«Travelling Tools: Great Household Cookery Arrangements during Periods of Travel, c.1400-1600 Ryan Whibbs Abstract: This paper will survey ...»
Travelling Tools: Great Household Cookery
Arrangements during Periods of Travel, c.1400-1600
Abstract: This paper will survey practicalities of fifteenth and sixteenth-century
European great household food service during periods of travel. Many late medieval
European elites spent significant portions of time travelling between a variety of residences,
visiting friends, and on business or diplomatic missions. Account books and ordinance
manuals of large British, French, and Italian households indicate that nobles typically had their batteries de cuisine transported from house to house, with staff relying on the same body of tools in different residences. By examining the lengths that servants went to in order to provide food to elites during periods of travel, we can begin to understand a new dimension of early modern great household culinary materiality. The many kitchen tools and materials that we typically think of as stationary and associate with the interiors of early modern great household kitchens were, in fact, sometimes transported across the countryside by specially-organized household culinary workers in order to see to masters’ alimentary needs wherever they might be. While grand residences usually served as settings for magnificent feasts, examination of aristocratic cookery habits during periods of travel indicates that many great household cooks were proficient at moving between residences and cooking outside such well-equipped environments.
The ‘interview’ at the Field of the Cloth of Gold was a famous Tudor diplomatic spectacle that fostered peace between England and France. Occurring over a number of weeks in June, 1520, Henry VIII of England hosted Francis I of France to an outdoor meeting in a large field near Balinghem, Pas-de-Calais, France. Determined to impress Francis with his ability to muster resources in the English-held region, Henry spared no expense equipping the field with a banqueting house for serving sweets and drink, a jousting arena, and an array of domestic quarters established under elaborately-adorned tents. The interview was a great success with both monarchs returning to attend another interview at the same site in 1532.1 While the interviews remain celebrated events in the political histories of France and England, we know surprisingly little about the practicalities of royal food service in the field. Who cooked the magnificent feasts that Henry, Francis and their retinues enjoyed while staying in the field? Where were the kitchens, batterie de cuisine and other materials necessary for cooking and serving? Was there a tradition among the elite of hosting large feasts outdoors and away from their residences?
Draft Version: Not for Citation or Attribution Travelling Tools: Great Household Cookery Arrangements This paper will survey practicalities of fifteenth and sixteenth-century European great household food service during periods of travel. Evidence indicates that there was a widespread practice among the elite of sending advance parties of kitchen servants to locations where masters intended to rest or lodge in order to transport kitchen materials, maintain regular mealtimes, and to serve appropriate food to masters and servants upon their arrival. Although the topic currently draws little scholarly attention, some well-known sources including Chiquart’s Du fait de cuysine (1420), Bartolomeo Scappi’s Opera (1570), as well as a number of lesser-known household ordinance and account books mention advance kitchen parties and describe their practical arrangements.
We usually associate great household cooks with the magnificent stone kitchens of castles, palaces and large residences although some of their most complex work occurred away from these rooms. By requiring servants to devise methods of providing the household with suitable food upon arrival at destinations, masters initiated the development of mobile cooking and serving strategies that are not currently associated with the range of work required of early modern great household kitchen workers.
Temporary Feasting Kitchens The practice of holding large royal and noble feasts outdoors was well established throughout Europe during the medieval period.2 Elites had long traveled for the purposes of war, diplomacy or leisure making celebratory meals while in transit a feature of some medieval courts. By the later medieval period, some great households hosted feasts of such magnitude that dining, cooking and serving quarters needed to be moved out-of-house and established under temporary structures.
Master Chiquart, celebrated master cook to Duke Amadeus VIII of Savoy, outlined the special preparations necessary for large, temporary feasting spaces in his cookery manuscript Du fait de cuysine, completed in 1420.3 While Chiquart’s work is famous for its recipes, large portions were taken up with guidance on hosting feasts attended by ‘kings, queens, dukes, duchesses, counts, countesses, princes, princesses, marquesses, marchionesses, barons, baronesses, lords of lower estate and nobles also a great number.’4 In these cases, when so many elites assembled, along with their retinues, the volume of required food seems to have been more than even a large kitchen could handle. For each day of the feast Chiquart recommended to have on hand 100 cattle, 500 total of kids, lambs and calves, 2000 head of poultry, 6000 eggs among thousands of other fauna.5 Such astounding provisions required considerable kitchen space, about which Chiquart
provided a good deal of insight:
The master of the household, the master cook and other cooks should assemble and come together three or four months before the feast to organize, visit and find good Draft Version: Not for Citation or Attribution Travelling Tools: Great Household Cookery Arrangements and sufficient space to do the cooking and this space should be so large and fine that workbenches can be setup [qu’ ils puissent disposer de grands dressoirs] in such fashion that, between the serving sideboards and other tables, the cooks can easily pass and receive dishes[...] There should be made a large and fair building [si faire se peut, un beau et grand hôtel] close to the kitchen having space for two large ovens for making meat and fish pies, tarts, flans, talmouses, ratons and all other things which are necessary.6 Chiquart indicated that cooking space must be ‘visited’ and ‘found’ which is peculiar given that the Château de Ripaille, Amadeus’s VIII’s primary residence, already had monumental stone kitchens and bakeries.7 Visiting one’s normal workplace is an unusual directive, and so too was the suggestion that staff ‘make’ a building whose proximity should be close to the kitchen. I would suggest that the kitchen Chiquart described was actually a temporary feasting kitchen, established outside of Ripaille, and used to cope with so many guests.
Further evidence can be found in the composition of the batterie de cuisine that
Chiquart recommended for use during the duke’s feasts:
And for this there should be provided great cauldrons for cooking large meats and other medium ones in great abundance for making potages and other things necessary for cookery and great pans for cooking fish and other necessary things and large common pots in great abundance for making soups and other things, twelve fair large mortars, […] and there should be twenty large frying pans, twelve large casks, fifty casks, sixty bowls with handles, one hundred wooden buckets, twelve grills, six large graters, one hundred wooden spoons, twenty-five slotted spoons both large and small, six hooks, twenty iron shovels, twenty ‘chapel’ and goat rotisseries […] you should have one hundred twenty iron spits which are strong and are thirteen feet in length and there should be other spits, thirty-six which are of the aforesaid length but not so thick, in order to roast poultry, piglets and river fowl […] and also, forty-eight small spits to use for gilding food and to act as skewers.8 Though vast in scale, most of the various cauldrons, pots and pans were normal articles of a batterie that one would expect to find in a fifteenth-century great lord’s kitchen. More exceptional were the 20 rotisseries.9 Though Ripaille’s kitchens were large, they almost certainly did not have sufficient space nor ventilation to operate 20 rotisseries indoors.
Instead, the large number of rotisseries seem to have allowed Amadeus’s cooks to prepare the thousands of fauna required at feasts, daily, away from Ripaille’s kitchen and without reliance on stone hearths.
When we consider Chiquart’s intended readership, the notion that these were special preparations becomes clearer. He prepared the work at the request of the duke, mentioning Draft Version: Not for Citation or Attribution Travelling Tools: Great Household Cookery Arrangements that Amadeus sought instructions for his cooks to guide them through the special preparations required at times of feasts and festivals; this was not a guide for everyday cookery and it was tailored specifically to Amadeus’s household.10 The original manuscript, held at the Médiathèque du Valais, Switzerland, was dictated by Chiquart to a local notary, Jehan de Dudens, who transcribed by hand on unembellished paper quires.11 Addressed to the Duke, one gets the sense that Chiquart was not aware that he was creating a work that would be read far outside the duke’s household. Within this context, it would have been clear to Chiquart and the duke’s servants that the instructions surrounding ‘finding’ and ‘visiting’ space for kitchens referred to spaces other than the kitchens of Ripaille. Similarly, it would have been clear that the instructions to make a “large and fair building” for pastry work referred to a place other than the permanent stone bakery that was located within Ripaille’s foundations. While we may think such a scale of work was too much for a great feast, Henry VIII far exceeded these preparations at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.
Figure 1: Anon. The Field of the Cloth of Gold c. 1545 (Royal Collection Trust. © 2013 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II) Although Chiquart offered some insight into large-scale, outdoor feasting arrangements, other aspects of material conveyance and outdoor food service were outside the scope of his discussion. A more finite picture of temporary feasting arrangements emerges from the receipts of expenses at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.12 The receipts for the event, transcribed in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 3: 1519-1523, reveals a series of provisioning arrangements that were designed to showcase Henry’s ability to hold court in Calais. Like the staggering quantities of food served at Duke Amadeus VIII’s feasts, Henry ensured that his guests were supplied with seemingly unending quantities Draft Version: Not for Citation or Attribution Travelling Tools: Great Household Cookery Arrangements of meat, including more than 350 oxen, 2000 sheep, 1200 capons, 800 veal, 19 sturgeon, 1 dolphin and 2400 quail, among tens of thousands of other aquatic and terrestrial fauna.13 The kitchens used at the field were derived from a combination of rented buildings and purpose-built tents and ovens erected by the royal household throughout the preceding year.14 An oil painting belonging to the Royal Collection, The Field of the Cloth of Gold (c.1545), offers some insight as to the arrangement of the kitchen that served the field.15 (See Figure 1.) On the right-hand side of the painting, two tents housed cooking spaces;
one houses a roasting area with rotisseries while the other houses cauldrons. (See Figure 2.) An enormous brick baking oven is seen being tended to by bakers, their peels laying atop.
Separating the cooking and serving areas were a number of long work benches; some used by cooks and bakers for preparing food, while one holds stacks of serving platters and seems to be tended by cooks and servers. While the painting offers some idea of kitchen arrangements in the field, other aspects are not pictured.
Figure 2: Anon. The Field of the Cloth of Gold (detail) c. 1545 (Royal Collection Trust. © 2013 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II) In the months leading up to Henry’s arrival, his agents in Calais, Sir Edward Belknap and Sir Nicholas Vaux, rented several other properties to augment the field kitchen.16 Draft Version: Not for Citation or Attribution Travelling Tools: Great Household Cookery Arrangements Margett Goldsmith and Mychell Byndea rented their houses to the royal household for six weeks to provide space for butcheries.17 Two other houses were rented to provide space for a spicery and a scalding house.18 The great brick baking oven shown in the oil painting was augmented by the baking services of Cornelius Baker and Mary Thomas whose Calais bakery was rented for the entirety of the interview.19 With these tents and hired businesses, Henry was able to provide enough cookery space that his highly skilled kitchen servants were able to create a feast of historic proportions.