[This is an article from Cariadoc's Miscellany. The Miscellany is Copyright (c) by David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook, 1988, 1990, 1992. For copying details, see the Miscellany Introduction.]

To Prepare a Most Honorable Feast

by Maistre Chiquart

translated by Elizabeth of Dendermonde

And first, God permitting to be held a most honorable feast at which are kings, queens, dukes, duchesses, counts, countesses, princes, princesses, marquis, marquises, barons, baronesses and lords of lower estate, and nobles also a great number, there are needed, for the ordinary cookery(1) and to make the feast honorably, to the honor of the lord who is giving the said feast, the things which follow.

And first: one hundred well-fattened cattle, one hundred and thirty sheep, also well fattened, one hundred and twenty pigs; and for each day during the feast, one hundred little piglets, both for roasting and for other needs, and sixty salted large well fattened pigs for larding and making soups.

And for this the butcher will be wise and well-advised if he is well supplied so that if it happens that the feast lasts longer than expected, one has promptly what is necessary; and also, if there are extras, do not butcher them so that nothing is wasted.

And there should be for each day of the feast two hundred kids and also lambs, one hundred calves, and two thousand head of poultry.

And you should have your poulterers, subtle, diligent, and wise, who have forty horses for going to various places to get venison, hares, conies, partridges, pheasants, small birds (those which they can get without number), river birds (those which one can obtain), pigeons, cranes, herons, and all wild birds - what one can find of whatever wild birds. And they should turn their attention to this two months or six weeks before the feast, and they should all have come or sent what they could obtain by three or four days before the said feast so that the said meat can be hung and each dealt with as it ought to be.

And they should provide for each day of the said feast six thousand eggs.

Again, for the said feast there should be provided two charges [about 320 pounds] of the major spices, that is white ginger, Mecca ginger, cinnamon, grains of paradise, and pepper.

The minor spices: of nutmeg six pounds, of cloves six pounds, of mace six pounds, and of galingale six pounds; again, 30 loaves of sugar, 25 pounds of saffron, 6 charges of almonds, one charge of rice, 30 pounds of amydon, 12 baskets of candied raisins, 12 baskets of good candied figs, 8 baskets of candied prunes, a quintal [about 110 pounds] of dates, 40 pounds of pine nuts, 18 pounds of turnsole, 18 pounds of alkanet, 18 pounds of gold leaf [!?], one pound of camphor, one hundred ells of good and fine tissue for straining; and these things are for nothing but the use of the kitchen. And again, there should be for the said feast two hundred boxes of sugar-spice pellets of all sorts and colors to put on potages. And if the feast lasts longer one will thus be provided with extra.

And for the profit of the lord who gives the feast, and in order to satisfy the need more promptly and quickly, one should grind to powder the aforesaid spices which are necessary for the said feast, and put each separately into large and good leather bags.

And in order to better prepare the said feast without reprehension or fault, the house-stewards, the kitchen masters, and the master cook should assemble and come together three or four months before the feast to put in order, visit, and find good and sufficient space to do the cooking, and this space should be so large and fine that large working sideboards can be set up in such fashion that between the serving sideboards and the others the kitchen masters can go with ease to pass out and receive the dishes.

And for this there should be provided large, fair, and proper cauldrons for cooking large meats, and other medium ones in great abundance for making potages and doing other things necessary for cookery, and great hanging pans for cooking fish and other necessary things, and large common pots in great abundance for making soups and other things, and a dozen fair large mortars; and check the space for making sauces; and there should be twenty large frying pans, a dozen large casks, fifty small casks, sixty cornues [bowls with handles], one hundred wooden bowls, a dozen grills, six large graters, one hundred wooden spoons, twenty-five slotted spoons both large and small, six hooks, twenty iron shovels, twenty rotisseries, with turning mechanisms and irons for holding the spits. And one should definitely not trust wooden spits, because they will rot and you could lose all your meat, but you should have one hundred and twenty iron spits which are strong and are thirteen feet in length; and there should be other spits, three dozen which are of the aforesaid length but not so thick, to roast poultry, little piglets, and river fowl. And also, four dozen little spits to do endoring and act as skewers.

And there should be two casks of vinegar, one of white and one of claret, each of eight sommes [110 gallons], a good cask of fine verjuice of twenty sommes [275 gallons], and a cask of oil of ten sommes [137 1/2 gallons].

And there should be one thousand cartloads of good dry firewood and a great storehouse full of coal, and you should always be sure of having more in case of there not being enough.

And so that the workers are not idle, and so that they do not lack for anything, there should be delivered funds in great abundance to the said kitchen masters to get salt, pot-vegetables and other necessary things which might be needed, which do not occur to me at present.

And in order to do things properly and cleanly, and in order to serve and accomplish it more quickly, there should be provided such a large quantity of vessels of gold, of silver, of pewter, and of wood, that is four thousand or more, that when one has served the first course one should have enough for serving the second and still have some left over, and in the mean time one can wash and clean the vessels used during the said first course.

And as at such a feast there could be some very high, puissant, noble, venerable and honorable lords and ladies who do not eat meat, for these there must be fish, marine and fresh-water, fresh and salt, in such manner as one can get them.

And as the sea-bream is king of the other sea fish, listed first is the sea-bream, conger-eel, grey mullet, hake, sole, red mullet, dorade, plaice, turbot, sea-crayfish, tuna, sturgeon, salmon, herrings, sardines, sea-urchin, mussels, eels, boops, ray, cuttle-fish, arany marine, anchovies, eels, both fresh and salted.

Concerning fresh-water fish: big trout, big eels, lampreys, filleted char, fillets of big pike, fillets of big carp, big perch, ferré s, pallé s, graylings, burbot, crayfish, and all other fish.

And because at this feast there are some lords or ladies as was said above who have their own master cooks whom they command to prepare and make ready certain things, for such there should be given and made available to the said master cook quickly, amply, in great abundance and promptly everything for which he asks and which he needs for the said lord or lady or both so that he can serve them to his taste.

And also there should be 120 quintals of best cheese; of good and fine white cloth six hundred ells to cover the sideboards, fish, meats, and roasts; and sixty ells of linen cloth to make the colors of the jellies; and of white broadcloth to make the colors like the color of hyppocras, to make a dozen colors.

And there should be two large two-handed knives for dismembering cattle, and a dozen dressing knives for dressing; and also, two dozen knives to chop for potages and stuffings, and to prepare poultry and fish;

also, half a dozen scrubbers to clean the sideboards and the cutting boards, and a hundred baskets for carrying meat to the casks, both raw and cooked, which one brings to and from the sideboards, and also for bringing coal, for roasts and wherever it is needed and also for carrying and collecting serving vessels.

And if it happens that the feast is held in winter you will need for the kitchen for each night sixty torches, twenty pounds of wax candles, sixty pounds of tallow candles for visiting the butchers' place, the pastry-cooks' place, the place for the fish, and all the doings of the kitchen.

And for the making of pastry there should be a large and fair building close to the kitchen which can be made for two large and fair ovens for making meat and fish pastries, tarts, flans and talmoses(2), ratons(3) and all other things which are necessary for doing cooking.

And for this the said workers should be provided with 30 sommes [about 412 gallons] of best wheat flour for the aforesaid needs, and should be sure of getting more if the feast lasts longer.

And because, by the pleasure of the blessed and holy Trinity, the which without fail gives us amply of all good things, we have good and fair and great provisions for making our feast grandly, it is necessary for us to have master cooks and workers to make dishes and subtleties for the said feast; and if it happens that one is not provided with the said cooks and workers, one should send a summons to places where one can find them so that the said feast can be handled grandly and honorably.

Notes: Master Chiquart was chief cook to the Duke of Savoy and in 1420 wrote Du Fait de Cuisine, from which the above is taken. He goes on to give both meat-day and fish-day menus for his feast, which is to last two days and consists of dinner and supper on both days, and he includes recipes for most of the dishes. These range from the simple to the extremely elaborate; his entremet consisting of a castle would take another article to describe.

It is often said that medieval food was highly spiced; since most medieval recipes do not give any quantities at all it is hard to tell if this is true or not. Chiquart, however, lists amount of meat for his whole feast by number of animals and amount of spices by weight. My lord, Cariadoc of the Bow, has calculated the approximate amount of meat (on the assumption that Chiquart's animals were smaller than ours) to get a total of about 70,000 pounds of boneless meat, plus whatever amount of meat Chiquart got from game; this gives a ratio of spices to meat of about 1:100 by weight. This is not far from what he and I use for medieval dishes when we prepare them to our own taste, suggesting that the "heavily overspiced" theory is incorrect.


Terence Scully. Du Fait de Cuisine par Maistre Chiquart, 1420. (Ms. S 103 de la bibliotheque Supersaxo, a la Bibliotheque cantonale du Valais, a Sion.). Vallesia v. 40, pp. 101-231, 1985.


1. The phrase I translate "ordinary cookery" probably means the food prepared for the servants and the rest of the household as opposed to that prepared for the lords.

2. A kind of cheese and egg pie.

3. A sort of cake.

(Published in Tournament Illuminated #84)

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