The Medieval Review 12.05.13


Hieatt, Constance B. Cocatrice and Lampray Hay: Late Fifteenth-Century Recipies from Corpus Christi College Oxford. Blackawton, Totnes: Prospect Books, 2012. Pp. 176. 30 UKP. ISBN: 978-1-903018-84-2.



Reviewed by:


Melitta Weiss Adamson
melitta@uwo.ca
The University of Western Ontario

For nearly four decades the study of food in medieval England has been inextricably linked with the name Constance B. Hieatt. Her 1976 book Pleyn Delit: Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks, which she co- authored with the late Sharon Butler, became a best-seller. A paperback edition in 1979 was followed by a completely revised second edition in 1996 with Brenda Hosington as her collaborator. In 1985, Hieatt and Butler published Curye on Inglysch, and in 1988 appeared Hieatt's edition of An Ordinance of Pottage. The Libellus de Arte Coquinaria, published in 2001, was the result of her collaboration with the late Rudolf Grewe. To the books from this period must be added many shorter pieces which appeared in Speculum, Medium Aevum, and elsewhere. In addition to making more of the medieval manuscripts available in scholarly editions and translations, and offering modern adaptations for many of the recipes, Hieatt soon recognized the need for a comprehensive list of extant culinary manuscripts from medieval Europe and collaborated with Carole Lambert, Bruno Laurioux and Alix Prentki on the 1992 Répertoire des manuscrits médiévaux contenant des recettes culinaires, which is included in the book Du manuscrit à la table edited by Carole Lambert. The Répertoire remains to this day one of the most important reference works for medieval European cookbook manuscripts. With a good number of the extant culinary manuscripts from England accessible in print by the beginning of the new millennium, Hieatt set out to collate the various versions of individual recipes and in collaboration with the late Terry Nutter and Johnna H. Holloway published the Concordance of English Recipes: Thirteenth Through Fifteenth Centuries in 2006, which she followed two years later with her book A Gathering of Medieval English Recipes containing editions of various shorter culinary manuscripts and a supplement to the 2006 Concordance.

With Cocatrice and Lampray Hay Constance Hieatt returns to a manuscript she and the late Sharon Butler had first begun to transcribe around 1980, but put aside on account of its many difficulties (22). Corpus Christi College Oxford MS F 291 is a manuscript from the end of the fifteenth century, written in Middle English and possibly originating from Norfolk (10). Its recipes, unlike most in the earlier cookbook manuscripts from England and the continent, are very detailed and provide quantities for many ingredients. The dishes usually serve between sixteen and eighty diners (20). The recipe titles in the table of contents on fols. 1v- 2v correspond largely but not completely with the recipes that follow on fols. 3r-68r. The main differences are due to some recipe titles omitted in the table of contents, and two sheets now missing from the codex. All in all, Hieatt calculates that the cookbook likely once comprised 101 recipes of which 99 are extant today, most of them written in one hand (10-11, 19). For each recipe, the editor provides the transcription of the original text, a modern English translation, and a commentary which in most cases also contains notes for modern cooks who would like to interpret the dishes. Since she does not offer modern adaptations of the recipes complete with exact quantities and cooking instructions, the notes are geared more towards the experienced cook than the novice. Although many recipes have counterparts in other manuscripts, the Corpus Christi College cookbook is not directly related to any of those recipe-collections, as Hieatt points out (11). What becomes clear from reading her comments to the recipes is that vocabulary, some of which not found anywhere else, confused instructions, and scribal errors pose the biggest problems to our understanding of the manuscript today. We are fortunate that Constance Hieatt decided to publish the recipe collection late in her career when she had the extant cookbook tradition of medieval England at her fingertips and was able to solve more of the problems than any of her peers or she herself at an earlier time would have been able to. The book concludes with a supplement to the Concordance of 2006 which combines the new material from the Corpus Christi College manuscript with that contained in the 2008 supplement of A Gathering of Medieval English Recipes (145-172). Future users will therefore only need to consult one supplement to the Concordance rather than two. As in the 2006 Concordance, Hieatt also provides a helpful "Glossary of Recipe Titles Used as Lemmas and Cross-Index of Variant Titles" at the end (173-176).

The cuisine reflected in the ingredients and recipes of the Corpus Christi College manuscript is that of a wealthy household. Pepper, cinnamon, saffron and salt are the standard seasonings; honey in more than half of the recipes, together with the ubiquitous figs and dates point to a preference for sweetness. Other prominent ingredients are almond milk and grated bread used as a thickener. The cookbook starts on a flamboyant note with a recipe for "cocatrice," or basilisk, a fabulous creature half piglet and half chicken (Recipe 1), and ends with a recipe for apple sauce (Recipe 99). Hieatt describes the order of the recipes in the collection as "quite eccentric" and detects "no discernable overall rationale" (11). And yet, the collection does fall into various sections which may point to different medieval sources from which it was compiled and/or various attempts to sort the recipes. Many of the first thirteen recipes would have been suitable for a banquet as a sotelty or surprise dish such as the aforementioned "cocatrice" or the skillfuly stuffed chicken (Recipe 4) or stuffed mackerel (Recipe 5). Following the group of pastries under the subheading "Baken Mete" (Recipes 14-19), we find two recipes for keeping foodstuffs for extended periods of time, namely pea pods (Recipe 20), and venison (Recipe 21). The recipe for "Lampray Hay" opens a long list of fast-day recipes (Recipes 22-55) featuring a vast array of fish and seafood interspersed with some fruit and vegetable dishes, and a group of four pastry dishes (Recipes 48-51) under the subheading "Baken Mete for Lentyn." That "Lampray Hay" contains neither lampray nor hay causes Hieatt to surmise that we may be dealing with a "deliberate joke" (58). The seventeen recipes following the Lenten dishes are for meat dishes and various pottages (Recipes 56-72). While most of these are standard recipes also found in other collections, the five subsequent dishes and dish names not found anywhere else leave even an expert such as Constance Hieatt mystified (Recipe 73-77). Quite the opposite is the case with the next set of eight recipes starting with the popular "Morterews" (Recipe 78), "Mawmone" (Recipe 79) and "Blawmanger" (Recipe 80) and ending with the simplest of cabbage recipes (Recipe 85). The editor is unable to place the next recipe with the rather distasteful name "Capoun in Urinele" (Recipe 85) in the medieval English cookbook tradition but vaguely remembers having seen such a recipe before. In fact, chicken cooked in a glass is a standard recipe in Italian cookbooks of the Liber de coquina tradition where it is sometimes referred to as "de gallina implenda" or "gallina cocta in carafia." The subsequent recipe for "Two Cunnyngs of One" (Recipe 87) in the Corpus Christi College collection also points to an Italian connection. The idea of skinning an animal, albeit not a rabbit but a dove, roasting the carcass, stuffing the skin with other meat and serving both side by side, is found in the fifteenth-century Cuoco Napolitano as Recipe 67, and interestingly followed there by a recipe for chicken in a carafe (Recipe 68 in the 2000 edition and translation by Terence Scully). In her comments to Recipe 87, Hieatt makes reference to a recipe for two capons from one that is contained in another manuscript from England but does not mention the Neapolitan parallel. The final set of twelve recipes in the Corpus Christi College cookbook brings an assortment of dishes ranging from pottages, fish and seafood dishes, to gruel, a pudding, pie, tart, and apple sauce, all of which may well have been later additions (Recipes 88- 99).

Cocatrice and Lampray Hay is Constance Hieatt's latest book on medieval food but it will not be her last. Prior to her passing in December 2011, she worked on the draft of another book entitled The Culinary Recipes of Medieval England, which will be published posthumously. With her editions, translations, adaptations, concordances, and in-depth studies of medieval and early modern cookery, this prolific scholar has given us tremendous tools with which to study early European culinary history. Now it is up to the next generation to continue the work and bring the picture that has emerged thanks to her tireless efforts into an ever sharper focus. Constance Hieatt will be missed by many.



Copyright (c) 2012 Melitta Weiss Adamson



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