An Arts and Sciences article in honor of the First of April.

Mistress Elspeth Keyfe of Neddingham and Master Steffan ap Cennydd

The following receipts were found in the so-called Krummhorn MS, the source of the celebrated “Krummhorn Fragment” attributed to Chaucer and translated by Prof. Mucklemouthe[1].

This portion of the MS is a palimpsest over the previous work, which may have been the remainder of the above-mentioned Chaucer. In any case, it is certainly by another hand. The compiler calls them “disshys to be done in haste yet most nourishing”. Their most likely provenance is in the kitchen of the otherwise-obscure Welsh breyr known to posterity as Macsen Mawr, or Max the Large. They are strikingly similar in style to the receipts in the Codex Manducarum, in the Burgher-Königs Kuchenarchivsmuseum in Linz[2].  The Codex is now known to be a Latin copy of the Lyfr Coginio yn Cyflym[3], known to have been written by Macsen’s cook Daffydd ap Tomas for his daughter Gwendolyn.

The receipts contain several terms which have long puzzled those few culinary historians who have chanced upon them. Perhaps the chief of these is “skyrwittes”, the nature of which has been the subject of some debate; although scholars agree that, no matter what they were, they could not here have been parsnips, which the term is most often held to represent. Likewise, the term “wolfpeach” is a matter of conjecture, as references to it or to “lycopersicum” in other texts invariably involve a deadly poisonous herb. Prof. Heinz[4] postulates that the berry of this plant was in sporadic use, and that other parts of the plants (such as the leaves) were far richer in whatever alkaloids caused it be so widely regarded as harmful.

The following receipts, which follow one another in the MS, are presented as interesting projects for SCA culinary historians to attempt to redact.

A dysshe of flesch ypon trenchours.

Nym faire payndemayne and lesh hem in a thriddle, the top therof glaze with yolk of heyryn and strew wyþ smale sedys. Nym god fresch flesch of buff ygrounden smale & mak therof roundels like to the paume & fry hem in faire grece. Ischredde leus of letuys and lay hem thereon and clef thou leshys of wolfpeach thynne and do hem theron wyþ ryngys of onyouns and fayre chese ypon the flesch. And as ye do ypon the base trenchour do thou lykewise aboue.

Nym schyuerys of gourds soaked in brine and lay hem upon the chese, and  save ynough and clewe hem smale and temper therewyþ lombardy mustard, and take wolfpeach othyr walnuts and heyroun  wyþ oyle and make thou a paste and do thereto poudre fort.

Skyrwittes yfryed in grece.

Nym skyrwittes and clef them a fyngerbroede odyr a lyttle þynner. Do hem in much gode grese till they be golden. Strew hem wyþ much salt and mess hem forth. And do thereto the sauce of wolfpeach if thou wilt.

Nym frissiaus othyr cherys and do hem in mylk wyþ much fayre sugur cypre and swynge hyt togyder. And som do thereto gum arabay to mak hyt þyk but þys ys not gode.

[1].     For the Fragment, see the article by Lady Eugenie de Bruges, reprinted in the 20th Anniversary Issue of the Carolingian Triumph.

[2].    Translated by MacDonald, R., in Transactions of the Royal Scots Culinary Historical Society, v.187, suppl. entitled “Dishes Not Containing Oatmeal”.

[3].   “Book of Rapid Cooking”

[4].   Heinz, H.J., Historical Survey of Condiments of the Welsh Border, vol. 27, Lower Powys 1100-1130, pg. 219. (Llansantsieryl, 1883)

[Editors notes:

This piece appeared originally in the 1996 Piketaff fundraiser, “Not Necessarily the Pikestaff”.  The authors have kindly granted permission to reprint today.

In the original publication, the letter thorn (þ) was not printable due to software issues, and th was substituted.  I have restored some of the thorns, but have probably not found all of them.  My apologies to the authors. ]