Apicius: Aspects of incorporating a cookbook of Early Middle Ages (8th and 9th centuries)

Apicius: Aspects of incorporating a cookbook of Early Middle Ages (8th and 9th centuries)

By Wanessa Asfora

Published Online (2012)

Introduction: The famous Latin cookbook entitled De coquinaria by 19th century modern scholarship is traditionally associated to a Roman gourmet called Marcus Gavius Apicius who lived probably at the 1 st century AD. However, in this paper, inspiring for the recent work of Sally Grainger and Christoper Grocock, I would rather think of Apicius as a text, a collection of 490 culinary recipes, instead of a historical figure who deliberately conceived a cookbook.

Curiously, although Apicius has been associated to Roman historical context by historians, its earliest manuscripts belong to the Early Middle Ages. There are three manuscripts dated from 8th and 9th centuries: one of them was written at the monastery of Fulda and the other one at the monastery of Tours (the origin of the third is uncertain). This aspect posits a problem which has not been properly studied by scholars. In my PhD thesis, I investigated the hypothesis that Apicius could have been copied in Early Middle Ages for dietetic reasons – a Dietetics still anchored in ancient medical tradition, even though conceived within the early medieval framework of some Carolingian monastic communities.

Because this discussion is extensive, I have selected to present here just a few elements of my thesis argumentation. I intend to show how the relationship between cooking and medicine is central to understand the problem of the writing of Apicius in the Early Middle Ages. This relationship is especially materialised in the notions of tempering and temperance that permeates the text.

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See also Olivia’s Cookbook, Roman Recipes Adapted for the 21st Century

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