Renaissance Recipes for the Contemporary Cook
Foreward by Patrick O’Connell
Photographs by Tim Turner
Random House, NY,NY 2003
I do not consider myself to be a cookbook reader. I have a solid collection of cookbooks and I page through them from time to time. I’ll read about the dish I am considering, or read a series of recipes trying to make a choice. I do not, however, go through cookbooks from cover to cover. Not ever, until this one.
In his forward Patrick O’Connell states, “It has been said that one who knows food also knows history, language, and culture. This book on the food of Shakespeare’s era beautifully illustrates that truth.” I couldn’t say it better. Each recipe has little commentaries on the period, the origins of the foods, the oddities of Elizabethan language and most consistently a quote from Shakespeare.
I found this book fascinating from all of those perspectives as well as that of a home cook. The author, Francine Sagan, often includes the original recipe from a cookbook of the period. Reading these snippets of her research it becomes very easy to appreciate the amount of work she has put in to make these dishes accessible to a modern home cook.
It is clear from the amount of information, all in small and easily palatable portions, that Ms. Sagan has a great deal of knowledge and fondness for the time when Shakespeare lived. Although some of the ingredients might require a specialty cooking store, most of the recipes seem within the skill set of a competent home cook.
Reading about this period and the approach of the English of the time to food added appeal to the recipes. There are even comments on the dietary virtues of nutrition and health prevalent in the period. Looking at the photos of the finished products made my mouth water. These delightful and dynamic dishes put standard Renaissance faire fare to shame.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Shakespearean era. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of food. I even recommend this book for people who enjoy fancy picnic food and variety in their cooking.
Since this is where I discovered this book I should also mention that the Minneapolis Institute of Art is doing an exhibition called Supper With Shakespeare: The Evolution of English Banqueting. The exhibit will continue through March 31, 2013.