German Cookery Books

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

German Cookery Books have a distinguished history. From the late 15th to the 17th centuries they were more numerous and impressive than French ones, and rivalled those of Italy. The earliest and possibly the most famous is the Küchenmeisterei. This was first published in 1485 and, amazingly, had appeared in more than a dozen editions by 1500. No other printed cookery book of the 15th century had such an impressive record. And this book continued to sell well for more than a century afterwards. Uta Schumacher-Voelker (1980), in her admirable essay on printed German cookery books up to 1800, relates it to the political and economic context in which it was compiled, and explains why it seems almost certain that the compilation was first made in a S. German monastery, citing the importance placed on Lenten food and other relevant features:

the complete lack of hare despite other game recipes (hare was regarded as unchaste); the lack of almost all saltwater fish (as monasteries mainly used their own products); the lack of sugar, which was very much in fashion at the time for the rich, and its substitution by honey (for whose production monasteries were famous); and the use of home-grown herbs rather than an abundance of expensive spices.