- Cocatrice and Lampray Hay: Late Fifteenth-Century Recipes from Corpus Christi College Oxford ed. by Constance B. Hieatt
The food of the Middle Ages has gradually captured the imagination of medievalists over the past generation. One of the first scholars to seriously study and edit medieval European recipes, Constance Hieatt published her final cookery edition before her death in December 2011. Hieatt was also a scholar of medieval English literature, but actively published a variety of culinary articles and manuscript editions, recipe compendiums, and adaptations of medieval recipes for modern cooks beginning in the 1980s. Hieatt edited most of the larger medieval English recipe collections over the course of her career; this has greatly benefitted a new generation of scholars who can access a large proportion of [End Page 244] extant culinary texts with the assistance of Hieatt’s editions. While smaller in scope than many of her projects, Cocatrice and Lampray Hay: Late Fifteenth-Century Recipes from Corpus Christi College Oxford is a valuable edition of a lesser-known manuscript.
This edition and translation is based on a group of culinary recipes in a fifteenth-century manuscript written in Middle English, Corpus Christi College Oxford MS F 291. Hieatt collaborated with Sharon Butler, also now deceased, on the project of transcribing and editing the manuscript. Hieatt and Butler worked together on other medieval cookery editions and modern recipe adaptations, including Curye on Inglysch: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth Century in 1985 and Pleyn Delit: Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks, co-authored with Brenda Hosington in 1996. Hieatt and Butler initially encountered MS F 291 around 1980, but set the manuscript aside due to its difficult nature. The vocabulary, unusual instructions, and even some culinary preparations proved too challenging until Hieatt returned to the manuscript after decades of experience (22).
Cocatrice and Lampray Hay contains three main sections: an introduction; the text, translation, and commentary; and a supplement to Hieatt’s 2006 Concordance of English Recipes: Thirteenth through Fifteenth Centuries, co-authored with J. Terry Nutter and Johnna Holloway. The heart of Cocatrice and Lampray Hay, the cookery text, now consists of 99 recipes. The collection likely originally contained 101 recipes; Hieatt calculated this total by corroborating the actual recipes’ titles found on fols. 3r–68r with the table of contents on fols. 1v–2v and factoring in the number of recipes which could fit on one missing leaf. Cocatrice and Lampray Hay includes not only familiar medieval dishes, such as blancmange (63 and 122), Lenten eggs (84), and mawmene (121), but also more distinctive creations like “Cocatryce” (27) and “Lampron hay” (57). Following each recipe transcription, Hieatt provides a modern English translation and a commentary. The commentary is particularly valuable, containing literary and historical notes, as well as occasional suggestions for readers interested in preparing the recipes. Hieatt’s experience with hundreds of early cookeries over decades of research is most apparent in the commentary, as she draws connections to cooking practices, vocabulary, and recipe exemplars from a variety of medieval sources. For example, she contrasts a recipe for stuffed fish, “Macrel Farsed,” to the only other stuffed fish dishes she is aware of in Bodliean MS Ashmole 1393 (34). Hieatt also describes a cooking vessel specified in a capon dish, a ‘urinal,’ as the same type of glass vessel used by medieval physicians to examine urine (131).
As an edition rather than a monograph, Cocatrice and Lampray Hay does not contain a grand historical or literary argument. However, Hieatt repeatedly stresses the uniqueness of this text, and indeed, the recipes are exceptional. It is this characteristic which will appeal to a variety of scholars within medieval studies. Although many recipes in this collection are familiar to readers interested in medieval food, the collection has no relationship to any other known manuscript cookeries and was composed independently of extant culinary texts. The recipes are longer and more detailed than most extant medieval recipes, even containing specifications of ingredient quantities. Linguists will no doubt be attracted to the recipe...