Foods are cultural insifnia. Few indicators define people so well as its foodlore. Food taboos and food celebrations are important to a culture's notions od sacrement and sin, praise and punishment, deprivation and indulgence, vigilant discipline and sustained extravagance. Medieval England's courtly appetites for splendour are evident in cookery books, courtesy manuals, household and court documents, legal records, medieval texts, and in surprising profusion, in works of art ranging from marginalia of prayer books through literary romances. This culinary excursion will introduce the English banquet hall, its furnishings, its table adornments, and its noble seritors. The 'art' of the kitchen is explored and the all important ingrdients are scrutinised. The book concludes with over 100 recipes from medieval manuscripts.
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(250mm x 190mm x 17mm)
George Braziller Inc
Publisher: George Braziller Inc
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US Kirkus Review »
Braziller's new Christmas offering is a luxuriantly illustrated treatise on the food of the Middle Ages, with a happy selection of recipes and detailed scholarly apparatus. The author, director of CCNY's Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, has attracted some media attention for her stylish evocations of the edible past. She is also a student of medieval health and medicine: some of her most interesting materials are on civic regulation of food shops in Chaucer's London and the stormy history of the city's public water supply. But for the great part of her audience, the recipes and descriptions of meals will be the thing. We are introduced to the ritualized structure of noble and royal banquets, and explore the culinary resources and techniques that went into medieval meals. There is much that scholars can only surmise (cooking times; unidentifiable ingredients like "verjuice"), but Professor Cosman is a supremely educated guesser. She has recast some hundred recipes (mostly 15th-century English) into reasonable modern compromises. There is much here to startle the modern palate. Sweetenings and fruit flavorings crop up in the most unlikely places, and spices are used with abandon in virtually everything. There are many unexpected flavor contrasts (Bric cheese with honey and mustard; fried fish with a sweet almond-and-rose-petal sauce) and exotic textures (cranberry-topped baked pears stuffed with lentils). Vivid color effects and decorative invention are stressed, in keeping with the somewhat wearying emphasis on banquet pageantry. The recipes, though detailed and careful, are demonstrably not the work of a professional food writer: there are ambiguities and lacunae. The prose style is also on the arch side, with much parallelism and alliteration. But make no mistake: Professor Cosman has rendered a wonderful service to medievalists, cooks, and questers after gastronomic adventure. Beautiful, informative, and exciting. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Madeleine Pelner Cosman
Madeleine Pelner Cosman is Director of the Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the City College of City Universoty in New York