Constance Hieatt

title.none: Scully, The Vivendier (Hieatt)

identifier.other: baj9928.9806.013 98.06.13

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Constance Hieatt, Yale University, hieatt@yalevm.bitnet

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1998

identifier.citation: Scully, Terence. The vivendier: a critical edition with English translation. Devon: Prospect Books, 1997. Pp. vi, 129. $12.5. ISBN: ISBN 0-907-32581-5.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 98.06.13

Scully, Terence. The vivendier: a critical edition with English translation. Devon: Prospect Books, 1997. Pp. vi, 129. $12.5. ISBN: ISBN 0-907-32581-5.

Reviewed by:

Constance Hieatt
Yale University

Te rence Scully's edition of the Vivendier, a mid-15th- century French culinary manuscript, makes a significant contribution to our knowledge of medieval French cookery. Only a very few medieval French culinary collections have survived, and this one nicely complements the others which have been found and edited in recent years. That is, the two long-known major collections, the Viandier and the Menagier, primarily represent the cooking of Paris and, insofar as they are clearly related to earlier, less extensive collections, such as the Enseignemenz, continue a basic 'central' courtly tradition. Carole Lambert's Recueil de Riom (1988) gave us one from the Auvergne, well to the south, and Scully's edition of Chiquart (1985/1986) one from about as far south but from the extreme eastern edge of what is now France. The Vivendier, as Scully ably demonstrates, emanates from the far north, and is equally removed from the central 'Paris' tradition: as witness its lavish use of dairy foods, especially butter.

Its publication supplies a bracing corrective to earlier conclusions that butter was considered unworthy of the upper classes at this time -- see, e.g., Jean-Louis Flandrin, "Et le beurre conquit la France," L'Histoire 85 (1986), 108- 111. While it is true that the Vivendier is a comparatively late text, its witness suggests that the use or rejection of butter was more a regional matter. (Butter is never mentioned in the somewhat later Recueil de Riom, and milk is called for there only once.)

Nor is this sort of thing the only way in which the Vivendier provides us with exciting new information. It contains recipes unrecorded elsewhere, with often baffling titles. Anyone interested in early culinary history will find this work indispensable -- including philologists, who will have their work cut out to penetrate further than Scully has into the meaning of some of the unheard-of terms here, such as the titles "La brehee" and "Pignagosce": Scully's attempt to suggest a meaning for the latter is pretty unconvincing, but the only alternative I can suggest is that it may have originally had something to do with pine nuts, which, however, are not mentioned in the recipe.

As an edition, it is quite satisfactory, well researched, with a full introduction, helpful commentary, and useful appendices. The appendix listing ingredients does not indicate recipe numbers where these ingredients appear, but they can easily be located by consulting the glossary; presumably that is why a separate index is not provided. Nor is a truly comprehensive bibliography: Scully lists only the texts he cites most frequently, referring the reader to Bruno Laurioux's Le regne de Taillevent (also 1997) for further up-to-date bibliography. But it is a little hard on the reader when Scully makes a later short citation without referring the reader to an earlier note where full information about the work cited was included -- as is the case with note 57.3 on page 80, which could have been cross-referenced to note 6 on page 3.

Laurioux's Le regne de Taillevent includes, in an appendix, a transcription of the same manuscript; his readings, made from a microfilm, often differ from Scully's. Since his transcription is not a full-fledged edition, there is no discussion in this section of what Laurioux thinks is meant by odd titles and terminology, although a few of these dishes are briefly discussed earlier in the book. I do not have access to the manuscript, or a microfilm of it, so I cannot confirm any of the variant readings, but on the whole Scully's often seem to make better sense. However, in the following comments to that effect, I do not mean to reflect unfavorably here on Laurioux's very learned and important book: since he was not doing an annotated edition, it may not have always occurred to him to double- (or triple-) check his readings. As an experienced editor, I know that one frequently sees one's errors in transcribing a manuscript of this period only when one realizes what a more sensible reading might be.

One difference between the two transcripts is the numbering of recipes; this is, of course, an editorial decision, and of little consequence, but I think I would have decided, as Scully did, that the detailed lists of ingredients with, surprisingly exact, quantities appended to two recipes are part of the foregoing recipes, not to be numbered separately. More important are such different readings as Scully's "Votte lombard," where Laurioux reads "torte lombarde." Scully points out that 'votte' is, according to Godefroy, a variant spelling for 'volte,' an omelet or crepe, and that is what this recipe would produce, not a tart. It is identical to one of the variants of an English recipe called 'voutes' (or 'Faltes,' in the manuscript which has the variant closest to the Vivendier's recipe; see Hieatt, An Ordinance of Pottage, p. 78).

Another case where an English parallel may confirm Scully's reading is the recipe for "Souppe de cambrelencq," where Laurioux reads "souppe de carubrelencq." This recipe is identical to a frequent English recipe entitled "Soupes Chamberlayn" in one manuscript, variously spelled (and misspelled) in a number of others. Other cases where Scully's readings are the more attractive are "Vermiseaux de cecille," glossed as "Sicilian Vermicelli," as against "Vermiscaux de cocille," which Laurioux admits finding baffling, and "Brouet de hongherie," which Scully glosses as "Hungarian Broth," as against "Brouet de hongheue," which Laurioux does not try to gloss. This latter recipe is meat in a thick, spiced broth which is to be made as red as blood: perhaps we have here an ancestor of Hungarian Goulash?

A case in which I cannot chose between the two is Scully's "Lyemesolles sur tout bon grain," versus "Hemasolles sur tout bon grain." While Laurioux gives no suggestion as to what the latter might mean, Scully's gloss of 'snails' is questionable when no snails are, apparently, called for, and, unlike Scully, I find it difficult to see that this dish would end up looking at all like snails. (Further, Scully confuses the reader by suggesting several times in the introduction that a recipe for snails appears in this collection.)

Both editors agree in reading one recipe as "Soupe crotee," which Scully glosses as "Lumpy Sops," and tentatively links to "crud." I think, however, that 'crotee' is more likely to be related to English 'clot,' German 'Klotz': lump or dumpling. Perhaps the present editors, or someone earlier in the transmission of the recipe, misread an l as an r? In this case, however, the cooked lumps of cheese might in effect be much like a modern cheese fondue, and could (possibly) be better compared to "clotted cream."

About the only point on which I find Scully to be clearly in error is his note on page 38 saying, "In all likelihood this pouldre is a scribal error for sale": in fact, the two words are synonyms. English recipes usually call salt meat or fish 'powdered'; see, e.g., Austin's glossary to Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery Books, p. 141.

Finally, a shopping tip for any North Americans who have difficulty finding a copy of this book (my local bookstore couldn't locate it). It is stocked by the Food Heritage Press, P.O. Box 163, Ipswich, MA 01938-0163; telephone 508-356-8306; email: If you want to know what else they have, their Web address is: Anyone interested in this area ought to want this book, so I hope I may be excused for including what may seem to be a "commercial": the bookstore did not ask me to, or bribe me in any way, I assure you, nor do I have any connection with it.