History of Cookbooks pt. 2

*Considering how lengthy my last post was when I included my history section, I have decided to dedicate a separate post to it entirely. That way, I won’t have to fight with my inner voice that screams at me when things are getting to lengthy*

For today’s segment, I’m going to give a brief overview of four of the first ever printed cookbooks, all originated in the fifteenth century.

1). De honesta voluptate et valetudine (Of Honest Indulgence and Good Health) is considered to be the first ever printed cookbook, published in 1474 Italy. Written by Bartolomeo Sacchi, he combined methodologies towards achieving good health along with recipes from other works. According to authors Anne Willan and Mark Cherniavsky “The recipes in De honesta have an artisanal rather than an intellectual bent, reflecting the new scientific philosophy of the humanist era” (49).

Like other cookbooks printed during this century, these books were relatively plain in appearance; there was definitely no celebrity chef’s picture plastered on the cover. Additionally, the average reader of these books were often ones of wealth or nobility. For that reason, they paint a clear picture of what life was like for those with affluent backgrounds, especially during times of feasts and banquets.

2). While the first printed cookbook originated from Italy, the second on my overview comes from Germany. Kuchenmeisterei (Mastery of the Kitchen) was published in 1485. While De honesta was written for a targeted audience, the author of Kuchenmeisterei had a broader audience in mind: “For princely households, prosperous city-dwellers, for  wealthy cloisters, and for master chefs in the taverns and inns of the nobility and their families” (Willan & Cherniavsky 50). A rather short volume, the book is divided into sections, such as dishes for fasting-days (soups, fruit preserves, and fish) meats, game, and finally, side dishes.

3). The list would not be complete without something French. Published in Paris, in 1486, Le Viandier (The Victualler) captured the essence of culinary traditions during the medieval era. Influenced by older manuscript from the fourteenth century, Le Viandier was extremely popular during its time, even getting a re-print in the nineteenth century. As for recipes. it is rumored that they originated from the author, Taillevent, himself. The remaining recipes are more contemporary, reflecting the culinary trends of the century. Another thing that is interesting to note  is that the recipes “Reflect the fact that table implements were sparse” with purees and porridge appearing frequently throughout (Willan & Cherniavsky54).

Additionally, the presence of spices too is an interesting trend. Heavily used in preparation, spices represented both signs of wealth as well as a new means of trade. Light and portable, they could be traded for other goods. Strangely, the popularity of spices would wane, barely being featured in European cooking during the sixteenth century.

4). The English cookbook, Boke of Cokery (1500) complete today’s list. Published in London, the book featured both recipes from the medieval era and more contemporary, English recipes and techniques. As the case with the other books mentioned here, the printed version of the Boke of Cokery was based off earlier texts. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that much about the Boke of Cokery, though a bit of online research brought me here: http://www.godecookery.com/gcooktoc/gcooktoc.htm

While I can’t totally tell if this is the same cookbook since the title is different, overall, this is a really  cool website. With translated manuscripts and cookbooks, articles, term glossary, and much much more, you could spend hours reading up on per-modernity cooking. If you have some time, check it out. There are tons of translated recipes there so if you’re planning a Renaissance themed dinner party, this would be an excellent source.

That’s all for now though I can assure you the next installment will be coming soon. I will admit that I am still figuring out how I want to present this whole history thing so please bear with me. I promise to iron out the kinks over time.

 

Till then,

Litbaker

Work Cited

Willan, Anne, Mark Cherniavsky, and Kyri Claflin. The Cookbook Library: Four Centuries of the Cooks, Writers, and Recipes That Made the Modern Cookbook. Berkeley: University of California, 2012. Print.

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The Joys of….Viewing??

Tv. The tube, the devil’s invention. These are just a smattering of words that I have heard used to describe the wonder that is television. But love it or hate it, I personally (opinion alert!!!) believe that tv is a foodie’s best friend. Why? Well, we eat with our eyes right? I don’t about you guys but watching shows like Masterchef, Top Chef, Cake Boss, Cupcake Wars make me salivate whenever I view them. But these shows, and the many, many, others that are out there are more than just indulgences of food porn goodness, they can also be inspiring (gasp!) and educational (double gasp!!!). Well, the fact that they can be educational shouldn’t be that surprising, I mean, the Food Network must have a monopoly on instructional food shows by now. But even before Sandra Lee stepped into her constantly festive and color-coordinated kitchen to butcher cakes (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=we2iWTJqo98) we had more…impressive culinary teachers, like Paula Deen, and of course, the Big Mama herself, Julia Child.

Taught us both how to cook French cuisine and how to truly enjoy our time in the kitchen. Thank you, Julia!

Famous names aside, food based tv shows, at least for me, are half of what fuels my interest to tackle new things in the kitchen. With an insatiable sense of curiosity, I love finding new food shows to watch, and with the wonders of pirating I mean streaming, I can watch programs like The Great British Bake Off, Masterchef NZ, and Two Fat Ladies. Programs likes these do more than just showcase gorgeous looking food, they educate as well. For example, both The Great British Bake Off and Masterchef NZ have segments called ‘Masterclass’ in which the show briefly drops its competitive angle and show the viewer how to make certain dishes at home. Going further, The Great British Bake Off cuts up its normal programs with brief segments on food history which feature certain food scholars and historians. Considering my interests, you can imagine the foodie/history overload I had when I discovered this little British gem. And while I’m still praising this deliciously wonderful show, I’ll mention how they show the viewer what the contestants through the use of cute illustrations, like one’s you’d find in grandma’s cookbook. Although these shows are not exactly cooking shows in the traditional sense of the term, they are still mighty informative, inspiring, and just plain enjoyable. Are they Emmy Award programs? Ummm, I wouldn’t go that far, but that doesn’t mean they are just mindless trash either. If you’re like me and enjoy some background noise while multitasking,trying checking out some of the shows that I mentioned above. Who knows, maybe you’ll enjoy them the same way I do.

Till next time,

Litbaker

Recipe Write Up: Mediterranean Chicken

Every now and again I will be given the task of making dinner for my family. More often than not, I am given plenty of advance notice so I can plan around it though sometimes, my mom just decides to spring it on me. Like yesterday afternoon, when I was in the middle of playing Kingdom Hearts on my PS2. One minute I’m kicking butt along side Donald and Goofy, the next I’m having an apron thrown at my head and a cookbook shoved into my hands.

So what was on the menu for last night’s dinner? Mediterranean Chicken, taken from The America’s Test Kitchen: Light and Healthy though adapted slightly. Now, despite my complaints above, I love hopping into the kitchen to cook-up something yummy, especially when the recipe is fairly straight forward and healthy for you. This is why I love the ATK. Their cookbooks are always so informative and user friendly. If you haven’t checked them out, give their website a look-over or borrow one of their cookbooks from the library. They are a bit bulky but those pages are filled with nothing but pure knowledge and delicious recipes. Enjoy!

Mediterranean Chicken with Tomatoes, Olives, and Artichokes
Serves about four (though we had enough for about six servings)

4 (12 ounce) bone-in, skin-on, split chicken breasts, trimmed
Salt and Pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (9 ounce) box frozen artichokes, thawed and drained
1 onion*, minced (about one-cup)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 teaspoons mimicked fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/4 cup dry white wine*
1/4 cup orange juice
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped coarse
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

*We substituted the onion with a leek
*Can be substituted with water

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heath the oven to 450 degrees
  2. pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels and season with 1/8 teaspoon slat and pepper. Heat one teaspoon of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Carefully lay the chicken, skin side down, in the skillet and cook until well browned on the first side, about five minutes. Transfer to a plate
  3. Heat one teaspoon more oil in the skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the artichokes and cook until well browned on all sides, five to seven minutes, turning them as needed. Transfer to a bowl
  4. Add the remaining one teaspoon oil to the skillet and return to medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until golden, about six minutes. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, and thyme and cook until fragrant, about thirty-seconds. Add the wine and orange juice, scrapping up any browned bits. Brin to a simmer and cook until reduced by half, about two minutes. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and cook until the sauce is thickened slightly, about two minutes. Stir in the browned artichokes and olives
  5. Place chicken skin side up in platter and cover with the sauce. Place in oven, covered or uncovered in the oven for about thirty to thirty-five minutes.
  6. Remove from oven when chicken is cooked through and sprinkle with parsley. Serve!

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You Call it Brunch, I Call it Delicious

*Apologies in advance, this is a very long post. I promise that future posts won’t be this long*

For the handful of you readers who took the time to come check out this blog, take a sigh of relief, I am back! And as promised, I’m going to bring some actual substance to today’s blog post. Substance you say? Indeed, I do! But first, let’s take a moment to talk about brunch. And yes, before you start to fret that I am wasting your time with my whimsical musings, I am going somewhere with this.

Brunchtime with Friends

One of the perks of living in a rather foodie part of Long Island is the various foods options available to a rag-tag group of friends when the tummy starts to grumble. Yesterday, me and my two close friends from high school decided to meet up for a meal. While brunch was proposed we took a little bit of time trying to work out where we wanted to go. Ok, we took a lot of time tying to figure it out. However, due to our rather limited budget and the splendors of coupons, we were eventually able to narrow down our choice to the one and only, Sweet Mama’s. For you Long Islanders, this wonderful place is located in Northport and is definitely worth the drive if you are fond of classic American breakfast, lunch, and dinner foods. It’s that sort of mom and pop place that feels like you are walking into a close friend or relatives dining room. How’s the food? Um, amazing. Check out yesterday’s lunch/brunch menu.

Lunctime Noms at Sweet Mama's

Lunchtime noms at Sweet Mama’s

While all those specials looked absolutely scrumptious, my friends and I opted for items off the menu. Here is a run down of what we had: four waters, one hot chocolate, two french toasts made from croissants with strawberries, blueberries, and copious amounts of cream cheese and butter, one side of home fries, one side of bacon, one Mediterranean wrap, with feta, olives, lettuce, and tomatoes, along with coleslaw, one order of potato pancakes (with sour cream), and one  ice cream sundae with three spoons. Not bad for three girls with a $5 coupon.

The remains of a heavenly plate of french toast

Remnants of my friend Leslie’s french toast

As my friends and I munched away on our yummy noms I kept thinking to myself, “Why is french toast so good?” Well for starters, it just is, plain and simple. But seriously, the fact that the combination of bread with butter, and an egg mixture can produce such a heavenly meal is a testament to why food is good. Especially when you are down for experimenting with flavors and different food stuff. But if you are like me, still new to world of cooking and a bit cautious to get fancy with the spices and what-not, we can thankfully turn to the wonderful resource that is a cookbook. I’m not sure about you guys but I thank my stars that the act of writing down a recipe complete with measurements, cooking temps, and instructions is a popular trend within our modern society.  But for those of you who don’t know, this trend is only a few centuries old. “Really?” you ask, “tell us more”. Okay 🙂 Time to show-off my research skills. Prepare to be amazed!

The Abridged History of Cookbooks (part one)

The modern cookbook is just that, a modern invention. While the recording of recipes can be traced back to the time of Egyptian kings, these documentations were often reserved for the tomb walls of kings and the wealthy. In regards to early European cookbooks, these were hand-written manuscripts, and their circulation was limited to those who could both afford and read them. This was a tradition adapted from, you probably guessed it, the ancient Greeks and Romans. However, their culinary records were not done in the style typically expected. In fact, one of the earliest accounts was recorded within a poem. Can you picture Shakespeare writing a sonnet titled “Ode to French Onion Soup”? Me either. On a rather cool note, these early ‘cookbooks’ provide wonderful insight to the food culture and its relationship to society during the age of antiquity. One book of note, De re Coquinaria (Of Culinary Matters) by Marcus Gavius Apicius, was written in Rome around the first century. Split into ten volumes, each tome featured recipes and culinary advice such as how to best store perishable foods. With over four hundred different recipes, “Apicius is careful to specify ingredients, though without quantities and often in random order” (Willian & Cherniavsky 14).

For the sake of length, I’ll pick up on my history of cookbooks section next time. We have a lot of history to get through and I’d hate to bore you.

If you are curious about Apicius and his masterpiece, do a little research online or at your local library. You can actually find translated copies of his recipes in case you are feeling like challenging yourself.  Oh and before I forget, my mother’s friends have recruited me to do some baking next week. The selected recipe: Orange Berry Muffins. I will post the recipe next time as well.

Till then,

Litbaker

Ps. Here is one of my cute kitties. Say hello to Cody.

Aint he a handsome fella?

Isn’t he a handsome fella?

Link to Sweet Mama’s: http://www.sweetmamaskitchen.net/ordereze/default.aspx

Work Cited

Sitwell, William. “A History of Cookbooks.” We Love This Book. N.p.,26 June 2012. Web. 24 May 2013. <http://www.welovethisbook.com/features/history-cookbooks&gt;.

Willan, Anne, Mark Cherniavsky, and Kyri Claflin. The Cookbook Library: Four Centuries of the Cooks, Writers, and Recipes That Made the Modern Cookbook. Berkeley: University of California, 2012. Print.

The Ramblings of a Foodie Dreamer

There are two things in this massively complex world that I love: food and knowledge. Without one, we’d be dead. Without the other, well, let’s just say we wouldn’t be living in the wonders of the twenty-first century. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that I don’t have to say anymore to convince you why both subjects are important. We good? Good. Moving on now.

This blog, a rather rash idea suddenly spurred into action, is not going to be about me. Ok, a little bit of it will be about me, but I am not the star of the show. Food is along with the history behind it. Think of this blog as a research blog, one that has little crumbs of knowledge interspersed amongst recipes and the ramblings of a wanna be librarian and food-fanatic. Have I lost you? Let me try explaining this again. History is all around us, some of it more obvious than others. What I desire to do with this rather small piece of web-space is to showcase and highlight the history of food, its presence and impact on both my life and yours. How? By focusing on those that have made food what it is today. From the history of cookbooks in America to the [abridged] biographies of culinary heros and trendsetters, I wish to uncover and understand why our modern culture of food is the way that it is today.  Throw in some niffy parts about me learning how to cook while researching these food heavy-weights along with studying to become a librarian and I’d say you’re in for a grand old time!

Now before you comment, I am quite aware of the magnitude of this project. It is going to take a lot of perseverance, research, money, and a sturdy wall to bang my head against during times of frustration. Is it going to be easy? Probably not, though I’m grateful that I possess quite a few skills when it comes to doing research (thanks to my sociology degree and four year work experience as a student librarian). And I’ll also say this, I can cook (kind of) as well as bake, so I won’t be hopping into a kitchen completely clueless. That’s already half the battle right there. Additionally, I will try very hard not make my posts the same lengths as something like an honors thesis. My goal is to be informative, to inspire the readers to do some research of their own if anything that I write intrigues them. The same applies to the recipes that I will feature; please give them a whirl and let me know how it works out for you. I have a massive recipe list stored on my computer, Demyx  (I’ll explain the name later) that I’ll post eventually.

That’s all for now  though I can assure you, more will be coming and its either going to be awesome or just simply hilarious. Either way, you’ll have something that will amuse you.

Till next time in which I promise to have 1). something informative to say, 2). an actual recipe, and 3). cute cat pictures,

Litbaker