal' in the alcohol so often imbibed too freely by the young".

What about you? What kind of cookbooks appeal to you and why?  I look forward to hearing from you.


  1. That sounds like so much fun to read a medieval cookbook! I'm not sure I'd ever try cooking it myself, though. Did you try cooking it?

  2. Rebecca,not yet, but it sounds so easy!

  3. I like experimenting with ethnic cookbooks. I have Italian, Chinese, Japanese, French and Polish so far. That medieval sounds wonderful and the cover so beautiful.

  4. Diane, I also enjoy ethnic cookbooks--and restaurants. (Click on the photo of my cookbooks to view titles.)

    Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to post a comment!

  5. Great choices! I own Child's "The Way to Cook." In an interview, Julia Child said it was her favorite cookbook.

  6. Nice collection of cookbooks Suko. And cute kitchen is rooster themed :O)
    The Medieval Cookbook sounds interesting, very cool that they show it in old English first.
    I have a few cookbooks in my collection, I tend to gear towards Comfort Foods.

  7. Amy, that's good to know. Many of the recipes sound and look great, such as Rosemary's Classic Pizza Dough and A Bouquet of Steamed Vegetables.

    Naida, I mostly collect cows (and even have a cow blog) but have a few chickens and roosters in the kitchen. Thanks for your comment!

    More comments welcomed!

  8. I love to look through just about any cookbook, but I prefer the more practical ones to cook with. I like to eat fancy, but I don't like to cook fancy!

  9. As for me, dear friend, I tend to stick with anything easy and fool-proof. I found Southern Living's Easy Weeknight Favorites several years ago and, because all of the recipes are taste-tested by experts, they always work for my large family. It includes fresh ingredients and almost always things I already have in the house. Did the medieval cookbook say anything about eating with one's hands (like at Medieval Times)? We always find that part to be the most intriguing.

  10. Bermudaonion, I'm the same way. I usually make simple dishes and visit restaurants for more elaborate fare.

    Laura, surprisingly, the book doesn't mention eating without utensils (unless I missed that) but there are pictures of tables with "carving knives" but no forks. Thanks for stopping by!

    I will add your blog to my blogroll!

  11. I never read a cookbook other than the one that came free with the Microwave :)
    Now a medieval cookbook must be fun!

    You know you must try some recipes and let us know - how it came out! come on - that would be great!
    Lovely look of the blog today :)

  12. Thank you for stopping by my blog. Family favorites are also so comforting especially the recipes which have been passed down. I have to tell you The Medieval Cookbook sounds fascinating and any cookbook that pairs two of my favorite foods...cheese and pasta...warrants checking out. All kinds of cookbooks appeal to me but I really enjoy the ones that combine a narrative with great photography or illustrations along with the recipes.

  13. Sounds fascinating! I wish I'd known about it when I was writing my Crusade novel Behold the Dawn; I would have used my "research" as an excuse to whip some medieval recipes. Of course, considering how most of my modern cooking turns out, that may not have been such a great idea!

  14. Veens, I enjoy looking through cookbooks full of food and possibility.

    Book Psmith, I enjoyed your post and all the yummy looking food photos!

    K.M., thanks for your comment!

  15. Very cool post! I like Mark Bittman's cookbooks, and I cook a lot from them, but I also like ethnic cookbooks, especially from India. Cooking and baking is one of my favorite hobbies, so I tend to collect many cookbooks.

  16. Zibilee, I haven't heard of Mark Bittman. I'll Google him. I love Indian food but I don't know if I could prepare it well (other than chicken curry, ready-to-cook from Trader Joe's).

    More comments always welcomed!


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