"Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are."
December 14, 2006 11:47 AM   Subscribe

A sampling of the range of medieval and 18th C. European diets from Michael de Leone's Ein Buch von Guter Speise and Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin's Physiologie du goût (The Physiology of Taste).
posted by Blazecock Pileon (7 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
These are good spices for the large farts.

posted by spicynuts at 12:32 PM on December 14, 2006

The Brillat Savarin is a treasure trove of amazing prose.

Thinness is a matter of no great trouble to men. They have no less strength, and are far more active. The father of the young woman I spoke of, though, very thin, could seize a chair by his teeth and throw it over his head.


Women, however, who are thin, and who have a good stomach, are found to be as susceptible of fat as chickens. A little time, only, is necessary, for the stomach of chickens is comparatively smaller, and they cannot be submitted to as regular a diet as chickens are.

This is the most gentle comparison which suggested itself to me. I needed one, and ladies will excuse me for the reason for which I wrote this chapter.

The translation from the German is terrible though. I would forgive the literal, word-for-word approach, but many words are simply wrong. Eg, I'm pretty sure "und sol die dünne sniden zu schiben" means "you should roll up the thin slices", not "And will cut the dark to slices". (I'm not too sure what schiben means in MHG, but duenn is certainly thin, not dark). I would consult with someone with medieval German or Alemannish knowledge before cooking any recipe there.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:19 PM on December 14, 2006

I've powered my way through MFK Fisher, she's one of my favorite writers and she makes frequent reference to Brillat-Savarin. I think I'm going to check him out. Thanks for the post, I skimmed that first link and all I took away from the skim is that if you want to eat an eighteenth century European diet you had better like almond paste, organ meat and honey. Seems pretty medieval at first glance.
posted by Divine_Wino at 2:08 PM on December 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

i_am_joe's_spleen: "and cut it into thin slices" would be my translation, but yeah the translation of the German is 'serviceable,' at best. The bit that gets at me is that "and give out" should simply be translated "and serve."

That said, wow was it ever hard to find a recipe that I found remotely appetizing.

Can't say that I'm too surprised by the prevalence of organ meats, though. They're still pretty popular in some parts of Germany. Lung soup (in german, a similar Italian recipe in english) is often found in Bavaria and Austria. And apparently Italy. I don't it's even legal to sell lungs as meat in the US.

Anyway, here's a well-known 19th century German cookbook and here it is in english. The english version is viewable as text or as a series of images of the actual book.
posted by jedicus at 3:06 PM on December 14, 2006

I love The Physiology of Taste!
posted by owhydididoit at 4:13 PM on December 14, 2006

A few examples of cookbooks originally of medieval English provenance. This recipe, from the first source, was quite possibly the best comfort food I've ever had:

Tayloures -- Take a gode mylke of Almaundys y-draw with Wyne an Water, an caste hym in-to a potte, and caste gret Roysouns of corauns, Also mencyd Datys, Clowes, Maces, Pouder Pepir, Canel, Safroun, & a gode dele Salt, & let boyle a whyle; þan take it and ly it wyth Flowre of Rys, or ellys with Brede y-gratyd, & caste þer-to Sugre, & serue forth lyke Mortrewys, & caste pouder of Gyngere a-boue y-now.
posted by bcveen at 4:17 PM on December 14, 2006

You know what? I loathe all the extracts and permutations of almonds: Pastes, waters, confections... I like almonds themselves however. Now that I look at this I can see why whenever I was forced to choke down some marzipan that I had the vague feeling someone was going to lop my head off and put it on a pike or insist on taking my wife's maidenhood on our wedding night.
posted by Divine_Wino at 4:27 PM on December 14, 2006

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