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Food History, Chunky-Style

February 21, 2001

If you'd like to examine historical recipes for yourself, without having the measurements and procedures worked out by somebody else, you're in luck.

Food Heritage Press carries most of the books mentioned here. It also sells a number of 19th century American regional cookbooks and the 17th and 18th century English cookbooks reprinted by London-based Prospect Books. To get a catalog, call Food Heritage Press at (800) 398-4474.

Prospect Books titles can also be ordered directly from the publisher's American representative, Johan Mathiesen, P.O. Box 42568, Portland, OR 97242-0568; fax number (503) 232-3470; e-mail,

"A Soup for the Qan," translated by Paul Buell and Eugene N. Anderson (Kegan Paul International, 2000; $225).

A 14th century Chinese recipe collection compiled for a descendant of Kublai Khan, showing Mongolian, Turkish and Persian as well as Chinese elements. Besides the Chinese text and its translation, it includes essays on various aspects of the subject and reprints an essay of mine on grain in medieval Turkish nomad cuisine.

"The Viandier of Taillevent: An Edition of All Extant Manuscripts," edited and translated by Terence Scully (University of Ottawa, 1988; $35).

"The Vivendier," edited and translated by Terence Scully (Prospect Books, 1998; $24).

Excellent editions of the most famous French cookbook of the 14th century (all four manuscripts), written by the chief cook of Charles V of France, and a related manuscript from the northeast of France.

"Cury on Inglysh," edited by Constance Hieatt (Early English Text Society, 1985; $39.95). Hieatt, a noted professor of medieval English literature, gives several 14th and 15th century English manuscripts including "The Forme of Cury," the cookbook composed for Richard II. The recipes are all in untranslated Middle English, but Hieatt gives a helpful glossary at the end of the book.

"Cuoco Napoletano: The Neapolitan Recipe Collection," edited and translated by Terence Scully (University of Michigan Press, 2000; $47.50).

This 15th century book, which shows a surprising amount of Spanish influence, was the main source of Platina's "De Honesta Voluptate," below. Scully follows the Italian text with a section of comments on the individual recipes and finally an English translation of them.

"Platina: On Right Pleasure and Good Health," edited and translated by Mary Ella Milham (Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, Tempe, Ariz., 1998; $35).

The leading European cookbook of the 15th and 16th centuries in a lucid facing-page translation of the Latin text.

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