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Tuesday, 05 November 2013 22:15

Le Ménagier de Paris: The oldest French Cookbook

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One of the oldest French cookbooks is known as Le Ménagier de Paris. It was written in the Middle-Ages, around 1393 by an old Parisian Bourgeois willing to educate his young and inexperienced wife about her home duties. It is a sort of ‘Good Wife’s guide’, where the Bourgeois gives a lot of advice on social behaviour, marriage, religion, and a full section on cooking with no less than 400 recipes.

Le Ménagier is said to be part of a trend initiated by King Charles V le Sage (the Wise), aiming to codify and record the current knowledge available in the Kingdom. Charles V, who died 13 years before the book was written, was a very well-read man and an art patron. He encouraged the publication of multiple technical or philosophical treatises and founded the royal library.

Le Ménagier gives an interesting glimpse at the origins of French cooking. While we all imagine medieval food to be pretty basic to say the least, the book actually shows a surprising variety of recipes and tastes, with elaborate and well-organised chapters on river and sea fish, meats and poultry, sauces, stocks and other dishes.

The book is still available, and has recently been translated into English under the title The Goodman of Paris for its UK version, and The Good Wife's Guide for the American one. I only read recipes from the French version and found most of them to be quite hard to understand! I couldn’t find anyone else who has actually tried to make one of them, so I'm up to the challenge and I will post the result on French Cooking!

Read 15371 times Last modified on Saturday, 05 July 2014 15:28

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