FRENCH FOOD BEFORE TAILLEVENT
Philip III the Bold
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
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
apparently unknown then, the Enseignements qui
enseingnent a apareillier toutes manieres de viandes
(“Instructions on how to prepare all manner of viands”)
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.
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.
growing luxury in food is reflected in further attempts to rein it
in with sumptuary laws.
Bold granted spots to egg and cheese vendors at Les Halles (still
dominated by textile merchants).
MEAT, DAIRY, FISH AND GAME
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
French sunflower oil was bought
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.
GRAINS AND BAKED GOODS
the Fair allowed the inhabitants of Paris to have their own ovens
and even to sell bread to each other.
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.
or puff pastry is mentioned for the first time: panes
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.
Bold limited the price of beer in Normandy to conserve wheat.
Wine of La
Rochelle was bought for England.
fountains are mentioned for public festivities, some very complex
and one including hypocras as well as straight wine.
SPICES, HERBS AND OTHER SEASONINGS
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.
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);
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.
STRICTURES AND STRUCTURES
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
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
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
SAMPLE MEALS OR LISTS
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."
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.”
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
Special meals for Carcassone
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
Legumes (before porridge) for
the Sundays of Advent and Lent: Wheat, broad beans, chick
peas, lentils, peas; rice?
Provided by Carcassone abbey:
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.
Purchases in Normandy for Philip the Fair's army:
oats, wine, pigs, salted pork, cattle [far less], peas, broad
June 16, 2012