Sunday, 21 April 2013

12th Century Recipes found

12th Century Recipes (in Latin) found from Durham Cathedral Priory - with traditional combinations including beef & mustard (using seeds) and the use of sauces - but quantities are not given - just ingredients.  The recipes were used by the monks for medicinal purposes rather than 'cuisine'.  (see Comments).

The earliest book previously found dated to Richard II in 1390 called the Forme of Cury.


Dave said...

The Forme of Cury is indeed a food recipe book, but the Durham manuscript is definitely not. It is essentially a medical treatise, probably written by one or more physicians, which happens to include a number of sauce recipes (probably as an aid to digestive health, not as a purely culinary exercise).

On this basis there are several other texts including food recipes from the later 12th century which appear to have been overlooked: a number are in Alexander Neckham's "De nominibus utensilium" of around 1180 and others are in the work of Giraldus Cambrensis. All of these have been widely available for a considerable time. The claim that the Durham recipes are the only ones from the 12th century is clearly false - this may be a case of not allowing the facts to get in the way of a good story.

Shirl R said...

Dave - many thanks for the above - it was very informative. Are you a historian? Perhaps you could leave an email address or link to your blog/website?

Dave said...


I have been involved in researching all aspects of the Anglo-Norman 12th century for over 12 years, almost full-time. This is a period that is largely overlooked in literature and academic studies, making it among the most difficult periods of English history.

In order to carry out this research I taught myself 12th century Latin (including all the peculiar textual abbreviations and ligatures) as well as some Anglo-Norman French - at a well-known East Anglian monastic site I once spent a great deal of time explaining Anglo-Norman French terms to a Frenchman, for whom they were totally alien.

I do not count myself a historian, although I have written for BBC history magazine and I have produced articles for other publications; I am merely a researcher with a "wide view" of the period which many academics appear to lack. They have an intensely in-depth knowledge of an extremely limited part of the subject, such as medicine or contemporary literature, but they are unable to put it into context or relate their work to previous findings.

You may be interested to know that a cook book based on the Durham manuscript recipes is apparently being produced. It may be titled Zingiber or Zinziber (Latin for ginger) but this is unconfirmed. I am hoping that it will include a commentary on the original text, which appears to be full of errors and omissions as if it were a poor copy of an earlier original.

I have neither blog nor website and forgive me but I prefer not to give out my email on the interweb. I would be happy to provide any information you might need (such as the Neckham recipes) via this blog.

Shirl R said...

Dave, thank you once again for your note. I am also very interested in the 'basis' of language, and learning Anglo-Norman, must have been a fascinating insight. I also have an interest in vintage and recipes from antiquity, so will keep my eyes open. Perhaps if you hear of anything of interest - you could let me know. Kind regards.