A Fish Cooked Three Ways from Meister Eberhard

Since a good chunk of Meister Eberhard is just a repeat of Cod Pal Germ 551, I will not post each and every parallel. You can find them when I post the entire text. They are, from here on out: faux morels for Christmas, gestrocztes fritter and egg pancake, and the fritter of milk cakes, the latter cut short as there are pages missing. The manuscript continues with the tail end of what seems to be a ‘chicken in a jar’ recipe that is not in Cod Pal Germ 551, followed by a recipe for pike cooked three ways:

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<<R17>> Wiltu machenn dreyerlej essens an einem visch.

If you want to make three dishes out of one fish.

Take a pike and wrap a wet cloth around its middle part and lay it on a griddle. Salt it and and let it roast, and the front part you must dust with flour and pour molten fat over. Pour hot wine over the cloth. The hind part roasts by itself on the griddle.

This type of recipe is found frequently in German sources and seems to go back a long way. We have already seen a different iteration in the Kuchenmaistrey. Dreamy speculations about Hohenstaufen Sicily or Barbarossa’s crusades are perilous, but the earliest instance of this dish that I am aware of is in ibn Sayyar al Warraq‘s tenth-century cookbook (chapter 33, recipe 5). It seems an awfully specific conceit to develop independently in two places.

Unlike in the (probably more bourgeois) Kuchenmaistrey, the fish specified here is a pike (esox lucius), one of the most prized freshwater fish, and one of the few species native to German rivers large enough to allow this treatment. It is also not cut up and reassembled, but prepared in one piece, a challenge to the skill of any cook. The description itself is sketchy, fleshed out by the serving instructions in the Kuchenmaistrey that give us an idea of the effect that was aimed for.

Meister Eberhard is a recipe collection that belongs into a south German context, most likely associated with the court of Bayern-Landshut during its ascendancy in the first half of the 15th century. We know nothing about the putative author other than that he claims he was part of the kitchen staff there. The text contains an eclectic mix of recipes and dietetic advice heavily cribbed from a variety of sources, including the (unattributed) writings of St Hildegardis Bingensis. The text is published in A. Feyl: Das Kochbuch Meister Eberhards. Diss. Freiburg i.B. 1963 and online on the website of Thomas Gloning.

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