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The Forme of Cury A Roll of Ancient English Cookery Compiled, about A.D. 1390 online

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Produced by Tobin Richard, Charles Franks, Greg Lindahl,
Cindy Renfrow and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
Corrections and additions by Greg Lindahl.



Compiled, about A.D. 1390, by the Master-Cooks of King RICHARD II,

Presented afterwards to Queen ELIZABETH, by EDWARD Lord STAFFORD,

And now in the Possession of GUSTAVUS BRANDER, Esq.

Illustrated with NOTES, And a copious INDEX, or GLOSSARY.

A MANUSCRIPT of the EDITOR, of the same Age and Subject, with other
congruous Matters, are subjoined.

" - ingeniosa gula est." MARTIAL.

TO GUSTAVUS BRANDER, Esq. F.R.S. F.S.A. and Cur. Brit. Mus.


I return your very curious Roll of Cookery, and I trust with some
Interest, not full I confess nor legal, but the utmost which your
Debtor, from the scantiness of his ability, can at present afford.
Indeed, considering your respectable situation in life, and that
diffusive sphere of knowledge and science in which you are acting, it
must be exceedingly difficult for any one, how well furnished soever,
completely to answer your just, or even most moderate demands. I
intreat the favour of you, however, to accept for once this short
payment in lieu of better, or at least as a public testimony of that
profound regard wherewith I am,


Your affectionate friend,
and most obliged servant,
St. George's day, 1780.





Without beginning _ab ovo_ on a subject so light (a matter of
importance, however, to many a modern Catius or Amasinius), by
investigating the origin of the Art of Cookery, and the nature of it
as practised by the Antediluvians [1]; without dilating on the
several particulars concerning it afterwards amongst the Patriarchs,
as found in the Bible [2], I shall turn myself immediately, and
without further preamble, to a few cursory observations respecting
the Greeks, Romans, Britons, and those other nations, Saxons, Danes,
and Normans, with whom the people of this nation are more closely

The Greeks probably derived something of their skill from the East,
(from the Lydians principally, whose cooks are much celebrated, [3])
and something from Egypt. A few hints concerning Cookery may be
collected from Homer, Aristophanes, Aristotle, &c. but afterwards
they possessed many authors on the subject, as may be seen in
Athenæus [4]. And as Diætetics were esteemed a branch of the study of
medicine, as also they were afterwards [5], so many of those authors
were Physicians; and _the Cook_ was undoubtedly a character of high
reputation at Athens [6].

As to the Romans; they would of course borrow much of their culinary
arts from the Greeks, though the Cook with them, we are told, was one
of the lowest of their slaves [7]. In the latter times, however, they
had many authors on the subject as well as the Greeks, and the
practitioners were men of some Science [8], but, unhappily for us,
their compositions are all lost except that which goes under the name
of Apicius; concerning which work and its author, the prevailing
opinion now seems to be, that it was written about the time of
_Heliogabalus_ [9], by one _Cælius_, (whether _Aurelianus_ is not so
certain) and that _Apicius_ is only the title of it [10]. However,
the compilation, though not in any great repute, has been several
times published by learned men.

The Aborigines of Britain, to come nearer home, could have no great
expertness in Cookery, as they had no oil, and we hear nothing of
their butter, they used only sheep and oxen, eating neither hares,
though so greatly esteemed at Rome, nor hens, nor geese, from a
notion of superstition. Nor did they eat fish. There was little corn
in the interior part of the island, but they lived on milk and flesh
[11]; though it is expressly asserted by Strabo that they had no
cheese [12]. The later Britons, however, well knew how to make the
best use of the cow, since, as appears from the laws of _Hoel Dda_,
A.D. 943, this animal was a creature so essential, so common and
useful in Wales, as to be the standard in rating fines, &c. [13].

Hengist, leader of the Saxons, made grand entertainments for king
Vortigern [14], but no particulars have come down to us; and
certainly little exquisite can be expected from a people then so
extremely barbarous as not to be able either to read or write.
'Barbari homines a septentrione, (they are the words of Dr. Lister)
caseo et ferina subcruda victitantes, omnia condimenta adjectiva
respuerunt' [15].

Some have fancied, that as the Danes imported the custom of hard and
deep drinking, so they likewise introduced the practice of
gormandizing, and that this word itself is derived from _Gormund_,
the name of that Danish king whom Ælfred the Great persuaded to be
christened, and called Æthelstane [16], Now 'tis certain that
Hardicnut stands on record as an egregious glutton [17], but he is
not particularly famous for being a _curious Viander_; 'tis true
again, that the Danes in general indulged excessively in feasts and
entertainments [18], but we have no reason to imagine any elegance
of Cookery to have flourished amongst them. And though Guthrum, the
Danish prince, is in some authors named _Gormundus_ [19]; yet this is
not the right etymology of our English word _Gormandize_, since it is
rather the French _Gourmand_, or the British _Gormod_ [20]. So that
we have little to say as to the Danes.

I shall take the later English and the Normans together, on account
of the intermixture of the two nations after the Conquest, since, as
lord Lyttelton observes, the English accommodated them elves to the
Norman manners, except in point of temperance in eating and drinking,
and communicated to them their own habits of drunkenness and
immoderate feasting [21]. Erasmus also remarks, that the English in
his time were attached to _plentiful and splendid tables_; and the
same is observed by Harrison [22]. As to the Normans, both William I.
and Rufus made grand entertainments [23]; the former was remarkable
for an immense paunch, and withal was so exact, so nice and curious
in his repasts [24], that when his prime favourite William Fitz-
Osberne, who as steward of the household had the charge of the Cury,
served him with the flesh of a crane scarcely half-roasted, he was so
highly exasperated, that he lifted up his fist, and would have
strucken him, had not Eudo, appointed _Dapiser_ immediately after,
warded off the blow [25].

_Dapiser_, by which is usually understood _steward of the king's
household_ [26], was a high officer amongst the Normans; and
_Larderarius_ was another, clergymen then often occupying this post,
and sometimes made bishops from it [27]. He was under the _Dapiser_,
as was likewise the _Cocus Dominicæ Coquinæ_, concerning whom, his
assistants and allowances, the _Liber Niger_ may be consulted [28].
It appears further from _Fleta_, that the chief cooks were often
providers, as well as dressers, of victuals [29]. But _Magister
Coquinæ_, who was an esquire by office, seems to have had the care of
pourveyance, A.D. 1340 [30], and to have nearly corresponded with
our _clerk of the kitchen_, having authority over the cooks [31].
However, the _Magnus Coquus_, _Coquorum Præpositus_, _Coquus Regius_,
and _Grans Queux_, were officers of considerable dignity in the
palaces of princes; and the officers under them, according to Du
Fresne, were in the French court A.D. 1385, much about the time that
our Roll was made, 'Queus, Aideurs, Asteurs, Paiges, Souffleurs,
Enfans, Saussiers de Commun, Saussiers devers le Roy, Sommiers,
Poulliers, Huissiers' [32].

In regard to religious houses, the Cooks of the greater foundations
were officers of consequence, though under the Cellarer [33], and if
he were not a monk, he nevertheless was to enjoy the portion of a
monk [34]. But it appears from Somner, that at Christ Church,
Canterbury, the _Lardyrer_ was the first or chief cook [35]; and this
officer, as we have seen, was often an ecclesiastic. However, the
great Houses had Cooks of different ranks [36]; and manors and
churches [37] were often given _ad cibum_ and _ad victum monachorum_

[38]. A fishing at Lambeth was allotted to that purpose [39].

But whether the Cooks were Monks or not, the _Magistri Coquinæ_,
Kitcheners, of the monasteries, we may depend upon it, were always
monks; and I think they were mostly ecclesiastics elsewhere: thus
when Cardinal Otto, the Pope's legate, was at Oxford, A. 1238, and
that memorable fray happened between his retinue and the students,
the _Magister Coquorum_ was the Legate's brother, and was there
killed [40]. The reason given in the author, why a person so nearly
allied to the Great Man was assigned to the office, is this, 'Ne
procuraretur aliquid venenorum, quod nimis [i.e. valde] timebat
legatus;' and it is certain that poisoning was but too much in vogue
in these times, both amongst the Italians and the good people of this
island [41]; so that this was a post of signal trust and confidence.
And indeed afterwards, a person was employed to _taste_, or _take
the assaie_, as it was called [42], both of the messes and the water
in the ewer [43], at great tables; but it may be doubted whether a
particular person was appointed to this service, or it was a branch
of the _Sewer's_ and cup-bearer's duty, for I observe, the _Sewer_ is
sometimes called _Prægustator_ [44], and the cup-bearer tastes the
water elsewhere [45]. The religious houses, and their presidents, the
abbots and priors, had their days of _Gala_, as likewise their halls
for strangers, whom, when persons of rank, they often entertained
with splendour and magnificence. And as for the secular clergy,
archbishops and bishops, their feasts, of which we have some upon
record [46], were so superb, that they might vie either with the
regal entertainments, or the pontifical suppers of ancient Rome
(which became even proverbial [47]), and certainly could not be
dressed and set out without a large number of Cooks [48]. In short,
the satirists of the times before, and about the time of, the
Reformation, are continually inveighing against the high-living of
the bishops and clergy; indeed luxury was then carried to such an
extravagant pitch amongst them, that archbishop Cranmer, A. 1541,
found it necessary to bring the secular clergy under some reasonable
regulation in regard to the furnishing of their tables, not excepting
even his own [49].

After this historical deduction of the _Ars coquinaria_, which I
have endeavoured to make as short as possible, it is time to say
something of the Roll which is here given to the public, and the
methods which the Editor has pursued in bringing it to light.

This vellum Roll contains 196 _formulæ_, or recipes, and belonged
once to the earl of Oxford [50]. The late James West esquire bought
it at the Earl's sale, when a part of his MSS were disposed of; and
on the death of the gentleman last mentioned it came into the hands
of my highly-esteemed friend, the present liberal and most
communicative possessor. It is presumed to be one of the most ancient
remains of the kind now in being, rising as high as the reign of king
Richard II. [51]. However, it is far the largest and most copious
collection of any we have; I speak as to those times. To establish
its authenticity, and even to stamp an additional value upon it, it
is the identical Roll which was presented to queen Elizabeth, in the
28th year of her reign, by lord Stafford's heir, as appears from the
following address, or inscription, at the end of it, in his own
hand writing:

'Antiquum hoc monumentum oblatum et missum
est majestati vestræ vicesimo septimo die mensis
Julij, anno regni vestri fælicissimi vicesimo viij ab
humilimo vestro subdito, vestræq majestati fidelissimo
E. Stafford,
Hæres domus subversæ Buckinghamiens.' [52]

The general observations I have to make upon it are these: many
articles, it seems, were in vogue in the fourteenth century, which
are now in a manner obsolete, as cranes, curlews, herons, seals [53],
porpoises, &c. and, on the contrary, we feed on sundry fowls which
are not named either in the Roll, or the Editor's MS. [54] as quails,
rails, teal, woodcocks, snipes, &c. which can scarcely be numbered
among the _small birds_ mentioned 19. 62. 154. [55]. So as to fish,
many species appear at our tables which are not found in the Roll,
trouts, flounders, herrings, &c. [56]. It were easy and obvious to
dilate here on the variations of taste at different periods of time,
and the reader would probably not dislike it; but so many other
particulars demand our attention, that I shall content myself with
observing in general, that whereas a very able _Italian_ critic,
_Latinus Latinius_, passed a sinister and unfavourable censure on
certain seemingly strange medlies, disgusting and preposterous messes,
which we meet with in _Apicius_; Dr. _Lister_ very sensibly replies
to his strictures on that head, 'That these messes are not
immediately to be rejected, because they may be displeasing to some.
_Plutarch_ testifies, that the ancients disliked _pepper_ and the
sour juice of lemons, insomuch that for a long time they only used
these in their wardrobes for the sake of their agreeable scent, and
yet they are the most wholesome of all fruits. The natives of the
_West Indies_ were no less averse to _salt_; and who would believe
that _hops_ should ever have a place in our common beverage [57], and
that we should ever think of qualifying the sweetness of malt,
through good housewifry, by mixing with it a substance so egregiously
bitter? Most of the _American_ fruits are exceedingly odoriferous,
and therefore are very disgusting at first to us _Europeans_: on the
contrary, our fruits appear insipid to them, for want of odour. There
are a thousand instances of things, would we recollect them all,
which though disagreeable to taste are commonly assumed into our
viands; indeed, _custom_ alone reconciles and adopts sauces which are
even nauseous to the palate. _Latinus Latinius_ therefore very
rashly and absurdly blames _Apicius_, on account of certain
preparations which to him, forsooth, were disrelishing.' [58] In
short it is a known maxim, that _de gustibus non est disputandum_;

And so Horace to the same purpose:

'Tres mihi convivæ prope dissentire videntur,
Poscentes vario multum diversa palato.
Quid dem? quid non dem? renuis tu quod jubet alter.
Quod petis, id sane est invisum acidumque duobus.'
Hor. II. Epist. ii.

And our Roll sufficiently verifies the old observation of
Martial - _ingeniosa gula est_.

[Addenda: after _ingeniosa gula est_, add, 'The _Italians_ now eat
many things which we think perfect carrion. _Ray_, Trav. p. 362. 406.
The _French_ eat frogs and snails. The _Tartars_ feast on horse-flesh,
the _Chinese_ on dogs, and meer _Savages_ eat every thing.
_Goldsmith_, Hist. of the Earth, &c. II. p. 347, 348. 395. III. p.
297. IV. p. 112. 121, &c.']

Our Cooks again had great regard to the eye, as well as the taste,
in their compositions; _flourishing_ and _strewing_ are not only
common, but even leaves of trees gilded, or silvered, are used for
ornamenting messes, see No. 175 [59]. As to colours, which perhaps
would chiefly take place in suttleties, blood boiled and fried (which
seems to be something singular) was used for dying black, 13. 141.
saffron for yellow, and sanders for red [60]. Alkenet is also used
for colouring [61], and mulberries [62]; amydon makes white, 68; and
turnesole [63] _pownas_ there, but what this colour is the Editor
professes not to know, unless it be intended for another kind of
yellow, and we should read _jownas_, for _jaulnas_, orange-tawney. It
was for the purpose of gratifying the sight that _sotiltees_ were
introduced at the more solemn feasts. Rabelais has comfits of an
hundred colours.

Cury, as was remarked above, was ever reckoned a branch of the Art
Medical; and here I add, that the verb _curare_ signifies equally to
dress victuals [64], as to cure a distemper; that every body has
heard of _Doctor Diet, kitchen physick_, &c. while a numerous band of
medical authors have written _de cibis et alimentis_, and have always
classed diet among the _non-naturals_; so they call them, but with
what propriety they best know. Hence Junius '[Greek: Diaita] Græcis
est victus, ac speciatim certa victus ratio, qualis a _Medicis_ ad
tuendam valetudinem præscribitur [65].' Our Cooks expressly tell us,
in their proem, that their work was compiled 'by assent and avysement
of maisters of phisik and of philosophie that dwellid in his [the
King's] court' where _physik_ is used in the sense of medecine,
_physicus_ being applied to persons prosessing the Art of Healing
long before the 14th century [66], as implying _such_ knowledge and
skill in all kinds of natural substances, constituting the _materia
medica_, as was necessiary for them in practice. At the end of the
Editor's MS. is written this rhyme,

Explicit coquina que est optima medicina [67].

There is much relative to eatables in the _Schola Salernitana_; and
we find it ordered, that a physcian should over-see the young
prince's wet-nurse at every meal, to inspect her meat and drink [68].

But after all the avysement of physicians and philosophers, our
processes do not appear by any means to be well calculated for the
benefit of recipients, but rather inimical to them. Many of them are
so highly seasoned, are such strange and heterogeneous compositions,
meer olios and gallimawfreys, that they seem removed as far as
possible from the intention of contributing to health; indeed the
messes are so redundant and complex, that in regard to herbs, in No.
6, no less than ten are used, where we should now be content with two
or three: and so the sallad, No. 76, consists of no less than 14
ingredients. The physicians appear only to have taken care that
nothing directly noxious was suffered to enter the forms. However, in
the Editor's MS. No. 11, there is a prescription for making a _colys_,
I presume a _cullis_, or Invigorating broth; for which see Dodsley's
Old Plays, vol. II. 124. vol. V. 148. vol. VI. 355. and the several
plays mentioned in a note to the first mentioned passage in the Edit.
1780 [69].

I observe further, in regard to this point, that the quantities of
things are seldom specified [70], but are too much left to the taste
and judgement of the cook, if he should happen to be rash and
inconsiderate, or of a bad and undistinguishing taste, was capable of
doing much harm to the guests, to invalids especially.

Though the cooks at Rome, as has been already noted, were amongst the
lowest slaves, yet it was not so more anciently; Sarah and Rebecca
cook, and so do Patroclus and Automedon in the ninth Iliad. It were
to be wished indeed, that the Reader could be made acquainted with
the names of our _master-cooks_, but it is not in the power of the
Editor to gratify him in that; this, however, he may be assured of,
that as the Art was of consequence in the reign of Richard, a prince
renowned and celebrated in the Roll [71], for the splendor and
elegance of his table, they must have been persons of no
inconsiderable rank: the king's first and second cooks are now
esquires by their office, and there is all the reason in the world to
believe they were of equal dignity heretofore [72]. To say a word of
king _Richard_: he is said in the proeme to have been 'acounted the
best and ryallest vyaund [curioso in eating] of all esten kynges.'
This, however, must rest upon the testimony of our cooks, since it
does not appear otherwise by the suffrage of history, that he was
particularly remarkable for his niceness and delicacy in eating, like
Heliogabalus, whose favourite dishes are said to have been the
tongues of peacocks and nightingales, and the brains of parrots and
pheasants [73]; or like Sept. Geta, who, according to Jul.
Capitolinus [74], was so curious, so whimsical, as to order the
dishes at his dinners to consist of things which all began with the
same letters. Sardanapalus again as we have it in Athenæus [75], gave
a _præmium_ to any one that invented and served him with some novel
cate; and Sergius Orata built a house at the entrance of the Lucrine
lake, purposely for the pleasure and convenience of eating the
oysters perfectly fresh. Richard II is certainly not represented in
story as resembling any such epicures, or capriccioso's, as these
[76]. It may, however, be fairly presumed, that good living was not
wanting among the luxuries of that effeminate and dissipated reign.

[Addenda: after _ninth Iliad_, add, 'And Dr. _Shaw_ writes, p. 301,
that even now in the East, the greatest prince is not ashamed to
fetch a lamb from his herd and kill it, whilst the princess is
impatient till she hath prepared her fire and her kettle to dress

[Addenda: after _heretofore_ add, 'we have some good families in
England of the name of _Cook_ or _Coke_. I know not what they may
think; but we may depend upon it, they all originally sprang from
real and professional cooks; and they need not be ashamed of their
extraction, any more than the _Butlers_, _Parkers_, _Spencers_, &c.']

My next observation is, that the messes both in the roll and the
Editor's MS, are chiefly soups, potages, ragouts, hashes, and the
like hotche-potches; entire joints of meat being never _served_, and
animals, whether fish or fowl, seldom brought to table whole, but
hacked and hewed, and cut in pieces or gobbets [77]; the mortar also
was in great request, some messes being actually denominated from it,
as _mortrews_, or _morterelys_ as in the Editor's MS. Now in this
state of things, the general mode of eating must either have been
with the spoon or the fingers; and this perhaps may have been the
reason that spoons became an usual present from gossips to their
god-children at christenings [78]; and that the bason and ewer, for
washing before and after dinner, was introduced, whence the _ewerer_
was a great officer [79], and the _ewery_ is retained at Court to
this day [80]; we meet with _damaske water_ after dinner [81], I
presume, perfumed; and the words _ewer_ &c. plainly come from the
Saxon eþe or French eau, _water_.

Thus, to return, in that little anecdote relative to the Conqueror
and William Fitz-Osbern, mentioned above, not the crane, but _the
flesh of the crane_ is said to have been under-roasted. Table, or
case-knives, would be of little use at this time [82], and the art of
carving so perfectly useless, as to be almost unknown. In about a
century afterwards, however, as appears from archbishop Neville's
entertainment, many articles were served whole, and lord Wylloughby
was the carver [83]. So that carving began now to be practised, and
the proper terms devised. Wynken de Worde printed a _Book of
Kervinge_, A. 1508, wherein the said terms are registered [84]. 'The
use of _forks_ at table, says Dr. Percy, did not prevail in England
land till the reign of James I. as we learn from a remarkable passage
in _Coryat_ [85]'; the passage is indeed curious, but too long to be
here transcribed, where brevity is so much in view; wherefore I shall
only add, that forks are not now used in some parts of Spain [86].
But then it may be said, what becomes of the old English hospitaliy
in this case, the _roast-beef of Old England_, so much talked of? I
answer, these bulky and magnificent dishes must have been the product
of later reigns, perhaps of queen Elizabeth's time, since it is plain
that in the days of Rich. II. our ancestors lived much after the
French fashion. As to hospitality, the households of our Nobles were
immense, officers, retainers, and servants, being entertained almost
without number; but then, as appears from the Northumberland Book,
and afterwards from the household establisliment of the prince of
Wales, A. 1610, the individuals, or at least small parties, had their
_quantum_, or ordinary, served out, where any good oeconomy was kept,
apart to themselves [87]. Again, we find in our Roll, that great
quantities of the respective viands of the hashes, were often made at
once, as No. 17, _Take hennes or conynges_. 24, _Take hares_. 29,
_Take pygges_. And 31, _Take gees_, &c. So that hospitality and
plentiful housekeeping could just as well be maintained this way, as
by the other of cumbrous unwieldy messes, as much as a man could

As the messes and sauces are so complex, and the ingredients
consequently so various, it seems necessary that a word should be

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