Symposium J-2 Recipes outside the Books
Last panels… This 27th may, it’s time to go outside the books! What can we learn about recipes with other sciences? Multidisciplinary approach about recipes with Aurélie Chantran and her search for clues about the evolution of culinary practices through the study of cooking traces. Followed by Fabian Müllers’ conference about knowing and cooking culinary medieval recipes in the XXIst century
Furthermore, we will have the pleasure to discover two slams that will surely tickle your curiosity with Clarissa Cagnato unusual approach shedding light on French Medieval recipes through starch grain analysis… and the quest of Charles Viaut who will explain us how to search for culinary recipes and their uses in fifteenth-century domestic accounts from Aquitaine.
Determining the evolution of culinary practices through the study of cooking traces: an experimental and multidisciplinary approach
Around the 12th and 13th centuries A.D., in northern France, we note changes in the types of utensils and cooking hearths used, but also see the introduction of new animal and plant varieties along with recipes used by people in the upper echelons of society being put in writing. These novelties could be the result of changing tastes and manners of preparing food. The study of archaeological materials could help to determine the cooking methods that may have been used. The range of archaeological sites from which material cooking remains are recovered should moreover allow us to compare context and time periods to eventually point out evolutions and regional specificities. Nevertheless, what actually remains from Medieval period cooking? Traces on ceramics are regularly seen on vessels, while residues trapped inside the ceramic pastes can sometime be analyzed, and some faunal and botanical remains can also be found. However, studies have yet to show how these remains could clearly reveal the way foods were cooked. Therefore, experiments were designed and carried out to determine the traces left behind by different cooking methods. The results obtained have made it possible to create a reference collection consisting of ceramics as well as animal and plant remains. The study of the cooking traces allowed to establish criteria that can be used in use-wear analysis. Preliminary results were obtained from comparing the experimental reference collection to archaeological materials recovered from different contexts and regions in France. These data seem to reveal some regional and chronological specificities that can be related to the cooking recipes written in the same periods. The use-wear analysis realized on ceramics from Orville Castle was complemented by microbotanical and chemical analyses. Combining these data indicates that the analysis of traces is reliable as supports the importance of multidisciplinary approaches in this field.
Knowing and cooking culinary medieval recipes in the XXIst century
Understanding and realizing the recipes of the Middle Ages is not without posing a certain number of problems which the historian must face. The constitution of a corpus of source requires embracing several disciplines of the social sciences. Among them, archeology finds a most interesting place. The work of archaeologists has been able to provide us with information, both on the culinary tools (artefact) and on the ingredients used (ecofacts). The reconstitution of culinary tools makes it possible to carry out experiments, both to analyze and compare the cooking allowed by the said culinary tools, but also to try to achieve results which cannot be reached otherwise. To achieve those results, the aim could not only be to achieve a mere gustatory satisfaction. The research requires a permanent round trip back to sources in order to get as close as possible to the original practice of the time in all aspect of the recipe: appearance, color, consistency… Historical cooking remains a topic on which only a regular practice can allow us to refine our knowledge of medieval recipes, even if it cannot answer to all the questions we have. Through experimental archeology and the analysis of the cooking process and techniques, the historian gradually turns himself into a cook and bring back to life the recipes of the past. However, what level of relevance could we reach through that process? This is the whole point of the archaeo-cooking process and the goal of this communication.
Finding culinary recipes and their uses in fifteenth-century domestic accounts from Aquitaine
Culinary books are often considered as the only historical source for medieval and modern recipes, which is true in most cases. Practical uses of recipes in actual domestic contexts are however not as well documented due to the lack of historical sources and insights into the reality of everyday life of castles and elite households from the late Middle Ages. A doctoral work focused on food and culinary techniques in medieval castles of north Aquitaine (western France) gave us the opportunity of studying various fifteenth-century household and kitchen accounts from several sites, among which the until now unpublished accounts from the castles of Pons and Thouars (Nouvelle-Aquitaine) stand apart due to their length and detail level. The careful and exhaustive study of these written records gave us not only the expected information about domestic supply but also various insights into culinary recipes in use in these castle kitchens from the later Middle Ages. Comparison with various French recipe books from the 12th to the 15th century allows us to enlighten the culinary influences and preferences in these Aquitanian lordly courts as well as the diffusion of recipes outside of centres of culinary influence such as Northern France. These documents ask, in a much larger scale, the question of the diffusion and concrete use of culinary recipes outside of their geographical cradles, and of their value as significant objects in a context of uniformization of aristocratic cultures at the end of the Middle Ages.
Shedding light on French Medieval recipes through starch grain analysis
Studies of microscopic plant remains, more specifically starch grains, allows to shed light on a number of issues relating to ancient cooking practices. The reason being is that they can often be identified to the genus of the plant that produced them, but that they are also susceptible to damage when exposed to different food processing methods. It is therefore possible, in some cases, to identify specific cooking methods in the archaeological record. This talk will provide a quick overview of the starch grains recovered from Medieval ceramics from Orville Castle (France) with the aim of providing information on the ingredients used. The main focus of this talk, however, will be on a particular type of cooking practice that seems tied to the use of an alkaline solution, as determined by the presence of starch spherulites on ceramics from Orville Castle. While the use of alkaline solutions is well-known in other parts of the world, for example in the Americas where it was used to cook maize (a process known as nixtamalization), this type of preparation does not seem documented in Medieval contexts. Although this is a preliminary study and more experimental work will be essential, it is clear that applying starch grain analysis to ceramics from this period can bring to light new practices or even confirm past culinary recipes.