Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Scappi's Cookbook


What They Ate and How the Dishes Were Served In 1570.

Scappi's book is illustrated, and the drawings represent the state of culinary affairs even more forcibly than the text. There is scarcely a kitchen utensil now in use among us that is not to be found among Scappi's diagrams. It is true that some of them are clumsily fashioned, especially in the matter of hinges, but their practical efficiency cannot be doubted. The menus of dinners given to exalted personages, a single one often filling six pages, form part of these books and show that profusion without any particular design as to sequence or harmony was their chief characteristic.

A novelty presents itself here in the credenza, or buffet. This was no doubt partly brought about by the acquisition of magnificent gold and silver plate, goblets and vases of Venetian glass. Trophies of these beautiful things were associated with a credenza service, which consisted of antipasti in variety, highly decorated cold pieces montees, all sorts of fruits, pickles, preserves, both savory and sweet, roes of fish, etc., and contributed greatly to the grandeur of the banqueting hall. A service from the credenza preceded each great division of courses of hot dishes (servizio di cucina), and the feast ended with sweet-meats and confectionery, which were handed round after the removal of the cloth.

It should be specially noted that forks formed part of the table equipment; that perfumed water was handed round after each course; that napkins of the finest damask linen were deftly folded and laid before each guest, with a minute del pranzo, and that the utmost cleanliness was maintained both in the table appointments and cookery. As for the dishes themselves, it need scarcely be said that few of them would be considered nice nowadays.

Sauces, as we understand them, clear soups and delicate entrees, in which the savory character of the ingredients is maintained with scrupulous care, had not yet been discovered. Meats were covered with spices and sprinkled with sugar, wines were sweet, and savories and sweets were mixed promiscuously, showing that no very great discrimination prevailed in regard to their distinct characteristics. — National Review.

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