Crawfish porridge from the Kuchenmaistrey

Ultimately, anything can be a mus in medieval German kitchens.

1.xv If you would make a spoon dish (müslein) of crawfish. Make it in a courtly colour that does no harm, that is pleasing to look at (stet woll zu gesichte). Take good milk (and) also cornflower juice. Stir it and mix it well together. Also add good flour and mix it more strongly. Prepare the crawfish well and only remove the gall from the heads. That way, you may pound them prepared with wine or with their shells and all. Add white bread, pass it through a cloth and season it with spices and salt and put it into the porridge mixed beforehand with flour and milk and mix it well with a spoon. If it has not been seasoned with spices and salt before, then season it now. If it is too thick, add milk to it in proper measure. Put it into a greased pan and let it boil like a porridge for children (ein kindt muß).

If you would serve it warm, the more pounded crawfish is in the disjh, the better it is to proper thickness. Dab a little fat on it and put on a little fresh ginger, and serve it hot. That is well digested.

If you would serve it cold, the dish is to be made with wine or vinegar. Or the crawfish should be pounded with wine or vinegar and passed through a cloth. The same is made into a spoon dish (müslein) with a dusting of flour and seasoned with spices and salt. Good large crawfish claws or tails are laid into it on their own (i.e. with no other ingredient). Serve this well chilled as a remarkable roast dish (gebrates).

This is a thoroughlöy unsurprising dish, but it has some interesting aspects. As noted previously, ‘fresh ginger’ most likely refers to freshly ground, not actual fresh roots. The reference to a ‘roast dish’ in a case where clearly nothing is roasted points to the cultural centrality of roasted food in upper-class German cuisine. A gebrates is the central dish of a meal, even if it is not actually a roast. Similarly, many vegetarian dishes today have a non-meat ‘meat’ component.

My current project are recipes from the Nuremberg Kuchenmaistrey produced around 1490. This was the earliest printed cookbook in German (and only missed being the earliest printed cookbook in any language by a few years). The Kuchenmaistrey (mastery of the kitchen) gave rise to a vibrant culture of amended and expanded manuscript copies as well as reprints spanning almost a century. The recipes seem designed to appeal to a wealthy, literate and cosmopolitan clientele.

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