Contrary to what is often believed, good food was valued highly in the Middle Ages – the fragrance of exotic spices filled the air, meat turned on the spit and fish was consumed in abundance for religious reasons. The wealthy made a show of their prosperity by serving peacock or wild boar at banquets, while the poor ate vegetables, porridge and bread. Fresh and preserved fish, meat, fruit and vegetables were transported great distances to grace dining tables across Europe.
In The Medieval Kitchen, Hannele Klemettilä presents a richly illustrated history of medieval food and cookery in Western Europe and Scandinavia. The book is also a practicable cookbook, with a collection of more than 60 originally sourced recipes that can easily be prepared in today’s modern home. Hippocras, roasted veal paupiettes with bacon and herbs, and rose pudding tempt with the beguiling flavours of a bygone era.
The Medieval Kitchen corrects many common misconceptions about the food of the Middle Ages, and acquaints the reader with the food culture, customs and ideologies associated with eating in medieval times. The text is accompanied by many fine paintings and drawings, which help to evoke the atmosphere in the dining rooms and kitchens of both rich and poor some 600 years ago.
‘a superb new book on medieval food . . . lavishly illustrated.’ – Stella magazine, Sunday Telegraph
‘Oh no! Not whole-roasted ox again! Even for the aristocracy, medieval fare must have been boring, it’s been assumed. The reality was quite otherwise, Hannele Klemettilä reveals. This “social history with recipes” is as delicious in its details as it is mouthwatering in its presentation . . . More enterprising readers may want to take a stab at some of the 60-odd recipes in which Klemettilä serves up a splendid banquet of forgotten flavours.’ – The Scotsman
‘Klemettilä – who skates across the whole of continental Europe in The Medieval Kitchen . . . reveals the delicacy, craft and complexity that underpinned medieval food . . . the book puts us in touch with an essential element of medieval culture and shows how it shaped that world. In helping to restore its reputation [she] also helps to further repair the standing of an age whose rich sophistication is too often unfairly sneared.’ – TLS
‘[Klemettilä] presents a fascinating picture of a very different mindset when it comes to food and inspired me to get a taste of those forgotten flavors . . . While my palate may not be able to take on an all-medieval diet, it was still a fun, experiential way to encounter another age. The recipes will be worth returning to occasionally, a little pinch of history to season my 21st-century table.’ – National Catholic Reporter
‘The Medieval Kitchen is an admirable effort to elucidate how and what European peoples ate during the late Middle Ages. The author’s goal is to move medieval food history away from an emphasis on the elaborate feasts of the aristocracy to a discussion inclusive of the food cultures of agricultural and ruling classes . . . The volume is filled with illustrations from medieval books of hours and other manuscripts; informative captions accompanying each illustration give historical context. This book is an ideal introduction to the topic for both students and adventurous cooks. Highly recommended’ – Choice
Hannele Klemettilä is a postdoctoral researcher of the Academy of Finland and a specialist in medieval cultural history. Her publications include monographs, books, articles and newspaper columns, and she has appeared on radio and television.