hrj: (Alpennia w text)
Mother of Souls Chapter 2

Even with the kitchen calling, Luzie went upstairs to change first. It was no time of year to let damp clothing give her chill and a fever. Floodtide meant the risk of river fever, whether the waters rose or not.

Her nose hadn’t deceived her: Mefro Chisillic had made potenez. The rich aroma of duck and garlic and lentils brought back a flood of childhood memories. “Oh Silli, how did you know exactly what I’d be wanting today?” she said. Nostalgia brought the childish nickname easily to her lips, but the cook never minded.

“Because my bones say there’s a storm brewing,” Chisillic answered. “And you always did like potenez when it’s wet outside. You know what they say, ducks like rain and rain likes ducks.”

* * *

On a whim, I picked up a small duck at the market and decided to make a stab at developing a recipe for Alpennian potenez. It's meant to be a no-nonsense hearty comfort food, rather than haute cuisine. So here's version #1.

Remove the legs and breast from a duck, then cut the remainder of the carcass into a few pieces. Brown all the pieces in a large casserole dish and render enough fat out of the skin for the next step, then remove the duck from the pot.

Chop one medium onion and about ten cloves of garlic and saute in the duck fat until browned.

In the mean time, set aside the legs and breast of the duck, and tie the rest of the carcass loosely into a cheesecloth bag. When the onions are browned, add the carcass and water to fill the casserole, then simmer, covered, until a rich broth is formed.

Take the reserved parts of the duck and cut the legs from the thighs, and slice the breast into thin strips. When the broth is ready, remove the carcass and add a cup of small lentils (green or black -- not the large tan-colored ones) and the leg and breast meat.

Simmer until the lentils are cooked. Salt to taste. Serve, making sure each serving includes some of the meat.

(Note: there's still quite a bit of meat on the carcass in the cheesecloth bag, so refrigerate it to pick over later.)

* * *

It turned out very tasty. Just the thing for a cold, wet afternoon in Rotenek when rain is sweeping across the Rotein in sheets, but you know that there are still months to go before floodtide.
hrj: (doll)
Brainstorming for squibs may regularly involve browsing through my research folders and saying, "Hey I think I could throw something together easily on that." In this case, my eyes fell on a class handout I'd made for teaching basic techniques of medieval hearth cookery, centered around a variety of basic recipes involving eggs.

The topic of hearth cookery is another idea for the future -- it's a very different rhythm than using a stove, so there are some interesting philosophical aspects to it. But for now, this is just the recipes.

People who are new to medieval and Renaissance cookery (or who haven't thought about it much at all) often have peculiar notions of how "weird" the food must be. I enjoy coming across recipes that highlight the continuity of foodways in western culture, although I'd never want to give the mistaken impression that historic cuisine was "just like" modern food. This assortment of egg-based dishes falls more toward the "just like" end of the scale, and is somewhat misleading in terms of representing the whole. But they do go some way to debunking the notion that all medieval food is "weird and strange".

De Ovis

This first item is from a very early source, and one that frames a great deal of its information in terms of being a "health manual" rather than a culinary treatise. (The intertwining of the genres of "health manual" and "culinary treatise" continues well into the Renaissance.) This is from a treatise by the 6th century Byzantine physician Anthimus, written for Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostrogoths (and including a fair number of snarky digs at Gothic cuisine in relation to the much more enlightened tastes of the Byzantines). I didn't use this in my cookery class, but it includes one of the most perfect descriptions of how to soft-cook an egg in the entire history of culinary literature.

De ouis gallinarum quantum plus quis uoluerit praesumat, sorbilia tamen, et sale modicum mittendum, et si ieiunus quis accipiat quanta potuerit, ad uirtutem proficit corporis melius quam alter cibus et sanis hominibus et infirmis; ita tamen fiant, ut in tepida aqua mittantur uel maxime in frigida, et sic coquantur lento foco, aut in carbonibus paulatim calefiat illa aqua: sic penetrat intus. Nam si in feruenti aqua missa fuerint, albumen coagulat et mediolum illud tarde sentit; et deuenit intermperatum, et qui sic acceperit nocetur. Nam sicut superius dixi, si ita fuerint facta, bene conueniunt. Et tamen semper cocus agitet cum spatula. Tamen recentiora oua meliora sunt.

You can eat as many hens’ eggs as you want, but they should be runny, and taken with a little salt. If someone who is hungry eats as many eggs as he can, they are of more benefit to the body than any other food, both in the case of sick and healthy people. Prepare eggs in the following way: make sure that they are put in warm water, or preferably cold water, and then cook them over a low flame; let the water warm up gradually on the charcoal, for in this way the heat penetrates inside the eggs. If, however, they have been put in boiling water, the white congeals and the yolk is warmed only gradually, and so the eggs become unevenly cooked, and whoever eats them is harmed. But if they are prepared in the manner I described above, they are most agreeable. The cook should stir the water constantly with a spoon. The fresher the eggs, the better.

* * *

Anthimus doesn't offer any guidance for how long to cook the eggs to achieve the desired "runny" state. Folklore (which is to say, I read it somewhere and can't be bothered to try to track down a citation at the moment) suggests that for short, but fixed, cooking times, cooks sometimes used the recitation of specific prayers as a way of providing a consistent timing mechanism. I.e., cook for a certain number of Paters or Aves.

* * *

The rest of these recipes are all from a collection published as "Two Fifteenth Century Cookbooks", being a combined edition of two major variants of a particular text tradition (with lots of notes on other versions with variants). In terms of the most commonly available English-language medieval culinary texts, this collection stands around the point when a knowledgeable cook with no special familiarity with Middle English can easily make sense of the recipes. (A century earlier, the collection of texts published as "The Forme of Cury", show a progression of variants of a basic text over time that start from "pretty much a foreign language" to "I think I can puzzle this out".)

Payn perdeux (French Toast)

Take fayre 3olkys of Eyroun, & trye hem fro the whyte, & draw hem thorw a straynoure, & take Salt and caste ther-to; than take fayre brede, & kytte it as trounde3 rounde; than take fayre Boter that is claryfiyd, or ellys fayre Freysshe grece, & putte it on a potte, & make it hote; than take & wete wyl thin trounde3 in the 3olkys, & putte hem in the panne, an so frye hem vppe; but ware of cleuyng to the panne; & whan it is fryid, ley hem on a dysshe, & ley Sugre y-nowe ther-on, & thanne serue it forht.

Or in modernized form:

[ETA: Obviously the original and modernized versions are slightly different texts. Not sure how I missed that. I've added the second version.]

Version 1: (This was what I had posted originally and is a variant of the above.) Take fair yolks of eggs and try [separate] them from the white and draw them through a strainer. And then take salt and cast thereto. And then take manchet bread or pain-de-main [i.e., fine white bread] and cut it in slices. And then take fair butter and clarify it, or else take fresh grease and put it in a fair pan and make it hot. And then wet thy bread well there in the yolks of eggs. And then lay it on the butter in the pan when the butter is all hot. And then when it is fried enough, take sugar enough and cast there-to when it is in the dish. And so serve it forth. [Note: "fair" in recipes like this should be understood as "clean" or in the case of ingredients, perhaps "purified". What this specification suggests about unspecified defaults is left as an exercise for the reader.]

Version 2: (This is a more faithful version of the original that is posted above.) Take fair yolks of eggs and try [separate] them from the white and draw them through a strainer. And then take salt and cast thereto. Then take fair bread and cut it in slices. Then take fair butter that is clarified, or else fair fresh grease and put it in a pot and make it hot. Then take and wet well your slices in the yolks and put them in the pan and so fry them up. But beware of cleaving [sticking] to the pan. And when it is fried, lay them on a dish and lay sugar enough there-on and then serve it forth.

• Separate your egg yolks and beat them.
• Add a small pinch of salt to the eggs.
• Slice good white bread.
• Heat a little clarified butter or grease in a frying pan.
• Dip a slice of bread in the egg yolk on both sides and fry it on both sides in the pan.
• Put it on your dish and sprinkle with sugar.
• Repeat until your egg yolk is all used up.

Eyron en poche (poached eggs)

Take Eyroun, breke hem, an sethe hem in hot Water; than take hem Vppe as hole as thou may; than take flowre, an melle with Mylke, & caste ther-to Sugre or Hony, & a lytel pouder Gyngere, an boyle alle y-fere, & coloure with Safroun; an ley thin Eyroun in dysshys, & caste the Sewe a-boue, & caste on pouder y-now. Blawnche pouder ys best.

Poached Eggs – Take eggs, break them, and seethe them in hot water. Then take them up as whole as thou may. Then take flour and mix with milk, and cast there-to sugar or honey and a little powdered ginger, and boil all together and color it with saffron. And lay thine eggs in dishes and cast the sauce over it, and cast on enough [spice] powder. Blanche powder is best.

• Bring a pot of water to a simmer and carefully break an egg into it.
• Cook the egg to your desired hardness.
• Make a thin paste with flour and milk (maybe 1 Tbsp flour to ½ cup milk, or as you will).
• Add sugar or honey to taste (maybe 1 Tbsp)
• Add ginger (maybe ¼ - ½ tsp) and a pinch of saffron.
• Heat the sauce over a gentle heat, stirring regularly, until it thickens.
• Remove the egg from the water with a slotted spoon and place it in your dish and pour a little of the sauce over it.
• Sprinkle with a sweet spice powder.

("Blanche powder" was a popular spice mixture involving what we would think of as "dessert spices" combined with sugar. So for quick-and-dirty, cinnamnon sugar can substitute.)

Hannony (omelette with onions)

Take an draw the Whyte & the yolkys of the Eyroun thorw a straynoure; than take Oynonys, & schreded hem smal; than take fayre Buter or grece, & vnnethe kyuer the panne ther-with, an frye the Oynonys, & than caste the Eyroun in the panne, & breke they Eyrouns & the Oynonys to-gegere; an than lat hem frye t-gederys a litelwhyle; than take hem vp, an serue forth alle to-broke to-gederys on a fayre dyssche.

Take and draw the white and the yolks of the eggs through a strainer. [The purpose of "draw through a strainer" seems to be equivalent here to a modern instruction to beat the eggs.] Then take onions and shred them small. Then take fair butter or grease and cover the pan there-with and fry the onions. And then cast the eggs in the pan and break the eggs and the onions together. And then let them fry together a little while. Then take them up and serve forth all to-broke together on a fair dish.

• Beat your eggs, the white and yolk together. (This is an opportunity to use up whites from other dishes.)
• Mince onion small.
• Saute the onion in butter or grease in a frying pan.
• When the onion is cooked, add the beaten eggs and stir together until the eggs are cooked.

Creme boiled (egg custard)

Take mylke, and boile hit; And then take yolkes of eyren, and try hem fro the white, and drawe hem thorgh a streynour, and cast hem into the mylke; and then sette hit on the fire, and hete hit hote, and lete not boyle; and stirre it wel til hit be som-what thik; And caste thereto sugar and salte; and kut then faire paynmain soppes, and caste the sopes there-en, And serue it in maner of potage.

Cream Boiled (egg custard) – Take milk and boil it. And then take yolks of eggs and try [separate] them from the white and draw them through a strainer. And cast them into the milk. And then set it on the fire and heat it hot and let [it] not boil. And stir it well til it be somewhat thick. And cast there-to sugar and salt. And cut then fair pain-de-main [fine white bread] sops. And cast the sops there-on. And serve it in the manner of pottage.

• Heat milk (better to aim for a simmer than a full boil). About half a cup or less per egg yolk should be right.
• Separate an egg yolk from the white and beat it.
• Add the yolk to the milk.
• Cook it over a low heat so that it doesn’t boil, stirring constantly, until it thickens.
• Add sugar to taste (maybe 1-2 Tbsp per ½ c milk or as you will) and a pinch of salt.
• Slice bread and put it in your bowl.
• Pour the custard over the bread.
hrj: (doll)
This will be the last of my year-end summary posts. Falling on Friday, as it does, I thought I'd sum up all the reviews I've posted in 2015.

Scheduling one day a week to do reviews has worked out fairly well - at least as long as I have a backlog of the lesbian movie reviews to fill in around the new material. This isn't a list of absolutely everything I read or watched this year. There were some book re-reads that I didn't blog, and I'm very irregular in reviewing short fiction. I also skipped a few new movies if they didn't grab me enough (or, in the case of the new Star Wars movie, because everyone's freaking out about spoilers, so I just did my discussion in some carefully labeled online discussion spaces). You could also count my discussion of podcasts and web magazines as reviews of a sort, but I haven't included them here. I've organized things by type of media and then somewhat thematically in the larger categories.

Books: Non-fiction
I don't generally do full reviews of non-fiction (other than the entire Lesbian Historic Motif Project being extensive reviews).

Margaret of Parma: A Life by Charlie R. Steen

Books: Fantasy
Five of these thirteen are 2015 publications, all are by female authors, most are fantasy as opposed to science fiction (only the Itäranta falls more in SF). Only two are by non-caucasian writers (although they're both in the 2015 publications, making 40% for that category).

Random by Alma Alexander
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
Passion Play by Beth Bernobich
Queen's Hunt by Beth Bernobich
The Ghost Dragon's Daughter by Beth Bernobich novelette?
Penric's Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold novella
The Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle audio
The Golden City by J. Kathleen Cheney
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
Cold Magic by Kate Elliott
Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta
The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner also my pre-review

Books: Lesbian
Most of these are historical romance, with the Douglas being the only fantasy entry. (Although I could have double-entered Karen Memory here for lesbian fantasy.) Believe me, I would love to read more books in the intersection between fantasy and lesbian fiction, but I'm also very wary of much of what's being published in that intersection. Part of it is having some very specific tastes and standards, but part of it is a touch of paranoia around reviewing books too close to my own work. The simple fact is that I know that a lot of them aren't going to be up to my standards, but it's very easy for some people (especially in the close-knit and somewhat high-strung field of lesbian literature) to see a critical review by a fellow author as being a malicious attempt to "take down the competition". It isn't a competition. And yet I've seen enough things out there on the web to be extremely cautious about reading and reviewing lesbian fantasy unless I know right off the top that I'm going to love it, or I know that the author and the author's dedicated fans have a professional attitude. I suppose a could make an exception to my "review everything" rule, but that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I don't want people to think that I'm deliberately avoiding books in this category because of this issue. There's also that I would very much want to love, love, love any lesbian fantasy novel I read, and it would annoy me more than usual if I found it simply ok. And of the five entries here (counting the three Bassett works as a single item), two made me wince, one was "eh, ok", one was "promising", and one was "I liked this!"

Lily in Bloom, My Lady's Service & A Sweet Revenge by Marie-Elise Bassett novelettes
Rebeccah and the Highwayman by Barbara Davies
Lancelot : Her Story - by Carol Anne Douglas
Petticoats and Promises, by Penelope Friday
Rughum and Najda by Samar Habib

Books: Other
I don't read much fiction that doesn't fall in either fantasy or lesbian fiction, but enough people had made comparisons of my books to Milan's historic romances that I decided to check one out. The Bechdel falls in here because it isn't a novel (or even really fiction).

The Duchess War - Courtney Milan
Are You My Mother: A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel

Live Performance
In addition to my usual Cal Shakes run (although I missed reviewing Twelfth Night for some reason), I took in three Broadway shows during two New York trips, and a local small theater production. Interestingly, that's more shows than the first-run movies that I reviewed (although possibly not more than I saw).

Cal Shakes: King Lear
Cal Shakes: The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful
Cal Shakes: Life is a Dream
Broadway: Hand to God
Broadway: Fun Home
Broadway: Hamilton - An American Musical
Or by Liz Duffy Adams (Anton's Well Theater Company)

Historic Cookery (i.e., recipes I tried out)
Some years, the historic cookery section is much larger.

Alpennian Almond Cakes

Movies: Lesbian movie reviews
I revived (and reprised) a series of short reviews of lesbian movies in order to have a back-log of review material to fill in when nothing else offered. I still have a lot of items on video I could include here, but I'd need to actually watch them again!

Bar Girls
Carol (also under first run)
Cynara: Poetry in Motion
If These Walls Could Talk
The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love
Kissing Jessica Stein
Mädchen in Uniform (1931, German)
The Midwife's Tale
Tipping the Velvet
When Night is Falling

Movies: first run
Other movies that I remember seeing, but clearly didn't review include the final Hunger Games movie and the new Star Wars movie. ETA: OMG and how could I forget Mad Max: Fury Road? Since I'm likely to use this post as a memory prompt for my Hugo nominations, I may keep adding to it if I remember more.

Into the Woods
Jupiter Ascending
The Martian
Mr. Holmes

Products and Services
Not so much a review as an explanation why I won't be trying and reviewing the product at the current time.

Apple Watch
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)
Every once in a while I get the urge for fresh fish, and having a local Ranch 99 market (Asian specialty grocery store) it's all a matter of finding a day when I can purchase and cook the fish on the same day. Saturday the mackerel looked good, so when I got it home I started looking for interesting recipes and found this in Sally Grainger's Cooking Apicius:

Apicius 9.10.5 Sauce for tuna or mackerel

This sauce can be used as a marinade, then the ish can be cooked in it and finally a little can be poured over the tuna.

1/3 tsp lovage seeds
1/2 tsp celery seed
generous freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp fresh mint
1 tsp fresh rue
1 tbsp date syrup
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
50 ml sweet white wine
mackerel fillets

For the sauce, I didn't feel like cracking a bottle of wine just for the marinade, so it was a bit thicker than it would have been otherwise. And in addition to the date syrup and honey I added a splash of saba (reduced grape juice, i.e., must). The mint, rue, and lovage seeds all came out of my garden and the saba and vinegar were Gifts from the Estates of Friends. The folks at the fish counter gutted the mackerel but nothing more. I pulled out the spine and ribs (which came out cleanly) leaving a single fillet, which I covered with the sauce, in a foil-lined pan. After a couple hours, I baked it at 350 for 15 minutes, as specified by Grainger, then served it over a bed of tofu noodles (definitely NOT a traditional Roman method).

Results: Absolutely delicious. There wasn't quite enough of the sauce (which there might have been, if I'd added the wine), but by dint of picking up some noodles and some fish with every bite, it worked out. I ate it in combination with some sorrel soup, fresh from the garden (sorrel and onion sauteed in butter, heated with chicken broth and pureed with a stick-blender, then thickened with an egg yolk and some cream).
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)
One of the two large groceries most convenient to my house is a "Ranch 99" which, for those of you not resident in one of the four states the chain appears in, specializes in groceries for Chinese cuisine (and a number of other SE Asian cultures). One feature that definitely distinguishes it from your average American chain grocery is the variety and selection of animal species featured in the meat department. (This is where I got the whole kid that I roasted last year at the WAT cooks' play-date.) I've had a mind to start working my way through the non-chicken poultry offerings, so for the picnic dinner at yesterday's Crosston Dance Ball, I picked up a partridge. It did not -- alas -- come with feet attached (although you can get chicken and duck in that form) but did come with head affixed. This was part of the attraction: a major aspect of the esthetics of medieval roast birds in art is that they are served with feet and head intact.

There are plenty of recipes for roast partridge in 14-15th c. European cookbooks but they are all quite simple.  See e.g., Two Fifteenth Century Cookbooks p. 78:

  • Partrich rosted. Take a partrich, and sle him in the nape of the hede with a fethur; dight him, larde him, and roste him as thon doest a ffesaunte in the same wise. And serue him forth; then sauce him with wyne, pouder of ginger and salt, and sette hit in a dissh on the fuyre til hit boyle; then cast powder ginger, anell, thereon, And kutte him so; or elles ete him with sugur and Mustard.

Relevant to this is the directions immediately preceding for roasting pheasant:

  • ffesaunte rosted … kutte away … the legges by the kne and putte the kneys in at the vente, and roste him ….

Since the market had already taken care of the slaying and dighting, and this was a domestically raised bird so there was enough subcutaneous fat that it didn't need larding, I simply tucked the ends of the legs into the vent as directed for the pheasant (I had to wedge the end of the bone into the hollow of the pelvis for them to stay -- this made the legs splay out a bit). I dusted the outside with a little saffron salt and then roasted at 350F for 60 minutes on a rack. Because I was being a little lazy and had a small jar of honey-mustard sitting around, I went with the "sugur and Mustard" sauce.

Several of us were having an impromptu shared meal at the Ball so I carved the bird up into a dozen or so tasting portions and served with mustard or plain as requested. Everyone declared it quite tasty and definitely not "just like chicken". I found the taste pleasantly a bit stronger than chicken and vaguely reminiscent of duck, but in a much milder way. The roasting time may have been longer than necessary and the wings and drumsticks were turning a little on the dry side.

My imagination is contemplating the concept of a medieval dinner with as great a variety of bird species as I can lay my hands on.
hrj: (doll)
When I got up this morning, having left the orange marmalade simmering all night, it definitely looked at the "gel" stage, so I filled up my 2 dozen small jars and the 6 small plastic-wrap-lined dishes for what I hoped would the large rounds. Jumping ahead a bit: while it set up nicely in terms of a spread, it still wasn't at the stage of a solid, stiff jelly when cooled. So this evening I scraped the contents of the dishes back into a pot and applied further heat. At this point it's more of a scientific experiment than a serious project. I suspect I don't have the right chemical balance to get a stiff jelly from this mixture.

In contrast with last year's peel-only marmalade, this batch is a dark brown. Despite using the crock-pot for a gentle heat, I think it's carmelized somewhat and in addition to the desired bitter-orange flavor, there's a little bitter-burnt taste. It's entirely possible that the entire batch is going to get chalked up to "nope, that way doesn't work." Next time I think I'll go back to a peel-only recipe just for the esthetics. But simmering the oranges until mushy and then adding the sugar does give me more control over the final texture.

The peel that I prepared for candying has probably soaked through enough changes, but if I do a serious taste test (the "bread and citruses") and decide to toss the marmalade batch, I might try again with the second set of peel. (Thing is: I think I've still got plenty of candied orange peel from last year's batch, but I've been going through marmalade as gifts at a fair clip.)
hrj: (doll)
The kumquat preserves have been put up (7 1-cup jars). The syrup should have been just on the edge of jelling which is about what I was aiming for. (Not a solid jelly, but a very thick syrup around the whole kumquats.) I found the small jars I wanted for the marmalade, so I'm going to go ahead and run the crock pot all night to start reducing it down. I haven't found anything I like yet for marmalade boxes, and now I can't get google to cough up any images of what I'm looking for. I know I've seen a couple still lifes with what look like they ought to be marmalade boxes and my recollection is something like the little thin wood boxes you can sometimes find small brie cheeses in. So I'm going to set up some rounds of the paste in ceramic ramekins of the right size lined with saran wrap and may simply start collecting cheese boxes to put them in.


hrj: (Default)

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