Utilis Coquinario

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Utilis Coquinario is an English cookery book written in Middle English at the turn of the fourteenth century.[1] The title has been translated as "Useful for the Kitchen".[2] The text is contained in the Hans Sloane collection of manuscripts in the British Library and is numbered Sloane MS 468.[3][4]


The author's name is unknown. It has been theorised that he was "the high-ranking chef of a large kitchen", though not one as large as that of Richard II (for example, compare this text to The Forme of Cury).[5] It is accordingly assumed that he was a man.[6][a] The resemblance of some of the author's recipes to early French recipes indicates the author may have had a reading knowledge of Middle French.[6] The author's references to "fyssh day" and Lent indicate that the author cooked for a Christian household.[7]



The manuscript contains recipes for things such as butter of almond milk,[8] roasted duck,[9] a meat pottage[10] and a sweet-and-sour fish preparation,[11] among others.[12]

The manuscript has been described as loosely organised and having no real system beyond a basic grouping of recipes for cooking birds, blancmange, and fruits and flowers.[2][6]


It has been suggested that the text was not intended as a cookbook for the layperson since the level of lay literacy at the time was still relatively low and distribution of manuscripts was a "patchy affair".[13] Several alternative purposes for its creation have been proposed, including: serving as testimony to the author's culinary skill,[13] presenting and influencing trends,[13] securing the status of the chef as a professional,[13] and serving as a tool for professionals (e.g. doctors and lawyers) aspiring to raise their class status by learning about higher-class meals.[14] The latter theory has been proposed in part due to the text's location in the Sloane collection of manuscripts, where it is placed in a selection of medical recipes described as "utilitarian".[15]

Modern study[edit]

The text is notable to both culinary historians and linguists, containing several examples of unique recipes and vocabulary.

Historical interest[edit]

Of historical interest, the work contains the only references to recipes such as pyany (a poultry dish garnished with peonies) and heppee (a rose-hip broth).[13] The text was written in the time of Geoffrey Chaucer and provides insight into the types of food Chaucer may have eaten and written about.[16] As was the case with most late medieval cooking, the author did not associate colours with specific flavours, but he did occasionally use colour to denote contrasts in flavour.[17] For example, one of the included fish recipes uses saffron in part of the dish flavoured with sugar and ginger (giving that part a reddish, saffron colour), and leaves the remaining part of the dish white to denote that it is flavoured with sugar only.[17]

Linguistic interest[edit]

Of linguistic interest, it contains the only known references in fourteenth-century English texts to cormorants and finches.[13] Additionally, it contains the only references to woodcocks, botores (bittern), pluuers (plovers), and teals in fourteenth-century English cookbooks, though all are found elsewhere in menus of that era.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Though women of the time were responsible for basic domestic cooking, professional chef work in large kitchens was undertaken by men.[6]


  1. ^ Hieatt 1985.
  2. ^ a b Notaker 2017, p. 89.
  3. ^ Kernan 2016, p. 64.
  4. ^ "Entry for "Cookery Recipes in BL MS Sloane 468" in Middle English Compendium HyperBibliography". quod.lib.umich.edu. University of Michigan. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  5. ^ Carroll 1996, p. 48.
  6. ^ a b c d Carroll 1996, p. 46.
  7. ^ Carroll 1996, pp. 47, 50.
  8. ^ Matterer, James L. "Medieval Recipe Translations – Botere of almand melk". www.godecookery.com.
  9. ^ Matterer, James L. "Malardis". www.godecookery.com.
  10. ^ Matterer, James L. "Medieval Recipe Translations – Chauden for potage". www.godecookery.com.
  11. ^ Matterer, James L. "A dauce egre". www.godecookery.com.
  12. ^ "MS BL Sloane 468". www.medievalcookery.com.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Carroll 1996, p. 47.
  14. ^ Kernan 2016, pp. 13–14, 64–65.
  15. ^ Kernan 2016, pp. 64–65.
  16. ^ Matterer, James. "Chaucer and Food". Food in the Arts. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  17. ^ a b Woolgar 2017, pp. 18–19.