Jim Chevallier's Web Site





An overview of the stories

Comparison of early/mid and late medieval food



Towards Taillevent

Philip III the Bold (1270-1285)

Philip IV the Fair (1285-1314)

The last two kings of the twelfth century had more mixed records than their two major predecessors. The first Philip was considered indecisive, the second cold and ineffectual. Both took actions which were considered ill-considered or even evil, while also continuing some advances. Philip IV established the monarchy on a more solid, bureaucratic footing which gave it an existence to some degree independent of the personalities of each individual king.


In food history, this period, just before that of Taillevent, is probably the one in which much of his cuisine developed. It is also notable for the creation of the first cookbook known to be written in France. Though apparently unknown then, the Enseignements qui enseingnent a apareillier toutes manieres de viandes (“Instructions on how to prepare all manner of viands”) was composed at this time. It straddles the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, since it was written at the start of the latter but necessarily records the food of at least the end of the former. The document already mentions a number of preparations later found in the Viandier, including brouets, a false guernon, cominée, gravé and blancmanger; it also includes a recipe for peacock and swan. Verjuice and the same range of spices as the Viandier are used freely, but the document continues to use black pepper where the Viandier more often uses long pepper. Hard-boiled egg whites and bread are used as thickeners; however, pea purée – common in Taillevent's recipes – is not.

Another document, long thought to be by Taillevent, is now dated to the end of the thirteenth or start of the fourteenth century. Since it is held in Sion, in the Swiss canton of Valais, it is sometimes called the "manuscript of Sion". It includes, often in simpler form, a number of the recipes later found in Taillevent's work.

The Anglo-Norman recipes of Coment l'en deit fere viaunde e claree ("How one must make viand and clairet") are probably also from this period (some date them as slightly later). They include at least one entry (on desalting food) which is very much like a later one in the Viandier. They also use a number of the same spices. On the other hand, the work mentions none of the large birds (peacock, swan, etc.) so popular in upper class French meals, while it includes foods not yet found in France, including ravioli (in a very modern sounding recipe). This suggests that the French-speaking court of England continued to be influenced by French practice but also integrated influences from other countries. Above all, it records the fact that complex cuisine was coming into its own in both countries and the richer eastern spices were moving to the forefront.

In general, documentation at this point starts to be abundant. Philip the Fair's tax roles (tailles) of 1292 and 1313 provide unusually detailed information on trades and professions in Paris, some of which were just appearing or were changing names at this time. Jean de Garland's Dictionarius provides definitions of many trades.

The growing luxury in food is reflected in further attempts to rein it in with sumptuary laws.

Philip the Bold granted spots to egg and cheese vendors at Les Halles (still dominated by textile merchants).


Cotentin, in Normandy, was praised for its livestock (horses, cattle, sheep, etc.).

Sausage was very simple, chopped beef, lamb and pork in animal's intestines.

Eleanor of Castile had Brie cheese and “fromage de gart” (probably "cheese made to keep") bought for England.

Professions in Paris included a peacock seller (breeder?), showing the importance the bird had taken on. Geese and chicken were still the main barnyard birds, but ducks (usually wild) are mentioned as well.

In 1280, frogs and snakes were eaten (exceptionally) in Alsace. One writer thinks the eating of frogs began at this time.


Philip the Fair tried to impose a general exchange of rights of use in forests against grants of portions of these; the project seems to have petered out, but individual agreements of this sort continued to be made; i.e., forests became more and more enclosed and less and less for general use.

French sunflower oil was bought for England.

An Anglo-Norman mention of mock oranges shows that this fruit was already known.

In 1276, excessive rain and a harsh winter hurt crops; in 1277, the export of wine, grain and linen was limited as a result.


Philip the Fair allowed the inhabitants of Paris to have their own ovens and even to sell bread to each other.

Bakers were forbidden to demand “tips” from those who wanted to join the trade. Attempts to regulate the weight of bread were increasing. But when the provost of Meaux seized underweight bread sold by the baker for the local monks, they threatened to excommunicate him if he did not return it.

Laminated or puff pastry is mentioned for the first time: panes foliati (“leafed breads”) in 1308 and gateaux feuilles (“leafed cakes”) in 1311. Since these require some sophistication to make, probably other complex pastries were now made as well. The method may have come from Arab cuisine.

The Enseignements and the Sion manuscript – like the Viandier and the Menagier later – describe flans as being made with fish, understood to be in a pasty.


Philip the Bold limited the price of beer in Normandy to conserve wheat.

Wine of La Rochelle was bought for England.

Wine fountains are mentioned for public festivities, some very complex and one including hypocras as well as straight wine.


Philip the Fair taxed salt for the first time in 1286. This at once doubled and sometimes tripled the cost of salt (which transportation costs already made expensive.) But it was not yet a state monopoly.

The Enseignements mention two spices – ciconant and surmontain – not found in later cookbooks. Ciconant is probably a corrupted spelling and has not been identified (one translator reads it as zedouary, which itself was rare); surmontain (siler montanus /Laserpitium Siler/laserwort/bastard lovage) is supposedly a sort of fennel. “Espic” is also mentioned twice, probably meaning spikenard; if so, this appears to be the last time this once popular spice is mentioned in French cooking. “Pepper” (poivre) was also sometimes used in this period to indicate any powdered spice; “bitter pepper” (poivre aigre), later found in the Viandier as well, is said to be made of cinnamon and ginger.

Candies of preserved ginger (gingembrat) and pine nuts (pignolat) appear.


In 1279, a parlement forbade having more than a soup, two dishes and an entremets at a meal. In 1294, Philip the Fair restricted large meals to two dishes and a bacon soup “without fraud”; for a small meal, one dish and an entremets; for fast days, two herring soups and two dishes, or three dishes and a soup. Only one type of meat or fish could be put in a bowl, and all large meat (beef, pork, etc.) would be counted as a dish, but cheese would not, unless in a pasty or cooked in water. Only the very rich were allowed to have gold and silver plate. - All this was probably theoretical, however, given ample other evidence of luxurious dining.

In 1286, the poor in Paris were allowed to eat meat during Lent after bread became extremely expensive.

In 1304, the Council of Compiegne forbade the clergy to have more than two dishes and a soup for each meal. An entremets could be added when guests were present and no limits applied when princes, etc. were visiting.

The Parlement restored the right to hunt rabbits to locals whose lord who had forbidden what they viewed as an established right. In general, a number of legal cases confronted both commoners and clergy with local lords who increasingly claimed exclusive hunting rights, though sometimes only on larger animals. These issues were decided case by case, however; the idea that hunting was generally reserved to nobles was not yet established (despite St. Louis' earlier rule on the subject); hunting rights, where recognized, were typically attached to the land.

Butchers sold both beef and pork, though others began to sell the latter and later had to be restricted.


Recipes for flan:

From the Enseignements:

"If you want to make flans at Lent, take eels and take out the bones, once they are cooked; then pound them well in a mortar, and put in a little ginger and a little safran and some wine. And from this you can make flans or tarts or..."

From the Viandier of Sion:

"Flans, tartes for Lent, which taste like cheese. Take and dribble [crush up?] roe of pike, of carp; saffron dissolved in almond milk and white wine; put in sugar, and the fish with their roe, without the bones; make your flans and your tarts."

From the (later) 15th century version of the Viandier:

"Flans And Tarts
To make flans and tart at Lent which have the flavor of cheese, take tenches, pike and carp and, especially, the eggs and roe. Crush, dissolve in white wine, almond oil and a little verjuice. Cook on the fire."

Anglo-Norman dishes:



There is another type of food, which is called ravieles. Take fine flour and sugar, and make a dough; and take good cheese and butter, and blend together; and then take parsley and sage and spring onions, and cut them up fine, and put them in the filling [?]; and then take the best cheese and put over and under; and then put in the oven.”

Pork “oranges”


This is a food that is called oranges. Take pork, neither too fat nor too lean, and cut it up, and pound it in a mortar, and put in the yolk of a raw egg; and take the broth, and boil it; and then take the white of an egg and moisten your hands; and then take out the meat and make each round like an onion, as many as you wish, and boil in the broth; then take them out and put each on a skewer so that none touch; then put on the fire to roast; and take two bowls, and put the white in a bowl and the yolk [in the other?], and moisten the fruit when they are [cooked?] on top; and take sugar and pour it on them when they have been taken from the skewer; and then serve.”

Special meals for Carcassone monks:

Fresh or salted sea or river fish with spiced sauce, figs, nuts, grapes, cheese, bread, in addition to standard porridge; pepper and ginger mentioned in addition to general spices.

Legumes (before porridge) for the Sundays of Advent and Lent: Wheat, broad beans, chick peas, lentils, peas; rice?

Provided by Carcassone abbey:

Cheese, flans, meat pâté, fish chopped up in bread [hashed fish on bread?], spiced wine.

1285 Supplies for Philip the Bold's Aragon army:

Wheat, flour, barley, bread, beans, peas, rice, almonds, salted pork, loaf of sugar, wine, also Greek wine and wine of Paumiers, oats.

1304 Purchases in Normandy for Philip the Fair's army:

Wheat, oats, wine, pigs, salted pork, cattle [far less], peas, broad beans, salt.

June 16, 2012