An Oddly Named Honey Fritter

Another recipe from the Mondseer Kochbuch that combines straightforward instructions with somewhat baffling nomenclature.

Bees kept for honey, Tacuinum Casanatense, 14th c. courtesy of wikimedia commons

144 Infidel cakes or isinglass (hausen platter)

Roll out a dough of eggs with a rolling pin (waltzen) as thin as a wafer (oblat) and cut it three fingers wide and longer than a hand, and fry it in fat. Pour peppered honey drink (honig getranck) or spiced honey condiment (hönig würtz) over it and serve it., This is called infidel cakes (haidnisch kuochen) or isinglass (hausen plater).

As a recipe, this is unremarkable. It is another iteration of the thin, crisp egg fritters known as heidnische Kuchen we find in other sources. The dough was familiar enough to be used as a reference point for consistency and thickness in recipes for other dishes. The preparation is straightforward: it is rolled out, cut into wide strips, fried, and served with a honey sauce. So far, so good.

What is interesting is that the Mondseer Kochbuch also identifies a meat pie by the name of heidnischer Kuchen. This is not very surprising. German recipes play fast and loose with names, and a different recipe collection refers to the egg dish usually known as May cake as heidnischer Kuchen. Twice.

Even more surprising is the secondary name of isinglass (hausen platter). It is repeated twice, so we can probably exclude scribal error. Clearly, actual isinglass, the swim bladder of the Danube sturgeon used as a source of gelatin, is not involved in the preparation. It is possible that the fried dough sheets, curled, darkened, and twisted, reminded people of dried swim bladders, but I wonder how familiar the sight of this luxury ingredient in its raw form would have been. I really have no explanation for this.

Finally, this recipe helps us better understand the “honey drink” that is used in the earlier instructions for making the apple preserve doberiz or dewericz. The honig getranck mentioned here is viewed as interchangeable with hönig würtz. It is clearly a kind of condiment, a made sauce, not just mead. It may refer to honeyed spiced wine, though if that is the case, I suspect the proportion of honey would have been much higher than in the usual beverages. More likely, we are looking at a purpose-made spiced condiment prominently featuring honey. Honey and pepper, incidentally, are an excellent combination.

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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