From the Luttrell Psalter, British Library, Add. MS 42130, fol. 207r.

What’s on my bookshelves, what I’m coveting, what  I’m reading…and what I thought when I’d finished. Click on the covers to be taken to the Amazon UK site, and do drop me a line with your thoughts on these publications, or suggestions of any others…

Medieval Food and Recipes

Peter Brears, Cooking and Dining in Medieval England (Prospect Books: Totnes, 2012). First published 2008. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Peter Brears on a couple of occasions, and his knowledge of  cooking and dining in a large household in the high and later Middle Ages in England is encyclopaedic; this is the go-to book for details of how the dresser hatches opened out to serve dishes from the kitchens, or the carving verbs for the various meats and fish. Drawing on his experience as a museum curator, Peter deals with accountancy, procurement, etiquette and organisation with wonderful detail, and his accompanying line drawings are a lovely touch. A central section modernises a number of English medieval recipes (pottages, leaches, roasts, sauces, confectionery) with easy-to-follow- instructions.


Scully Art of Cookery

Terrence Scully, The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages (Boydell & Brewer: Woodbridge, 1995). An authoritative, scholarly treatment of western medieval cookery in the later Middle Ages, Scully’s wide-ranging work covers everything from medieval food’s theoretical underpinning (Galenic humours, balance of flavours, preservation) to documentary evidence, aesthetic concerns, and the training of the medieval cook.  Scully’s training and expertise as a scholar of medieval France comes to the fore in his treatment of French culinary collections such as the Viandier de Taillevent and Maître Chiquart’s Du fait de cuisine: this book places medieval cookery sensitively within its historical context with excellent footnotes!


pleyn delit

Constance B. Hieatt, Brenda Hosington, and Sharon Butler, Pleyn Delit: Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks, second edition (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996). First published in 1976. A classic text for medieval food historians and re-enactors alike, Hieatt’s Pleyn Delit provides both transcriptions of the Middle English manuscripts as well as their modern recipe interpretations (often with ingredient substitutions where the original is too difficult to obtain). Personally, I find Pleyn Delit a tricky one to follow: measurements are in US/ CAN cups and don’t always translate easily. But the sample menus make feasting a cake, so to speak!


odile redonOdile Redon, Françoise Sabban & Silvano Serventi, The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy, trans. Edward Schneider (Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, 1998). First published as La gastronomic au Moyen Age: 150 recettes de France et d’Italie, 1991.  This is one of those books you read and wish you’d written. The introduction includes practical advice such as what equipment and utensils to use, which modern fats and oils to buy, as well as guidance on breads, cheeses, flours, and spices), and the recipes are drawn from wide-ranging sources from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Redon et al. provide medieval transcriptions as well as modern recipes and instructions, and include all manuscript details: perfect, if that’s the kind of detail that you’re after (and I am!).



(Food) Start-up and Business Guides

Packed Tessa Stuart, Packed: The Food Entrepreneur’s Guide: How to Get Noticed and How to Be Loved (Stamford Book Press, 2013). Packed is a great read: a pithy, no-nonsense, and jargon-free introduction to launching a food product in today’s crowded marketplace. Tessa writes with a clear sense of strategy, organising her material around a series of key themes: product, retail outlet, brand identity, and packaging, along with shorter sections on shelf life and market research. The book breaks what can seem difficult or abstract questions down (such as deciding which outlets to aim for, or deciphering the brand’s ‘message’) into practical bullet points, with a focus on realistic targets and achievable goals. What sets Packed apart from other similar publications, however, is Tessa’s personal approach. She draws on first-hand knowledge and experience in the food retail world, and in doing so, helps to make her guidance even more targeted and relevant, relating everything she writes to current food trends and the British brands and products that have enjoyed recent successes in the supermarkets and independent food stores. Packed doesn’t cover the administrative or regulatory aspects of setting up a food business, but this isn’t a weakness: this is a book about understanding what makes outlets stock a product and drives their customers to buy it.



  1. Svein H Gullbekk says:

    Imaginative images of medieval pseudo-cooking are found in manuscripts on lost souls being boiled by devils in Hell and in the literature the odd case of counterfeit minters being cooked in oil, water and wine. Boiling wine was occasionally used for punishing false minters in the wine areas of Germany in the fifteenth century; the damp alcohol was suppose to linger the pain a bit. A touch of humanity, but nothing on the taste though.
    An absolutely fabulous project.

  2. In Scandinavian literature on medieval cooking the two following works provide useful reading: Fredrik Grøn, Om kostholdet i Norge indtil war 1500 [On medieval diets], Oslo 1927, reprinted by Kildeforlaget 1984 and Bi Skaarup and Henrik Jacobsen, Middelaldermad. Kulturhistorie, kilder og 99 opskrifter [Cultural history of medieval cooking with 99 recipes], København 1999.

  3. Recipe for herbal bread from the Vadstena monastery in Sweden (post 1384):

    • rvmatthews says:

      tusen takk, Svein! I’ll work on a translation of the Vadstena recipe and try it out – the results will be on the blog! I’ve been reading up on Vadstena since you mentioned it here; what an amazing place. And much of the library still to be worked on… given its reputation for gingerbread in the 15th century, I feel a new project coming on! Thank you for all these new references, and for taking the time to look over the website. Jeg setter pris på det!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: