FRENCH FOOD BEFORE TAILLEVENT
Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries
Louis VI the Fat (1108-1137)
Louis VII the Younger (1137-1180)
Philippe Auguste (1165 –
VIII the Lion (1223–
IX (St. Louis) (1226-1270)
These centuries were in general
ones of increasing prosperity and structure for France, but the
reigns of Philip II (Philippe Auguste) and Louis IX (St. Louis)
were particularly notable. Philip's reign
has been described as a second “rebirth” (after that
of Charlemagne) and brought great prosperity to the country as
well as a number of lasting changes (including new
walls around Paris, parts of which still stand). Louis' time has
been called “the golden century of Saint Louis”.
France at this point seemed well beyond the instability and
upheavals of its early centuries.
increasing luxuriousness of dining was suggested by attempts to
restrict excess in this area. Elements began to appear which would
become characteristic of what is now most well-known as “medieval
food”. Pepper still seems to have been the dominant spice,
but the Oriental spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, garingal,
mastic, etc. – were now widely available (to the affluent) and
mentioned more often in relation to specific foods. Verjuice, the
tart juice of a particular young grape, appears both as a product
and an ingredient; verjus de grain (beer from young wheat)
is also mentioned. The grape version
resembles Persian ab-ghooreh and may have been introduced after the
Crusades (though the Romans had omphacium,
which was similar, but not mentioned in the centuries before
Texts increasingly began to record the food of the period. Sometime before 1257, an Italian who
lived in France, Aldebrandin of Sienna, wrote a general work on
Regime du Corps (“The
Body's Regimen”) which gives both an idea of what foods were then eaten and in some cases how to prepare them.
the Fat acquired land at the Champeaux (then outside Paris) to
found the Halles (originally a textile market). Philippe
Auguste built two buildings there and
surrounded them with walls which were locked at night. Several
later kings confirmed and extended the drapers' privileges.
granted by counts rather than the king) multiplied, with
opportunities for exchanges of food. The clergy
was not supposed to trade at fairs, but often did, taking
advantage of their status to avoid paying rights.
Louis' cook (Isembert) was noted, but for his loyalty to the
imprisoned king, not his cooking. He became rich and his son
inherited his office.
“entremets” (then meaning an entertainment
between meals) first appeared.
mention varied soups: of purée,
lard, vegetables, and gruel. In Brittany, only the last were
eaten, with egg yolks, spices and saffron added.
lords included money and grains, as well as “regards”
(regardamenta), smaller supplements which might consist of
poultry, eggs or various forms of bread, as well as game birds or
other items. Rents were sometimes given in lieu of former
services, for one's home, for cattle, for pasturage, etc.
MEAT, DAIRY, FISH AND GAME
number of butchers in Rouen was limited, in return for a payment
on their part.
tongues were popular enough to be demanded as rent in several old charters.
White oxen were treated as special in Normandy, awarded as special
payment or fine in certain cases.
were imported from England. Brittany was known for its pigs and
cattle. Pigs continued to be fed in the woods, though some in
Normandy had pig houses. Pigs were fed with peas, bran and barley
and sometimes even meat. The first of a number of formal trials of
pigs for eating babies is mentioned (several would be executed
over subsequent centuries, sometimes being dressed in human
clothing before being hanged). Pigs ran free in the Paris streets,
even after Louis the Fat implemented the first of several (equally
unsuccessful) laws against this after his son was killed when one
startled his horse.
sausage, then made with the blood of fowls, was declared
unhealthy. It was later made with pigs' blood.
fed along salt flats (prés
were already known for their flavor. Residents on one abbey's land
who had sheep of their own were each obliged to care for one of
the abbey's and to give the abbey its fleece and lambs.
is mentioned as a tithe in Normandy. Parisians favored the cheeses
of Champagne, especially Brie. English cheese was often imported, even in Normandy.The Roman de Claris (started
1268) mentions cheese for roasting.
households included poulterers to fatten poultry. Capons –
castrated roosters – are mentioned, but not poulardes
(“castrated” pullets), which only appeared in France
in the sixteenth century. No other birds seem to have been treated
in this way. Geese and suckling pigs were
both stuffed with sage (and nothing else).
(prestigious but not always praised for its taste) is actually
mentioned as appetizing; a poet wrote of a liar who loved lies as
much as a hungry man loved peacock. Poets also praise the meat of
heron, crane, and crow, and mention stork, swan, cormorant, and
butor as well.
1170, Louis VII mentioned salted herring from Normandy in patent
letters for the new “Company of Merchants by Water”,
which would become so powerful in Paris that its ship symbol is still that of the city. The retailers who sold
them became known as harengères
("herring-ers", very literally).
divided into fresh, salted and smoked, with different sellers for
each. The sellers of salted fish – “marchands des
salines” – were later known as forains (a
word that today describes traveling entertainers). Other fish
trades included the wagoners who brought fish and the retailers,
who were divided by a statute into fish-sellers [poisonniers]
who sold fresh fish and herring-sellers [harengers], who
sold smoked and salted fish. The same statute names the different
fish which came to Paris: salted mackerel, flounder, gurnards,
rays, celerins [a type of sardine], salted or fresh whiting, fresh
or salted cod, fresh, salted or smoked herring. Other fish did not
make it to the capital, probably indicating that they were less
prized. Villeneuve mentions among others eaten in France at this
time the hog-fish, dog-fish, dolphin, red mullet, gurnet, sturgeon
and the cuttlefish. Other fish eaten throughout France included:
porpoise, spiny dogfish, goatfish, robin fish, windowpane, salmon,
hake, sturgeon and cuttlefish.
porpoise meat was sold in Paris.
was known for its fish. Specialties of other regions were cited:
eels of Maine, barbels of St. Florentin, pike of Châlons,
loach of Bar-sur-Seine, pimpernau [bream? a type of eel?]
of Eure, salmon of the Loire, trout of Andely, dace of Aise. shad
of Bordeaux, conger eels of la Rochelle, sturgeons of Blaye,
herrings of Fécamp, cuttlefish of Coutances, andcrayfish of
was important enough that, in 1290, part of the Bishop of
Auxerre's rent consisted of three thousand mackerel. In 1215, 500
herring were given to a hospital. In 1260, St. Louis granted
78,000 herring to various monasteries, hospitals and leprosariums.
Twelfth century poets often mention salted eels.
says the taste for shellfish was particular to the French .
remained important both as a diversion and a proof of male
prowess. Larded stag tongue is mentioned as a delicacy.
a time of relative peace, a number of natural disasters –
earthquakes, drought, famine – occurred.
peace and prosperity overall led to a large population with a
correspondingly larger need of land. St. Louis had vast tracts of
land in Normandy cleared for cultivation. Monks often cleared land
as well for its tenants, since this led to villages which then
the 12th century, tillable land sold at an average of 93 (estimated
nineteenth century) francs. In the first fourth of the thirteenth, this
rose to 135 francs; in the next twenty-five years it reached 232
francs; that is, land prices tripled in 150 years, almost doubled
in half a century. The last was the highest price land reached in
all the Middle Ages.
hectare of land within Paris on average cost 652 francs in the
thirteenth century; by 1894, it cost 1,297,000. It was not quite three times the
highest of land elsewhere. On the right bank, near the Louvre
(outside the walls, where much land was still swamp) a hectare
cost about 9 centimes the meter in 1212; on the left bank, near
Notre-Dame-des-Champs, 22 centimes in 1285. A hectare outside the
walls cost on average 625 francs from 1201 to 1250, 717 francs
from 1251 to 1300.
were increasingly liberated. If tenants remained attached to the
land, their relations with their lords were more clearly defined
and they were less subject to arbitrary rules.
Farmers were often
obliged to fertilize and marl land as part of their contract.
Sometimes the collectors of tithes of straw were obliged to keep
it until farmers had bought what they needed. Terms for marl might
be set for long periods, such as every 15 or 18 years. Marled land
was distinguished from unmarled land.
number of collective tasks on estates were performed as parts of corvées,
tasks owed to the lord which were apparently differentiated from
the (typically individual) services given as rents in former times.
sand was sometimes used as fertilizer, under the name of tangue.
Gathering this was sometimes explicitly authorized, sometimes
explicitly forbidden (because of its affect on salt flats). Later
charters talked of “tangour roads” or “sanding
which could, depending on the water level, provide pasture,
fishing, thatch, peat, etc. was often subject to special clauses.
Normans helped drain swamps in England early on, but do not seem
to have had success at this point in their own marshes. Heath was
not generally cultivated either, though some people were fined in
Normandy for trying (probably on unauthorized land).
began to cede certain rights of use in forests in exchange for
receiving a portion of these for their own.
and onion were often mentioned as rents in Normandy.
type of apple, celebrated in song, was called “Richard's”,
after Richard I, who supposedly discovered it in a forest. Peaches
are mentioned in an official document. The word
aigrun was applied to a class of items which included
chestnuts, walnuts and fruits with thick skins.
of the time mention, as preferred in Paris: garlic from Gandeluz,
shallots from Etampes, onions from Corbeil; blandereau apples from
Auvergne, rateau apples and red apples; and the hativeau, caillou,
saint-rieul and d'angoisse [“of anguish”] pears.
Lombardy chestnuts, figs from Malta and grapes from (surprisingly)
overseas were all cried in the streets of Paris.
Alsace, at least three types of pears were known: royals,
Regelsbiren and Gigilsbiren (the last common and cheap). In
Strasbourg, 1 pound of figs was worth 1 pound of peas. In Alsace,
the poor sold strawberries from the mountains.
recommended eating fruit at the start of a meal because they were
said to be “cold” (unlike stews and spices, which
supposedly heated the stomach). But poets already mention the
custom of eating them after the meal was “de-served”;
i.e., as dessert, after the meal. One man was sentenced to eat dry
fruit as a penance (for killing someone).
GRAINS AND BAKED GOODS
price of wheat went down through the start of the 13th
century, then suddenly doubled after 1240.
kind of three-grain maslin was mentioned called terceil,
consisting of wheat, oats and either barley or standard maslin
(rye and wheat).
Philippe Auguste released Paris
bakers from the obligation of using the communal ovens (this and
later liberties may have been intended in part to weaken the power
of the nobility). Many in France were still required to use them
and also to help with the upkeep of the millstones, lumber, etc.
and (as applicable) the waterways around them.
St. Louis excused bakers and
millers from military service and released cities from using
communal ovens (with some exceptions). Paris bakers could sell
bread on Sunday; those from beyond the city could only sell
defective bread then.
became pannetiers (“bread-makers”) because of
the bread they made; the royal officer in charge became the
Grand-Pannetier (until the eighteenth century). In
statutes, they were referenced as boulangers-talmeliers
(“ball-makers”-sifters), only later known by the
first. Round breads were sometimes called tourtes or
tourteaux, names later found in the provinces.
Breads were now made in many
different forms, many mentioned in charters, etc. of the time.
These include pain primos [“first bread”;
made for wagon drivers doing corvées],
pain de Pape [“Pope's bread”], pain de cour
[“court bread”], pain de la bouche [“bread
for the mouth”, as opposed to trenchers, for plates], pain
de Chevallier [“Knight’s bread”],
pain d'Escuyer [“Squire's bread”], pain de
Chanoine [“Canon's bread”], pain de salle pour
[“room bread for the guests”], pain de Pairs
[“Peers' bread”], pain moyen [“middling
bread”, or possibly half a loaf given to monks], pain
vasalor or de servants [servants' bread], pain de
valet [“valet's bread”], pain truset
[apparently a superior bread, possibly the same as tribolet],
pain tribolet [“good white bread”, weighing 7
ounces, given by lord to abbot], pain férez [“ironed
bread”; that is, a waffle], pain maillau [“stained
bread “ or bread costing 1 maille?], pain de malt
[“malt bread”], pain choesne [white bread,
household bread], pain chonhol [possibly corrupt for "pain
curial", that is, prelate's bread], pain denain
[dwarf's bread?], pain salignon [salty bread], and
pain siméniau [a bread - or possibly pastry - from
Biscuits were eaten in some
monasteries, since they saved time and lasted longer. They were
sometimes broken up with a special weight and put on vegetables.
Alsace, bread was often mixed with black coriander, poppy and
especially cumin. The best bread was from Strasbourg and
Schwindratzheim, the latter's bread being less mixed with aromatic
grains than was common in the region.
bakers and pastry makers (then “waferers”) were now
distinct. Tavernkeeps who made pastries (at this time mainly
meaning pasties, rather than the sweet baked goods made by the
wafer-makers) were given statutes as pastry-makers.(patissiers).
Pastries became more and more differentiated. Échaudés
(“scalded”) pastries began to be mentioned. Also
mentioned around this time were the patés
of Paris, the flans of Chartres, the tarts of Dourlens and
flamiches (today an onion tart that is a specialty of
Picardy) and galettes, the latter sold hot in the streets of
Paris, as were waffles and wafers (then like miniature waffles).
Hot wafers, warm galettes, hot tarts, rissoles, échaudés,
hot flans, cakes with beans [surprises in them], and simeniau
breads were all cried in the streets of Paris.
Pastries were sometimes made in
Beignets are mentioned as
A cake with a bean in it (like the
later gateau du roi) is mentioned as a treat eaten in
exporting wine. Orleans wine was prized. Wines were mentioned of
mulberry, dates and pomegranates (reflecting Arab influence?).
Roses and sage are among the items added to grape wine. A French
engineer's ornate hydraulic machines for wine is mentioned.
Communal (banal) wine-presses received rent of up to one third of
wine pressed there; some lords began to convert this right to a
monetary rent. Spiced wines (piment, clairet, hypocras) are
1253 and 1254 there were wine shortages (implying other
agricultural problems as well).
increasingly mentioned in Normandy; wine production fell away as
competition from other areas increased with change in French
borders. Wild fruit was often gathered for this. “Apple
verjuice”– a cider made from green apples – was later
At the same
time the number of breweries in Normandy greatly increased. The
beer of Cambray (near Flanders) was considered the best. Cervoise
was still made under that name and was variously said to be made
from wheat, oats, barley, maslin (mixed rye and wheat) or draguées
(today meaning candies but then grains, like lentils, given to
horses). (Since most of these were inferior to wheat, they may
have been used to avoid diverting that grain from bread-making.)
sometimes added to beer. “Godale” (from “good
ale”?) was mentioned as being stronger than beer (godailler
meant hard drinking). Cervoisiers were forbidden to add pitch to
beer (recalling its use in wines from Gaul.)
was still being made, with one part honey to twelve parts water.
Aromatic herbs were now added, resulting in a drink called
Monks drank this on feast days; the rules of the Cluny order refer
to a potus dulcissimus (“extremely
sweet drink”) which may have been the same thing.
was the first to describe spirits extracted from wine (though a
Florentine, Thadeus, is said to have used these in remedies). For
a long time it was strictly regarded as medical and sold by
apothecaries and chemists. He also mentions a flavored spirit (eau
also discussed the idea that getting drunk once or twice a month
was good for you, discouraging this except for people on a poor
diet (!) and then not to excess.
SPICES, HERBS AND OTHER SEASONINGS
At the start of the period, pepper
was still the most prized spice and was demanded as a tribute in
certain cases. Some people would soak pepper with the foam of
melted lead to make it heavier. But poets began to increasingly
mention cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and ginger. In 1163, an abbot sent
a request to the king accompanied with several spices (all
imported): sumac, cinnamon,
cardamom, clove, nutmeg, zedoary, celtic nard, cubeb. One poem
mentioned ginger, garingal, saffron (“to make towels
yellow”), pepper, cumin, and “other spices” (as well
as figs, dates and almonds).
were increasingly added to drinks, candy etc.
The word “spices”
often referred to various candied treats, rather than aromatic spices. Thomas of Aquinas said
that these did not break a fast if used moderately.
These were often given as “tips” to judges by the
winning party. St. Louis forbade judges to receive,
within a week, more than ten sous' worth of spices. Philip the
Fair, forbade them to accept more than they could consume daily
in their house without waste.
Complex sauces already existed; for instance, the cameline (cinnamon-based) sauce mentioned by Aldebrandin.
mines were mentioned in Lorraine.
Dijon mustard was already praised.
Sugar (sucre/çucre )
was increasingly found in France (and often used in medicine).
Marzipan was made with
pistachios, almonds and sugar. Preserves (made with sugar) begin
to appear. Honey continued to be gathered, often by special serfs
STRICTURES AND STRUCTURES
The corporations (guilds) which had been
developing informally for over this period began to be mentioned
formally. Louis VII mentioned the head of the butchers'
corporation (and later kings confirmed the prior existence of this
corporation). Bakers under Louis IX claimed that their corporation
had received rights under Philip-August, who also mentioned
several other corporations. The most extensive and explicit
mention of corporations came under Louis IX, when, in 1268, many
received specific statutes from Etienne Boileau, establishing a
fundamental structure for French production and commerce for
centuries and documenting the responsibilities of many of the
In 1188, a council at Mans restricted everyone
“without exception” to two services per meal.
In 1215, Innocent III's Fourth Lateran Council
said specifically that scoter duck was forbidden on fish days, but
various popular ideas that the duck had been born in various ways
– out of pine sap, from seashells, etc. – continued to
justify, many thought, eating it then.
Grants of herring show that fasting was now
enforced in hospitals as well.
In 1237? Gregory IX forbade eating meat hash as a
St. Louis allowed bourgeois to hunt as well as
nobles, but they had to give the local lord a piece of the meat. (Presumably this only applied in certain areas, since later suits show that nobles did not yet have a general monopoly on hunting elsewhere.)
In Alsace, fishing rights were sometimes limited.
Curates in Paris had the right to demand several
pieces of meat for performing weddings (though they were supposed
to wait until after the nuptial blessing).
A local statute
specified "If someone makes cakes, or flans, or other such
things, which are harmful to the town, the mayor may forbid
anymore being made.” The same charter specifies that only
bread of 1 obole could be made.
SAMPLE MEALS OR LISTS
for French crusaders on Fourth Crusade:
beef and salted bacon, garlic, flour, broad beans and "a
strong sauce" (mustard?).
Food given by congregation to
heretic preachers in
a salmon head, salmon pâté,
a gourd full of wine, “cakes” called fogasse [today fougasse is a type of regional bread].
from legacy in Savoy:
the poor: a quarter loaf of rye bread with a piece of cheese.
general population: salt pork and chickpeas.
Meals for canons in Basel over
that is the feet and head of the pig in brine or in a "jelly
of young pigs".
The innards, prepared in nine different ways; that is, three sorts
of boudin sausage (Magenwurst, Lungenwurst, Bratwurst);
andouilles; leg, tongue, filet, cheek, all well peppered;
Smoked beef on a bed of cabbage
Fat bacon from a fat pig, and the bacon of a young pig, with
Roast and grilled pork.
Boar garnished with venison.
Fat bacon with strong mustard.
A dish of millet with eggs, milk and pig blood.
Larded and roasted pork shoulder.
Easter, the beef was replaced with a roasted pork shoulder with
vinegar, the boar by quarters of lamb garnished with eggs fried in
fast days at Easter and Christmas, this was replaced with salmon
seasoned with jellied brine, cod with mustard, salmon cooked with
oil and leeks, trout in vinegar, peppered pike, and bleaks fried
in oil. With this were wafers, fruit, three pounds of ordinary
bread and a "cloister bread" (panis claustralis)
(which may merely have been a whiter bread).
century abbot's meal in Lorraine
had arranged the dinner service as follows: what was needed for
washing was given and, during this operation, skillful servants
set the tables. The abbot sat down and indicated the guests'
places; then the salt cellars, knives and spoons came in, the
bread and the wine, then the viands; the first service came in
with chatting among individuals. Minstrels, dancers and jugglers
came in to stir up the company; they were followed by servants
refreshing the wines and viands. Then the fruit was brought in.
The dinner finished the tablecloths and the scraps were taken
off, the tables taken down, then washing materials were brought
Rations for workers
building church in Alsace
In a good year, garlic
and as much bread as they wanted during the week. On Sunday, meat and
"everything else in abundance".
Pay for stonecarver
near St. Omer
1 sterling (coin),
bread and a bowl of broad beans.
for a carpenter at a Paris abbey:
White and brown bread,
broad beans, wine; meat on feast days.
Food from abbey to
man and his wife (for life):
Large loaf, two small
loaves, “the convent's drink” or beer or cider; a
plate of meat three days a week, other days, six eggs; in Lent,
four herring; every month a bushel of peas.
Aldebrandin - recommended preparations for health:
And the right seasoning with which it must be eaten is cameline sauce in which there is enough cinnamon and cardamom.”
“Peacock (and crane) meat
...If in summer, it is appropriate they be killed one day before, and if it is in winter, let them be three days dead, and after if one must eat them, ... the seasoning is black pepper.”
...But eat it seasoned with vinegar, and pepper, and ginger, and cinnamon, and mint, and other such things.”
June 16, 2012