Filled Eggs without Falcons

The ongoing parallels between the Mondseer Kochbuch and Meister Hans clarify the baffling habich muos.

Among a number of recipes for filled eggs in the Mondseer Kochbuch, there is this:

149 Filled eggs

Of filled eggs. Chop sage small, fry it in butter, mix in eggs, spices, saffron, and salt, and prepare a thick mass (habich mouß) of it. Put it back in the eggshells and lay them in boiling water.

Filling seasoned egg back into eggshells was a common conceit in German cookery, and this is not an unusual recipe. It has a parallel in Meister Hans:

Recipe #88 Ain habich muoß von ayren

A ‘falcon dish’ of eggs

Item chop sage small and fry it in butter. Mix herbs and saffron into it and make a ‘falcon dish’ from it. Fill it back into the shells and lay them into boiling water. Boil them and quarter them nicely afterwards.

The original editor assumed that habich here should be read as Habicht, a falcon, and the way that vthe manuscript uses the term as a title suiggests that was how the writer understood it. It is unclear how the dish relates to birds of prey, but that is not in itself disqualifying. There are few nondescriptive names in the German corpus, but thoser that there are often defy analysis. However, there was always the possibility that the word related to häbich, a dialect term meaning thick, viscous, or ‘chewy’. The version from the Mondseer Kochbuch makes it much more likely this is meant. It belongs to the dialect area where that term was current, and it clearly uses it descriptively, not as a name. Again, we must conclude that if ‘Meister Hans’ is the origin of a tradition, the surviving manuscript must be a late copy.

In gustatory terms, it is an attractive dish. Fresh sage goes well with boiled egg, and the extra butteriness raises the flavour. In terms of looks, it is less endearing unless you happen to like green eggs. They actually go well with ham.

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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