The imitation of nature and the wonderful in the medieval kitchen

The imitation of nature and the wonderful in the medieval kitchen Marco Gavius ​​de Rubeis

One of the fascinating aspects and characteristic of medieval culture res coquinaria is undoubtedly the great attention paid, from all points of view, the presentation of the dishes in the context of the banquets. The meal is not prepared only to stimulate the taste and smell thanks to a clever use of combinations of flavors and aromas, through a refined study of spices and the specific qualities of each kind of food and the characteristics to be boosted for each ingredient, but also to be pleasing to the eye. In medieval and Renaissance low sources frequently arise directions on the color of foods and in some cases find similar recipes proposed again with some variations aimed at a different coloring of the same plate, sometimes combined between them, as in the case of plates of pancakes, ravioli or dumplings of various colors, or in the case of three colors cake that presents us with the most famous chef of the fifteenth century, Maestro Martino of Como. Among the most frequent dyes, We find saffron and egg yolk to create yellow and green vegetables, often also in combination with herbs, as one of the most beloved color remains white: there is a whole category of food, blancmange, whose predominant feature, more that the composition of the dish that can be quite different (every recipe of our reporting period often has at least two recipes, a meat and a fish), It is precisely the white.
As evidenced by the gastronomic and literary sources, with confirmation by the vast iconography that has reached us, in the period between the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance appearance of spectacular dishes, the extravagance and the need to impress their ladies and guests are issues particularly felt by high-level cooks. These are preparations that, unlike almost all the old recipes, It is difficult to reproduce, for those measures are of considerable interest to historical and cultural nature.
Not being able to, under this Article, investigate in detail every aspect of the presentation of the dishes, we chose to tell two particularly elaborate dishes and examples of this trend, dishes that over all, in different versions, They are found in numerous contemporary sources: the peacock of its coated pens and crayon volativo. In fact the latter is not a dish, in the sense that the purpose is not to fan type, but a spectacular gourmet preparation and fairly common in the courts as a glorification of glitz and by the ladies care to please the guests to.
We find numerous sources that speak of the peacock and as "dressing" to serve at table. The target, specified in the sources, It is to bring to the table, leaving intact the peacock plumage so that seems alive, thus enhancing the beauty, before removing the skin and serve on plates. we find, as we said, different recipes for preparing the peacock dress, However, we would stress that this practice not only at that volatile, but also a large number of other animals, generally particularly beautiful or large. In addition to the swan, It appreciated more for the look that to be a good meat and greet, As the Second fifteenth doctor Michele Savonarola, We find ourselves in a banquet given by Pope Sixtus IV which tells Bernardino Corio, He lived between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, in its History of Milan, The following courses of meat dressed: pavoni, pheasants, storks, crane, deer with horns on his head, bear with a stick in his mouth, fallow deer, roe, boars and other animals. The author specifies that they were cooked but so arranged as to seem alive.
But how to make a peacock dress? The procedure is rather complex, since the main purpose is not to spoil the beauty and luster of feathers. should therefore be the expert hand of a cook can remove the skin without damaging it in any way, and then reattaching it to perfection on roasted meat, cooking methods usually preferred for the precious birds and game. Maestro Martino, in his Libro de arte coquinaria that represents the pinnacle of the kitchen of the fifteenth century and the model that you then inspire subsequent authors, It is very specific regarding the preparation: It is open from the neck to the tail cutting only the skin et scorticalo kindly do not break the plumage or skin. The skin should be reversed up to the head, which then must be cut by paying attention that it remains firmly attached neck skin. The meat is then roasted slowly on a spit, once filled with unspecified bone things with bone spices, with whole cloves planted in his chest. Around her neck is placed a wet cloth to keep it from drying out, paying attention to continue to be dampened. Once cooked, the bird is covered with its skin, employing an iron structure located in a cutting board (of thick iron wits in a cutting boards) that steps to feet and legs Peacock so that you do not see the iron and the bird can stand on his feet so still appear live, arranging well the tail so that makes the wheel. With a trick you can do so that spits fire, using camphor around with the cotton wool to put in the peacock beak, imbibing of spirits or wine. Before shipping the bird table, It turns on the cotton wool. it is also possible, for more glory, indorarlo with gold leaves beaten and they put you on the skin. The author points out that the same preparation can be used to prepare pheasant, crane, geese and other birds, capons and chickens.
The anonymous author of the fourteenth-century Tuscan Book of cocina prepares him instead of pork stuffing, peacock meat and spices by binding with egg whites, not specifying the details of the cut, which is supposedly identical to the one just mentioned. The filling is then placed inside the volatile, wrapped in a pork network. After fast boiling, technique often employed to keep the soft roasts, the meat should be cooked on the spit or on the grill and colored with beaten egg yolks. At this point, prepare the pome (small meatballs) with egg, loin of pork and spices to put in the peacock or inside the network, by coloring of egg yolk with the aid of pens. Once the cooking, the peacock is covered and brought to the table.
As we mentioned before, dress peacock is a food, while the so-called pastel volativo is not. How can we find in the sources, especially renaissance, there are numerous gourmet preparations not intended for food use. We can not now go into detail, We include only the custom, Also reported by the sixteenth-century chef Messisbugo, to prepare figurines of a certain size with sugar or butter depicting mythological scenes, to better adorn the table.
The pastel is a haute cuisine dish, in which generally the meat and fish are cooked within two or more sheets of pasta, which you can be prepared in various ways depending on the time and especially of cook habits. Recall that is found in many low-medieval and Renaissance sources, including the aforementioned banquet offered by Pius IV, thereby demonstrating a certain continuity of tradition through the centuries, as indeed a considerable number of dishes retained over time almost unaltered, with little significant variations depending on the experience and practice of the cook himself.
Pastel volativo is essentially a kind of empty cake baked and filled later in live birds, locked from the dough as if they were in a cage, which is then brought to the table and opened before the present so that the birds fly away. We enter more specifically presenting the preparation recommended by Maestro Martino.
The cook may want to prepare a large pastel, the bottom of which should be made a hole the size of a fist or more, with the highest respect edges the commune consuetudine. The dough is filled with flour and is cooked in the oven. Once ready, the flour must be removed from the hole that has been done under. You must prepare separate a small pastel of the same size of the hole, full of et bona well cooked seasoned stuff, to be included in the largest pastel. The empty space around the small pastel will be filled with live birds, as will fit, just before the dish is sent to board. The pastel is then brought to the guests and goes uncovered, thus allowing the birds to fly away, you dare to party in the scorching sun Briata.
the Tuscan anonymous also offers its own version of the recipe, in this case also simplified compared to Master Martino which describes the preparation more in detail. However, we are particularly interested in why the author proposes to create a crayon-shaped cage and placing it on a tree which then specifies the characteristics.
In questo caso, It does not enter a second pastel in the first, empty, but the birds are put directly, creating of windows fate with the dough so that the birds seem imprisoned inside. The pastel is then placed on a tree whose preparation is described later in the text, interesting just for the magnificent and spectacular appearance. The shaft or the screw must be prepared with the paste and on them must be attached apples, pere, birds, grapes or what thou dost wish made egg pasta and colored yellow, Green, black or white. The author specifies that it must be hung on the crayon shaped cage. The use of colors and a reconstruction as similar as possible to the true, It reflects the great love of the time against the imitation of nature that manifests itself through the artifice and wonder. (MARCO DE GAVIO RUBEIS)
To know more, we recommend reading the two essays Medioevo in cucina. Ingredients, recipes and flavors and Renaissance in the kitchen. Italy including banquets and daily nutrition, edited by the cultural I Doni delle Muse.
Marco Gavius ​​de Rubeis It is one of the association collective pseudonym, behind which lies a team of food and wine history scholars specialized in various cultural spheres, food history from the ancient and medieval philology, who are dedicated to the direct study of manuscript sources and the experimental reproduction of food and drink between antiquity and the Renaissance.

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