An Alphabet of Historical Recipes

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English translations on this page are copyright. You may quote single recipes if you add 'translation by Andrew Dalby' and the site URL 'http://perso.wanadoo.fr/dalby/'

Fish soup (1911)

'We have a fish soup; guarracini and scorfani and aguglie and toteri.' Take breath, while I explain to the patient reader the ingredients of the diabolical preparation known as zuppa di pesce. The guarracino is a pitch-black marine monstrosity, one to two inches long, with an Old Red Sandstone profile and insufferable manners. As to the scorfano, its name is undoubtedly onomatopoetic, to suggest the spitting-out of bones. The aguglia is all tail and proboscis; the very nightmare of a fish -- as thin as a lead-pencil. A certain tract of sea was known as the 'aguglie water'. Everybody knows the totero or squid, an animated ink-bag of perverse leanings whose india-rubber flesh might be useful for deluding hunger on desert islands.

Norman Douglas, Siren Land p. 133 [Penguin edition] abridged

Hare (c. 500)

Hares, if they are quite young, can be taken with a sweet sauce including pepper, a little cloves and ginger, seasoned with costus and spikenard or tejpat leaf. Hare is an excellent food, good in cases of dysentery.

Anthimus, Letter on Diet no. 13. Click here for the original text with dictionary links.

Larks (c. 1425)

Small birds such as larks, quails, redwings and others. Pluck them, dry, without any water; then parboil them, spit them sideways through the heads and feet alternating with slices or collops of bacon or slices of sausage between each; eat them with granulated salt.

Le Viandier de Taillevent [ms. Vat. Regina 776] recipe no. 45 in Scully's edition. Click here for the original text with dictionary links.

Pigeons (c. 1430)

Prepare pigeons as follows: take them, put them in a pan with fat and bacon, mix them well and turn them from time to time so that they do not burn. Then take ground almonds and raw egg with verjuice; pour off the fat [and mix with these ingredients], add rosewater, and allow the sauce to thicken. Pour all of it over the pigeons. This dish will suit Italians.

c. 1430 Johann von Bockenheim, Registrum Coquine no. 17 in Laurioux's edition. Click here for the original text with dictionary links.