Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A (Hypothetical) Wedding Feast

The other day I was browsing through Menagier de Paris (yes, I'm geeky enough that I browse through medieval cookbooks) and I came across the following menu:

L'ordonnance pour les nopces Hautecourt, pour vint escuelles, ou mois de Septembre:

Assiette: roisins et pesches ou petis pastés.

Potages: civé, quatre lièvres et veau; ou pour blanc mengier vint chappons, deux sols quatre deniers pièce, ou poules.

Rost: cinq cochons; vint hétoudeaux, deux sols quatre deniers pièce; quarante perdriaux, deux sols quatre deniers pièce. Mortereul ou...

Gelée: dix poucins, douze deniers; dix lappereaulx, un cochon; escrevices, un cent et demy.

Fromentée , venoison, poires et noix. Nota que pour la fromentée convendra trois cens oeufs.

Tartelettes et autres choses, ypocras et le mestier, vin et espices.

Here's the same section of text (slightly modified) from Janet Hinson's translation:

The arrangements for the Hautecourt wedding, for twenty dishes, in the month of September:

Platter: grapes and peaches or little pies.

Soups: civey, four hares and veal; or for blancmanger twenty capons, two sous four deniers apiece, or hens.

Roast: five pigs, twenty capons, two sous four deniers apiece; forty partridge, two sous four deniers apiece.

Jelly: ten chicks, twelve deniers; ten young rabbits, a pig; crayfish, one and a half hundred.

Frumenty, venison, pears and walnuts. Note that for the frumenty you will need three hundred eggs.

Tartlets and other things, hippocras and wafers, wine and spices.

In reading it, I'm struck by a couple of thoughts. The first is that the entire menu calls for a total of six pigs and forty capons to serve twenty people. That sounds like an awful lot. I took a quick look at the online facsimile at the BNF and it has the same wording. Perhaps there was something else going on here - I'll have to dig into it further.

The second thought was that it sounds like a pretty reasonable menu. It's lacking any reference to vegetables, but that might just be the omission on the level of "don't be silly, every dish gets served with vegetables". Then again, the menus at some of the restaurants I ate at on vacation also lacked references to vegetables.

If I were going to base a menu off of this, here's what I think I'd make:

First course:
Fresh peaches (peeled and sliced) and grapes (halved) with a dash of wine, served as a tartlet

Second course:
Rabbit in civey
Blanc manger

Third course:
Roast pork medallions with scallions and verjuice
Roast capon breast with yellow pepper sauce
Squab in pastry "in the Lombardy fashion"
... all the above served together with collards and parsnips

Fourth course:
Meat in aspic, with crayfish

Fifth course:
Frumenty with venison, served with poached pears and walnuts

Sixth course:
Custard tartlets, candied fruit and ginger, snowe, hippocras, wafers, anise in comfit, port.

I've taken a few liberties here and there, but on the whole I don't think a fifteenth century French noble would be overly surprised by any one dish. It'd be a bit on the pricy side to prepare (especially with the squab) but would be fun. I wonder if I could find twenty people willing to try it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Roastfish and Cornbread

Late last week my family had lunch at a small restaurant on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. Then we went back the next day because we liked it so much. The establishment in question is Chef David Young's Roastfish and Cornbread.

This is a restaurant that is hard to categorize. The food is more unusual and upscale than one would expect for a locals' hangout, but it's also too "homestyle" for haute cuisine. Take a look at the menu on the restaurant's website (make sure to check out the vegetarian menu as well). Note the occasionally surprising combinations of ingredients. Now picture it as simple, but well made food served without pretension.

Where's the medieval aspect to all this? There isn't one really. Yes, there's an odd link between the cuisine of the southeast United States and that of medieval England (e.g. honey-mustard barbecue, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, peach pie), but that's pretty tenuous and I don't think that's what drove me to post this. I think it's more to do with the fact that chef Young loves food. He researches his own cooking and shares the results. I like that, a lot.

Many of David's recipes from Roastfish and Cornbread are available in his cookbook, Burnin' Down South, which you can purchase from (I bought a copy before leaving the restaurant).

Burnin' Down South
David Vincent Young
Outskirts Press, 2008
ISBN: 1432724649

... and of course, if you're lucky enough to be in that area, you can go to the actual restaurant.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Kalendarium Hortense - April

The Kalendarium Hortense was published by John Evelyn in 1683. It contains instructions for what a gardener should do throughout the year. The excerpt below is the section titled "Fruits in Prime, or yet lasting" for the month of April.

pepins, Deuxans, West-berry Apple, Russeting, Gilli-flowers, flat Reinet, &c.

Later Bon-chrestien, Oak-Pear, &c. double Blossom, &c.