Home                                     Renaissance
        Foods of the Past

In this section you are going to explore the foods of the Renaissance time period.  As you explore through the different websites make sure to fill in and record your information and answers to the questions.  Click On the picture to print out your worksheet to follow.


Looking into the Past

Go to the web site below and choose a picture from this web site that depicts a kitchen, equipment cooking method.  Determine how this differs from the way our culture cooks and would you use the method, kitchen, or equipment in the picture that you found from that Renaissance period.

What to avoid when cooking authentic foods go to the following site: This website gives a list of foods that are commly mistaken for authentic foods.  Make a list of five foods from this website that suprised you as not being from this time period.  Think about the pictures you saw earlier did any of those pictures have these foods in them?

The Main Ingredient

Look at this recipe from the renaissance and answer the following questions:
1. List three ingredients that we still use in our kitchens today.
2. How do our measurements compare to those of the Renaissance time period?
3. What food group from the food guide pyramid do you think this food item falls under and why?
4. Do you think you could make this recipe? Why or why not?

Example of Renaissance recipe:

Byzantine Murri

Kitab Wasf, Sina'ah 52, p. 56, Sina'ah 51, p. 65: Charles Perry tr.

Description of byzantine murri [made] right away: There is taken, upon the name of God the Most High, of honey scorched in a nuqrah [perhaps this word means 'a silver vessel'], three ratls; pounded scorched oven bread, ten loaves; starch, half a ratl; roasted anise, fennel and nigella, two uqiyahs of each; byzantine saffron, an uqiya; celery seed, an uqiyah; syrian carob, half a ratl; fifty peeled walnuts, as much as half a ratl; split quinces, five; salt, half a makkuk dissolved in honey; thirty ratls water; and the rest of the ingredients are thrown on it, and it is boiled on a slow flame until a third of the water is absorbed. Then it is strained well in a clean nosebag of hair. It is taken up in a greased glass or pottery vessel with a narrow top. A little lemon from Takranjiya (? Sina'ah 51 has Bakr Fahr) is thrown on it, and if it suits that a little water is thrown on the dough and it is boiled upon it and strained, it would be a second (infusion). The weights and measurements that are given are Antiochan and Zahiri [as] in Mayyafariqin.

1 ratl = 12 uqiya = 1 pint
1 Makkuk = 7.5-18.8 liters dry measure

The following quantities are for 1/32 of the above recipe. The first time I used more bread and the mixture was too thick.

3 T honey
1 1/2 oz bread
1 T wheat starch
2/3 t anise
2/3 t fennel
(2/3 t nigela)
1/4 t saffron
1/3 t celery seed
1/4 oz carob
1/4 oz walnut
1 1/2 oz quince
1/2 c salt in 3 T honey
1 pint water
lemon (1/4 of one)

I cooked the honey in a small frying pan on medium heat, bringing it to a boil then turning off the heat and repeating several times; it tasted scorched. The bread was sliced white bread, toasted in a toaster to be somewhat blackened, then mashed in a mortar. The anise and fennel were toasted in a frying pan or roasted under a broiler, then ground in a mortar with celery seed and walnuts. The quince was quartered and cored. After it was all boiled together for about 2 hours, it was put in a potato ricer, the liquid squeezed out and lemon juice added. The recipe generates about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 c of liquid. I then add another 1/2 c or water to the residue, simmer 1/2 hr -1 hr, and squeeze out that liquid for the second infusion, which yields about 1/3 c. A third infusion using 1/3 c yields another 1/4 c or so.

Other Minor Points

Islamic recipes frequently refer to "tail." This is apparently the fat from the tail of a fat-tailed sheep, used as cooking oil. Since it is not available at the local butcher, we substitute lamb fat.

We usually interpret "meat" in Islamic recipes as lamb, either leg or chops. Other possibilities are veal, goat, beef and kid. Pork would not be used, since it is forbidden by Islamic law.

Islamic recipes refer to both fresh and dry or dried coriander; we have interpreted the latter as coriander seed. A less likely alternative is the dried leaf.

Islamic recipes often call for sesame oil. This should be the kind of sesame oil sold in Middle Eastern grocery stores, which is made from untoasted sesame seeds and has only a slight flavor; something very similar can be found in health food stores. Chinese sesame oil is made from toasted sesame seeds and is very strongly flavored.

Islamic recipes occasionally call for date syrub. This is sometimes available in Middle Eastern grocery stores; its other name is "dibs."

The Arberry translation of al-Baghdadi uses "hour" for an Arabic term which, according to Charles Perry, actually means an indefinite length of time. We therefore have not tried to stick literally to the timing given in al-Baghdadi.

A common technique in medieval European recipes is to pass ingredients through a strainer. We generally follow the recipe the first time but thereafter, and especially when preparing large quantities, substitute a food processor. Another alternative that works quite well is to use a potato ricer--a sort of plunger/strainer combination.

Saffron is a fairly common medieval ingredient. We have found that it works better if you first extract the color and flavor by crushing the saffron thoroughly into a small quantity of water, then adding the water and saffron to your dish. Cariadoc is not fond of saffron; if you are, you may want to increase our quantities.

Powder fort is a spice mixture mentioned in various period recipes; we have not yet been able to find a description of what spices it contains. What we use is a mixture containing, by weight: 1 part cloves, 1 part mace, 1 part cubebs, 7 parts cinnamon, 7 parts ginger, and 7 parts pepper, all ground. This is a guess, based on very limited evidence; it works well for the dishes in which we have tried it.

Verjuice is a sour fruit juice, sometimes from crabapples or unripe grapes. We usually substitute dilute vinegar. We have recently found sour grape juice for sale in a Middle Eastern grocery store; two parts of this seems to be roughly equivalent to one part of vinegar.

A number of period recipes use an ingredient translated as "gourd" or "pumpkin;" the problem of identifying it is discussed in the article "Late Period and Out of Period Foods" later in this book. We generally use some form of squash.

So far as we can tell, the only old world variety of bean other than lentils and chickpeas commonly available is the fava or broad bean, so we use it in bean recipes.

In interpreting recipes that contain a specific number of eggs, we generally assume that the average medieval egg is half the size of a modern large egg; we have no evidence for whether this is correct other than how the recipes come out. When we specify a number of eggs in the worked out version of a recipe, they are large eggs.

Some of the early English recipes use the thorn (+ ), a letter that is no longer used in English. It is pronounced "th."

(This is an article from Cariadoc's Miscellany. The Miscellany is Copyright (c) by David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook, 1988, 1990, 1992. For copying details, see the Miscellany Introduction.)

Interesting Tidbits
Click on the above intresting tidbits to go to a website.  While in this website find pick an area such as (grains, meats, etc) and find three interesting fact about that area and one recipie that you find interesting.