Little Fritters in Sauce

The final day of a bad week, and a small, but interesting recipe from the Mondseer Kochbuch:

155 Fried beans or nuns’ farts in drink (nunnenfürtz in gesüff)

Item of a side dish (gemüß). Roll out an egg dough with a rolling pin so it is the thickness of half a finger. Cut it in cubes like (i.e. the size of) beans and throw the dough into hot fat. It fries quickly. Pour off the fat and leave them to dry. Put them in a sauce or other condiment and let the wine sauce boil up before you put in the beans. Guard it from moisture (read nassen for naschen) and you can keep them for a long time.

Again, there is a parallel in Meister Hans where the recipe is known as beans made of dough:

96 Beans made of dough

Item roll out a dough with a rolling pin (wallczn) so that it is a finger thick. Cut it in cubes like beans and throw the dough into hot fat. Let it fry quickly. Pour off the fat and let it dry. And make this with saffron (sauce?) or spicy sauce, and let it boil up before you put the beans into it. These are called beans (made) of dough. Guard them from mice, and you may keep them a long time this way.

These are functionally a kind of Backerbsen, though made from a firmer dough than the ones in the Inntalkochbuch. Making them is fairly straighforward: you fry small pieces of an egg-based dough and serve them in a spicy sauce. I think the final dish is meant to be quite solid, with the dough pieces predominating – more like mac and cheese than noodle soup. If thiosd was served quickly, they would retain their crunch and could be quite pleasing, if strange to us.

The name the Mondseer Kochbuch gives the dish is definitely surprising. Nonnenfürzle were familiar throughout Germany by the sixteenth century and seem to have described a sweet gingerbread-like confection. Today, the word describes a choux paste fritter, most likely related closely to the French pets des nonnes. These do not seem related to either, though it is possible that the dough referred to here is meant to be a choux paste. The principle was familiar. It would make them fluffier and spongier, but there is no indication in the recipe that that is what the writer intended. The suggestion to keep them militates against it.

Finally, there is an interesting illustration of how the transmission process worked in the final sentence. The recipe in Meister Hans advises the reader to guard the finished product from mice. The Mondseer Kochbuch in this case looks to be the corrupted version, stating they should be protected from naschen. Aichholzer suggests to amend this to nassen, wetness, which is reasonable. Fried dough needs to be kept dry. However, naschen – roughly, food thieving or snacking – also makes sense.

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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