Terence Scully’s principal study is in the field of late medieval and Renaissance food and cookery. In particular he has devoted effort to accurate transcriptions of recipe collections in manuscript and rare early printed volumes in order both to understand the nature of that material and to make it more readily available to scholars (and to all others in whom he can stir an interest).

He considers a meticulously authentic text to be the indispensable basis for any real understanding in this field. For that text, as an impetus to further study by other scholars and fuller appreciation by a general public, he feels that a translation into English may often be useful. His publications offer, as well, his own observations about the ways in which a specific recipe or a collection of recipes may have contributed to the progressive history of Early European food and cookery.

The following are among his books in the genre. They are available from the respective publisher or else their ISBN number can help a local bookstore obtain them.

Principal publications of Terence Scully (March 2015)

The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages,
Woodbridge, Suffolk (Boydell & Brewer), 1995.
viii+276 pp. ISBN 0851156118.
TX645 S39 1995.


The book offers a broad survey of food habits in Western Europe, particularly in the 14th and 15th centuries. At the same time it examines the conditions under which professional cooks practiced their craft and applied the fundamental rules that medical doctrine of the time insisted were at the foundation of good health. During the late Middle Ages fine cookery was the preserve of aristocratic households. To maintain the wellbeing and complete trust of his master a cook had to set out dishes that created no suspicion of harmful effect, whether accidental or deliberate; in a worthy kitchen the court physician’s precepts were the fundamental articles of the cook’s culinary craft. As well, the chef had to prepare common meals and extravagant banquets that accommodated his master’s preferences, regional tastes, seasonal availability of foodstuffs and severe religious strictures about lean and meat preparations.



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Early French Cookery. Sources, History, Original Recipes and Modern Adaptations,
in collaboration with D. Eleanor Scully,
Ann Arbor (University of Michigan Press), 1995,
xii+377 pp. ISBN 0472106481.
TX719 S3895 1995 (Nat Lib S389).
Reprint, paperback, 2002; ISBN 0472088777.

 

Manuscript collections of culinary recipes allow us the most accurate insight into European food and cooking in the late Middle Ages. Only three recipe collections reveal what was commonly eaten by the well to-do of France during that period. This book selects a broad assortment of dishes from each collection and provides information about each type of dish, recipes in a “modern” format using more precise measurements and directions than are found in the early manuscripts.

 

Following a sketch of the historic circumstances of each book—the royal Viandier of Taillevent, the bourgeois Menagier de Paris and Chiquart’s noble On Cookery — 114 of the best and most typical recipes will allow a present-day cook both to recreate the dishes and to combine them in highly interesting meals. To help identify the nature of each recipe, the material is arranged in categories of possible use today: appetizers, soups, preparations for vegetables, eggs, meats, poultry, fish, sauces, and what at the present-day table we would call desserts. The adaptations here offer expert suggestions for quantities as well as procedures and cooking times, all of which details were normally absent in early recipes that were intended only to guide professional cooks of the day. A segment of the book offers suggestions for assembling these recipes into five common varieties of meal, including a modest banquet with appropriate décor and table manners.


“Du fait de cuisine / On Cookery” of Master Chiquart (1420)  (Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 354),
Tempe, Arizona (Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies), 2010.
viii+327 pp. ISBN 9780866984027.
TX707 C4813 2010.

 

Medieval Savoy was a relatively small state but one that was wealthy in terms of agriculture, animal husbandry and easy access to both freshwater and sea fish. It offered at hand all the foodstuffs a well-financed cook could desire. When Count Amadeus VIII became Duke Amadeus I in 1416, nominally his status became that of his father-in-law, Duke Philip the Bold of Burgundy, the wealthiest and most powerful man in Europe. It is not surprising that Amadeus, a protégé of Philip from his youngest years, admired and then emulated the sumptuous manner of life that he experienced on his visits to the Burgundian court. 

 

Dining was central in that emulation. Duke Amadeus urged his chief cook, Chiquart, to make a book of his best recipes in order that posterity could appreciate a vital aspect of his glorious Savoyard ducal court. In writing his On Cookery, Chiquart frequently displays his pride in the high regard his master had for both his knowledge and his practice of the craft of cookery. An appendix of his book records the dishes, serving by serving, of an enormous banquet he prepared in 1400 for his master’s reception of the Duke of Burgundy himself. In his recipes, he records not merely lists of ingredients for the dishes but he explains to his reader in a rather personal way all the whys and hows of actually making a particular dish. One may properly claim that Chiquart’s work represents a first step toward a modern cookbook.


The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570). L’arte et prudenza d’un maestro Cuoco,
Toronto (University of Toronto Press), 2008. vii+787 pp.
ISBN 9780802096241.
Reprint, paperback, 2011: ISBN 9781442611481.

 

For the breadth of his interest in foodstuffs Scappi is indeed a Renaissance man, but he is first and foremost an ecclesiastical cook. The cardinal to whose kitchen he was appointed became pope as Pius V in 1566, and took Scappi with him to the Vatican. In time Scappi retained his position as personal papal cook to his successor, Pius VI. For more than a generation he held the position of supreme cook in all Christendom. With that status he was supremely able, financially and in every respect, to create succulent magnificence for a prince’s table and palate.

 

Scappi’s book contains an incredible 1500 recipes and many menus. A series of 27 absolutely unique engravings reveal the layouts of three adjacent kitchens in which a noble’s various foods could properly be prepared; cooking utensils (more than 170 of them); procedures (such as how to move a giant cauldron to or from a fire); equipment for an itinerant kitchen to accompany a lord who travels; the furnishings required in a cardinal’s cell. A fascinating addendum to Scappi’s book is an exposé of arrangements rigorously in place for serving and “proving”—that is, testing —food provided to cardinals during the conclave of November 1549 in which Scappi’s master participated.

 

This translation and commentary was chosen to be reviewed as the “Book of the Week” by Times Higher Education, London, March 19, 2009. The printed article awarded it critical acclaim.


La Varenne’s Cookery: François Pierre, Sieur de La Varenne, The French Cook, The French Pastry Chef, The French Confectioner. A Modern English Translation and Commentary,
Totnes, Devon (Prospect Books), 2006. 626 pp.
ISBN 1903018412.

 

The name of François Pierre, Sieur de La Varenne (c. 1615–1678), is attached to three major culinary works: Le cuisinier François (1651), Le pastissier François (1653), and Le confiturier François (1659). Employed by the Marquis d’Uxelles, himself a confidant, advisor and military general of King Louis XIV, the Sun King, François Pierre’s culinary competence was developed to the highest. The publication of his books spread his influence so widely in French and European courts that the name La Varenne became synonymous with the finest cuisine. His work went far to establish “French” cooking as the standard against which gastronomy had to be measured.

 

Following an Introduction devoted to cookery in France in this period, to La Varenne’s work and on his workday, the translation presents the three texts in their entirety, along with explanations where useful. His major work, The French Cook itself, sets out 750 detailed recipes in 30 chapters: Meat-Day Pottages, Pastries for the whole year, Egg Dishes as Entrées outside of Lent, Entremets in Lent, Thickeners to keep on hand, and so forth. Many recipes supply alternatives for ingredients or preparation, useful to any cook whose master’s palate demands variety. The French Pastry Chef reveals the amazing range of preparations using dough and batter in LaVarenne’s day. The French Confectioner, of unproven attribution but certainly of La Varenne’s day, offers a wide variety of cooked sugar preparations: confections (moist and dry), cordials, syrups, pralines, conserves, dragées, marzipans. Over eight pages—confections and tableware falling within the responsibility of the pantry office — the book lays out 33 paragraphs of detailed instructions for folding table linen to represent various fowl, animals and fish.


The Neapolitan Recipe Collection. Cuoco Napoletano. (New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, MS Bühler, 19).
A Critical Edition and English Translation,

Ann Arbor (University of Michigan Press), 2000. 6+256 pp.
ISBN 0472109723.
Granted exclusive publication rights by the Pierpont Morgan Library.
Reprint paperback 2015; ISBN 0780472036363.

 

This early-15th-century collection of recipes, found in a single manuscript, contributed to an extremely rich tradition of Italian cookery. Although Naples had been a Norman (French) possession since the mid-14th century, the cookery that the recipes reveal and develop is richly Italian. In large measure this Italian cuisine influenced French cooks and allowed them in subsequent centuries to boast about being the supreme arbiters of European gastronomy.

 

For this translation an exhaustive introduction examines the nature of these Neapolitan dishes, their ingredients and preparation. The bulk of the work, here with both the original Italian text and a translation of it, consists of 220 recipes. Furthermore the writer appends a number of historic menus extensively listing dishes actually served to certain dignitaries (the Archbishop of Benevento, Count Jeronimo, the Prince of Capua, ambassadors and nobles). At one long meal a special dramatic entertainment, involving Venus, Jove, Diana, Neptune, Arion, Pan and Pomona, was presented andintermezzi of roasted, “redressed” animals also delighted the diners. The anonymous author of The Neapolitan Recipe Collection outlines two other general purpose menus for a convito at which seventy-six separate culinary preparations would suffice.


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The Vivendier. A Fifteenth-Century French Culinary Manuscript (Kassel, GesamthochschulBibliothek Kassel, 4 MS med. 1, ff 154r–164v.),
Totnes, Devon (Prospect Books), 1997. viii+129 pp.
ISBN 0907325815.

 

This is a relatively simple gathering of 66 recipes contained in a 15th-century manuscript. Its compiler has aimed at furnishing a reader with an adequate sampling of a variety of genres of dish: sauces, broths, caudels, ways to roast various meats, fish preparations including a fish jelly, egg dishes, sops, flans and pies, a pseudorice dish, vermicelli, and a simple preparation for anyone sick. A few artful “dishes” are surprising among such a basic set of recipes: To serve a roast hen that looks alive; To make a dead chicken sing; A fish cooked each third differently — roasted, boiled and fried; Eggs like a mirror.


The Viandier of Taillevent. An Edition of all Extant Manuscripts,

Ottawa (University of Ottawa Press), 1988. vii+361 pp.
ISBN 0776601741.
TX707 Y3513 1988.

 

The name of Taillevent, though found nowhere on the oldest version of this recipe collection, came to stand by itself for the epitome of professional cooking throughout the French Middle Ages. No French recipe collection was more copied, or copies later printed, but each generation added and changed what was written in the very first version that we have of it. By the time the first printed versions of the Viandier were published, textual errors abound to the point of making nonsense of many of the recipes. This edition, in reproducing and translating each of the four manuscript versions of theViandier of Taillevent that still exist, shows clearly and significantly how older dishes were changed from generation to generation and new dishes were added as tastes changed. The earliest manuscript “version” of this set of recipes (anonymous, dating from before 1300) contains 130 recipes; the most recent rendition (from before 1450), skips some of the earlier dishes but still shows 200 recipes, of which 43 are found in that manuscript alone.

 

The celebrity of the Viandier is certainly based upon its originality — previous to this time neither kitchen work nor gastronomic pleasure warranted the expense of parchment and a scribe’s labour—and on the fact that for more than a century it remained the sole written culinary repertoire. Professional cooks had to have good memories. But the usefulness of the systematic arrangement of its subject matter — into boiled dishes (pottages, broths, sops), roasts, entremets, fish (first freshwater, then sea fish), and (very briefly) pastry—must also have increased its value in the eyes of many professional cooks and their employers.


L’arte della cucina nel medioevo,
Casale Monferrato (Edizioni Piemme), 1997. 334 pp.
ISBN 8838429723.

 

This book is an Italian translation of the first item, above, The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages. The publisher has inserted into it a good number of illustrations, primarily reproductions in colour of latemedieval manuscript illuminations.

© 2015 Terence Scully