Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Writing and cooking residency, Boi Peba, Salvador, Brazil

Receptary : writing of cookery

The writing of a recipe probably comes from a culinary experience whose result seemed satisfying enough to keep and compile its elaboration. It recounts the different steps of the making of a dish to guaranty the success of its repetition : anticipation of the ingredients to purchase, direct use of the materials, planning of the result. A recipe is like a game book describing how a practical experience is carried out by suggesting a few narrative ingredients. Its writing was developed by medieval chefs (middle of the 14th century). The main purpose of these treatise was to point out the culinary talents of these masters, bringing their renown to the kings that would then hire their service.

But right before that in fact, the first recipe books, called receptaries, were written by several hands, margins commonly used to complete or precise one step or to add an ingredient. One of the first known receptary, the Viandier de Guillaume Tirel dit Taillevent, is more of a collective compilation of recipes (written between 1373 and 1381) than the work of a single author. The notion of authorship not being primordial at that time, a text would frequently bear the marks of several contributions. In the different manuscripted and printed versions of the Viandier, entire chapters are erased, added and modified.
Besides recipes, receptaries would also compile medical cures, descriptions of historical feasts and preparations of entremets. A recipe is a narrative and practical genre in itself, a mix of culinary ingredients, allegorical representations and political propaganda.

The entremet is an entertainment combining luxury dishes, disguised food and plays, animated or not, served and performed between the courses of fastuous banquet. The interlude brook the highly codified ceremonial of the banquet composed as a representation of power. Without having to leave, the guests would thus take a break and give free will to their comments and activities. The entremet attests to the taste for ornamentation and architecture, notably expressed by the erection of monumental patés and by the arrangement of feathers on the roasted game. The entremet evolved towards artistic representation as described in the last chapter of the Viandier. The entremet of painted and carved images was not so much about edible food than representation of allegorical scenes through paintings, sculptures and live performances, all of which first took place on the table before being progressively removed on specifically designed stages. There were real shows with scenarios, actors and dramatic action. Added to the luxurious ornamentation of the table set, the entremet was a pretext for a monumental, allegorical and fantasmagorical imagery.

An example of an entremet, writing by the chief Chiquart in his book
Du fait de cuisine in 1420. He describes a famous banquet organized by Amédée VIII. The text is written in an old french. It describes enormous meals made for example with head wild boar or pork, roasted, painted in green, gold and yellow glaze, spitting out fire. Some towers carried by children angel dressed, where rose water and wine flow across machicolation. Fruits, birds, roasted chicken, big fish cooked into three ways : the head is boiled, the queue is roasted, the middle is fried, and for each part a new sauce : green, orange etc...