By Weiao Xing (@WeiaoX)
Starting with pigeon bisque and casserole, filled with veal loin and ortolans, and embellished by apple fritters and crème brûlée, a wintry feast was prepared by chef de cuisine François Massialot on 27 December 1690. This lavish banquet, originally held at the Duke of Aumont’s palace, exemplifies ‘Another great Entertainment for the Month of December’ in the chef’s cookbook. [i] Entitled The Court and Country Cook, the English translation of Massialot’s masterpiece was published in London in 1702, a decade after its début in France. [ii]
Massialot’s culinary writings offer early modern readers a practical manual and a reliable source of cookery knowledge. The feast menu, alongside examples of suppers and a list of dishes, informs readers of appropriate cuisines from October to December. [iii] This seasonal idea of cookery is further epitomised in Massialot’s instructions on confectionary. For example, only oranges and lemons are available in November and December, so ‘the Provisions that have been made during the preceding Months’ are necessary for sweet dishes. The chef put forward ‘dry and wet Sweetmeats’ including jellies and marmalades. Roasted apples, pears, and chestnut compotes also feature on his list. [iv] Numerous ingredients and cuisines are presented according to months or seasons, which enables readers to feasibly cook for diverse occasions throughout the year. Notably, Massialot introduced alphabetical headings for recipes in his cookbook with cross-referenced indexes. [v] In this sense, the seasonal and alphabetical arrangement of recipes demonstrated an innovative way of circulating knowledge of early modern cookery.
[i] François Massialot, The Court and Country Cook: Giving New and Plain Directions How to Order All Manner of Entertainments … Together with New Instructions for Confecioners … And, How to Prepare Several Sort of Liquors, trans. J. K. (London: Printed by W. Onley, for A. and J. Churchill, and M. Gillyflower, 1702), 28–30.
[ii] François Massialot, Le cuisinier roial et bourgeois… Ouvrage très-utile dans les familles… (Paris: Chez Charles de Sercy, 1691); François Massialot, Nouvelle instruction pour les confitures, les liqueurs et les fruits / , avec la manière de bien ordonner un dessert… Suite du cuisinier roïal et bourgeois (Paris: Chez Charles de Sercy, 1692).
[iii] Massialot, The Court and Country Cook, 27–32.
[iv] François Massialot, New Instructions for Confecioners, trans. J. K. (London: Printed by W. Onley, for A. and J. Churchill, and M. Gillyflower, 1702), 14.
[v] Barbara Ketcham Wheaton, Savouring the Past: The French Kitchen and Table from 1300 to 1789 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1983), 149–59.
‘A Model of a Table for twentyfive Persons, furnish’d with five large Dishes, ten Midling ones, and four small sones’, in François Massialot, The Court and Country Cook, Katherine Golden Bitting Collection on Gastronomy (Library of Congress). All rights belong to the Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division.