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LOW COUNTRIES

0 0

15 30 Miles 15 30 Kilometers

GRONINGEN

Texel

Nor th Sea

Haarlem Leiden

’s-Gravenzande The Hague

Utrecht Gouda Rotterdam ZEELAND Bruges Ghent Brussels

BELGIUM

Maastricht Liège

NETHERLANDS

Antwerp Amersfoort Arnhem FRIESLAND

custards, some of which were given a pastry base. Milk was preserved as cheese and butter. Unlike in southern Europe, in the Low Countries butter rather than oil was used as a cooking medium.

Edam Amsterdam Deventer

Several kinds of cheese made of cow’s and sheep’s milk were marketed in the fourteenth and fifteenth cen- turies. Cheeses were usually named for the places they came from. The Netherlands is known for its cheeses from the cities of Gouda and Edam. Gouda cheese is made from milk with cream, while Edam-style cheeses are made from skimmed milk and are sometimes fla- vored with cumin, as in Leyden cheese. By the end of the eighteenth century cumin was replaced in the north by cloves to create Frisian nagelkaas. Sheep cheeses were popular early on. Often colored green with sheep feces, these cheeses came from the island of Texel or from ’s-Gravenzande. As breeding improved and cows pro- duced more milk, more recipes called for milk products, including homemade ricottalike cheeses.

GERMANY

N

FRANCE

LUXEMBOURG

Luxembourg

Pork, particularly the fatty parts, was the favorite meat of all classes. Pigs were kept everywhere and gen- erally roamed free. In the fall families who could afford it would purchase a cow that was slaughtered and pre- served for winter through salting and smoking.

The Middle Ages and the Renaissance

The first printed cookbook in the Dutch language was

Een Notabel Boecxken van Cokeryen (A notable little book

of cookery). It was published circa 1514, during the time the Low Countries were part of the Burgundian Empire under the reign of Maximilian of Habsburg. The pre- sumed author and publisher is Thomas van der Noot, who belonged to one of the prominent Brussels families.

The book was meant for the well-to-do, the nobil- ity and the high-placed clergy, who could afford the ex- pensive foodstuffs called for in the recipes. As was common for cookbooks at that time, many of the 170 or so recipes were copied from other authors. In this case they were copied especially from the famous French cookbook of the period, Taillevent’s Le Viandier. The Dutch book includes sauces; fish dishes; ways to prepare meat, poultry, and game, including peacock and pheas- ant; raised pies; tarts; sweets; and eggs. The recipes are clearly divided into dishes for everyday and those for the church-ordained days of fasting and abstinence, when meat, dairy products, and eggs were forbidden. This pro- hibition encompassed altogether about 150 days in a year, when only fish, vegetables, and bread were permitted.

Eggs were particularly popular. Said to be the poor person’s supper, they often were barely cooked and were slurped from the shell. Milk was cooked in porridges or

390

Cattle, particularly oxen, were imported from Den- mark and Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany. They were herded or transported by ship to Holland for grazing and fattening for slaughter in the grassy mead- ows of that province. Chickens, ducks, and geese were the common poultry, although songbirds were eaten as well. Deer, goats, and wild boars were among the large game animals hunted, whereas rabbits, pheasants, bit- terns, cranes, swans, herons, and ducks were considered small game. The hunt was the privilege of nobility. Fal- cons and sparrow hawks were trained to catch partridge, geese, ducks, kites, doves, or any other fowl. By the fif- teenth century game was reserved more for special occa- sions than for the daily table of the nobility.

It is often implied that medieval people strongly sea- soned their foods because the meats were generally spoiled. That is an unlikely premise. People knew how to preserve foods by drying, smoking, and salting and many regulations concerned the sale of meat. Seasoning was instead more a matter of taste. Spices from the Ori- ent, such as pepper, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon, were introduced by way of Venice and became a status sym- bol for the well-to-do. These spices were mixed with sour verjuice (juice from unripe grapes) or apple juice and some locally grown herbs such as parsley, sage, or savory. They gave the dishes a sharply spiced and sour taste that was popular.

Little is known about the food of the masses. Much of what is known about the food of the period comes from records of the elaborate banquets of the nobility on the occasions of weddings, victories, or coronations. These extravagant medieval feasts consisted of several

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FOOD AND CULTURE

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