Medieval Soup with Pork and Onions


Johannes Bockenheim’s Registrum Coquine is a fascinating cookbook written in the 15th century and collected into two manuscripts clearly written by two different copyists, with variations and some different recipes. The author was a German cook who worked in Italy for Pope Martin V. The peculiarity of this book is that the recipes are dedicated to specific groups of people, social classes, and nationalities. Bockenheim’s recommendations are colorful and funny: there are recipes for pimps and prostitutes, priests and laics, princes and peasants.
The recipe that we are preparing today is suggested for women. Though the logic followed by the author is not always, in this case, we can find a plausible explanation in humoral medicine, according to which all things are characterized by various degrees of hotness, coolness, dryness, and humidity. To maintain good health, it is necessary to eat foods that balance the natural temperament of someone, which is naturally characterized by these elements.
The complexion of women is generally considered akin to water, humid and cool, and as a consequence, a suitable food should be dry and hot. This is clearly a simplification: the complexion is not only determined by the sex, but also by the age, the time of the year, and even the hour of the day and the place in which someone lives. In addition, there are differences in the complexion that are completely personal and may be due to the condition of health and other factors.
In any case, analyzing the ingredients for this recipe, we find that we obtain a plate that is more hot and dry than cool and humid, despite the cooking method’ tending’s tendency toward humidity. According to De Flore Dietarum (11th century), for instance, pork is hot and humid, vinegar is cool and dry, and onions are hot and dry. The medieval physician Michele Savonarola (between the 14th and 15th centuries) believes that saffron is hot, and Ugo Benzi, who lived in the same period, writes that it is also dry, whereas the eggs are temperate.
Bockenheim’s recipe is short and a bit unclear. We decided to simmer the onions with the cooked meat, but another option is adding some scallions, finely minced, to the plated dish. We used two onions and 300 grams of meat, but if you prefer to use scallions or raw onions, reduce the quantity to prevent their pungent flavor from overpowering the dish.

Our translation of the Registrum Coquine, accompanied by an introduction, notes about the recipes, and a glossary, is available on Amazon. To know more about medieval food, we recommend Libro de la Cocina. Medieval Tuscan recipes and De Observatione Ciborum. Early-medieval recipes at the court of the Frank. You find further articles and translations of historical sources, among which De Flore Dietarum, on our Patreon page.
For more historical recipes with vegetables, check out Early Italian Recipes. Vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers, which collects many recipes from the Antiquity to the early Modern Era. If you are interested in ancient food, we recommend reading Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Recipes, Sources.
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300 gr pork collar
2 onions
1 egg

Soak the saffron in warm water. Cut the meat into small pieces and simmer it in salted water for about 40 minutes. Mince the onions and add them to the meat, cooking for another 20 minutes. Beat the egg adding the saffron diluted in water and a bit of vinegar, then add this mixture to the onions and meat. Cook for two minutes and plate the soup.

Original text
Pro mulieribus. Sic prepara carnes porcinas. Recipe eas, et lava bene et mitte ad ignem. Et cum fuerint cocte, mitte superius ova cruda cum croco et cepis et aceto. Et erit bonum pro mulieribus.

For women. Prepare pork in this way. Wash the meat well, then place it on the fire. Once it is cooked, add on top raw eggs, saffron, onions, and vinegar. It will be good for women.

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Libro de la Cocina by Anonimo Toscano. Medieval Tuscan Recipes
Early Italian Recipes. Vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers
De Observatione Ciborum by Anthimus. Early-medieval recipes at the court of the Franks.
Registrum Coquine by Johannes Bockenheim. A medieval cookbook
Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Sources, Recipes

Translations of Historical Sources
De Re Coquinaria by Apicius (Ancient Rome)
De Observatione Ciborum by Anthimus (6th century)
Appendicula de Condituris Variis by Johannes Damascenus (8th-9th century)
De Flore Dietarum (11th century)
Tractatus de Modo Preparandi et Condiendi Omnia Cibaria (13th-14th century)
Enseignemenz (14th century)
Opusculum de Saporibus by Mainus de Maineris (14th century)
Libro de la Cocina by Anonimo Toscano (14th century)
Anonimo Veneziano (14th century)
Registrum Coquine by Johannes von Bockenheim (15th century)
Libro de Arte Coquinaria by Maestro Martino – first and second part (15th century)

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