Medieval Cuisine

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Medieval Cuisine a phrase usually referring to western, or Christian, Europe and to the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries. There is good reason for this; almost all we know of medieval cuisine has been derived from written sources, and the oldest surviving culinary manuscript from Christian Europe was most likely composed in the first half of the 13th century.

The noticeable evolution of cuisine over these three centuries suggests that a developed, if undocumented, cuisine must have already existed before the first written recipe. It was certainly not a direct continuation of Roman cuisine (see classical Rome), nor even of the later byzantine cookery, both of which showed a fondness for the highly flavoured fish sauce garum (or garos). More likely, the origins of medieval European cuisine were in the simple roasts and one-pot stews of meats and vegetables which became progressively more sophisticated as they were infused with spices and accompanied by elaborate sauces. For the culinary development of the post-1000 period must be seen in the context of the growth of towns and the increase in trade which occurred, especially after the First Crusade of 1099.