Meister Eberhard’s Seasonal Diet

Not a recipe as such, but another interesting part of the dietetic section:

<<R95>> Item in dem summer

Item in summer, which is from St. Urbanus’ Day (25 May) to Our Lady’s Day the first (8 September), you shall eat food that does not nourish you too much nor is too filling, such as goat meat, the meat of a young lamb, a suckling calf or a ram less than a year old, and young, small greens such as boiled spinach or lettuce, and perhaps for vespers, if you want, you may eat raw lettuce with vinegar at that time.

<<R96>> Item hastu nit ein zu kaltenn magenn

Item if you do not have too cold a stomach when you go to eat breakfast, you may eat horseradish, tart or sweet cherries, and other food afterwards because these things chill you and make you moist while the season makes you hot and dry, and they cause you to sweat, and the cherries drive out the excess gall. But you shall not eat too much of them so that you do not chill your stomach too much, especially if it is cold and sick at the time.

<<R97>> In dem herbst

In autumn, which is from the Day of Our Lady’s Birth (8 September) to St. Catherine’s Day (25 November), you shall eat a little fruit. The fruit you eat should cause a little moderate heat, like almond and green nuts eaten in measure.

Spring – image courtesy of wikimedia commons

<<R98>> In dem lenczenn

In spring, which is from St. Peter’s Day, when the storks return (21 February?) to St. Urbanus’ Day (25 May), you shall eat in measure and eat fine foods, because you have overeaten in winter. And you should know at that time of the year it is harmful to you to get fat meat or fish into your stomach. You should eat pears or cheese afterwards, after fish nuts or pears, after meat cheese or pears. But you shall never eat green fruit, except on a day when you have walked much, and when you feel great heat in your stomach. In summer, you should eat little of it, or eat nothing else for a good while afterwards. Avicenna says that though green fruit such as plums, sloes and tart and sweet cherries are good for people who work hard and have much gall that heats the stomach, they make people’s blood watery and rotten. Therefore he writes that people who eat much and diverse fruit get bad fevers. No fruit does this more than the green fruit I have listed here, and it is healthy to no one, as the same authority says, as it always causes people’s blood to rot etc.

This is standard fare for medieval culinary literature. Readers are advised to vary their food and drink in accordance with their constitution, the environment, weather, and other circumstances. This was the art of the ‘non-natural things’, all factors affecting a person’s humoral balance not inherent in their nature. Cooks, responsible for food and drink, played an important role in this and were expected to have an understanding of dietetics.

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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