Thanksgiving is next week, and for those of us who love to cook, this is one of the absolute best times of year. And ever since I decided to explore medieval cuisine, I have been wanting to try new dishes, and so I have been collecting books on the subject (and not just Chelsea and Sariann’s awesome Game of Thrones cookbook). Thank goodness for ABE Books, or else I would never have been able to find many of these, or afford them once I did find them.
The first cookbook with medieval recipes that I ever acquired was a copy of The Seven Centuries Cookbook: From Richard II to Elizabeth II by Maxime McKendry. I found it at a yard sale a few years ago. This was the book that introduced me to verjuice, a special ingredient that is so common in medieval cooking (and is still popular in some ethnic cooking, notably Syrian, Iranian and French). And this book has a lot of nice variety in its recipes – breads, desserts, meats, fishes, vegetables, and sauces, including a sage sauce I have been meaning to try making sometime, maybe the next time I cook a ham.
The next book I got was a copy of Pleyn Delit: Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks by Constance Hieatt and Sharon Butler. I had read the library copy of this book quite a bit until I was able to acquire my own copy. Recently I made the “Grene Pesen”, or Green Peas, for Kelly when she was craving peas.
Author Maggie Black has done some fantastic work in the field and I have two of her books: The Medieval Cookbook , which also has a revised edition that I have not gotten yet (but bought for my friends Teri and Patricio as a gift) and Medieval Cookery: Recipes and History. Ms. Black introduced me to the interesting concept of almond milk, which is a quite common ingredient in many medieval recipes. It was originally a Lenten substitute for dairy milk in the Middle Ages, but its unique ingredients also make it quite suitable for vegans and those with glucose and/or gluten intolerance.
One of the most fascinating medieval cookbooks I have acquired is Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World: A Concise History with 174 Recipes by Lilia Zaouali. Again, I had read through the library copy several times before I acquired my own copy (and what a process it was to find a cheap one!). It was totally worth getting. The sheer variety of foods in this book is mouth-watering, and ranging from the simple yet sublime like Marinated Olives with Thyme to Andalusian Pie, which is so complex to make it makes my head hurt just to think about it, but the result sounds so delicious it is tempting to try making it anyway. And recipes in the book come from all over the Islamic world, from Morocco and Tunisia to Egypt, Syria and Lebanon to Moorish Spain. This book has hooked me so much I really want to get a copy of another medieval Islamic cookbook that just came out last year: Scheherazade’s Feasts: Foods of the Medieval Arab World by Habeeb Salloum, Muna Salloum, and Leila Salloum Elias. I honestly had no idea what I was missing.
If I get the chance to make some things in the next few weeks, I will post pictures of the results (as long as I haven’t totally botched it).