Tortoise Recipes in de Rontzier

Following the tortoise recipes from Rumpolt, today’s quest for the roots of buccaneer cuisine takes me to de Rontzier. Sadly, this list of recipes shows only why Rumpolt’s work towers over his.

An empty tortoise shell from the Platter drawings for Conrad Gessner’s Historia animalium, courtesy of wikimedia commons

Of Tortoises (Schildpatten)

1 You boil them in water for three or four hours and then break them open. Discard the head, tail, and innards and cut off the top skin with the claws. Fry the rest in butter, season it with pepper and parsley, and arrange toasted white bread around it when you wish to serve it.

2 You break them apart when they are cooked, boil white bread in wine, pass it through a haircloth and pour it over the tortoises. Season them with nutmeg, pepper, ginger, rosemary and butter etc.

3 Item you prepare them with the abovementioned sauce, small raisins, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and sugar. You can fry a small amount of onions in the butter that they were fried in etc.

4 You break them out of the shells and season them with wine, slivered almonds, small raisins, pounded ginger, cinnamon, saffron, sugar, a little grated bread, and salt.

This is basically two recipes masquerading as four, and three of them the ubiquitous end-of-century mix of wine, sugar, and spices that looks to have been the balsamic vinegar of its age. On the upside, having more than one source, and variety between them, at least shows that Rumpolt did not just copy his tortoise recipes from some Italian source somewhere. People actually cooked and ate tortoises.

Franz de Rontzier, head cook to the bishop of Halberstadt and duke of Braunschweig, published his encyclopaedic Kunstbuch von mancherley Essen in 1598. He clearly looks to Marx Rumpolt’s New Kochbuch as the new gold standard, but fails to match it in engaging style or depth. He is thus overshadowed by the twin peaks of Marx Rumpolt and Anna Wecker. What makes his work interesting is the way in which he systematically lists versions of a class of dishes, illustrating the breadth or a court cook’s repertoire. He is also more modernly fashionable than Rumpolt. Looking to France rather than Italy and Spain for inspiration, and some of the dishes he first describes may be genuine innovations.

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