A Misspelling, or Whey Blanc Manger?

Another recipe from the Mondseer Kochbuch, short because I am travelling again:

cheesemaking, Tacuinum Sanitatis courtesy of wikimedia commons

3 A side dish of whey (zigermilch – or goat milk?), almonds, rice flour, and chickens

You should take whey (or goats’ milk) and make almond milk (mandels) ½ libra. You should pound a vierdung of rice to powder and put it into the milk while it is cold. And take the breast of a chicken, and you should tear up and chop it into that. And you should take clean fat and add it, and it is to boil in this. Add a vierdung of sugar.

This is possibly a very interesting recipe, but it could just as well be evidence of a miscommunication. As it is written, it describes a variation on the popular blanc manger, a dish of almond milk, rice flour, and meat or occasionally fish. The term ziger referred to varieties of cheese eaten fresh, often produced in the household, so the whey from that process would have been available in many kitchens. That is why Aichholzer reads zigermilch as whey.

However, the recipe is also a fairly close parallel of one found in the Buoch von Guoter Spise, an earlier source. Here, the dish is identified by name, and the ingredient in question is zigenin milch – goats’ milk.

(2) If you wish to prepare a blamensier

How you should prepare a blamenser. You should take goats’ milk (zigenin milich) and prepare almond milk (mandels) half a pound. You should pound a vierdung of rice to flour, and put that into the milk (while it is) cold. Take a chicken breast, and you should tear up and chop it into that. And you should add clean fat and let it boil in that. And use enough of it (gibs im genuc) Then take it up again and take pounded violets and put them in. And add a vierdung of sugar and serve it. You can also prepare a blamenser of pike in Lent.

Much as I would love to experiment with whey, I think this is the better explanation. It also throws some light on the way recipe collections circulated in Germany. The Mondseer Kochbuch has many parallels with the Buoch von Guoter Spise, but they are not adapted as one block. Rather, they are found throughout the text and not always in the order they are in the earlier text. The garbling that seems to have occurred here (and on several other occasions) suggests that the Mondseer Kochbuch is derivative of the earlier work, though the process remains somewhat obscure. It is fairly clear, though, that the text was not simply copied from the page. Culinary recipes seem to have circulated as building blocks of collections that were made for or by individuals, not as canonical texts.

The Mondseer Kochbuch is a recipe collection bound with a set of manuscript texts on grammar, dietetics, wine, and theology. There is a note inside that part of the book was completed in 1439 and, in a different place, that it was gifted to the abbot of the monastery at Mondsee (Austria). It is not certain whether the manuscript already included the recipes at that point, but it is likely. The entire codex was bound in leather in the second half of the fifteenth century, so at this point the recipe collection must have been part of it. The book was held at the monastery until it passed into the Vienna court library, now the national library of Austria, where it is now Cod 4995.

The collection shows clear parallels with the Buoch von guoter Spise. Many of its recipes are complex and call for expensive ingredients, and some give unusually precise quantities and measurements. It is edited in Doris Aichholzer’s “Wildu machen ayn guet essen…” Drei mittelhochdeutsche Kochbücher: Edition, Übersetzung, Quellenkommentar, Peter Lang, Berne et al. 1999

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