Saturday, December 30, 2006

Aguecheek’s Beef, Belch’s Hiccup, and Other Gastronomic Interjections

A new book from the University of Chicago Press demonstrates just what a remarkable range of publishing is possible with university presses. Based on a Latin/Old Danish cookbook that may be the oldest surviving manuscript of its kind, this medieval text from 1300 was probably itself translated from an earlier Middle Low German document. It shows us an early example of a remarkable social document that we often take for granted: the written recipe. How many families, dynasties and cultures base so much of who they say they are on the subtleties and nuances of food? Here is what author Robert Applebaum says about this process:

"[t]he contributor to the eighteenth-century Encyclopédie entry on 'Cuisine' cites a passage from the comedy Adelphi, by Terence, where a household steward tells one of the kitchen servants, after complaining about dishes that he considered ill-prepared, 'Illud recte; iterum fic memento.' (This is done right; remember how to make it again.) So one of the chief impulses behind the recording of recipes is memory. Because in the flow of production and consumption when something is 'done right,' one needs to remember how to do it again."

To learn more about the book or to buy it, click here.

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