Sunday, January 5, 2014

Medieval Cookbook Find

Philippa of Hainault (Wikimedia Commons)
Tonight, my husband drew my attention to a post by Peter da Silva on Google Plus, which referenced this article about a 14th century cookbook manuscript, recently relocated in the British Museum.  Apparently the manuscript had gone missing for years.  The manuscript was compiled by Geoffrey Fule, who worked in the kitchens of Philippa of Hainault, Queen of England from 1328 to 1369.  The article reproduces images from the cookbook, including one of a unicorn's head on a platter--apparently roast unicorn was one of the recipes.

The article pokes at bit of fun at the text, citing the roast unicorn recipe, among other things.  However, the newly-found book will be useful, even if it is not a source of practical recipes for the average person, or even for medieval reenactors.  By comparing its recipes to other European cookbooks of the same period, scholars can get a better idea of the parameters of period food.  For that reason, I am pleased at the book's rediscovery, though I'm rather appalled at the record-keeping practices that allowed the book to go missing for years.

EDIT:  I seem to have been taken in by a hoax!  See the first comment on this entry.  It appears that I should have looked at the dateline of the article before I posted this.  I apologize if I've misled anyone; it was inadvertent.


  1. Is the book real, then? I thought the whole blog post was a very well-done joke since it was posted on 1st April. If the manuscript is real then I would love to see it. BTW, can you give me your advice on Nordic (Viking) food since I am into Scandinavian studies, the Viking era in particular. Thanks!

  2. Arrgh! Serves me right for not checking the dateline! You're probably right that it is a hoax--something nagged at me about that unicorn head illustration, but I didn't pay attention to it.

    On a different subject, there are several blogs with good information about the Scandinavian cuisine of the Viking age (though they don't update very often). Two of them are listed in my sidebar:

    Viking Food Guy:

    Eldrimner is written by Daniel Serra, a Ph.D student in archaeology who recently authored "An Early Meal", which is a book about Viking era food from various areas in Scandinavia, with putative recipes. It retails for $45 and can be bought from its publisher, Chronocopia Publishing, or from Amazon, among other places. You can see a preview on the Chronocopia website, here:

    I have reviewed a few other books about Viking era Scandinavian cuisine on this blog. You can judge from those essays whether you are interested in tracking down those books or not:

    Finally, there is a Facebook group called Authentic Viking Food (and a related group to discuss recipes only) of which Daniel Serra is a member. If you're on Facebook, you should check it out. Good luck!