Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Theseus' Recipe

The most common question that food historians face is "How old is the recipe for [insert favorite food]?" Sometimes the answer is easy - cream cheese was invented around 1872. Other times though it's hard to be sure, either because of disagreements about history, or because the documentation gets really vague the farther back you go.

This post is about one of the more uncertain dishes: Coq au Vin.

Photo by Steven Depolo via Wikimedia Commons

One of my cousins was talking about making this dish, and was curious about its history. Of course the moment he mentioned it I had no choice but to dive in and see what I could find out. As usual, the first step is just to check Wikipedia. Yeah, I know, but for surface-level information it can be really useful. According to Wikipedia ...
Various legends trace coq au vin to ancient Gaul and Julius Caesar, but the recipe was not documented until the early 20th century; it is generally accepted that it existed as a rustic dish long before that. A somewhat similar recipe, poulet au vin blanc, appeared in an 1864 cookbook.
Ancient Gaul and Julius Caesar ... um, yeah. One of the big red flags in food history is when an origin traces back to Rome. Everyone wants their grandma's specialty dish to date back to ancient Rome (the other big red flag is when a cheese is claimed to have been Charlemagne's favorite - apparently every single freaking cheese in the world was Charlemagne's favorite - I hear he was particularly fond of plastic wrapped American cheese slices).

So lets try a different angle and look at the ingredients in Coq au Vin. I did a quick search and picked a recipe that looked pretty traditional - this one from Bon Apétit. Here is what it calls for:
red wine
tomato paste
chicken broth
wild mushrooms
There's one big problem in that list already, tomato paste.  The tomato is a new-world plant and wasn't available outside of the Americas before 1500 AD.  I checked a couple of other online recipes and found that not all Coq au Vin recipes call for tomato paste (though Julia Child's recipe does and that's close to religious doctrine there). We'll let this pass ... for the moment.

The recipe also calls for carrots, celery, and onions - a.k.a. mirepoix. While those ingredients were available in Europe for pretty much all of written history, The practice of dicing them up and sautéeing them together as the base of a recipe doesn't seem to go back before 1700. Again though, not every Coq au Vin recipe out there calls for mirepoix.

So what if we pare the ingredients list down to the very basics? We'll limit it to just chicken, bacon, onions, and wine and see if we can find something close in the surviving cookbooks. At first it seems promising - two recipes from medieval France. On closer examination though neither seem quite what we're looking for. The first, Bruet of Almayn, is a long one. It has all the expected ingredients but has a lot of other stuff as well (including almond milk). The second is closer, but still with the additions of cinnamon and liver and blood ... maybe not.
George Soup, Parsley-laced Soup. Take poultry cut into quarters, veal or whatever meat you wish cut into pieces, and put to boil with bacon: and to one side have a pot, with blood, finely minced onions which you should cook and fry in it. Have also bread browned on the grill, then moisten it with stock from your meat and wine, then grind ginger, cinnamon, long pepper, saffron, clove and grain and the livers, and grind them up so well that there is no need to sift them: and moisten with verjuice, wine and vinegar. And when the spices are removed from the mortar, grind your bread, and mix with what it was moistened with, and put it through the sieve, and add spices and leafy parsley if you wish, all boiled with the blood and the onions, and then fry your meat. And this soup should be brown as blood and thick like 'soringue'.  [Le Menagier de Paris, (France, 1393 - Janet Hinson, trans.)]
If we limit the ingredients list to just chicken, onions, and wine then there are a lot more possible matches. Almost a couple dozen. Some of them are closer to Coq au Vin than the others. Does the English recipe below count?
xlij - Conyng, Mawlard, in gely or in cyuey. Take Conynge, Hen, or Mawlard, and roste hem alle-most y-now, or ellys choppe hem, an frye hem in fayre Freysshe grece; an frye myncyd Oynenons, and caste alle in-to the potte, and caste ther-to fayre Freysshe brothe, an half Wyne, Maces, Clowes, Powder pepir, Canelle; than take fayre Brede, an wyth the same brothe stepe, an draw it thorw a straynoure wyth vynegre; an whan it is wyl y-boylid, caste the lycoure ther to, and powder Gyngere, and Salt, and sesyn it vp an serue forth.  [Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books, (England, 1430)]

Here's the problem, how many changes can you make to a recipe before it's not the same recipe anymore? My wife and I sometimes joke about making Greek Blueberry Pie with substitutions. It would have lamb and olives and garlic and grape leaves and no blueberries ... actually it wouldn't be much of a blueberry pie, but it would be very Greek.

I don't have a definitive answer, but I'm pretty comfortable saying that the modern recipes are modern. They may be related to something made centuries ago, but they're probably not the same thing. Yes, they cooked chicken in wine back in ancient Rome, but Coq au Vin most likely originated no earlier than the mid-19th century.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Review: The Kitchen, Food, and Cooking in Reformation Germany

The Kitchen, Food, and Cooking in Reformation Germany

Volker Bach

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
ISBN: 1442251271

Available from:

My German is terrible. Don't get me wrong, I love languages and am always willing to try, but too many years of French and Latin and even Russian have permanently screwed my accent up to where any of the stock German phrases I have memorized are sure to make native speakers assume I'm talking in Klingon.

My ability with written German isn't much better, so when I want to know anything about the food history of Germany I turn to people like Volker Bach for help. His English translations of medieval German cookbooks are a mainstay of medieval re-enactment cooks and food researchers. So you can imagine how my ears perked up when I heard he was publishing a book on German food history.

Culinary history books are a tricky thing. They run from translations of centuries-old texts to fanciful speculations on the minutiae of kitchen work. Opening this book, I was greeted with something special. Instead of including only information on 16th century German dishes or cooking practices, Volker Bach provides the social, political, and economic context along with how it related to the food. He treats the subject of German cuisine as a complete system that can be better understood by examining the culture that created it. What's more, his clear and fluid writing style kept all that history from being dry and dusty.

Well researched, packed with information, and still pleasant to read - this book is a excellent resource for anyone interested in German food history.

Friday, June 3, 2016

More Braaaaaaains ...

I will admit that I'm not the most organized person in the world, and this very post is a good demonstration of both my lack of organization and what I do to compensate.

Back in 2008 (wait ... was that really 8 years ago?!) I blogged about how I used The Brain Book when cooking feasts to make sure everything went as smoothly as possible. It's a neat little idea that has saved me all sorts of grief. I figured I'd follow up that post within a week or so with a link to an example Brain Book that others could use as a guide for making their own.

We can see how well that went. I got sidetracked into something else and ... well ... you know. Anyways, I came across a file while spelunking on my computer that turned out to be nearly complete. So I thought I'd clean it up and make it available before something else came along to distract me for another 8 years.

Let me know what you think.

The Brain Book

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Origins 2016 Schedule

June 15-19, 2016
Greater Columbus Convention Center
Columbus, Ohio, 43215, USA

Origins is just a couple of weeks away! As with the past four years I'll be selling books as part of The Library and taking part in a bunch of cool panels. Here’s my schedule for seminars this year:


Making Magic 101 (Hilton - Elijah A, 10:00 a.m.) - The believablilty of your magic system can make or break your story. Let our panelists tell you how to craft magic so well readers will think it could exist.  [with Aaron Rosenberg, John Helfers, Dylan Birtolo, and Robyn L. King
Creating Religion 101  (Hilton - Elijah A, 2:00 p.m.) - Great speculative fiction makes us think abour our own world, and how better to do that than with religion? Our panelists tell you how to make create believable religions.  [with Gregory A. Wilson and Jaym Gates]  
Creating Medieval Cuisines  (Hilton - Elijah B, 5:00 p.m.) - In Fantasy, food is usually in the background. Sometimes though, it seems to take on a life of its own and can even become the center of the plot. This panel will help make sure your cuisine is authentic for your setting.  

Incorporating History in Fiction  (Hilton - Elijah A, 2:00 p.m.) - It might make sense for you to create a detailed backstory to help you put the current events of your novel in context. Or perhaps you want to scratch the serial numbers off a real event so you can use it in your story. The authors on this panel will tell you how to get it done.  [with Tracy Chowdhury, Dylan Birtolo, Richard C. White, and Bryan Young]

Dressing Your Characters  (Hilton - Elijah A, 4:00 p.m.) - If you're writing alternate history, epic fantasy, or even contemporary urban fantasy, Your characters need to dress the part. These panelists will talk about the importance of research and knowing when to say "that's enough!".  [with Kelly Swails, Sheryl Nantus, and Tracy Chowdhury

Kinship and Sexism in Fantasy Worlds  (Hilton - Elijah B, 12:00 p.m.) - Families and gender roles can become prominent as you craft your story. Our panelists discuss how family hierarchies dictate who performs what work and how those duties determine power structures.  [with Robyn L. King, Addie J. King, and Jaym Gates

Origins is my favorite convention - while it's huge and pretty much has something for everyone, it somehow still seems small enough to get into those deep, one-on-one conversations. The seminar on Creating Medieval Cuisines will be especially fun. Depending on how many people I get attending I can really tailor it to suit the needs of the audience.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Quest for Broccoli

So this evening I was leafing through my copy of The Herbs & Vegetables of Italy by Giacomo Castelvetro (What?  Doesn't everyone spend their spare time looking at books about vegetables?), and I came across this painting ...

Still Life with Christ at Emmaus, Floris van Schooten, c. 1630
Rijksmuseum - https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/collection/SK-A-2058

This sort of thing is an addiction for me. I start looking at all the stuff in there and then I'll turn to the next one, and then the next. Pretty soon I've wasted hours muttering things to myself like "That's a medlar. Are those gooseberries? I think they are." But every now and then I spot something exciting.

Yes, I said exciting. You want to make something out of it?

In this particular case, what caught my eye was a bunch of something to the right of center in the painting.


Whatever that thing is, it's not the dense head like the cauliflower depicted in other paintings from the same time period, but it doesn't quite look like modern broccoli either. I've written elsewhere about the uncertainties of medieval broccoli, so this is something that has been long upon my mind and it's the biggest lead I've had in *mumble* years.

I said to myself, "Self, I think that's broccoli."  Ok, actually I said something more along the lines of, "ZOMGWFTBBQSQUEEEEEEE! [insert happy little dance here]" but you get the idea.

Still, it doesn't look like modern broccoli - for example the modern stuff can flower, but the blossoms are usually yellow. Brassica oleracea has a lot of weird variants though. Is there a white flowering variant of broccoli? I do a quick google image search and guess what I find. No, don't guess because I'll show you.

White Sprouting Broccoli
Image from Solstice.co.uk

That looks pretty much like the same thing to me. Now I have to find a source nearby and see what it's like.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Review: The Medieval Cookbook

Sometimes you need to go back and take a second look at a book.

I first came across references to The Medieval Cookbook sometime around 1998. At the time I was seriously getting into research and what I really wanted was access to unedited medieval sources. I wasn't especially interested in other people's interpretations of medieval recipes, and so I basically ignored this book. It simply didn't have what I needed.

Fast forward to the present. I now run a website devoted to medieval European cuisine which gets a huge number of hits from folks who are looking for authentic medieval recipes or basic information about cooking in the middle ages. Very few of them have experience in working from medieval sources, especially those written in languages other than modern English.

With that in mind, The Medieval Cookbook suddenly looks very different. It's a perfect starting place for someone with little to no background in medieval cooking. There are eighty recipes, all with their original source, and all worked out with modern measurements. The book is also broken into sections, like "Chaucer's Company", each with a section of text to help put the recipes into context.

Finally, there are lots of beautiful, full-color images taken from medieval manuscripts and paintings to illustrate the myriad aspects of medieval life and food. All of this is bound in a beautiful, high-quality book - the kind that bibliophiles like me love to hold.

The Medieval Cookbook
Maggie Black
J. Paul Getty Museum
ISBN: 9781606061091

Monday, April 18, 2016

Anonymous Tuscan ... Now in English!

Let me speak plainly here - translating a medieval cookbook is a bite in the butt. It's tedious, there's no real money to be made from it, and there are thousands of people out there ready to tell you that you've got it wrong.  That's why I take such joy in seeing new translations popping up online. Not only did someone go to all the effort of teasing out the meaning of an archaic source, but they went and put it out there for every amateur cooking historian to use.

Today's joy comes from Ariane Helou's translation of An Anonymous Tuscan Cookery Book (a.k.a. Anonimo Toscano / Libro della Cocina, Italy, late 14th or early 15th c).  While the Italian text of the source has been online for quite some time, there hasn't been a readily available English translation.

The text contains 184 recipes, and Ariane has done a fantastic job of crafting them into clear and easily understood English. If you're at all interested in medieval European cuisine, it's well worth browsing through - especially if (like me) you can't read medieval Italian.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

La Maison Rustique - On Rice

Going back through some files, I came across a portion of La Maison Rustique (Rouen, 1658) that I had translated in an effort to deduce the color of medieval rice (something I still haven't proven). The text didn't provide me any answers, but it still has some interesting aspects. There are sections on other grains, as well as on a whole bunch of other foods, so perhaps I should translate some of them as well.


From: L'agriculture et maison rustique, by Charles Estienne, p. 528 (Rouen, 1658)


Si voulez semer du ris, faire le pourrez: mais plustost par curiosité, que profit: car le ris est un grain propre aux Indiens, dont aussi nous est apporté en France, Donc pour semer le ris, tant blanc que rouge, choisissez quelque lieu fort humide, & au cas que ne l'ayez entre vos terres labourables, chosisissez quelque champ maigre, sale & mal nettoyé, ou autre qui soit leger & foible, bien uni ce neantmoins, par lequel puissez faire escouler quelque ruisseau ou canal d'eau. Donnez trois façons de labeur à ce champ ou voudrez semer le ris, estant trois fois cultivé, semez-y vostre graine de ris, laquelle aurez fait tremper premierement un jour entier dedans l'eau: si tost que l'aurez semée, faites-y entrer l'eau du ruisseau, laquelle y souffrirez cinq mois entiers de la hauteur de deux doigts: & quand verrez que l'herbe vient à se former en espic (sçachant qu'an mesme poinct elle florit & graine) lors redouble l'eau pour garder que le fruit de soit niellé & gasté. Si ainsi le gouvernez, non seulement recueillirez grande quantité de ris: mais aussi le pourrez semer trois aunées de suite sans laisser reposer le champ, & si la derniere année ne sera moins seconde que la premiere: outre plus rendez le champ plus gras, plus puissant, plus gaillard & plus purgé de roure herbe nuisible, & des bestes dommageables qui y estoient auparauant. Qui plus est, vous y pourrez semer par apres deux ou trois ans continus bled fur bled, soit froment ou meteil, la cueillette dequel en sera fort belle & profitable. Un mal y a au ris, c'est qu'il cause mauvais air, à raison de l'abondance d'eau qu'il demande l'espace de cinq mois: mais en recompense it est fort profitable pour la mourriture, d'autant qu'on en use en potage, & en fair l'on du pain avec seigle ou millet, ou les trois ensemble. Vray est qu'il estouppe beaucoup & restraint fort, c'est pourquoy ceux qui ont le ventre lasche en usentle plus fouvent, principalement estant torresié, & cuit en laict de vache, auquel plusieurs petits cailloux de riviere soient esteints; si vouse le faires cuire en laict, y adioustant succre & canelle, il stimulera au ieu d'amours. Plusieurs pensent qu'il engraisse. Mais puis que selon les Medecins il ne se digere dans l'estomach qu-avec peine, ains nourrit peu, comment seroit possible qu'il engraisse, il enfle plustost qu'il n'engraisse.



If you want to sow rice, try to do so: but more from curiosity than benefit: because rice is a grain suited to the Indians [Indies?], that is also imported to France, thus to sow the rice, both white and red, choose a place that is very wet, and in the case you have none in your workable land, choose a field that is thin, salty, and badly cleaned, or one that is light and weak, but still one that can be connected by some art to a running stream or water channel.

Here is given three ways to work this field for those who want to sow rice, which has grown three times, to sow your seed rice, which will first soak an entire day in the water: As soon as it is sown, let in water from the stream, which will suffer for five full months at the height of two fingers: and when you see that the grass forms a spike (knowing that it's the same point for flower and seed), then double the water to keep the fruit from mildew or rot.

If this is governed well, not only will you gather large quantities of rice: but also can sow three years in a row without letting the field rest, and so that the last year will not be less than the second or the first: Moreover it will render the field fatter, stronger, more lively, and better purged of strong and noxious weeds, and the harmful beasts that were there before.

Moreover, after that you can sow two or three years continuous corn for corn, either wheat or Roman wheat, the harvesting of which will be very beautiful and profitable.

Rice has a bad side, because it creates bad air, because of the abundance of water it requires in the space of five months: but in recompense it is highly beneficial as food, especially when used in soup, and made into bread with rye or millet, or all three.

True that it closes well and restrains strongly, which is why those with loose bowels use it most often, primarily hot, and cooked in cow's milk, in which several small river stones are quenched; if you cook it in milk, add therein sugar and cinnamon, it will stimulate the game of love.

Many believe it is fattening.

But according to the Doctors it is digested in the stomach with difficulty, and so nourishes little, how could it possibly fatten, it swells more than it fattens.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Gen Con 2016 Schedule

Gen Con Indy 2016,  August 4 - 7

I've just heard back from Gen Con that my seminars are now active and viewable by the public, so I thought I should do a quick post about them. I'm not part of the Writer’s Symposium this year but I'll likely be in the audience for several of their panels.

For my own events for Blackspoon Press and Medieval Cookery, I've scaled it back to just two this year.

SEM1686243 – Creating Medieval Fantasy Cuisines  A subterranean culture probably wouldn't eat roast beef and an arboreal one wouldn't eat sushi. A fantasy world should have a cuisine that takes into account the resources and technology of the people that inhabit it. This seminar demonstrates how to make up a consistent, believable cuisine using a simple template.  08/04/2016 (Thursday), 8:00 PM, Crowne Plaza : Grand Central Ballroom A 
SEM1686244 – Fictional Languages & the Name of this Seminar  AEver have a story or game ruined simply by the choice of a name? This seminar looks at language creation in general along with the pitfalls inherent in creating names. 08/05/2016 (Friday), 8:00 PM, Crowne Plaza : Grand Central Ballroom A 

For the Fantasy cuisine seminar I'm trying something different in that I intend to create - with the help of the audience - a fully functional cuisine. That seems a bit ambitious for a two hour seminar, but I think it's doable and should at the very least be entertaining.

The Language seminar is an offshoot of the one I've done before. Bad names in fantasy and science-fiction drive me nuts, and most of the time they're pretty easily avoided.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Iron Rations

One of my co-workers who knows I'm into medieval cooking sent me a link to a video about D&D iron rations and asked me what I thought (seeing as my day job is in the IT department it's not really surprising, I guess, to have people who are interested in Dungeons & Dragons and/or medieval cooking).

Anyways, since I took the time to re-watch the video (I'd seen it before) and jot down some quick notes about it, I thought I'd go ahead an post them here as well.  Here's the video ... go ahead and watch it ... I'll wait.

Ok, yes. It's all fun, and the guy in the video himself even noted that “Pemmican and mango and chain mail, they would never have been anywhere near each other historically.” It wasn't meant to be historically accurate. However I do get asked about D&D rations from time to time, and I've even done a couple of seminars on the subject at games conventions. So ...

Salted Fish & Meat

Salt has been used to preserve fish and meat since well before the middle ages.  It's reliable and relatively fool-proof. You bury the food in salt for a week or so, drain off any liquid that forms, maybe change out the salt, and you end up with something that the bugs and mold and bacteria don't want to mess with.

Of course you've also got something that is so salty that it's no longer fit for people to eat. The typical way to fix that was to boil it in fresh water for an hour or two, changing out the water once or twice. This gives you some edible meat and a lot of salty broth (most of which which will probably get thrown out).

Salted meat was often used by soldiers, even up to the civil war (I believe - correct me if I'm wrong), but for a group of fantasy adventurers going through a dungeon it wouldn't be very practical.


Pemmican was common among some of the North American tribes and was a decent way to preserve food for rough times. As the guy in the video mentioned, it can stay unspoiled (I hesitate to say "good to eat") for an exceptionally long time provided it's kept wrapped up and in cool conditions. The problem of course is that in warm or hot weather the fat in it can go rancid. Really, unless the adventurers are exploring the tundra, arctic, or great white north, I don't think it would be all that suitable for "iron rations".


Wax sealed cheese is a relatively new thing (e.g. in the last hundred years or so). Most aged cheeses develop a hard rind on their own. While it means that you might lose some of the outer part of the cheese because it's too hard to eat, or even fuzzy in places, the rind protects the inside of the cheese. Wax is meant to do that as well, but wax was actually rather expensive (especially beeswax, which was most desirable for candles). Cheese can also go bad if stored under too warm conditions - that's why "cheese caves" are a thing.

Dried Fruit

Fruit is great. It's got lots of sugars and it keeps really well when dried. If it gets too dried out you can even boil it in water for a bit and it will soften right up. The problem in connection with iron rations is that dried fruit has also always been a bit expensive.

Parched Wheat

I'd never heard of this stuff before - strange, huh? I suppose it would work, but it sounds a bit hard on the teeth.

Wheat was available throughout medieval Europe, but the supply would vary by location and from season to season. It was considered the best kind of grain and was therefore much in demand for making the nice white bread favored by just about everyone who could afford it. Poorer folk would get bread made from mixed grains, so I imagine taking a bunch of wheat and roasting it just so Blogg the Barbarian can have something to nibble on while spelunking would be a bit ... rich.

What's more, why not just carry cracked wheat or other grains that can be used for other purposes like making bread or soup?


Ok, crackers are pretty reasonable, but still more expensive and less versatile than a sack of cracked grain.


UGH!  Not only is chocolate a new world food, but chocolate before the 1700s was not sweet. Even worse, the war ration chocolate mentioned in the video that soldiers carried in their packs was waxy and not very good to eat - the soldiers preferred to give it away rather than eating it (which I believe was the actual intention of the US government).


A more accurate version of hard rations would be more like a sack of cracked mixed grain and another of dried meat. These would be used to make some kind of stew. Of course it wouldn't be practical in an actual dungeon, but then no cooking would be.

For a dungeon crawl set in an early medieval European setting, I would expect the party to be eating perishable food for the first two or three days (fresh fruit, bread, fresh meat) and maybe beef jerky and cracker-like breads for another day or two after that. If they're stuck in a dungeon for longer than that with no source of fresh food, and have no way to cook grain and salted meat, then they're pretty much screwed.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Oh Saffron, My Saffron

As many of my friends can tell you, I really like saffron. I go through more of the stuff in a month than most Americans use in their entire lives.

If I were a medieval king, all my land would be used to grow saffron

Given that you're reading this blog, you probably can guess that I really like medieval European cuisine as well, and one of the more commonly used spices in the Middle Ages (at least for the wealthy) was saffron. In spite of it being the most expensive spice, it appears in 39% of the recipes in Forme of Cury (England, 1390) and 41% of the recipes in Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books (England, 1430).

Of course when people are selling stuff that's expensive, some of it is going to turn out to be fake. This isn't just a modern problem. There are plenty of records of medieval trials and punishments for product adulteration. There are jerks in this world, and there always have been.

It turns out that some of the saffron I got a while back - stuff that seemed like a really great deal - isn't actually saffron. I don't have the money to find out what it actually is, but I thought it would be worthwhile to put up a brief guide on how to tell the real stuff from the fake.

The Threads

Saffron threads are the stigmas of the flower of Crocus sativus. They tend to be 25 to 30 mm in length, but can be much shorter because they get brittle and break easily when dry.

A pinch of saffron threads

In the above picture, note how the threads tend to be thicker at one end than the other, and the change in thickness is gradual. The color of the can also change, usually from dark red at the thick end to yellow at the tip.

A pinch of ... something else

Here the threads are strangely long, some up to 50mm. While there are some that look like they have thicker portions, closer examination shows them to be multiple strands twisted together. None of the threads change in thickness. There is a mix of colors, but each thread in itself is uniform of color.

A few saffron threads in water

When whole saffron threads are dropped into warm water, color starts to steep out immediately, though it can take a while.

Ugly, long strings of stuff in water

The fake stuff may also discolor the water, depending on what was used to make it look like saffron. Note that even though I've added about five times as much of the fake stuff as I did the real stuff in the previous photo, the fake stuff produces about the same amount of color.

Typically when I cook with saffron, I grind it up with a bit of salt using a small mortar and pestle. This helps the color and flavor diffuse more quickly into the food.

Saffron ground with salt

Note how small the particles of saffron are after it's ground, and how the salt takes on an orange-red color.

Foul, nasty strings of stuff kind of ground with salt

The fake threads however do not grind up easily. It is rather interesting to note some tiny yellow flecks and the yellowish tint to the salt. I suspect that there may actually be some low-grade (yellow) saffron or some other yellow plant material mixed in with the evil fake threads.

Yummy, saffron-infused water

Here I dumped the saffron-salt mixture into warm water and the color suffused through it immediately.

Bad, wicked, evil, naughty stuff in water

The fake threads ground with salt and dumped into water don't quite have the same effect. Many of them seem pretty much inert. Normally when I cook rice with a good pinch of saffron, the rice comes out a bright yellow color, but the one time I did that with the fake stuff the rice turned out beige and flavorless.

Another sign of bogus saffron is the scent. I love the fragrance of the real stuff, but the fake threads smell ... well, off. That's a hard thing to put on a web page though.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Book Review: 21 French Medieval Cookery Recipes

21 French Medieval Cookery Recipes + 10 Unknown Facts 
About Medieval France: Tasty Medieval French Food

Bad Side:  Poorly edited. Little or no original work (almost all the recipes are modified versions of ones I have online for free).

Good Side:  At least she didn't break any copyright laws.

Conclusion:  Even at $0.99 this isn't worth the money.

Notes:  From reading it I would guess that Bethany Wilson is about 12 years old.  The "Unknown Facts" make my brain hurt.

Plus ça change ...

I came across an image today that I've seen before and mentioned in some of my seminars, so I thought I'd post it here before I lost track of it yet again. It's one of the illustrations from the margins of the Luttrell Psalter (England, 14th c).

British Library Add MS 42130 ("The Luttrell Psalter"), f.157v

Now it could be that the beverage being poured into the funnel is water and the gentleman in blue was very thirsty, but I think it's much more likely that people haven't changed all that much in the past 800 years, and what we're looking at is a couple of bros at a frat party with their beer bong.

On a side note, I particularly like the detail of the beer splashing into the drinker's eyes.