hrj: (Alpennia w text)
(Posted early because I'll be on the road all day Tuesday.)

I’ve written previously about some of my food-related research for the Alpennian books. It might be fun (some distant day in the future) to bring together all the food references in the books (when there are more of them) with recipes and whatnot. In the meantime, I decided last fall that I should come up with at least a couple of Alpennian dishes that I could serve on the occasion of readings and whatnot, just for fun. I haven’t had a chance previously, but when I was brainstorming for offerings to entice people to my Kaffee Klatch at Sasquan this Friday, I realized this was the perfect opportunity.

Not all food items are equally suited to transporting to a convention (or throwing together in someone else’s kitchen—which is what I had in mind originally), but the sorts of light snacks one serves visitors are ideal, and I had a reference to Jeanne serving Antuniet “almond cake” which seemed promising enough. The book reference mentions slices, so I had in mind something more classically cake-like, but my 18th c. French cookbooks turned up something more suited to my needs.

From The Art of French Cookery

Almond Cake – Gâteau d’Almandes

Beat a pound of almonds, add a quarter of a pound of sugar, a little confected orange flowers, and half a glass of cream; have puft paste sufficient for a cake; give it a half turn more; roll it to the thickness of a crown; cut it round of the proper size; put the paste on it, and cover it with another round of puft paste; nick it across; finish the edge of the cover, put it into a quick oven; when baked; sift sugar over and serve.

Another Almond Cake - Gâteau Pithiviera

Prepare the almonds as in the foregoing recipe add a pound of sifted sugar, a little lemon peel minced, half a pound of butter; put in by degrees six eggs, have puft paste as in the above article; proceed and finish in the same manner. It may be made into small ones.

* * *

One of the reasons I chose this version is because it can be made primarily using commercial shortcuts, i.e., almond paste and frozen puff pastry sheets. So here’s my quick-and-dirty version.

Take ca. 25 g candied Seville orange peel and mince finely
Mix with ca. 250 g commercial almond paste (not marzipan, but almond paste)
Take one package of commercial puff pastry sheets (2 sheets, each folded in thirds) and thaw per directions.
Cut each sheet into thirds on the folds, and then each third into a dozen small rectangles (2x6)
On a lightly floured board, roll each piece out either into a square or an elongated rectangle so that it’s about half the thickness of the original.
Place a flattened knob of the almond paste mixture on the pastry and fold over either into a triangle or square shape. (I originally thought of cutting them into rounds, but this would have been more work and wasteful.)
Bake at 400F for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

This has the advantage over a loaf cake of coming in bite-size pieces, although the disadvantage of being somewhat fragile. (We’ll see how well they’ve survived!) As you can see, I simplified the filling slightly and drew from both versions (orange peel rather than orange flowers or lemon peel, in part because I have a large quantity of home-made candied orange peel lying around). Someday I’ll try a version where I’ve done the fancy finishes around the edge and nicking the top.

I'll post pix from the Kaffee Klatch when they're served!
hrj: (doll)
On twitter, I mentioned something to [ profile] catherineldf about an early hot chocolate recipe I'd once made that was best described as "chocolate tea", which led to promising to post it if I could track down my notes. Well, it meant getting back to doing more of my ongoing archival file conversions (because the only copy I had was in a PageMaker format for some reason) but I did find the original.

I couldn't manage to get the ingredients properly ground, which is why it comes off as "tea" more than as proper hot chocolate. That and the fact that it's early enough that it's made up with water rather than milk. So in addition to being a bit of a hybrid of two early recipes, it would be better for some more experiments in texture. The occasion of working this up was a "chocolate potluck" at work for Valentine's day quite a number of years ago -- which makes it notable that I still have the rest of the dry mix in a tupperware container in the fridge. It still smells good, so maybe I will try a finer grind sometime soon.

* * *

17th Century Hot Chocolate

Original recipes are taken from: Coe, Sophie D. & Coe, Michael D. 1996. The True History of Chocolate. Thames & Hudson, New York. ISBN 0-500-01693-3

The recipe of Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma (1644)

100 cacao beans
2 chillis (black pepper may be substituted)
a handful of anise
ear flower [a spice]
2 mecasuchiles
(powdered roses of Alexandria may be substituted for the two previous ingredients)
1 vanilla bean
2 oz. cinnamon
12 almonds and as many hazelnuts
1/2 lb. sugar
achiote to taste

The recipe of the Grand Duke of Tuscany (1680)

10 lb cacao beans
jasmine flowers
8 lb sugar
3 oz vanilla beans
4 to 6 oz cinnamon
2 scruples ambergris

* * *

My recipe

I liked the idea of nuts and flowers and the sweet spices, but enough of a non-fan of chili peppers that I wasn't about to add them to my experiment. And ambergris was a bit out of my budget for this project. So here's my ingredients:

1/4 c. cacao nibs
4 t sugar
1/16 t ground cinnamon
approx. 1.5” vanilla bean
1/4 t dried jasmine flowers
1/4 t dried rose petals
1/8 t anise sead
1 T blanched almond
1 T blanched hazelnut

Process all ingredients in a cuisinart until completely powdered and blended. Mix approximately 1 T powder to 8 oz boiling water. There will be sediment, so either leave the dregs or let sit for a short period then strain into your cup.

The jasmine and rose flowers were sourced from an herb company (Lhasa Karnak, I believe) to be sure they were culinary grade. The food processor simply wasn't up to the job of grinding the ingredients finely enough. The result was … interesting. You had to approach it without any preconceptions of what it was supposed to taste like. Pleasant, but definitely unexpected.
hrj: (doll)
Today’s book theme will be food and cookery.

Hieatt, Constance B. 2013. The Culinary Recipes of Medieval England. Propect Books, Totnes. ISBN 978-1-909248-30-4

This book has a simple but ambitious premise: to provide a single “basic standard version” for every distinct recipe appearing in the corpus of medieval English cookbooks. Hieatt had a headstart on this project in her previous Concordance of English Recipes: Thirteenth Through Fifteenth Centuries (written with Terry Nutter and Johnna H. Holloway) which indexed the entire corpus and grouped recipes that were variants of each other. The current work then choses from each recipe grouping the one that Hieatt considers to be the most basic, most correct, or most informative version. The recipes are presented in modernized language but without interpretation. The citation is given for the source(s) used but context (e.g., date) must be retrieved from the bibliography. Significant variants are given in footnotes but it isn’t the intent of the work do to a comparative study of the evolution of the dishes over time or to comment in detail on why one version is considered corrupt and another used as the standard. I mention these things not as a criticism, but only to note what the book does and does not aim to achieve.

The great advantage of this work is in the accessibility of the modernized text (and the thematic organization), making it easy to skim for particular recipes and dish types. The intended audience would seem to be the more experienced culinary historian for whom it will be a reference work rather than a practical cookbook. I say this because much context and background knowledge is needed to interpret the recipes, and those with that knowledge are likely to prefer to work from the original texts. However in combination with the Concordance, it could be enormously useful for further study, either of the variety and development of specific dishes, or of the conceptual understanding of recipe categories (e.g., what makes a dish “Saracen” style? or what makes something a “brewet”?).

Dalby, Andrew. 2011. Geoponika: Farm Work. Prospect Books, Totnes. ISBN 978-1-903018-69-9

The subtitle is “A modern translation of the Roma and Byzantine farming handbook.” I am a complete sucker for historic texts detailing this sort of everyday practical knowledge. Topics include weather lore, agricultural personnel, advice on planting and harvesting various crops, weed and pest control, a calendar of seasonal tasks, and sections on viticulture, olives, fruit trees, decorative plants, vegetables, bees, and a surprisingly small section on domestic quadrupeds. There is a great deal of superstition mixed in with practical advice and interesting observations that may or may not have validity. The sections on edible crops have a certain amount of incidental information on consumption, including some recipes though most are medicinal in intent.

Frantzen, Allen J. 2014. Food, Eating and Identity in Early Medieval England. The Boydell Press, Woodbridge. ISBN 978-1-84383-908-8

A book, not so much on food per se but on the equipment, context, nomenclature, and practices around food. This is not a comprehensive and systematic study, but more a series of academic meditations on specific topics: literary descriptions of feasts and the artifcacts that can be associated with them; food vocabulary and word-lists; querns and pots; food in the laws; fasting and fish. The majority of the book has a very practical, material focus and is concerned first with description and only secondarily with interpretation. I wouldn’t consider it a book for the casual amateur, nor is it intended for someone with primarily practical culinary interests. But for someone interested in the larger context of early English foodways, it will have significant value.

Henisch, Bridget Ann. 2009. The Medieval Cook. The Boydell Press, Woodbridge. ISBN 978-1-84383-826-5

When I first saw the publication date I wondered how I’d missed this before, but a closer look indicates that it has only just been issued in paperback in 2013 and it isn’t quite so necessary a book that I would have sprung for a hardback copy.

This is a broad survey of the occupation of cook, across all ranks of society, covering literary as well as literal cooks, and giving examples of the activities, products, and concerns of the job. It’s more of a tasting menu than a hearty meal, and while it’s a very readable and varied text--likely to engage readers of all levels of interest in history--its broad coverage is by necessity superficial. Give this to someone whose interest in culinary history goes one step beyond trying out recipes, and then hand them on to more specialized and comprehensive works.
hrj: (doll)
As I sit here on a Saturday afternoon, enjoying the 75F weather on my patio and looking out over my garden (hey, look! I've got flowers on the quince, cherry, and medlar trees!), it occurs to me to post a review of the Adult Beverage in my hand, since it represents an interesting variant on the plethora of hard ciders that -- much to my delight -- are infiltrating the adventurous end of the local market. The bottle notes say, "First sampled on a warm winter day while grilling, this dry, tannic blend gets tilted with smoked apple. Racy, with notes of earth, spice, smoke, and of course, apples. Pair with aged cheese, burgers, and a side of derring-do."

Let's see: paired with aged cheese, check; burgers, nope have to settle for smoked salmon; and a side of derring-do, (peeks at novel in progress) check. Alas, I can't say that the smoke flavor does anything much for me. I mean, it's an ok cider. Quite pleasant and nicely dry. Perhaps it would pair better with a robust red meat than my current crackers-and-cheese lunch. But it seems more like an interesting gimmick than a real flavor winner. Ok, ok, and I'm really more of a light and fruity sort of gal. Still, it's nice to have a lot more selection than good ol' Woodchuck like in the bad old days.
hrj: (doll)
(For previous posts in this series, see items tagged with 'messisbugo'.)

Identifying distinct 4th and 5th courses in the template is, perhaps, a bit of a stretch. A clear distinction between the 3rd and 4th courses only occurs in two menus (1536 & 1537). Two menus have similar dishes to these but include them all in the 3rd course.  The 1524 menu (as we previously saw) inserts a duplicate 2nd course labeled “Third” and lists the dishes ordinarily appearing in the 3rd course under the label “Fourth”. The 1524 course labeled “Fourth” also includes the dishes found in the Fourth Course for the 1536/1537 menus, but in this is follows the the other two with combined 3rd/4th templates. The last menu (1540) does not serve any of the dishes found in the Fourth and Fifth Course templates.

A distinction between the Fourth and Fifth Course templates only occurs in the 1524 menu. The 1536/1537 menus include the same dishes but in under the 4th course label. The 1548 menu includes these dishes in the 2nd course list. And the other two menus do not have any dishes corresponding to the Fifth Course template.

Yes, this is very confusing. Let me sort it out by labeling the “course templates” A, B, C, D, and E and the menu list groupings 1-5. Then we get the following:

15?0: 1A, 2B,         3C, 3D, xx
1524: 1A, 2B, 3B, 4C, 4D, 5E
1536: 1A, 2B,        3C, 4D, 4E
1537: 1A, 2B,        3C, 4D, 4E
1540: 1A, 2B, 3B, 3C, xx,  xx
1548: 1A, 2B,        3C, 3D, 2E

Moving on to the actual dishes, the universally more elaborate 1524 menu has an extra set of seafood dishes as part of the Fourth Course list that don’t have counterparts in any of the other menus. (Remember that this menu is the only one with non-oyster seafood of any kind, and it has several seafood dishes in every course (with the exception of the Fifth Course, though the standard template there has oysters). The “extra” seafood dishes in the 1524 Fourth Course are sea-crabas with a gilded motto on their backs and a soup of calcinelle (a type of shellfish).

The common template for the Fourth Course consists of the following:

  • Wafers (5 of 6 menus) - Sometimes listd as “clouds and wafers” though I haven’t looked further into what “clouds” might refer to.  In any event it seems to be distinct from the following, as both occur in two menus:

  • Clotted Cream (4 of 6 menus) - In one case, this appears to be a “mock” clotted cream, listed as “Faux junket with sugar, almonds, and rosewater in place of clotted cream”.

  • Cheese (2 of 6 menus) - Unspecified in one, given as “Piacentino cheese” in the other.

  • Pasta (2 of 6 menus) - A sweet pasta in both cases: macaroni with sugar and honey, or buttered vermicelli with rosewater and sugar.

The template for the Fifth Course is even shorter and more universal:

  • Oysters (4 of 6 menus) - No cooking method is specified for these but I don’t know if that should be taken to imply that they were eaten raw as is common today. A very large number is specified -- over a dozen for each diner in most cases.

  • Oranges with pepper (3 of 6 menus)

One menu also lists Hypocras in the 4th/5th Course listing whereas drinks are not typical given at all (except for the sugar-water in the collation). So it may be that the other menus would include a similar drink at this point. Although I’ve grouped it with the 5th course template, there’s insufficient information even to include it as a standard offering.


So our basic standard template would be:

Fourth Course

  • Clouds and Wafers

  • Clotted Cream

  • optional: Cheese or sweet pasta

Fifth Course

  • Oysters

  • Sliced Oranges with Pepper


Dishes that I consider to fall in the Fourth Course template are in bold. Dishes in the Fifth Course template are underlined. Dishes that are listed in the 4th or 5th course but that I’ve placed in an earlier template are in italics. Otherwise, see the notes regarding where the dishes are listed in the actual text of the menus.

(listed in the 3rd Course)

  • Cheese, 10 plates.

  • Butter vermicelli with rose water and sugar, with fine sugar on top in 10 plates.

  • Clotted cream [lattemele], 20 plates.

  • Clouds and wafers, 20 plates.

(No 4th or 5th Course list)

4th Course list

  • 20 little apple tarts in 20 little plates.

  • Marzipan pastries, 20 little plates.

  • Guaste pears and apples in large pies, 20 little plates.

  • *Large sea-crabs with a little motto in gold on their backs that said, “Vsque, and nothing more is found,” in 12 little plates.

  • *Soup of calcinelli [a kind of shellfish] in 20 little plates.

  • Neapolitan-style macaroni of fried royal dough, with sugar and honey on top, in 20 little plates.

  • 100 caroelle pears in 20 little plates.

  • Piacentino cheese in 20 little plates.

  • Clotted cream [lattemele] in 20 little plates.

  • Clouds and wafers in 20 little plates.

5th Course list

  • Oysters in 20 little plates.

  • 100 sliced oranges with pepper in 20 little plates.

4th Course list (no 5th Course)

  • 500 oysters in 10 plates.

  • Hippocras, 30 cups.

  • 30 oranges and pepper in 10 plates.

  • 500 wafers in 10 plates.

4th Course list (no 5th Course)

  • 1000 oysters in 14 plates.

  • Clotted cream [lattemele] in 51 plates.

  • Wafers [cialdoni] in 51 plates.

(No 4th or 5th Course list)

(from the 2nd Course list)

  • 400 oysters with oranges and pepper, 20 plates.

(from the 3rd Course list)

  • Faux junket with sugar, almonds, and rosewater in place of clotted cream, 7 plates.

  • Small and large wafers, 140 in 7 plates.

(No 4th or 5th Course list)

My Mini-Messisbugo

I’ve been waiting to discuss the dishes from the numbered courses that I served in my “mini-Messisburgo” dinner because I greatly conflated and condensed the course templates.  Just as a re-cap, here are the stripped down basic templates for each course.

Course 1

  • Multiple fowl dishes (partridge with tomaselle, pheasant with oranges, capon, pigeons, small birds with meatballs, duch with torteletti)

  • A liver dish

  • A quadruped dish

  • A fresh fruit dish

For the mini-banquet, I served:

  • roast stuffed game hen with oranges

  • torteletti

  • an artichoke pie

  • grapes (left on the table)

The fowl dish was intended to combine reasonable price with several of the repeating features (oranges as an accompaniment, torteletti as a side dish). The Carnival menus are almost completely void of vegetable dishes with the exception of the salads in the pre-course. Messisbugo’s recipe book, however, has a good selection of dishes that either focus on vegetables or use them as a significant accompaniment to a meat dish. I’ve included a couple of vegetable dishes in part as a nod to modern dietary preferences and in part because they’re just such fun recipes.

Course 2

  • Multiple fowl dishes (capon, pheasant, partridge)

  • A roast of a young quadruped

  • A roast loin

  • A sauce

  • A flan or torte

  • A fruit pie

For the mini-banquet I served:

  • pork loin

  • plum sauce

  • eggplants

  • a torte of apples

Again, the inclusion of a vegetable dish was done for variety and as a nod to modern expectations (though the recipe is from Messisbugo). As I’d done a fowl dishi n the first course, I went with the quadruped dish in this course for variety.

Course 3

  • Oyster pies or fried oysters

  • Olives

  • Fresh grapes

  • Pears and sometimes also apples in pies

  • A decorative dish in jelly or pastry

Course 4

  • Clouds and Wafers

  • Clotted cream

  • Cheese or Sweet Pasta

For the mini-banquet I served:

  • olives

  • wafers with clotted cream

  • cheese

Although the oyster dishes are clearly a standard part of these menus, I omitted them due to the unpredictability of their reception. (I didn’t know who most of my guests would be until the day of the banquet as I’d left it to the guests of honor to make the invitations.) Without oysters, there seemed no reason to serve a separate Fifth Course, although I could have included sliced oranges in this group.

Course 5

  • Oysters

  • Sliced oranges with pepper

And that brings my Excessively Geeky Messisbugo Analysis to an end. At some point I’ll be cleaning this all up, putting it into a more logical order, and adding it to my web site.
hrj: (doll)
(For previous posts in this series, see items tagged with 'messisbugo'.)

The boundaries between the 3rd through 5th courses are necessarily somewhat fuzzier, given that 3 of the menus only have 3 courses and only one has the full 5 numbered courses. But if we take the contents of the menus with more numbered courses as defining the cut-offs, then the template for the Third Course is what remains.

But even this approach leaves some very sloppy edges. The 1548 menu (as mentioned previously) includes in the Second Course two oyster dishes that the majority rule would properly place in the Third and Fifth Courses. And then the 1524 and 1540 menus seem to have a reprise of the non-fowl parts of the Second Course as part of the Third Course. (The 1524 menu, which had the extra fish dishes in the Second Course also reprises these in the Third Course.) The 1524 menu also has placed several fruit dishes in the Fourth Course that the other menus all place in the Third.  So this chapter will analyze what appears to be the common template for the Third Course even when specific dishes in specific menus are listed elsewhere. The “reprise of the Second Course” dishes are going to be treated separately as a sort of “Course 2b” as the majority rule identifies them as excluded from the standard Third Course template.

The 1548 menu gives us a clue to the basic theme of the Third Course when it explicitly labels it “Fruits and Others”.  Overall, the dishes here are somewhat lighter and have almost no focus on meat (with the sole exception of the oyster dishes). In contrast to the Second Course, we again see a clear set of common dishes across all or most of the menus.

Second Course Reprise

Roast Suckling Quadruped (2 menus)

The 1524 menu, which had stuffed lamb and kid breast in the Second Course, reprises it with whole stuffed roast kid. The 1540 menu, which had whole stuffed roast kid in the Second Course, reprises it with roast suckling pig.

Roast (Veal) Loin (2 menus)

These might better be considered “displaced” dishes, as the 1524 and 1540 menus were the only two that had no roast loin dish in the Second Course.

Sauce (2 menus)

Mustard is listed separately in the 1540 menu while Peacock Sauce has its own line item in the 1524 menu but follows the listing for roast peacock (see below).

Other Dishes (1 menu)

The 1524 menu, which has been noted previously as the most extensive and elaborate,  also includes roast peacock (with the aforementioned peacock sauce), hare in black broth, and three fish dishes: small fishes, stuffed lobsters, and fish gelatin. These “reprise” dishes constitute all but one of the items listed for the Third Course in the 1524 menu, so in terms of conceptual structure it really is more of a duplicate Second Course. That is, this menu has five numbered courses, not because it adds an extra at the end, but because it duplicates one in the middle.

The True Third Course


Olives (6 of 6 menus)

Fresh grapes (5 of 6 menus)

Note that the 6th menu is the one where grapes were put on the table in the First Course and explicitly noted to be left on the table for the rest of the meal. So we can count grapes as being present for this course in 6 of 6 menus.

Guaste pears (5 of 6 menus)

Two types of pears are listed: Guaste and Caroele. I don’t know the difference.  In 3 menus, these are cooked into pies or pastries.

Caroelle pears (2 of 6 menus)

These are listed simply, in one case accompanied by “paradise apples”. All of the menus have at least one pear dish.

Apples (1 of 6 menus)

Little apple tarts

Oyster Dishes

5 of 6 menus have some sort of oyster dish. Interestingly, the exception is the 1524 menu which is the only one with non-oyster seafood dishes. I’m sure there’s some sort of story behind this.

Oyster Pies/Pastries (4 of 6 menus)

Fried Oysters (2 of 6 menus)

In both cases, a sauces is also mentioned.


A Decorative Dish (3 of 6 menus)

These are grouped, not by material, but because the dish is  clearly intended as a visual decoration. One is custard-filled pastry in the shape of a fleur-de-lys. One is described as “various arms, German-style, fried with sugar”. And one is an Italian jelly with a mantle and laurel leaves.

Jellies (1 of 6 menus)

In addition to the above decorative jelly, there is a “French jelly”.

Pastry (2 of 6 menus)

Pastries of wafer dough and “guanti” which are hand-shaped fried pastries.

Marzipan (2 of 6 menus)

In one case listed only as “marzipan pastries”, in the other a detailed description “tegole of beans of faux royal pastry, fried, filled with marzipan” which would be baffling except that it is included in the detailed recipes and is apparently little marzipan “beans” enclosed in a fried pastry “pod”.

Misc. (1 of 6 menus)

Three of the remaining dishes occur in the same menu: pistachios and pine nuts, butter pats stamped with armorial designs, and “tall farate(?) without skin on them” whatever that might be. Another menu has "Fennel and other fruits in vinegar"


So if I were going to design a basic Third Course template, it would be something like this:

  • Olives

  • Grapes

  • Pears in pastry

  • An oyster pastry or fried oysters

  • A visually decorative dish, either of pastry or jelly

The full listings are complicated here by my attempt to show not only the dishes listed in the Third Course, but also to indicate dishes listed elsewhere that fall under this template, and to indicate which items listed as Third Course seem to belong under other templates. Because of this, there are a couple places where I’ve moved one of the dishes from the original order given, in order indicate these groupings.

15?0 (order altered slightly for thematic groupings)

  • Olives, 10 plates.

  • Fresh grapes, 10 plates.

  • Caroele pears and paradise apples, 10 plates.

  • 10 large oyster pies in 10 plates.

  • 200 fried oysters, covered in cameline sauce, in 10 plates.

Listed here, but belonging thematically to the Course 4 template

  • Cheese, 10 plates.

  • Butter vermicelli with rose water and sugar, with fine sugar on top in 10 plates.

  • Clotted cream [lattemele], 20 plates.

  • Clouds and wafers, 20 plates.

Course 2b

  • 20 suckling kids stuffed and roasted, in 20 little plates.

  • 20 loins in cavezzi in 20 little plates.

  • 20 spit-roasted peacocks in 20 little plates.

  • Hare in black broth in 20 little plates.

  • Small fishes, 20 little plates.

  • Stuffed lobsters, 20 little plates.

  • Fish gelatin, 20 little plates.

  • Peacock sauce, 20 little plates.

Course 3

  • Olives, 20 little plates.

Listed in Course 4 but thematically included here

  • 20 little apple tarts in 20 little plates.

  • Marzipan pastries, 20 little plates.

  • Guaste pears and apples in large pies, 20 little plates.

  • 100 caroelle pears in 20 little plates.


  • 10 tall farate [?] without skin on them, with fine sugar, in 10 plates.

  • 40 oyster pasties in 10 plates.

  • 90 pasties of wafer dough in 10 plates.

  • Fresh grapes, 10 plates.

  • Olives, 10 plates.

  • Peeled pistachios and pine nuts, 10 plates.

  • Guaste pears in 10 plates.

  • Washed butter stamped with various arms, with candied cinnamon on top, 10 plates.


  • 350 fried oysters, covered in strong sauce on 14 plates.

  • French jelly in 14 plates.

  • 14 large fleur-de-lys in 14 plates. (That is, a fleur-de-lys shaped pastry filled with custard)

  • 14 large pastries filled with guaste pears in 14 plates.

  • 140 tegole [lit. “tiles”] of beans of faux royal pastry, fried, filled with marzipan in 14 plates.

  • Guanti in 14 plates. (a fried pastry shaped like a hand or glove)

  • Fresh grapes, 14 plates.

  • Olives, 14 plates.

1540 (order altered slightly for thematic groupings)
Course 2b

  • 12 suckling pigs, roasted, in 12 little plates.

  • 12 veal loins cavezzi in 12 little plates.

  • Mustard in 12 little plates.

Course 3

  • Large pies of currants and guaste pears in 12 little plates.

  • Various arms, German-style, fried with sugar, in 12 little plates.

  • 12 large oyster pastries in 12 little plates.

  • Olives in 12 little plates.

  • Fresh grapes in little plates.

Listed in the Second Course, but belonging thematically here

  • 7 large oyster pies in 7 plates.

Course 3

  • Italian jelly with a mantle and laurel leaves, 7 plates.

  • Olives, 7 plates.

  • Fresh grapes, 7 plates.

  • Guaste pears with candied aniseseed on 7 plates.

  • Fennel and other fruits in vinegar, 7 plates.

Listed here, but belonging thematically to the Course 4 template

  • Faux junket with sugar, almonds, and rosewater in place of clotted cream, 7 plates.

  • Small and large wafers, 140 in 7 plates.

hrj: (doll)
Note: I don't trust my proofreading on this because I'm extremely tired (but wanted to get it posted). I may come back later and tidy it up.

(For previous posts in this series, see items tagged with 'messisbugo'.)

The First Course analysis was fairly straightforward. There seemed to be an obvious overall template to what was included, despite a wide range of variation. But moving on to the Second Course things get a bit less obvious.

There is no single dish type that appears in all 6 Carnival menus. In large part, this is because 5 of the menus continue to focus on fowl dishes, with general single (or at least few) dishes in other categories, but the 1548 menu has only a single dish with fowl and of a specific type found in only one other menu. It would be interesting to determine whether this variability of the second course is an expected thing. That is, perhaps the individuality of a menu is most expressed in the second course. As before, I’ll group these by general type and then by the number of menus they appear in.

Fowl Dishes

There is enormous variability in how many fowl dishes are served, from one (for the odd menu out) up to 5, hitting all the numbers in between.

1) Pheasant (4 of 6 menus) - The pheasants all have specific cooking methods and accompaniments mentioned. This isn’t so much a category of recipe as one defined by primary ingredient. The birds are served: German-style in pieces in a pipkin with thin slices of persutto; roasted with sliced lemons on top; roasted with bastard sauce; and spit-roasted with yellow sausage topped by peacock sauce.

2) Partridge (with other items) (4 of 6 menus) - Two of the dishes include partridge along with other creatures. (This provides a categorization conundrum as the partridge/pigeon combination could belong in either slot.) The several recipes are: roased with cameline sauce; stewed German-style in pots; roasted along with pigeons served over cabbage with sliced zambudelli (sausage); served (cooking method unspecified) with rabbits and francolins (another bird species).

3) Capon, roasted (3 of 6 menus) - Capons are less omnipresent in this course, although two categories mention them. They are served here: accompanied by red sausage; accompanied by roast rabbit; covered in tortelletti (as a contrast to duck served in this way).

4) Pigeons (3 of 6 menus, if we count the partridge + pigeon dish in both categories) - The birds are served: stuffed Lombard-style with yellow sausage over cabbage; quite similarly to the previously mentioned partridges and pigeons served with sausages over cabbage; and served in “mirasto” (the one recipe using this word involves a paste of almonds, pine nuts, and raisins).

5) Ducks (2 of 6 menus) - One is served, as before, with pasta, in this case “Neapolitan-style” macaroni. The other is served in pastry covered with white sauce and pomegranate seeds.

6) Capirota (2 of 6 menus) - A dish with a slightly thickened cheese broth poured over capon meat on slices of bread.

Misc. One menu each has a dish of turtledoves in broth or spit-roasted peacock.


In this category I don’t count “processed” meats or organ-type meats. There are only two categories here, both used in multiple menus: loins, and young animals appearing as either a stuffed breast or a whole stuffed animal.

7) Loin (4 of 6 menus) - Twice these are described as “cavezzi loins” or “veal loins in cavezzi”, a term I’m not familiar with. Sauce is mentioned in two recipes.

8) Whole young animal or breast, stuffed (4 of 6 menus, one with two dishes) - Kids, lambs, veal, and suckling pigs are all represented. Twice a breast is described as “Lombard-style”.  The presentation may be simply roasted (the whole kid and whole suckling pig), or braised or cooked in broth. Some sort of sausage or organ meat is often mentioned as an accompaniment.

Processed Meats and Organ-type Meats

Only two menus have any items in this category, each with two items.

9) Polpette (2 of 6 menus) - In one case served in pies, in the other served with black broth and pistachios.

10) Other (2 of 6 menus) - One dish is a sort of head-cheese (thick jelly with pork trotters, ears, and snouts) while the other item perhaps being shoehorned in here is tongue in sauce.


As in the First Course, sauces are often mentioned in the context of specific dishes, but some menus also have a sauce listed as a separate item.

11) Sauce (3 of  6 menus) - Royal sauce, mustard, sweet green sauce.

Pastries and Starches

Given the number of dishes served in crusts or with other types of dough-like containers, I’m not going to claim that “pastries” is a natural category. But I’ve grouped these items because  they have no obvious or major ingredient other than doughs, pastes, and grains.

12) Flans (3 of 6 menus) - As described in the recipes, a “flan” in this source sounds a great deal like a sort of ravioli, but with any sort of filling (including sweet fillings). Two of the flans here are filled with something starchy:pureed frumenty, or wafer dough. (Dough filled with dough! Then fried!) The third involves shelfish (morona).

13) Tortes (2 of 6 menus) - The recipes describe a “torte” in a way that sounds like it should be translated “pie”. I.e., a raised crust in which things are filled for cooking that may have an upper crust or not.  The fillings of these tortes are wafers or bread.

Misc. (each 1 of 6 menus) - The starches are rounded out by a blancmange and a type of fritter called a “guanti” (hand) due to its shape.


14) Fruit Pies (3 of 6 menus) - We have an apple pie and a fruit pie. Also a pie filled with currants and dates which probably doesn’t make a natural category with the others as currants and dates usually categorize with nut dishes and sweets.


Only one menu has any dishes featuring fish and that menu has 3 fish dishes: braised sea bass, sardines with oranges, and breams in vinegar.

Dislocated Dishes

One menu includes two dishes in the Second Course that normally occur in the Fourth Course (or equivalent) in other menus. These are an oyster pie and a dish of oysters and oranges (which otherwise are typically listed as separate dishes but served in the same course).


As can be seen above, there are few obviously common factors in this course. If I were putting together a “majority rules” template, it might look something like this:

A capon dish
A pheasant dish
A partridge dish
A roasted (veal) loin
A whole roast young animal (stuffed): lamb, kid, or pig
A flan or torte with some sort of starchy filling
A fruit pie

The Menus


  • 10 spit-roasted pheasants with 20 pieces of yellow sausage with peacock sauce on top in 10 plates.

  • 20 partridges stewed in pieces German-style in pots, in 20 plates.

  • 8 pieces of veal breast stuffed Lomabrd-style in broth with yellow mortadella together in 10 plates.

  • 10 bread tortes in 10 plates.

  • 10 cavezzi loins in 10 plates.

  • 10 quince pies in 10 plates.

  • Guanti [fritters] in 10 plates.

  • Sweet green sauce in 10 plates.


  • 40 roasted pheasants with bastard sauce in 20 little plates.

  • 20 capons covered in tortelletti in 20 little plates.

  • 20 stuffed lamb and kid breasts, Lombard-style, and veal sweetbreads in 20 little plates.

  • 40 rabbits, 20 francolini [small birds], 20 partridges together in 20 little plates.

  • Flaky pastries of royal pastry filled with currants and dates in 20 plates.

  • Braised sea bass in little pieces, in 20 little plates.

  • Hot fried freshwater sardines with oranges, in 20 little plates.

  • 80 gilthead breams in vinegar, in 20 little plates.

  • Blancmange in 20 little plates.


  • 10 fat capons, roasted, with ten pieces of red sausage, in 10 plates.

  • 38 pigeons stuffed Lombard-style, with 28 pieces of yellow sausage over cabbage, in 10 plates.

  • 100 little flans of Morona in 10 plates.

  • 10 pheasants in a pipkin in pieces, German-style, with thinly slices persutto in 10 plates.

  • Royal sauce in 10 plates.

  • Loin [lonza] in 10 plates.

  • 40 turtledoves in larded broth in 20 plates.


  • 28 roast pheasants with sliced lemons on top in 14 plates.

  • 28 pigeons in mirasto in 14 plates.

  • 56 roast partridges with cameline sauce on top in 14 plates.

  • 14 ducks covered with Neapolitan-style macaroni in 14 plates.

  • 56 little flans of puréed frumenty in 14 plates.

  • 14 spit-roasted peacocks in 14 plates.

  • 14 veal loins in cavezzi with French black sauce on top in 14 plates.

  • Mustard in 14 plates.


  • 12 large pies filled with polpette in 12 little plates.

  • 24 partridges and 24 domestic pigeons over cabbage with six zambudelli [sausages] in slices, 12 little plates.

  • Whole stuffed roasted little kids in 12 little plates.

  • Capirota of capon meat in 12 little plates.

  • 12 little tortes of wafers in 12 little plates.

  • Ducks in pastry covered with white sauce and pomegranate seeds in 12 little plates.

  • Thick jelly with pork trotters, ears and snouts in 12 little plates.

  • 12 spit-roasted capons and 12 rabbits in 12 little plates.


  • 7 pieces of veal breast, stuffed and then braised with roasted liver sausage, 7 plates.

  • Polpette in black broth, with pistachios on top, 7 plates.

  • 7 stuffed roasted suckling pigs, 7 plates.

  • Beef tongue in sauce [dobba] of malmsey wine, roasted, 7 plates.

  • 7 roasted loins together in the same dobba, 7 plates.

  • Capirota morella with slices of bread and capon meat underneath, 7 plates.

  • Small flaky flans filled with wafer dough, 35 in 7 plates.

  • German-style tarts of sliced apples with sugar and cinnamon, 7 in 7 plates.

  • 7 large oyster pies in 7 plates.

  • 400 oysters with oranges and pepper, 20 plates.

hrj: (doll)
(For previous posts in this series, see items tagged with 'messisbugo'.)

No, you haven’t missed parts 11-13. Those are scheduled to cover the other numbered courses and I’d already set up the file templates with those labels. But I decided to add one more overview discussion concerning how the various dishes were served to the diners. You may have noticed that each dish provides serving amounts indicating the number or quantity of food and the number of plates it’s served in. For example: “80 thrushes, 120 polpette, 80 turtledoves, together on 20 little plates” from which we may calculate that each of the 20 plates contained 4 thrushes, 6 polpette, and 4 turtledoves. Or “80 large fried kid livers with yellow sauce, 10 pounds in 20 little plates” from which we calculated each plate to have contained 4 kids livers comprising half a pound total. But how does this relate to the number of diners? Did each diner get their own thrush and turtledove? Perhaps. The per-plate count of items ranges from one each for larger items (e.g., capons, ducks), 2-4 for smaller items (pheasants, turtledoves, tomaselle) and 6-10 of small items such as pastries. And in general the total number of smaller items will be a multiple of the total number of diners (or at least of ordinary diners).

The number of diners (including the host(s) and guest(s) of honor) is enumerated for each menu. And each menu will tend to have a default number of plates of each dish served. A typical example is: “A dinner that was given by the magnificent Messer Girolamo Giliolo for the Most Illustrious and Most Excellent Lord Duke of Ferrara and other Gentlemen and Ladies, who numbered 38 at the first Table.” That is, counting the host and guest of honor, there were 40 diners. (The reference to the “first table” suggests that there may have been other tables, but the menus only seem to be describing what happens at the “first” table.) The default number of plates per dish in this case is 10.

In general, the default intent seems to have been to have one plate per 4 diners. The complication in this arithmetic is that sometimes this only works if you don’t include the host(s) and guest(s) of honor in the count of diners. In most cases, they do seem to have been included. It isn’t clear to me whether this represents two different styles of serving (one where the hosts/GoH’s may have been served something different that isn’t specified -- though this would seem a bit odd for the type of document we’re examining) or whether they hosts/GoH’s quantities simply weren’t included in the totals listed (though this would seem odd if the intent were to document quantities of food served).

After going through each menu in detail, I’ll synthesize the results into a generic serving template.


44 diners (1 host, 3 guests of honor, 40 “ordinary” guests); not counting the confection and collation courses, 30 dishes in 4 courses

10 plates for each dish (i.e., 4 diners per plate counting only “ordinary” guests) except:

  • 40 marzipan biscuits

  • both salads specified as “one per person”

  • 20 plates of partridges

  • 20 plates each of clotted cream and “clouds and wafers”

Items per plate range from 1-6 but there isn’t a clear focus around a “typical count” that matches the number of diners, though the plurality revolves around 40 -- the number of “ordinary guests”.


78 diners (2 hosts, 2 guests of honor, 74 “ordinary” guests); not counting the confection and collation courses, 44 dishes in 6 courses

20 plates (i.e., 4 diners per plate) for each dish except:

  • 37 plates of each salad

  • 12 plates of crab (this is a “presentation” dish with a motto gilded on the back of each crab)

This time the diners per plate comes out neatly to 4 including the hosts and GoH’s with a couple servings to spare. The exception is the salads where the count matches one for every two ordinary guest. Items per plate range from 1-4 in most cases with 80 total items being typical. Odd exceptions are 25 pheasants in 20 plates, 30 capons in 20 plates.


40 diners (1 host, 1 guest of honor, 38 “ordinary” guests); not counting the confection and collation courses, 36 dishes in 5 courses

10 plates  (i.e., 4 diners per plate) for each dish except:

  • 32 each of salads

  • 20 plates of turtledoves

  • 30 cups hippocras

At 10 plates and 4 diners per plate, the hosts and GoH’s are covered in the serving count as well as the ordinary guests. The salads, on the other hand are insufficient for each ordinary guest to have their own and too many for them to be shared in pairs of diners. Foot items per plate range from 1-4 generally with a plurality having a total of 40 items, matching the total diner count. In addition to the odd number of salads, the 30 cups of hippocras don’t match any obvious diner grouping.


55 diners 1 host, 3 guests of honor, 51 “ordinary” guests); not counting the confection and collation courses, 33 dishes in 5 courses

14 plates (i.e., 4 diners per plate) for each dish except:

  • 32 each of salads

  • 51 plates each of wafers and clotted cream

Food items per plate range from 1-4 generally, with 4 being the most common number for a total of 56 items. (This would appear to cover all diners, including host/GoH’s.) The most plentiful food items were fried oysters (25 per plate) and plain oysters (cooking method unspecified, 1000 total in 14 plates which comes to almost 20 per diner!) Note that once again the number of salads is too large to suggest they were intended as multi-diner servings, but too small for each diner to have their own. The very specific number of wafer and cream servings matches the “ordinary guests”.


48 diners (1 host, 1 guest of honor, 46 “ordinary” guests); not counting the confection and collation courses, 31 dishes in 4 courses

12 plates (i.e., 4 diners per plate) for each dish except:

  • 24 plates of each salad (i.e., one for every 2 diners)

  • 46 [plates, presumably] of capon livers and sausages

The plate-count is sufficient to cover diners in all categories. Food items per plate range from 1-4 though in this menu the total count is not always given (e.g., “whole stuffed roasted kids in 12 plates” where we may presume one per plate but it’s not explicit).


30 diners (1 host, 2 guests of honor, 27 “ordinary” guests); not counting the confection and collation courses, 34 dishes in 4 courses

We get a clue to a possibly uncounted category of diners from one of the non-food activities: “While they were eating the confections, my Consort sent two baskets with 27 packets of scented flowers, some real and some faux, one for the Most Illustrious Lord Duke, and one for the Most Illustrious Lord Prince, which their Lordships distributed among the dinner guests.” This reaffirms the notion of “ordinary guests” as being a key number and introduces for the first time the question of whether (in general) the host(s)’ wives should be included in the diner counts (even though never mentioned in the description).

7 plates (i.e., 4 diners per plate) for each dish except for:

  • 16 plates each of both salads (note that this would be sufficient for 2 diners per serving even including host/GoH)

  • 20 plates of (total of 400) oysters with oranges

Items per plate range from 1-4 with the majority involving a single larger item on each plate, though there are several items were 28 are specified. Exceptions to this pattern include 30 tomaselle (along with 28 chickens) on 7 plates, 35 small flaky flans in 7 plates.


The total number of guests ranges from 30 to 78. There is only a slight correlation between this number and the total number of dishes served or the number of courses, though there is a rule of thumb that the greater the number of courses, the greater the overall dish count. (Keep in mind that “number of courses” here includes the “pre-course” not just the numbered courses.)

  • 4 courses: 30, 31, 34 dishes

  • 5 courses: 33, 36 dishes

  • 6 courses 44 dishes

The 6-course dinner also has the largest guest count, but this would seem to be a feature of elaborateness of the banquet, not that a greater number of distinct dishes was needed to provide a greater amount of food. (That is, this dinner featured a greater amount of food per person, not just a greater amount overall.)

If we may generalize by a majority rule: dishes are normally served in plates that serve 4 diners each. One consistent exception is the salads, where each salad (remember there are normally two) may be intended to serve either one or two diners. (In two menus, the salad count falls between these two and I have no idea what’s going on.)

Without getting to too detailed a level, here are some typical quantities of food per (4-person) plate:


  • Capon 1

  • Duck 1

  • Partridges 2-4

  • Pheasant 1-2

  • Peacock 1

  • Pigeon 4

  • Quail, thrush, turtledove 4


  • Hare or rabbit 1

  • Roast kid, lamb, or suckling pig 1

  • Veal or unspecified loin 1

  • Veal breast 1

Processed Meats

  • Sausages (various types, some sliced) 1

  • Small “meatball” types dishes such as tomaselle and polpette 4-6


  • Oysters, fried 20-25

  • Oysters, unspecified 50+/-

Pies and Pastries

  • Small pastries 4-10

  • Large pies, tarts, tortes (various contents) 1

Confectionary and “Desserts”

  • Confections 1 lb

  • Marmalade boxes 2-4 (sometimes with different specified contents)

  • Fruit (oranges, pears) 3-5

  • Wafers 20+

hrj: (doll)
(For previous posts in this series, see items tagged with 'messisbugo'.)

As discussed in the overview, this course consists of multiple fowl dishes, a liver dish, a quadruped dish, frequently a fruit dish (often fresh), and other dishes with no general pattern. I’ve numbered the identifiable “template slots” or thematic groups for clarity.

Fowl Dishes

1) Partridges and/or pigeons, rarely chicken, sometimes with tomaselle (a sort of liver meatball wrapped in caul fat) served in various manners (6 menus)

This isn’t so much a clear “template slot” as a fuzzy grouping with overlap of a selection of primary ingredients.  Furthermore as two of the partridge dishes are served with oranges, this group also overlaps fuzzily with a second fowl dish:

2) Roast pheasant, usually with oranges (4 of 6 menus, with the other 2 menus being those that have roast partridge with oranges)

This complex fuzzy grouping may be clearer if one identifies the two category slots as “A” an “B” as shown in the following table of characteristics. (I hope the formatting works for all browsers.)

15?0 1524 1536 1537 1540 1548
Other Characteristics (A) (A) Roasted with sugar and cinnamon on top (A) Roasted (A) Roasted, with French sauce (A) In fried pastry
Pigeon/Chicken Dish A (pigeon) Dish A (pigeon) Dish A (chicken)
Tomaselle Dish A Dish A Dish A
Partridge Dish A Dish A Dish A Dish A Dish B
Oranges Dish A Dish A Dish B Dish B Dish B
Pheasant Dish B Dish B Dish B Dish B
Other Characteristics (B) (B) Roasted (B) Roasted (B) Roasted, with pieces of yellow sausage

It’s this sort of complex “theme with differences” that really piqued my interest when I first started looking at these menus.

3) Capon, generally served with some sort of salami, typically served on bread (5 of 6 menus)

This is another example of how varied the specific dishes can be while still having a thematic unity. The capons may be described as boiled, boiled in pastry, in pastry, boneless, or boneless and stuffed.  All five include some sort of salumi (2 with salami, 2 with mortadelle, 1 with persutto). Three mention being served “with slices of bread underneath” (either the capon or the salumi or both). In one case the capon in pastry is accompanied by veal breast in wine as well as the preserved meat.

Other Fowl

Each of the six menus has at least one other fowl dish in the First Course and one has as many as four additional fowl dishes. (The 15?0 menu has one of each of the following except the peacock.) There are three conceptual groups and two singleton dishes.

·      4) Pigeons, in pastry or in a pie (3 of 6)
·      5) Small birds & meatballs (3 of 6) - I’m cheating a bit because one of the three is rabbit with tomaselle and polpette, but this connects it with the other two dishes (thrushes and turtledoves with polpette, and quails with tomaselle and polpette).
·      6) Ducks in pastry with torteletti (2 of 6) but see also one menu with a dish of torteletti with no duck
·      7) Jelly with capon meat (1 of 6)
·      8) A roast peacock in pieces, covered with white sauce and mustard,  [with] the device of His Excellency (1 of 6)

9) Liver/Organ Dish(es) (5 of 6 menus)

This was a bit of a startling group to me, given modern attitudes towards liver and organ meats. (That is, not that I was startled to find liver as a standard menu item, simply that it stood out as different from modern tastes.) All 5 menus with this item have a liver dish, one that also includes sweetbreads, and one menu that has a separate sweetbread dish. The meat may be fried (2) or served in a torte (2) and may be accompanied by sausage or salami (2). A sauce may be mentioned (1) but a majority describe being served with sugar (3). Now there’s a daring taste sensation: “little tortes of liver with sugar and cinnamon inside and on the top”.

10) Quadruped Dish (5 of 6 menus)

I almost feel guilty for grouping these into a single template-slot, given the variety of animals and recipes that are represented. But when you look at the menus as a whole, “red meat” is quite rare. So when the pattern seems to be that a course includes one (and typically only one) dish focusing on “red meat”, it seems reasonable to think that there is intent and purpose. With regard to this category, note also the rabbit dish (with tomaselle and polpette) that I grouped with the “small birds with tomaselle and polpette” above. This was part of the 1537 menu which you may recall is the most elaborate, and which is the only one with multiple quadruped dishes in this course. (In addition to the rabbit, there are dishes of veal and boar.) Due to the variety of dishes in this group, I’ll simply list them.

15?0: none
1524: 80 little heads of kid and lamb split open and gilded.
1536 Boar in black broth with candied pine nuts on top, 10 plates.
1537: 14 pieces of veal breast, stuffed Lombard-style, with 14 salami in 14 plates.
* Boar Hungarian-style, in pieces in 14 plates.
* (note also the rabbit dish with tomaselle and polpette that I’ve grouped with the “small birds” above)
1540: Hare in pepper sauce, 12 little plates.
1548: 7 whole stuffed roasted little kids in 7 plates.

11) Sauce (2?, 3?, 5? of 6 menus)

It’s hard to know how to count this group in terms of how many menus include it as there are dish descriptions that include a sauce for that specific dish. Only 2 menus have a listing  or a sauce as a separate item, not attached to another dish. (Mustard, and “sweet certosina sauce” about which nothing further is known.)  But 5 other items mention a sauce accompanying a specific dish (carp with white and red sauce, livers with yellow sauce, partridges with French sauce, hare in pepper sauce, peacock with white sauce and mustard).  So overall 5 of 6 menus mention sauces in some fashion. I’d be disinclined to consider this a true “separate dish” in the course template, though. In Messisbugo’s recipe collection, the word “sauce” seems frequently to be used in a sense familiar to modern cuisine, i.e., a thickened semi-liquid accompaniment poured over a dish. But there are also some dishes called “soups” where the soup is also referred to as a sauce. In fact there is a recipe for “royal soup” that is described in this fashion, so perhaps the “gilded royal soup” mentioned in the “misc.” category below could be included here instead.

Fruit ( 3 of 6 menus)

There is a later course where fresh fruit is much more clearly a standard template-slot. These may not be intended to be a unified conceptual category, given the variety of types. We have apple pie, fresh grapes (that are explicitly mentioned as being left on the table for the rest of the meal), and a dish of oranges and lemons.


I’ll leave off numbering the dish groupings as we’ve come down to the “one-off” items. 4 of the 6 menus include dishes that can’t be shoehorned into any sort of general pattern.

The 1524 menu has 3 fish dishes (fried pike tails, turbot in pottage, boiled carp served decorated with the device of one of the guests of honor).  The 1524 menu, in fact, has several fish dishes in every numbered course and -- with the exception of oysters (which clearly have their own template-slots) -- is the only menu that has any fish dishes at all. Given that these are carnival banquets, and therefore a prelude to Lent when fish would dominate the menu, the general absence of fish is, perhaps, not surprising. That makes the 1524 menu stand out all the more for featuring them so heavily.

The 1536 menu includes two pastry-type dishes: fried pastries filled with genestrata (a sort of thickened pudding with spices, nuts, and dried fruits) and a flaky “pizze”. (I’d need to check with the translator to know if this name is in any way related to the source of “pizza”.)

The 1540 menu includes a dish of Turkish style rice (which appears to be a sort of sweet rice pudding with rosewater) and mantegate (pine-nut pastries).

The 1548 menu has a “gilded royal soup” (for which he gives a recipe elsewhere: an egg-thickened soup of ground almonds with spices and raisins) and a dish of tortelletti served with sugar and cinnamon. (Tortelletti are described as thin sheets of pasta filled with various fillings and then cooked in broth or fried, so you may mentally translate it as “tortellini” if you please, though the specific shape isn’t indicated.) Note that this dish connects with the set of “duck served with tortelletti” mentioned among the fowl dishes. And among Messisbugo’s recipes there are several places where it is mentioned that “these tortelli can be served either alone or for covering capons, ducks, pigeons, and others, if you like” (and similarly) so perhaps the template-slot should be thought of as “tortelletti, sometimes with duck” rather than the other way around.

The Lists of Dishes

Here I give the full lists of dishes in the original order for each menu.

15?0 - Note that this menu might be considered the "basic bare-bones" template

  • 60 tomaselle, 60 polpette, 40 quails, together in 10 plates.

  • 40 roasted partridges with oranges and sugar and cinnamon on top in 10 plates.

  • 10 domestic ducks in pastry, covered with tortelletti, in 10 plates.

  • 10 pies of guaste apples in 10 plates.

  • 10 broiled tortes of large veal livers and sweetbreads, in 10 plates.

  • 40 domestic pigeons in fried pastry in 10 plates.

  • Thick jelly with capon meat at the bottom in 10 plates.


  • 80 roasted partridges with 200 tomaselle and oranges on top, together in 20 little plates.

  • 80 little heads of kid and lamb split open and gilded.

  • 80 large fried kid livers with yellow sauce, 10 pounds in 20 little plates.

  • 80 thrushes, 120 polpette, 80 turtledoves, together on 20 little plates.

  • 30 boiled capons in pastry with 10 salami in quarters, with slices of bread underneath, in 20 little plates.

  • 20 fried pike tails in 20 little plates.

  • Large turbot in pieces in pottage, 20 little plates.

  • Boiled carp covered with white and red sauce, the device of our Most Reverend, 20 little plates.

  • Fresh grapes that always stood on the table [i.e. were there for the rest of the meal], 20 little plates.


  • 20 roast pheasants with 40 split oranges, in 10 plates.

  • 40 roast partridges with French sauce on top, in 10 plates.

  • 10 stuffed boneless capons, with 10 liver mortadelle, in 10 plates.

  • 60 little fried pasties of royal pastry filled with genestrata [a sort of thickened pudding with spices, nuts, and dried fruits], in 10 plates.

  • 40 tomaselle, 40 capon livers and 30 slices of fried salami with sugar, in 10 plates.

  • Boar in black broth with candied pine nuts on top, 10 plates.

  • 10 ducks in pastry covered with tortelletti, 10 plates.

  • 10 flaky pizze in 10 plates.

  • Mustard in 10 plates.


  • 18 domestic pigeons and 28 partridges in fried pastry, in 14 plates.

  • 56 roast pheasants with 28 split oranges in 14 plates.

  • 14 rabbits, 56 tomaselle and 56 polpette together in 14 plates.

  • 14 pieces of veal breast, stuffed Lombard-style, with 14 salami in 14 plates.

  • 56 little French-style pigeon pasties in pieces, in 14 plates.

  • Boar Hungarian-style, in pieces in 14 plates.

  • Fat boiled capons with slices of bread underneath and 14 yellow mortadelle, in 14 plates.

  • Sweet certosina sauce [nature uncertain] in 14 plates.


  • 24 pheasants and 48 partridges with 36 oranges in 12 little plates.

  • 48 domestic pigeons and 100 tomaselle together [30r] in 12 little plates.

  • 80 fried capon livers and yellow sausages in pieces, 46.

  • 40 veal sweetbreads fried, with sugar, in 12 little plates.

  • 12 capons in pastry and 12 big pieces of veal breast in Vernaccia wine and minced persutto, in 12 little plates.

  • 12 pies of large French pigeons in 12 little plates.

  • Turkish-style rice in 12 little plates.

  • 12 mantegate [pine nut pastries] in 12 little plates.

  • Hare in pepper sauce, 12 little plates.

  • Oranges and lemons, 12 little plates.


  • 28 young chickens and 30 tomaselle together on 7 plates.

  • 7 boneless capons with meat salami split in slices, with slices of bread underneath, 7 plates.

  • 7 roast pheasants and 28 little pieces of yellow sausage together in 7 plates.

  • Gilded royal soup, 7 plates.

  • Broiled little tortes of liver, and other kinds, with sugar and cinnamon inside and on top, 7 plates.

  • 7 whole stuffed roasted little kids in 7 plates.

  • A roast peacock in pieces, covered with white sauce, sauce and mustard, the device of His Excellency, 7 plates.

  • Tortelletti in plates with sugar and cinnamon on top in 7 plates.

hrj: (doll)
(For previous posts in this series, see items tagged with 'messisbugo'.)

We now enter the home stretch by circling back to the “numbered courses”. To review: after the diners finish with the course that was on the table when they were seated (if I’m interpreting correctly), we enter a sequence of courses that in most of the menus are numbered “first, second, third, etc.” although there are exceptions to this labeling system. (For the 1537 menu where the courses start numbering from the “pre-course” I’m treating them as renumbered from 1 after the pre-course.)

Of the six Carnival menus, three have three numbered courses, two have four courses, and one has five courses. When the specific dishes are matched up across the various menus, it makes sense to discuss five groupings, though specific dish groups may be combined into a single course in some cases, and more rarely may be shifted in position in the meal from what appears to be the majority case. The general distribution of dish types and their appearance in the six menus looks something like this:

Course 1: Multiple fowl dishes, a liver dish, a quadruped dish, frequently a fresh fruit dish, and other dishes with no general pattern -- This appears as the First Course in all six menus.

Course 2: Multiple fowl dishes (in most cases), a roast of a young quadruped (veal, kid, lamb or suckling pig), a sauce, a flan or torte (in most cases), in a few menus there are other dishes with no general pattern -- This appears as the Second Course in all six menus. However one menu includes dishes in this course that more commonly appear in the Third and Fifth (that is, they’re displaced from the majority position).

Course 3: Oyster pies or fried oysters, olives, fresh grapes, pears and sometimes also apples in pies, a decorative dish in jelly or pastry, a dish focusing on nuts (in various forms) -- This appears as the Third Course in most of the menus, but the 1524 menu places most of this group of dishes in the Fourth Course and instead has a Third Course that recapitulates some of the Second Course with the addition of fish. (If I were relabeling the courses to match up conceptually, I’d call this recapitulation “Course 2B” and then identify the oyster pies through nuts as “Course 3”.)

Course 4: Wafers (often with “clouds”, whatever that might signify), in some cases cheese and a pasta dish, in some cases clotted cream, and in isolated cases other dishes with no general pattern -- These appear as the Fourth Course in three menus, in reduced form as part of the Third Course in two menus, and is entirely absent in the 1540 menu.

Course 5: Oysters, sliced oranges with pepper -- This is a separate Fifth Course in one menu, appears as part of the Fourth Course in two menus, and is entirely absent in two menus. In the 1548 menu, these dishes appear but as part of the Second Course.

So that’s the basic overall structure. But the specific dishes within those themes may differ, and there are some dish types that only occur in a single menu or perhaps two and so don’t seem to be part of an overall template. In looking at the courses in detail, my general format will be to match up dishes across the menus that seem to be variants of the same template slot, group them according to the general topics given above (with “miscellaneous” coming last), and then to discuss them in decreasing order of the number of menus that dish-group appears in. In some cases, if one or more menus seem to duplicate a template slot, I may discuss the duplicates along with the “main” grouping. In previous discussions, I’ve give the original text first, but in this group of discussions I’ll add it at the end.
hrj: (doll)
(For previous posts in this series, see items tagged with 'messisbugo'.)

The overall review of the non-dining activities in Part 7 provides a useful context for the course identified as a “collation”. After the main banquet is served, the guests enjoy dancing and perhaps other entertainments (such as the distribution of presents). After some time of this, they are presumed to need some additional refreshment, either before returning home or continuing with the dancing. This is introduced by name with a brief statement. In only one of the menus is this item omitted.


  • Then came the evening collation, that is:


  • The evening collation was of...


  • Then at night this collatione was brought:


  • And the collation for the evening was of...


  • [no collation mentioned]


  • At 9 there was a collation of...

Like the confectionary course, the collation seems to have been served with knives and napkins. (So if people are using plates, then they are not considered noteworthy to mention. I keep trying to imagine snacking on “confections in syrup” with only a knife and napkin as my tools. Either my expectations are wrong, or not everything is being mentioned.) These are only mentioned explicitly in two of the menus, so it’s likely that expected default items may not always be listed. The format for the collation is very consistent confections in syrup and white confections (the contrast leads me back to the theory that “white confections” are dry candied items), fresh fruit (apples or grapes), and sugar water. (I’m not entirely sure what “sugar water” is beyond the obvious.)


  • Confections, white and in syrup,

  • and sugar water,

  • with napkins

  • and knives.


  • confections in syrup and white,

  • and apples

  • and sugar water,

  • with knives

  • and napkins


  • 20 ewers of sugar water.

  • Fresh grapes, 10 plates.

  • Dece apples, 10 plates.

  • Lettuce, gourd and melon in syrup, 10 plates.


  • various confections,

  • fruits

  • and sugar water


  • [no collation mentioned]


  • sugar water,

  • fresh grapes,

  • and apples

  • and other little things

So our basic template for the collation is exceedingly simple:

  • Sugar water

  • Fresh fruit (grapes and/or apples)

  • Confections in syrup and in sugar (the specific examples include vegetables as well as fruit)

  • served along with:

  • Knives

  • Napkins

And now there’s nothing left to tackle except the intimidating bulk of the numbered courses. Don’t expect another update  for at least a week at the minimum.
hrj: (doll)
(For previous posts in this series, see items tagged with 'messisbugo'.)

As you may remember from the last post, we get a view into what else was going on at these banquets (besides eating) from the 1548 menu which describes a “flower game” that comes after the confectionary course and before the collation. The 1548 menu has a great deal more discussion of the non-food activities in general. I skipped over some text in this menu that appeared before the description of the initial table setting, so let’s back up a little and look at this one event, placing the text in what appears to be the chronological order of the events, rather than the order of the text.

“Now it should be known that in Banquets during Carnival some party was always given before, or a tournament, or a game of caleselle or whatever[1], or a combat with pikes/staffs, or a castle, or there might be the party of the Pig [?] or other similar things, which in order to expedite things I did not want to relate.”

[Note 1: per Florio: “apish, minike or iugling trickes.  Also a kind of paste meate.  Also a kind of sport or game used at Shrovetide in Italie.  Also certain round balles made of baked earth very brittle, which in that play they use to cast one at another, and breake very suddenly.”]

This is a general statement of what sorts of events were held, though no specific physical activity is describef for this banquet. But we are then told the following:

“First a Comedy was recited in the hall, where there was a very beautiful little stage set representing Venice.  The comedy was titled “The Night,” written by Maestro Girolamo Parabosco of Bologna, which was very pleasing, comical, and well performed with its musical pieces.  And there were the appropriate and necessary interludes [intermezzi]. [2] The comedy began at hour 24 [meaning midnight?] and finished at half-past three at night.  And when the Comedy was finished the table was prepared with the materials described below, that is:”

[Note 2: My note, not the translator’s. My impression is that “interludes” would normally be performed during the meal itself, though that isn’t clear in this description.]

And then we get the description of the table setting, the “pre-course”, the three numbered courses, an the confectionary course. Now we have the flower game:

“While they were eating the confections, my Consort sent two baskets with 27 packets of scented flowers, some real and some faux, one for the Most Illustrious Lord Duke, and one for the Most Illustrious Lord Prince, which their Lordships distributed among the dinner guests.

While we were playing this flower game, the Hall was rinsed, emptied and swept, and then they went to dance, and danced until nine o’clock. At 9 there was a collation...”

(The collation course will be described in the next installment.)

“Then everyone went to his own house fully satisfied.”

You may notice that this is somewhat startling in the details of the timing: We begin at midnight (if correctly interpreted) with a dramatic presentation that lasts for three hours. And if there were a tournament or physical game before that, presumably it would have been during daylight hours, so we may imagine the activities beginning at the very lease in mid-afternoon if not before. Then at half past three in the morning, the table is prepared for an extensive meal. If the dancing lasts until 9:00, presumably in the morning, then we may imagine perhaps that the main banquet lasted for several hours, followed by a couple hours of dancing. At 9am the guests are served a very light refreshment (the collation) and then go home, presumably straight to their beds!

To provide a comparison, there are similarly detailed descriptions of the non-food entertainments for an even more elaborate non-Carnival menu by Messisbugo for a high state dinner in January of 1529. To summarize greatly, the order of the day consisted of:

  • In the grand hall there was a performance of a comedy by Ludovico Ariosto

  • Then the guests left the hall for other rooms where they were entertained with music and conversation while the tables were set up and spread (with three tablecloths) in the grand hall. In this description, it is made clear that what I am calling the “pre-course” is placed on the table before the guests come in.

  • The guests come into the hall, wash their hands in scented water, and sit, partaking of the dishes already on the table.

  • The first course is served.

  • There is a musical performance.

  • The second course is served.

  • There is a musical performance.

  • The third course is served.

  • A musical dialog is performed.

  • The fourth course is served.

  • There is a musical performance. (The performances are all described in terms of the voices and instruments and sometimes a named performer of note.)

  • The fifth course is served.

  • There is a musical performance.

  • Somewhat differently from the Carnival menus, at this point the tables are cleared and the first tablecloth is removed.  Napkins, knives, salt cellars, and bread are provided, along with decorations representing Hercules defeating the Hydra.

  • The sixth course is served.

  • There is a musical performance.

  • The seventh course is served.

  • There is an entertainment involving clowns.

  • The eighth course is served.

  • There is a musical performance while the tables are cleared and the second tablecloth is removed. Then the decorative figures are returned to the tables.

  • Scented water for handwashing is provided.

  • The confectionary course is presented, along with fresh napkins and knives, and scented toothpicks.

  • There is a musical performance.

  • Doorprizes are brought in and distributed while other music plays, then the guests adjourned to another room while the tables were taken away and the grand hall was cleaned.

  • The guests return to the grand hall to dance.

  • A collation is served.

  • The guests return to dancing until dawn.

So while this event was far more elaborate and extensive, it helps show the general structure and rhythm of the entertainments, which are mentioned much more briefly and ambiguously in the Carnival menus.

The next installment will discuss the contents of the “collation” which, as we have seen above, is intended as a light repast to restore the guests after (or in the middle of) the dancing.

hrj: (doll)
(For previous posts in this series, see items tagged with 'messisbugo'.)

The bulk of the banquet has come in the numbered courses, but there is still a fair amount of ritual and food to come. After the last numbered course, there is a clearing away of the dishes on the table as well as of one of the tablecloths (presumably to clear away crumbs and detritus of the meal as well). The instructions for this step are all quite parallel and then are followed by a list of sweet dishes to be brought in, along with utensils and napkins. This unit will be listed in 3 parts: the removal, the sweets, and the utensils along with any additional material.

The Removal

And then the cloth and all other things were taken off the table, and scented water was given for the hands, and the confections were brought, that is:

And then one cloth was taken away along with the other things on the table, and water was given for the hands, and in were brought:

And then everything was taken off the table, as well as one cloth, and then scented water was given from the hands, and in addition:

And then scented water was given for the hands, and brought in were:

And then one cloth and all other things were removed from the table, and scented water was given for the hands, and then came the confections, which were:

Scented water for the hands, then came the following confections:


Despite the omission of the cloth-removal in some cases, we can identify a clear template for this step:

  • Remove everything on the table

  • Remove one of the tablecloths

  • Bring scented water for hand-washing

  • Serve the confections (as detailed below)

The Sweets

8 pounds of confections in syrup in 10 plates.
Quartered quinces in 10 marmalade boxes and 10 marmalade boxes of marena cherry jelly together in 10 plates.
Prunes in sauce, 10 marmalade boxes, with candied peaches around them, together in 10 plates.
Little honey-spice breads [coppette] in 10 plates.

20 honey-spice breads [coppette] in little plates.
10 toroni in pieces, in 20 little plates. [“a kind of big comfets”, the word “toroni” modernly means nougat]
20 pounds of confections in syrups in 20 little plates.
80 little marmalade boxes of quince preserves in 20 little plates.

10 pounds white confections in 10 plates.
10 pounds confections in syrup in 10 plates.
10 honey-spice breads [coppette] in 10 plates.

14 broken coppette in 14 plates.
Confections in syrup, 14 plates.
Pine nuts and pistachios, peeled, rinsed in rose water, 14 plates.
56 marmalade boxes of marena cherries and quince jelly in 14 plates.

Quince preserves in 36 little marmalade boxes in 12 little plates.
Candied pine nuts and candied common seeds in 12 plates.
Citron and lemon rind and other fruits in syrup, in 12 plates.

CONFECTIONS: [note: the menu explicitly labels this list]

5 pounds confections of various sorts in syrup, 7 plates.
White confections of various kinds, 7 plates.
Marmalade boxes of various sorts, 14 in 7 plates.


Dishes found in all menus

  • confections (of various sorts) in syrup, in one case “citron and lemon rind and other fruits in syrup” are specified

Dishes found in at least half the menus

  • “marmalade boxes” (5 menus), typically with quince preserves specified as the contents (hence the association with marmalade), but “marena cherry jelly” is also an option (or an addition) and one menu has an extensive assortment of preserves (prunes, candied peaches, quartered quinces, marena cherry jelly) all served in marmalade boxes

  • “coppette” (honey-spice bread) (3 menus)

Other dishes

  • “white confections” of various kinds (2 menus) - It isn’t clear what these are, but there is some suggestion that they may be fruits candied in sugar

  • toroni in pieces (1 menu) - The suggestion is a type of candy, perhaps nougat

  • nuts (2 menus) - either specified as candied or not

So our basic menu template would seem to call for:

  • fruits in syrup (e.g. citrus rind)

  • dry fruit preserves, especially quince preserves or cherry jelly, served in a “marmalade box” - It seems reasonable to envision this as being like membrillo

  • honey-spice bread

The Utensils

Knives and white napkins and scented toothpicks.

Napkins and knives in 20 little plates.
Scented toothpicks as needed.

Scented toothpicks, napkins, and knives in 10 plates.

Scented toothpicks, napkins, and knives.

White napkins and knives in 12 plates.
Scented toothpicks when they were needed.

Napkins and knives, 7 plates.
Embroidered [?] and perfumed toothpicks.


The list of confection also includes the provision of knives, napkins, and scented toothpicks.  Plates are also mentioned in many cases, but in the same sort of phrases as is used for the serving of dishes, and not of sufficient number for the number of guests. So it may be that these are used to convey the other utensils rather than being used for the food. One presumes the knives and napkins are used in serving out and consuming the confections. And that the toothpicks are for the obvious purpose at the end of a meal.

There is additional information in the 1548 menu regarding what the diners were doing at this point. It seems likely that similar activities were included in the other banquets but that this level of detail was not included in the descriptions for those.

While they were eating the confections, my Consort sent two baskets with 27 packets of scented flowers, some real and some faux, one for the Most Illustrious Lord Duke, and one for the Most Illustrious Lord Prince, which their Lordships distributed among the dinner guests.

While we were playing this flower game, the Hall was rinsed, emptied and swept, and then they went to dance, and danced until nine o’clock. [the instruction then leads directly into the collation]

The Mini-Messisbugo

I didn’t have the equipment or personnel to do a full removal of the table settings and one of the cloths, but after clearing away all the serving dishes, I served a confectionary course of:

  • quince paste (alas, with no marmalade boxes)

  • an assortment of dried and candied fruits (dried cherries and strawberries, candied orange peel)

  • nuts: pistachios and pine nuts

hrj: (doll)
(For previous posts in this series, see items tagged with 'messisbugo'.)

As I mentioned in the last installment, the contents of the numbered courses and their relationship to each other is complicated. But before I skip over to the removal (with the promise to come back to the numbered  courses in detail), I thought I should lay out the general structure.  There are 3-5 numbered courses. Of the 6 menus, 3 have 3 courses, 2 have 4 courses[1], and 1 has 5 courses. There are certain dishes that are either universal or nearly so across all the menus in a particular course, other dishes where a general category-slot seems to be near-universal, and then the option for other dishes with greater variability. When the corresponding dishes are examined, it appears that the larger set of courses is not due to an additional set of templates, but rather to repetitions of the existing templates, especially from the 2nd and 3rd courses. That is, a 5-course banquet follows a template more along the lines of “course 1, course 2a, course 2b, course 2c, course 3”.

And that’s about as much as I want to get into until I do the detailed analysis. Now on to the Removal.

[1] As mentioned previously, in one case the “pre-course” is labeled as the first course, for a total of 5 numbered courses in that menu, but they only count for 4 “numbered courses” in terms of the abstract structure.
hrj: (doll)
Wow, it’s been a while since I started my excessively geeky structural analysis of the Carnival Menus of 16th c. Italian chef Messisbugo. The earlier parts of the series are my “mini-Messisbugo” menu for a dinner for 10, the introductory structural overview, summarizing the menus being used as data and describing the overall schematic structure of the meals, and a detailed analysis of the first unit: the table setting. As before, all credit for tracking down and translating the text goes to [ profile] vittoriosa.

I now proceed to the unit that I’m unofficially calling the “pre-course”. After the description of the table setting, there is a list of dishes that is similar in structure to the lists identified as courses, but it is not usually labelled as “the Nth course”. Furthermore, it is followed in the text by an instruction to bring scented water for the hands and then the text proceeds to a course generally identified as the “first course”. One exception to this may help disambiguate the nature of the service. in the 1537 menu, this “pre-course” is instead called the “first course” and is followed by an instruction “Scented water was given for the hands and then the first course.   Everyone sat down, and then the second course came in [followed by a list of dishes].” So this implies that this “pre-course” (whether numbered or not) may be served after the handwashing even though it is described before it. I'm still uncertain about this.

Here are the specific texts:

40 pieces of marzipan biscuits. [See the discussion in the previous article regarding whether this item belongs conceptually to the “table setting” group. I have omitted it from the analysis of this section.]
Salad of capers, truffles and currants, one per person.
Salad of endive, chicory [radicchio] leaves, and citron sliced thinly, one per person.
10 hot pheasant pies, 10 little plates.
Salted beef tongue cut in pieces, in 10 little plates.
Roasted capon meat sliced and fried with lemon juice and sliced lemon and sugar and pepper on top, 10 plates.

25 cold jointed pheasants in 20 little plates.
Salad of half-salted beef tongue incasonada [?] in slices, in 20 little plates.
Fried mortadella slices with sugar and cinnamon on top in 20 little plates.
Salad of truffles and capers in 37 open pies, 37 little plates.
Salad of mixed greens [mescolanze], ramps, and citron, 37 little plates.

Salad of herbs and citron, 32.
Salad of truffles, 32.
4 salami and 4 tongues in slices, in 10 plates.
10 boiled jointed capons in pastry, fried, in 10 plates.
Large round pies filled with sliced boar in sauce [dobba], 10 plates
Large flaky pastries with ten partridges, cold, in 10 plates
80 cascosse, 10 plates. [note: Cascóssa, a kind of creame or fresh cheese, some take it for a kind of paste-meat.”]
Turkish-style rice, 10 plates.

1537 - In this case, this list is identified as the “first course”
Salad of ramps, cress, chicory [radicchio] leaves, and citron, 32 plates.
Salad of raisins and capers, 32 plates.
Large pies, each of which contained half a loin of beef, sliced, in sauce [dobba], in 14 plates.
Capon meat and mortadella slices covered with blancmange and fine sugar on top, 14 plates.
14 large pastries of pine nuts and raisins, quartered, in 14 plates.
Salami, that is, persutto trinzato [?] and sliced tongue, 14 plates.

12 capons in pies, jointed raw and then cooked inside the pies, in 12 plates.
Salad of peacock flesh with sliced lemon, 24 little plates.
Salad of endive with chicory [radicchio] leaves, 24 plates.
Parmesan cheese, 12 plates.
12 cold roasted loins of hare, jointed, in 12 little plates.

1548 - The format in this case includes as the first item in the list the napkin, knife, and breads that are usually grouped with the description of the table setting. I’ve left those treated in the preceding article, per my approach of structuring the discussion according to the majority pattern.
Salad of chicory, endive, ramps, and other mixed greens, 16 plates.
Salad of peacock meat and sliced citron with red wine vinegar, sugar, and a little pepper, 16 plates.
Sliced salami and salted tongue and the accompanying persutti, 7 plates.
Little flans of raisins, currants, pine nuts and salami, 48 on 7 plates.
Dry-roasted stuffed polpette, covered with royal sauce, 48 on 7 plates.
Soup of raisins covered with sugar and cinnamon, 7 plates.
12 roasted partridges in mirasto in pieces, 7.
28 little flaky pastries of royal pastry, filled with blancmange, 7 plates.
7 ducal saveloy sausages and boar bole [?], and fried veal sweetbreads, together on 7 plates.
28 domestic pigeons stuffed inside and under the skins, roasted, 7 plates.

The Handwashing Instruction

I’ll analyze the dishes below, but I wanted to list the hand-washing transitions first, since they’re closely parallel to each other. As noted above, the 1537 instruction strongly implies that the handwashing is done before the “pre-course” is served. But otherwise the implication seems to be that the handwashing is done after the service.

Then scented water was given for the hands, and in the first course there were:

And here was given scented water for the hands, and then came this first course:

Then scented water was given for the hands, and the first course came, as such:

1537 - note that the “pre-course” is identified as “first” in this case and the numbers are shifted accordingly for the following courses.
Scented water was given for the hands and then the first course [i.e., the course described above].  Everyone sat down, and then the second course came in

Then scented water was given for the hands, and in came:

Here was given scented water for the hands, and they remained for a bit with this course, then they took away the salads and salami and brought in the next course.

The Structure of the Dishes

With the omissions noted above, this unit contains either 5 (3 menus), 6 (1 menu), or 8 (2 menus) dishes. There are some clear categorical themes, though each menu may vary within that theme.


All menus have a salad of greens (endive, radicchio, ramps, mixed greens, sliced citron).

Four have another salad involving truffles, capers, and raisins or currants (each of these ingredients is missing in at least one case but there is clearly a grouping here).

There are two other dishes labeled a “salad”. One is a “salad of peacock flesh with sliced lemon” which seems to be its own category (it shows up in two menus, and also in one of the non-Carnival menus that is not part of the current analysis). The other, a salad of sliced salted beef tongue, seems to belong conceptually in the next category.

Sliced preserved meats and sausages

Five of the six menus include a dish of salami and sliced salted beef tongue, or tongue by itself. One of these also includes a dish of “fried mortadella slices”. (Mortadella slices also occur as garnish in other dishes.)

Fowl most typically capon

Some sort of fowl dish is always present and the one most commonly present involves capon, although the method of cooking and presentation may vary (4 of 6 menus). Boiled joined and cooked in pastry; joined raw and cooked in pastry; roasted, sliced and fried with lemon juice; meat (cooking method unspecified) with mortadella slices covered with blancmange.

Game birds (partridge or pheasant) feature in 4 of 6 menus: in patry, in pies, or simply served as cold joints. One menu also has a dish of (domestic) pigeons stuffed and roasted.

Less Common Categories

There seems to be a conceptual slot for a dish of red meat: boar, beef, or hare (4 menus, 2 of which involve “large pies”). But this may be an attempt on my part to impose order on an unrelated assortment of dishes.

Two menus have a dish of cheese, evidently served plain.

Two menus have a dish featuring rice (Turkish-style rice or a pie filled with blancmange).

Two menus have pastries of raisins and pine nuts (other ingredients possible).

The menu with the largest number of dishes ekes out the more common categories with stuffed polpettes (a sort of meat roll-up) and a soup of raisins.

A "Typical" Course

So if the most common number of dishes is five and given the groupings above, a typical menu should involve:

  • a salad of greens and citron slices

  • a second salad, typically of truffles and capers (alternately peacock meat and sliced lemon)

  • a dish of salami and sliced tongue

  • a dish of capon in some form

  • another meat dish, there being a temptation to suggest either game birds or a game animal (boar or hare) though I’m sure this is an artificial grouping on my part

A more extensive course might add the other category of meat dish from above, a cheese plate, or a rice dish, but beyond that no pattern can be extrapolated.

My Mini-Messisbugo

I diverged from the above “typical” menu for the pre-course primarily because I wanted to limit the number of meat-based dishes and aim for a larger variety of types of dishes, especially ones that could be served cold with little prepartion.

  • A salad of endive, radicchio, and thinly sliced lemon, marinated in advance with lemon juice and almond oil. I blended the salad motifs slightly by adding capers and then added fresh arugula at the last minute.

  • A plate of sliced salami, prosciutto, and smoked tongue accompanied by parmesan cheese and small balls of fresh mozzarella. This combines the obligatory salumi plate with the optional cheese plate.

  • Pastries of pine nuts and raisins. I loosely followed one of Messisbugo’s recipes for this dish, using ground raisins and pine nuts bound with honey and rolled up in (commercial) phyllo dough.

  • (Commercial) almond biscuits. As noted above, this properly belongs in the table-setting category but I served it with this course.

Next Article

I may save the analysis of the “main courses” for later and jump ahead to the “Removal” for the next article. The relationships of the main courses and their contents are complex and I’d rather get some momentum going on this write-up rather than getting bogged down.
hrj: (doll)
I was in Berkeley Bowl last Tuesday for my regular post-dragonboat-practice-grocery run (because that's the day I reliably drive to work, so it's the weekly Berkeley Bowl stop) and noticed that both Seville oranges and kumquats were solidly in stock. Not "we're importing them from the other hemisphere" in-stock but local in-stock. So I concluded it was time for the start of this year's citrus preservation experiments.


Last year, you may recall, I made a fumbling attempt at Gervase Markham's orange marmalade. To reprise the original recipe:

To make an excellent marmalade of oranges, take the oranges, and with a knife pare off as thin as is possible the uppermost rind of the orange; yet in such sort as by no means you alter the colour of the orange; then steep them in fair water, changing the water twice a day, till you find no bitterness of taste therein; then take them forth, and first boil them in fair running water, and when they are soft, remove them into rose-water, and boil them therein till they break; then to every pound of the pulp put a pound of refined sugar, and so, having mashed and stirred them all well together, strain it through very fiar strainers into boxes, and so use it as you shall see occasion.

Last time I was at a loss how to interpret the instruction about "pare off as thin as is possible" and pretty much ignored it. This time I decided to follow the theory that the intent is to expose more of the rind to the initial steeping process, but rather than paring the rind, I ran the oranges lightly over a rasp (the sort you use to make zest). I'm trying to follow the instructions as closely as I can understand them, so I soaked the whole oranges in multiple changes of water, changed twice a day. I think there were about 10 changes overall. At the end, I couldn't taste any bitterness in the rinse water.

OK, so I did deviate from the literal recipe at the next step because I didn't want to have to pick out the seeds at a later stage. So rather than boiling the oranges whole, I quartered them and picked out the seeds. Oh, and because I'm doing a batch of candied rind, I went ahead and added the juice and pulp from that batch of oranges too. So now I'm two steps away from the original recipe. (Note: I'm using 12 whole oranges and the juice+pulp of another 12 oranges.)

I covered the fruit just barely with water and started it simmering. Almost had a tragedy when the water level got low and I had to transfer the orange pulp to another pot to avoid the slight scorching. That's the point where I am right now, so more later.

Candied Orange Peel

So far, all I've done is cut a dozen Seville oranges into eighths and remove the pulp, then set the peel to soak in water. I'll be following my standard recipe: soak in a dozen or so changes of water, then make a 1:1 sugar syrup and bring the peel to a simmer in the syrup once a day until Something Changes. One year I got the syrup to a crystalizing stage and the peel ended up nicely dry and sugary. One year I started getting a carmelization change while it was still syrupy and the peel ended up wetter and a bit tougher. I'm sure it's a matter of keeping the temperature low while the water boils off, but I tend to do these things by guess and golly so who knows what I'll get this time.

Kumquat Preserves

I'm using the "contagion" theory to consider this batch part of the Produce of My Estates because there are 5 of my own kumquats mixed in with about 2 quarts of store-bought. Wash the kumquats then pierce them end-to-end with a large skewer to allow the syrup to penetrate. Don't bother with the water soak because the bitterness factor is lower. Make a 1:1 sugar syrup and bring the fruit to a simmer in the syrup once every day until Something Changes. What I'm aiming for in this case is whole fruit in a jelly-like syrup, so when the daily cool-down results in something that sets, after the next heating I'll put it up in jars.
hrj: (doll)
This is a French cow's milk cheese in the general "brie-like" family with a white mold rind and a ripened, creamy, almost runny paste. Like many in that family, the taste will no doubt vary depending on the precise amount of ripening time. The one I picked up was definitely on the side of nearly liquid but without any tinge of the ammonia that can develop in some cases. It almost dissolves on the tongue with a very buttery mouth-feel. The main taste is a mild milkiness but with a little acidity around the edges.  When smeared on a plain whole-wheat cracker, it goes very nicely with an acidic dried fruit (e.g., berries or cherries) or even a bitter orange marmalade. It needs some sort of contrast of that type to avoid being insipid. For similar reasons, I'd recommend pairing it with a fairly acidic red wine, but since my prejudice leans heavily to reds, this recommendation should be suspect.
hrj: (doll)
Because the girlfriend-from-New-York is visiting this weekend, and because she finds it quaint and exotic that people in California actually ... like ... GROW things in their yards, I am planning a dinner that will be based around the produce of my estate. To wit:

A Greek-style salad of sliced *cucumber and *tomato with feta and *olives

An *artichoke-*herb tart a la Messisbugo

A stir-fry of *eggplant, *zucchini, and *red onion with *basil and aged cheese

Lamb chops (with a mint-cocoa rub) served with spiced *plum sauce

An *apple tart with almond-crumb topping

As my grapevine still shows no signs of producing fruit, the wine will be provided by [ profile] thread_walker who will be joining us for dinner.
hrj: (doll)
Dalby, Andrew & Maureen Dalby. 2012. The Shakespeare Cookbook. The British Museum Press, London. ISBN 978-0-7141-2335-6

This is not a book aimed at serious food history geeks, except insofar as serious food history geeks who are completists will no doubt enjoy picking up a copy to grace their shelves. This is meant as a "gateway drug" to historic food geekery. The name Dalby is generally associated with a quality product and up to a certain point, this is what the book delivers. Past that point ... well, but I'll get to that.

The basic premise here is to introduce the reader to the basic ideas of culinary and dining history in the late 16th century in a palatable [you see what I did there?] manner by tying the subjects in at regular intervals to themes and dialogs in Shakespeare's plays. With the wealth of the British Museum holdings at their disposal, it comes plentifully illustrated with artwork and artifacts relevant to the topics. In fact, solely as a single source for images of Elizabethan dinners and dining arrangements (of varied levels of formality, class, and scope) this would be a valuable starting point. In addition, there are discussions of common (and some uncommon) ingredients and staple foods.

And, of course, there are recipes. Like all good "gateway drug" cookbooks, the text provides a literary context mentioning a dish, then provides a recipe from a historic cookbook that has some connection with the literary context, and then provides a modern measured-and-step-by-step recipe for the novice to follow. Very disappointingly though, these last are not merely modern in format but have been changed significantly from the historic recipes to make them modern in taste and form as well.

As a typical example, a 16th century recipe for "Capon with oranges or lemons" which can be summarized as "boil a capon, then make a sauce by simmering some of the broth with oranges, mace, and sugar, thickened with wine and egg yolks" gets turned into "oven-braise chicken pieces with onions, carrots, and dill, then make a sauce from lemon juice and a minute amount of the cooking liquid, thickened with whole eggs and cornstarch". Well, they overlap in the use of poultry, citrus, and eggs I guess. This is, alas, fairly typical of the lack of confidence the authors have in the ability of modern readers to both follow and enjoy more authentic recipes. And some have an even more tenuous connection between the two (like the deep-fried apple fritters that get turned into a baked apple coffee cake, or the simple spinach tart for which a spanikopita recipe is substituted).

In short, the book works as a gateway drug to historic cooking all the way up to the point when the reader wants to start cooking, at which point there is a bait and switch and they are deprived of the chance to learn anything true or real about the food of Shakespeare's day. This is quite disappointing (and I look forward with trepidation to someone presenting the results of the modernized recipes as "an authentic Shakespearean banquet"). The book is hardly without value, but the recipes make it deeply flawed in what it purports to be.
hrj: (doll)
(I’m going to do this is individual segments in part so that I don’t get too sucked in and neglect other work, in part to do it in manageable bites for the reader to avoid that TL;DR effect.)

I’m going to organize the data according to date (putting the uncertain date first) somewhat arbitrarily, even though that doesn’t appear to be the order in the manuscript. As noted previously, the translations are by [ profile] vittoriosa.

15?0: The table was prepared with two cloths, one over the other, and on top of them were placed the materials described below, that is, napkins, folded in various fashions, and on each one was a big bouquet of perfumed flowers made of silk and gold. Six little milk breads [boffettini] per person, and one succarino da monache.

1524: The table was prepared with two clothes; the napkins, salt cellars, knives, and four little milk breads [boffettini], and a gilded pine-nut candy [pignoccato] of pistachios at every place.

1536: The table was prepared with two cloths; placed on it were napkins, knives, salt cellars, candelabras, and then a wreathed bread for each person, and a bread roll [brazzatella], and a large gilded pine nut candy [pignoccato], and a little animal or bird or fruit made of sugar, at each place.

1537: The table was prepared with two cloths, and napkins, and salt cellars, and knives, and trenchers [tondi]; then above them were placed the goods described below, which were: One wreathed bread and one manchet bread [boffetto] per person, and one piece of twice-baked marzipan, and a little bouquet of flowers at each place.

1540: The table was prepared with two cloths; the napkins, salt cellars, knives, and a sliced bread roll [brazzatella] and a wreathed bread were set at each place.

1548: First two cloths, one on top of the other, were place on the table, which was illuminated by four silver lanterns belonging to His Excellency, attached to the ceiling so as not to block anyone’s view, and on the table there were four silver salt cellars. One napkin, a knife, a wreathed bread, and a little crescent [bread] made with butter, sugar and egg yolks for each person.

Non-food items

All menus specify that the table is laid with 2 cloths (and at the end of the numbered courses, they specify that one of the cloths is removed). Napkins are also mentioned in all cases, and one menu specifies that they are “folded in various fashions.” Five of the six mention knives and salt cellars and I suspect it is reasonable to think that these were included for the sixth dinner even though they aren’t mentioned explicitly. Lighting is only described in two of the menus (“candelabras” and “lanterns suspended from the ceiling”). Logic dictates that all the dinners were lit in some fashion, so it’s unclear whether these two types of light sources were unusual (and therefore worth mentioning) or whether it was simply random whether this was thought worth including in the description.


All the menus mention at least one type of bread being laid out, with most indicating two types.

15?0: 6 boffettini per person
1524: 4 boffettini per person
1536: 1 brazzatella, 1 wreathed bread
1537: 1 boffetto, 1 wreathed bread
1540: 1 sliced brazzatella, 1 wreathed bread
1548: 1 “little crescent”, 1 wreathed bread

Four different types of bread are mentioned (assuming that “boffettini” are simply a smaller version of “boffetto”). Since three of them occur in combination with “wreathed bread” but not in combination with each other, we can tentatively conclude that we have two conceptual “bread slots”: wreathed bread and other types of bread. (Note that this is a tentative conclusion based only on the carnival menus. It’s contradicted by the non-carnival menus, but I want to develop this analysis step by step.) Wreathed bread never occurs here in isolation. Boffettini do, but only in the multiple diminutive.

Messisbugo’s recipes include one for brazzatelle (a sweet bread including rosewater, milk, sugar, eggs, and butter) and a description of “Milanese-style wreathed bread” (less sugar and no milk than brazzatelle) where the dough is rolled out into sheets then rolled into a tube around a filling of spices pine nuts, and raisins (or other thigs), which is then formed into a wheel to bake. This gives us reinforcement to the hypothesis that “wreathed bread” is a different conceptual category than ordinary bread.

He also gives a recipe that is translated simply as “bread” (presumably not a specialized word like boffetto). The description is roughly equivalent to that specified as brazzatelle (although with a suspiciously larger proportion of rosewater) and specifies that the bread is better if made “round rather than wreathed or in buns”. This may indicate that the distinctions in bread names may be fairly subtle and supports the notion that “wreathed” is something you do with the dough rather than an entirely different recipe.

Other items

For two of the menus, this is the extent of the table setting, but a majority of menus include some additional sweet or decorative item or both. The sweet may be a gilded pine-nut candy (pignoccato) although one is described as “pignoccato of pistachios”. This increases the temptation to group these with the “twice-baked marzipan” and hypothesize a menu-slot for “nut-based candy”, in which case three of the six menus fill this slot -- four if one considers the “marzipan biscuits” in the 15?0 menu’s “pre-course” as being a displaced member of this item.

Although the gilded candies can be considered to have visual appeal, three of the six menus have an item that appears primarily intended to be a visual and/or aromatic delight: “a little bird or fruit made of sugar”, “a little bouquet of flowers”, or “a big bouquet of flowers made of silk and gold”.

In addition, the 15?0 menu indicates a “succarino da monache”, a name that [ profile] vittoriosa footnotes as literally meaning “little sugar (or type of drinking glass?) of nuns”. If the 15?0 marzipan biscuit is not displaced, then there’s a temptation to see the succarino da monache as filling an equivalent slot to the nut candies, whatever it might be, given that this menu also has a separate listing for flowers.

One of the menus (1537) also mentions tondi which are translated as “trenchers” but no context is given for how these are used and the mention is unique among the menus.

Conceptual outline and the Coronet menu

Taken all together, most of the items in the table-setting section seem to be standard rather than optional. The following is my conclusion of the structure (and how I filled it for the Coronet dinner):

* 2 table cloths (I only used 1 for logistical reasons)
* napkins (done in a simple fold into which I tucked the flowers, see below)
* knives (skipped this because I designed the dinner not to need carving, though I did provide spoons and forks, which are not mentioned)
* salt cellars (check)
* optional lighting (I had some large candles on the table primarily to keep the cloth from being blown off, though we lit them by the end of the dinner)
* regular bread (1 for each place), optionally a wreathed bread (I provided an individual rosewater/sweet bread for each diner but didn’t include the wreathed bread option)
* optional but typical: a nut-based candy (I had planned to provide small marzipan fruits to fulfill both this and the “visual” category but couldn’t locate any commercial ones and didn’t have time to make my own)
* optional but typical: a primarily visual decoration that may be edible (I tucked a small spray of lilac into each folded napkin)


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