Chestnuts in the Marvels of Milan

I must ask your patience as this is likely to be the last recipe going up for about a week. I get to spend time with my son and do not expect to be able to post recipes those evenings. So until we meet again: chestnuts.

IV.4 There are also common and noble chestnuts, which are called marona, in infinite quantitiy throughout the year, sold to both citizens and foreigners (tam civibus quam forensibus). They nourish our families (prepared) in many different manners. Green (fresh), they are cooked in the fire and are eaten after other foods in place of dates, and in my estimation they give a better flavour than dates. They are often boiled and thus softened (? sive lessa) and eaten with spoons by many, thus cooked.

When the water has been discarded after cooking, they are often eaten without bread, or rather in place of bread. They are also given (ordinantur) to the sick, first dried in the sun in gentle warmth.

In 1288, the Milanese scholar and administrator Bonvesin da la Riva wrote a long text in praise of the greatness of his city. Milan at the time was at the height of its political and economic power, the head of the Lombard League and one of the richest and largest cities in Europe. His de magnalibus urbis Mediolani lists its architectural splendours, the wealth of its churches and citizens, and recounts its glorious history. Obviously we should not take everything in it at face value, but the author’s position in the civic administration suggests that the numbers he quotes are not entirely implausible. I have done my best to translate the sections pertaining to food, agriculture, and food-related trades. Chapter 4 is particularly interesting in this regard.

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