*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.
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.