HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA, CANADA — Feeling like spicing up your fall menus? How about some Pokerounce, Blaunderellys, or a nice Sugared Capon? "A Boke of Gode Cookery" shows you how to get Medieval in your kitchen.
Launched in 1997, the Boke of Gode Cookery demonstrates through a collection of authentic period recipes that, in many ways, the Medieval diet was not that different from our own. (Though some dishes, such as Puddyng of Purpaysse --Porpoise Pudding-- seem to have lost a bit of their popularity.) The design of the site, while attractive, is low-tech, basic HTML --translating into quicker downloads and fewer incompatibility headaches-- and while visitors will encounter occasional broken image links, they don't take too much away from the appeal of the site.
After a few words in favor of the Medieval diet, the Boke presents its extensive Table of Contents. The first section, "Recipes and Cookery," includes the 'Boke of Gode Cookery Recipes,' and other collections 'translated and adapted for the modern cook.' Translation in this case involves presenting the recipes both as originally published ("Serge hem florwe a Sefe in-to a potte") and in the modern vernacular ("pass it through a strainer into a pot"). Selections include everything from the basic Meat Pie and Gyngerbrede, to Apple Muse, (apples, almond milk, and honey) Funges (Mushrooms in broth and spices) and Makerouns (a dish of noodles and cheese, which in another time might have been called Krafte Dinnre). A trio of complete menus, such as 14th century instructions for "Servise on a Flesh Day," are also included.
(In addition to translations and metric conversion tables, the Boke also offers helpful substitution suggestions for those hard-to-find ingredients. If, for example, you just can't find a nice fresh porpoise for your Porpoise Pudding, the Boke recommends a large salmon, trout, or any other whole fish. Of course, after reading the entire recipe, you may just decide to have a nice peanut butter sandwich instead.)
Cooks more interested in the atmospheric than the authentic can peruse a selection of "Modern Recipes for Beginners," which includes such dishes as Honey Cakes and Beef Barley Soup. While not collected from Medieval sources, the Modern Recipes still have the 'flavour' (sorry about that) of the real thing.
At the other extreme are the genuine dishes collected within "Incredible Foods, Solteties, and Entremets," where things get much more exotic, if not palatable. In addition to such cliche classics as Boar's Head, and less familiar but catchy alternatives like the "Trojan Hog," (whole pig stuffed with small birds and shellfish) Incredible Foods also offers helpful serving tips; how to make your dish appear to breathe fire, how to make a roasted chicken 'sing' at the table, and how to discourage Smell-feasts (moochers looking for a free meal) by using Harp strings to make your meat appear worm-infested.
Closing out the Recipes section is a "Glossary of Medieval Cooking Terms," and if you'd like to backtrack to a specific fare, all the recipes are accessible through a keyword search engine that recognizes both old and new English terms.
After the recipes, interested visitors can investigate food in its historical and cultural context, through a collection of "Articles on Cookery." Essays include a examination of food as a literary device in The Canterbury Tales, 'An Elizabethan Dinner Conversation,' ('The meat marreth; where have you tarried so long?') and 'Messe it Forth' - the preparation of a feast according to the Four Humour System (Melancholy, Choler, Phlegm, and Blood). "Images" offers 'A Feast For The Eyes' (a clipart collection of more than 270 period images) and 'Tacuinum Sanitatis,' with text and images collected from Medieval health handbooks. Other offerings include related "Resources" and some information about the Society for Creative Anachronism (the people who populate the Renaissance Faires).
Speaking as someone who doesn't cook anything unless it comes from a Tinne, a Freezre, or an Easye Open Pouche, I don't expect to make any practical use of the information contained here, but even for a casual visitor, the Boke has a definite edutainment value. For the more adventurous --and skilled-- these pages represent a genuine opportunity to shake up the personal diet.
A Boke of Gode Cookery can be found at http://www.godecookery.com/godeboke/godeboke.html.