Symposium J-10 Markets and Mediators, Food & Cooking outside the World of Cookbooks

Two conferences…   Two cities, Paris and Delf ; one in the 15th-16th, the other in the 17th-19th century….     Two totally different topics : the vegetal ingredient and the Professional Parisian Cooks, Charcutiers, and Caterers.  What will be our favorite conference on the 19th May afternoon ?

“Neemt groene cryuden [Take green herbs]”: an archaeobotanical perspective on vegetal ingredients bought, prepared and consumed in the city of Delft between 1600-1800.

Still, culinary texts such as cookbooks provide a welcome insight into past food preparation and food consumption practices, but they cannot be taken at face value when one wants to know what people ate on a daily basis. As mentioned, you scarcely need a cookbook to cook your everyday meal. You prepare a meal with the ingredients in the pantry, which generally – especially in the historical era, fluctuated with the seasons. More importantly, only a small number of historical cookbooks have survived to inform us about dishes that were served to the table. Also, the earliest Dutch cookbooks, dating to the middle ages and the following sixteenth and seventeenth century, were available for a select group of wealthy citizens. They purchased or wrote cookbooks to instruct their cooks and maids how prepare a variety of dishes for a variety of occasions. Food purchase orders give us more information about the food items consumed, but these lists rarely survive. What the general masses ate might be discerned more broadly from the ingredients listed in cookbooks or by studying simple dishes present in many different cookbooks.

What people ate can not only be derived from historical sources such as the aforementioned culinary texts including cookbooks. Bio-archaeologists study food consumption practices from prehistory to the modern era. By looking at faunal and floral remains left in different archaeological contexts, these researchers piece together the animal and plant diversity utilized by humans to provide, among others, nourishment. Additionally, cutmarks on animal bones and even seeds and fruits inform us about which plant parts were used and how they might have been prepared. Combining this information with the culinary material culture unearthed at settlement sites, the bio-archaeologist deduces whether the food was produced locally or imported, how it was prepared and what was consumed.

Still, bio-archaeological research has it’s biases too. The preservation conditions of organic material varies substantially from region to region; and the soil composition, the fluctuation of (ground)water levels, the presence/absence of micro-organisms, and many more factors influence the conditions in which animal and plant remains preserve for identification purposes. Also, not all consumed food items will leave a trace behind. Meat, including poultry and fish, might be butchered off site or bought at the market without bones. Though seeds and fruits preserve well, leaves, stems and roots preserve less, which makes them harder to identify. Furthermore, preparation of food items might render them unidentifiable (e.g. pepper corns vs. ground pepper). Liquids used for cooking and drinking are even harder to identify as they leave barely any discernable trace in the archaeological record. Different archaeological and scientific techniques are therefore combined to identify past food preparation and food consumption practices. Still, what is found can help us interpret food practices of the general public, as archaeology customarily does not necessarily discriminate on the basis of class.

When studying the historical era, bio-archaeologist have the advantage of comparing their results with the historical documents such as handwritten and printed cookbooks, as well as food purchase orders from grand households and urban (charitable) institutions. The city of Delft, located in the province of Zuid-Holland, forms an excellent case study when combining archaeobotanical and culinary historical research. The early modern cesspits, archaeological context containing primarily excrements and secondarily kitchen refuse and domestic waste, offer insight into the food items consumed and discarded. Its contents have been preserved exceptionally well due to high ground water levels. And, even though no (popular) Dutch cookbook was printed in Delft, historical cookbooks printed in nearby cities such as Amsterdam circulated widely and were also in use by the citizens of Delft.

Gens experts & non suspects: Recipe Transmission in the World of Professional Parisian Cooks, Charcutiers, and Caterers, 1475-1599.

            Between 1475-1599, the guilds of Paris were undergoing a period of reorganization. In particular, Paris’s foodservice guilds were undergoing a great deal of change with respect to government, professional identities, and shared skill sets. While cooks, bakers, butchers, and other foodservice guilds existed since the Middle Ages, economic scale and opportunities to better serve Paris’s citizens and tradespeople caused continual revision of Parisian guild charters during the late-fifteenth and early-sixteenth centuries. This paper examines guild charters and royal proclamations made in the City of Paris, focusing especially on the Rôtisseurs (Public Cookshop Chefs, est.1258), Charcutiers (Pork and Sausage Chefs, est.1475), and Cuisiniers (Royal and Noble Household Chefs, est.1599) as transcribed in Nicholas de la Mare’s 1719 Traité de la police. In addition to evolving professional identities, 1475-1599 represents a period when two new foodservice guilds -the Charcutiers and Cuisiniers– challenged each other, and the older and more established Rôtisseurs, to convey a specific sense of what it meant to belong to their respective crafts during periods of apprenticeship.

            Considering the theme of the present conference, “The Culinary Recipe from the XIIth to the XVIIth centuries,” the process of apprenticeship seems to be the most likely one in which scholars might find references to the manner in which early modern Parisian cooks learned recipes. Membership in the guild -either as a master (maistre), journeyperson (varlet), or apprentice (apprenti, garçon)- was controlled via specified courses of on-the-job training that were particular to each guild. The process of earning guild mastership required time for the aspiring master to steep in the culture, know-how, traditions, and techniques of their craft. More broadly, one might argue that the steps to becoming a good apprentice or journeyperson, as established in the charters, were among the most crucial elements for the “recipe” for making a good cook in early modern Paris.

This paper examines three shared perspectives that guildspersons of the Rôtisseurs, Charcutiers, and Cuisiniers of Paris took pains to teach to their apprentices. In particular, charters created during this period stress the importance of a training lineage; completion of the masterpiece examination; and limiting the scope of goods sold. This was, in part, the “recipe” for making a good cook, insofar as the guilds themselves were concerned. Although the charters do not refer or allude to any textual recipe collections as being important for training of their apprentices, they do offer a clear set of “ingredients” through which a well-seasoned chef could be achieved.

            Training or familial lineages were one of the most important aspects of apprenticeship to be examined in each charter. When the Rôtisseurs of Paris established their 1509 charter, they required that masters take no journeyperson “who has not been apprenticed in the said mystery for two years, or who is not a son of a master and expert in the said mystery.” This was an evolution from the Rôtisseurs earlier, 1258 charter, that allowed only sons of masters to join.By the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, there were too many people and foodservice needs in Paris to be adequately served by the families and descendants of Rôtisseurs alone. As well, La Mare noted that butchers traditionally controlled the sale of pork meat, pork fat, confits, and sausages, but that the Charcutiers were founded in order to allow “the poor people, who always seek to find a good market … for their subsistence” some place to find cooked pork meats. Given this need to allow more shops, the Charcutiers also had a more open admission policy, allowing any male to apprentice for “four years of service,” without mention of kinship requirements. In another contrast, when the cooks of Paris’s royal and noble households formed a new guild in 1599, called the Cuisiniers, they did not have any kinship requirements although they did require any prospective “esquire of the kitchen, master cook, soup cook, roasting chef, and children of the kitchens of the King, the Queen, Princes and Princesses of the blood and other high nobles … [may] present their Letters of retinue” for immediate admission.

            Like familial or training lineages, most guilds set fixed masterpiece examination (chef-d’œuvre) by which journeypersons could progress to mastership. The Rôtisseurs’ 1509 charter required journeypersons to be examined by the “Masters’ Jury” of the guild. Although the charter did not say what the examination consisted of, it would seem likely that it included various cooked beef, mutton, fish, poultry, and vegetable dishes. The Rôtisseurs’ may have been inspired to include this requirement due to a similar regulation contained in the Charcutiers’ 1475 charter.Again, while the 1475 Charcutiers’ charter does not explain the exact nature of the masterpiece examination, it likely consisted of selections of cooked and cured porks, a variety of sausages, and confits.  Paris’s royal and noble chefs offered a little more detail as to the specifics of the masterpiece examination in their 1599 charter, noting that the Cuisiniers’ masterpiece examination consisted of a meal “made out of diverse meats and fish, according to the seasons of the year, and to be made in the house of one of the said jury members and with the assistance of twelve masters of the said mystery.”

            Finally, each guild taught apprentices not to violate prohibitions on the range of foods allowed to be sold by each guild. The Rôtisseurs traditionally sold all types of cooked meats, however, with the foundation of the Charcutiers in 1475, the Rôtisseurs had to accept that a new guild could also sell cooked pork dishes; at least in the suburbs (faubourg) of Paris wherein the Charcutiers were licenced to operate. Similarly, when the Charcutiers were founded, their 1475 charter noted that masters may no longer sell “fruits, cabbages, chards, greens, butters, cheeses etc., excepting only sausages and cooked roasts of pork, wholesome and seemly.” Most privileged in terms of the scope of their craft were the royal Cuisiniers. Beyond cooking for royal and aristocratic households, the Cuisiniers held the right to cater feasts and special events and could sell any type of dish when catering an event. As the first article of their 1599 charter noted, the guild was established so “that the Pâtissiers, Rôtisseurs, Charcuitiers, & all others of such mysteries, do not seek to infringe on the said mystery through the making of dinners, feasts, or banquets, either in their houses or in other places, if it is not a right of their mystery.”

Citer ce billet
vhulet (2021, 7 mai). Symposium J-10 Markets and Mediators, Food & Cooking outside the World of Cookbooks. CoReMA. Consulté le 24 juin 2024, à l’adresse

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