Food for Thought
The Forme of Cury
According to an article in The Guardian this week, the University of Manchester Library will begin a project to digitize The Forme of Cury, a rare 14th century cookbook compiled by King Richard II's royal chefs. The Forme of Cury is considered the oldest known cookery book written in English (cury is the Middle English word for cookery), and the digitization project, which will include other treasures such as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, should be completed by 2009. While the New York Public Library does not have the original 1390 book (it's on my wish list!), we do have a 1790 version of the book in the Rare Books Division. That London imprint is also available digitally through Eighteenth Century Collections online, one of our electronic resources. Lorna Sass' To the king's taste: Richard II's book of feasts and recipes adapted for modern cooking, a 1977 monograph that takes some of Forme's recipes and adapts them for modern usage, is also in our collection. For more background on this historic book, one can read the short, but informative, essay featured on the British Library website. The British Library's site also features some of Forme's recipes, such as the one printed below. And although Joan Nathan doesn't mention this dish in any of her cookbooks, the blend of honey and wine would make an interesting (and very different!) Rosh Hashana dish. Tostee XX.IIII. XIII. Take wyne and hony and found it togyder and skym it clene. and seeþ it long, do þerto powdour of gyngur. peper and salt, tost brede and lay the sew þerto. kerue pecys of gyngur and flour it þerwith and messe it forth. Take wine and honey and mix it together and skim it clean. And seethe (boil) it for a long time, and add to it powdered ginger, pepper and salt. Toast bread and lay it thereto. Carve pieces of ginger, and flour it therewith, and serve it forth.