Egg Loaf Roast from the Innsbruck MS

Another fake meat dish, this one made from eggs:

Eggs, chapter illustration from the Teutsche Speißkammer (1595) courtesy of wikimedia commons

52 If you would make a roast of eggs, beat the eggs in a bowl, season them, salt them, and pour them into a bag. Let them boil in that so they turn very hard. Then take the egg, stick it on a spit, roast them and lard (besteck) it with the egg so that it looks like larded etc.

53 If you would make a venison roast (wild praten) of eggs, prepare it like the (above) roast, but do not roast it and do not baste it. Slice it as thick as a finger and serve a pepper sauce over it etc.

The medieval German corpus is full of ways to turn things other than meat into roasts. Usually, it is fish or legumes, which would be permissible for Lent. Here, it is eggs, which makes these recipes suitable only for times and places where egg and dairy are allowed, called ember days in the English tradition. These rules were contentious in Germany and there very likely were many places where eggs were eaten during fast before the Reformation, so the limitations of these recipes were probably not that great.

Technically, this is quite challenging: First, you boil beaten egg in a bag. This likely means fabric, as is recorded later for fritter batter, most likely a closely woven linen and possibly greased and/or floured. Then you attach it to a roasting spit – not a trivial accomplishment – and roast it carefully, preventing it from falling off while you baste it and decorate it weith strips of hard-boiled egg white to resemble lardons. The second recipe, serving it in a sauce, is a lot less demanding.

These are also interesting because we learn about a few conventions for regular dishes. Illusion food recipes are surprisingly often good for that. First, the fact that egg white is used to resemble lardons shows us that the bacon preferred for this was very fat, probably like modern Rückenspeck. Second, venison roast would conventionally be served in a sauce. This suggests that other recipes for faux venison may be based largely on this convention. The food copied would have been recognisable as deer because itz was served in a spicy pfeffer.

The Innsbrucker Rezeptbuch is a manuscript recipe collection from a South German/Austrian context. It dates to the mid-fifteenth century and survives as part of a set of medical and culinary texts bound together. The editor Doris Aichholzer published it together with two related manuscripts and drew attention to the less elaborate, more practical recipes. The manuscript is of unknown provenance, but has been owned by the Habsburg emperors since at least the early sixteenth century. It is now held at the Nationalbibliothek in Vienna. An edition, German translation and commentary can be found in Doris Aichholzer: Wildu machen ayn guet essen… Drei mittelhochdeutsche Kochbücher, Peter Lang Verlag Berne et al. 1999

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