French Cookbooks

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Unlike the literature of cookery in other countries, French cookbooks were penned almost exclusively by men up until the 19th century. Prior to then, not only were cookbook authors males, but mainly male professionals—that is to say, chefs. This does not mean that their public was exclusively masculine or exclusively professional since women no doubt read their books (or had recipes read to them) long before they published recipes themselves. We find proof of this in the 14th century when an elderly Parisian copied recipes from existing manuscript sources into a compendium for his young bride—proof that she could read (and cook—or at least govern the kitchen). The collection, called the menagier de paris (The Goodman of Paris), includes many recipes from taillevent’s famous Viandier and the Goodman takes care to warn his bride that certain recipes are too complicated for his household or too expensive for his purse.