Review of Fabulous Feasts, Medieval Cookery and Ceremony, Madeleine Pelner Cosman

With regard to the recipes from this book, they should be not considered acceptable sources. They should not be used as the basis for an arts project.

As general information for someone starting out learning about the concept of Medieval Cookery or for someone looking for easy to understand recipes to cook they are great but they are by no means the original recipes nor direct translations. They are adaptations but have been modified so radically that they should not be considered sources for the Arts.

The reasoning behind these statements include:

  • Page 130 of the book states: "Modern Re-creations of the Medieval Recipes". "All recipes are derived."
  • Page 131 includes "Since the original recipes give few clues to actual quantities, all spices, herbs, and ingredients are happy approximations of the medieval tastes, modern ingenuity and your personal preference ought to make emendations upon these suggestions."
  • Within the recipes themselves, modern and "ready-made" ingredients are listed. I.E., page 136 for the Brie Tart - "one 8 inch unbaked pastry pie shell" is the first ingredient. Brown sugar is used. Coconut, Pineapple, Grape Nut Cereal is used in the recipes.
  • There are no manuscript numbers on any of the recipes.

As far as the book's usefulness in general, it is excellent secondary source information on medieval cookery and feasts. All information is cited and the bibliography is well organized and easy to follow.

There is also primary documentation throughout the book, for example figures 13 on page 89 and figure 14 on page 90. These are photographs of actual items, not reproductions and as such qualify as primary sources. Page 155 also has the process of preparing a hippocras, which was presented in John Russell's Bok of Nurture (mid 1400's) this looks to be a direct reprint from the book.

Overall the book is an excellent source of information and includes all three types of documentation. The artisan just needs to be aware of they are using from the book and which type of source that information is considered. The best way to know this is to review the definitions of the types of sources in the Judging Manual.

Dame Serene (Judith Myers), Lady Cimindri Delafort, Toireasa McBride 


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