German 12th Night – 2012

A Twelfth Night Feast at the court of Maximillian I one wonderful large banquets / together with common hospitality / shall be neatly dressed and ordered...


Although I previously had very little experience with German cookery, especially late period, my Queen requested a Twelfth Night Feast to occur “at the court of Maximillian I”, and of course, I said “Yes, Your Majesty” (technically “Yes, Your Highness” when the conversation occurred). Then I said “oh no, I know nothing about this time period!”. So, the first key was to find out exactly what I had gotten into.

Possible Sources

Since the feast was to be at the court of Maximillian I, theoretically in 1500, I first started looking into sources. The only German cookbook I was personally familiar with was Das buoch von guter spise, which is dated to roughly 1350

After consulting Johnna Holloway’s wonderful German bibliography , I next focused on Küchenmeisterei, which would have been the ideal source, as I found a copy which was available in online facsimile, from an edition dated to 1490 . Unfortunately, my German skills (that is to say, almost complete lack of German skills) were not up to translating enough of the work to prepare a feast before my deadline, and as far as I can tell, no English copy of this work exists.

This left me to settle on Rumpolt, which, while not completely translated, is currently in the process of being translated and enough has been completed to be a useable source. The translation is being provided as a work-in-progress by Sharon Palmer . Rumpolt is a German source dated to 1581 , which means many of the techniques and certain ingredients used are Renaissance in nature rather than medieval. For instance, a number of recipes for turkey, a recipe which might be for potatoes, and recipes for flour-thickened sauces are all included. However, it is also a very extensive source, with over 1,000 recipes combined with menu information and other details, which means these techniques/ingredients can be avoided to reproduce a feast as might have been served 80 years earlier. Thus, the entirety of the feast was based on recipes from this source, and the menu was designed to echo the menus as presented within the book.

Menu Design

One of the most interesting things about Rumpolt is the chapter of menus.  Menus are provided for all ranks of society, from Emperor to “farmer” (though certainly a simple farmer would not be eating this volume nor variety of food on a regular basis), for meat and fast day dinners and suppers. The mid-day “dinners”, like other medieval menus, seem to be the more substantial meal of the day rather than the later supper. In an era where most people only ate two meals per day, and daylight was needed for the preparation of food, this makes sense.  However, dinners and suppers have similar structures, at all social classes, with some minor variations. For instance, cold meats were almost exclusively eaten at supper, perhaps indicating they were cooked with the other roasts for the midday meal and simply re-served at supper.

In general, both dinners and suppers followed a predictable pattern:

  • First course: Soup (more often at midday) or salad (more often in the evening), accompanied with smoked or preserved meats, cold roasts, eggs (for fast days).
  • Second/Third/Fourth course: The placement of dishes in other courses do not seem to follow as obvious a pattern. Unlike earlier menus from France and England that I have studied, boiled/stewed meats and roast meats were served together, with no obvious pattern that I could detect.
  • Final/Dessert course: All the meals end with a dessert course with the same types of dishes: wafers, cookies, fruits, sugared nuts or spices, etc.

Overall, the higher class meals contain a greater number of dishes, though sometimes in fewer courses. The emperor’s meals had as many as 26 dishes per course, but were served in only 3 courses, while the farmer’s meals had 6 courses with only 1, 2, or 3 dishes per course. 

Once this analysis was complete, the question was how to apply this data to an SCA feast. An exact menu couldn’t be duplicated, for reasons of cost, kitchen space, and the dietary preferences of the feast attendees. Since the event was Twelfth Night, an event with a traditionally lavish feast, I wanted to present a menu closer to that of the Kings or Electors rather than the Farmers’ menu. The meal was also the main meal of the day for most attendees, though it was served in the evening rather than at midday, so neither a “dinner” nor “supper” menu was a precise match for the meal that was being served.  Nor was the meal precisely a feast day or fast day menu, as unlike a medieval cook, I needed to serve both vegetarians who were not necessarily pescatarians and the more typical Scadian “carnetarian” the same meal, and satisfy each.

Given the time available to serve feast, I wanted to serve no more than 4 courses, with 4 or so dishes per course. Salad and soup seemed to be a given for a first course, both from a mundane perspective and in the Rumpolt menus. 2 meats and 2 vegetarian sides for each of the 2nd two courses was my goal, and I wanted a fritter for the final course as well as some sort of fruit. (The fritters were planned because the site had a deep fryer, which became a problem later.) I did not want to serve marzipan or candied nuts as I felt the risk of nut allergies and cross contamination was too great in a feast for over 300 people, and I do not have the skill for sugarplate, especially at that scale. 

So, from the menus available in translation, I chose dishes that were named in roughly the same place in the menu as my desired “slot” in the feast for that dish, then found recipes within Rumpolt that seemed to be appropriate for the named dish, as shown in the following table. 

Course“Slot”Menu Item / Inspiration
1SaladSalads were found in the 1st course of evening meals at all levels of feast.
1Pies“Bacon Tart”, Elector’s midday meal, 1st course
1Cold Meat“cold hen boiled in salt with green parsley sauce” – Emperor’s evening meal, 1st course
1Soup (vegetarian)“hungarian cheese soup with onions” – farmer’s evening fastday
2Roast Meat“beef roast in a pastry case with lemons” – nobleman’s day 1st course
2Boiled Meat“pork cooked in pepper in the Hungarian style” – king’s midday 4th course
2Side“rice cooked in milk” – king’s midday 6th course
2Side“red beets made sour with horseradish” – farmer’s midday 2nd course
3Roast Meat“roast goose” – emperor’s midday 2nd course
3Boiled Meat“cabbage and turnips with lamb” – emperor’s midday 2nd course
3Sidelentils with onion, vinegar and butter (not appearing in the menus, but a vegetarian dish was needed)
3Side“semolina pottage” – emperor’s midday 2nd course
4Fritters“fritters” – all menus, last course
4Fruit“stewed pears” – emperor’s midday last course

The feast, unfortunately, was served in the “each table send a server to the kitchen for each course” fashion, due to a lack of overall serving volunteers. There was, however, a serving line in the kitchen which allowed a plating area to be set up.

The Menu

First Course: Salad

As Rumpolt contains an entire chapter devoted to salads of all kinds, I thought that serving just one kind of salad would be miserly. Luckily, the citizen’s midday feast menu does reference serving many salads in a single dish: “All kinds of Salad served in a dish and with Eggs, dry Bacon and Ham larded (sprinkled).” 

For the feast, I chose the following recipes (and omitted the bacon and ham on the salad itself):

7. Green Salat/ that is small and young/ red beets cut small/ and thrown over it when the salad is mixed/ and the red beets are boiled and cold.
23. Take hard eggs/ give them separately next to the salad/ sprinkle with green parsley and salt/ and pour vinegar over them.33. Take a red cabbage/ cut it very small/ parboil it a little in warm water/ cool it rapidly/ mix with vinegar and oil/ and when it lays awhile in the vinegar/ then it will be beautiful red.45. Or take a radish/ cut it small and thin/ or finely diced/ mix with vinegar/ oil and salt/ like this is it also good.

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Notes on the preparation and outcome of this dish:

  • I chose not to blanch the cabbage for the pickles, as I thought the crunchy texture of raw cabbage would be more enjoyable and due to time constraints on site. Blanched cabbage might have been more brightly colored.
  • This was a very pretty dish, and was well received at each table.

First Course: Bacon Tarts

Cured meats (sausage, bacon, ham, etc) were omnipresent in descriptions of the “salad” course of each feast. Curing my own meat at this scale was somewhat outside my resources, so when I saw reference to a “bacon tart”, especially given the modern obsession for all things bacon, I thought it would fill this space nicely.

17. Or make little pies/ that one can slide into the mouth at once/ Take the meat/ and let simmer until completely to the place (completely done)/ chop it with a bacon/ or if it is already fatty/ then you need no bacon/ take small raisins with it/ mix with pepper/ saffron/ and a little vinegar/ enclose in the pies.  Have you no grapes/ then take agrast berries?? or gooseberries/ salt it lightly/ and make them no bigger/ than that you can slide into the mouth at once/ like this they are good and well tasting.

These are actually more of a pork pie with additional fat and salt added by the bacon. 

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Notes on the preparation and outcome of this dish:

  • For logistical reasons, the pork was cooked in chicken broth after the chicken was poached, rather than in wine. 
  • The mincing of meat and bacon for the filling took a very long time. In retrospect, it probably should have been done in advance or with a food processor.
  • Filling the wonton wrappers, too, took longer than I had budgeted for.
  • While the filling was quite tasty, if quite strongly flavored with saffron, the final texture of the outer crust was not what I had expected. I believe the “brush with oil” portion of the instructions may have been omitted, leading the wrappers to dry out and become oddly chewy/tough. I plan to make these again with more traditional pastry.
  • To conserve dishes, these were served on the salad platters, and servers were instructed as to their contents. (There was additional salad available in the kitchen for anyone with cross-contamination concerns, though no one asked for it). This became a recurring theme of plating.

First Course: Onion Soup

Although soup is rather challenging to serve in a large feast, it appeared to be a recurring theme of all of the first courses in the Rumpolt menus. Two of these menus mentioned a “cheese soup”, one of which was a “Hungarian cheese soup”, which struck me as something that would be well received.

45. Take onions/ that are peeled/ cut them very wide and thin/ add to water/ and let simmer/ take a hard cheese/ that is not spoiled and cut it very small/ put it into the broth/ where the onions simmered/ put good butter into it/ and let simmer together. And when you wish to dress it/ then slice of a weck bread very thin and wide/ arrange the broth with the cheese over it. Like this the Hungarian lords gladly eat.

This more or less describes a French onion type soup, though the cheese is melted into the soup rather than being melted over each individual serving. Interestingly, the onions are simmered in water, specifically, rather than broth, making this a perfect vegetarian dish.

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Notes on the preparation and outcome of this dish:

  • The caramelization of the onions was not specified in the original recipe, but added significantly to the flavor of the soup. 
  • The cheeses chosen were based on availability and price – piave vecchia is a hard, nutty cheese while the fontine added creaminess / meltability.
  • We should have served more bread with this, but it was early in the feast and we didn’t want people to eat just bread and soup.

First Course: Chicken with Parsley Sauce

The final dish in the first course was a cold chicken with parsley sauce. Cold meats were mentioned several times in the menus, and serving a cold meat early in the feast let us put out a substantial piece of protein immediately and at the appropriate temperature, no matter whether feast ran on time or not. 

Three recipes in Rumpolt seem to be appropriate to reference, in fulfilling the description of “cold hen boiled in salt with green parsley sauce”. 

11.  Boiled chicken in Cassenadt.  Take the chicken/ and boil it in a water/ and salt it well/ take it out of the broth/ and let become cold/ when you will dress it/ then pour vinegar over it/ and throw green parsley over it/ like this it is a good cold dish.9. Sauce of green parsley made/ with toasted bread and vinegar ground together/ pepper and salt it a little/ so it becomes good and well tasting.17. Take watercress and wash it clean/ then grind on a rubbing stone/ dissolve with wine vinegar/ and stir pepper/ ginger/ and a little Salt/ with it/ like this it is good and well tasting.

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For ease of serving, we started with boneless chicken breasts which could be quickly poached and sliced. 

Notes on the preparation and outcome of this dish:

  • The broth concentrate intended for this dish was inadvertently left at my house, so the chicken was simply poached in salted water (which became chicken broth over successive batches). This still resulted in tasty, moist chicken, and I highly recommend poaching as an under-used technique in feast cookery.
  • This dish received many compliments, even from people who “did not like sauces”.

Second Course: Beef Roast in a Pastry Case with Lemons

In some ways, this was one of the more unusual dishes in this feast – modern diners tend to associate “lemon” or “lemon pepper” flavors with poultry or fish. However, the lemon and pepper blended with the onion and pepper in the pie to form a tasty sauce for the rare beef.

Take a ox loin roast/ put it on and roast it/ and when it is half roasted/ then make it in rye dough/ into a raised pie/ chop lemons/ Onions and bacon together/ put it in the pie with the roast/ put pepper/ ginger/ a few cloves/ and a little salt over it/ close/ and let bake/ pour through the vent a prepared pepper (sauce)/ so it becomes good and well tasting. (See the glossary for lungenbraten)

This was one of the “looser” redactions in the feast, as I made several changes to meet modern needs.

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Notes on the preparation and outcome of this dish:

  • Commercial pie crusts were used rather than a rye dough as specified. The rye dough didn’t add a lot to the flavor, may or may not have been eaten in period, and generally had a higher work-to-benefit ratio than we had time for in this feast.
  • The bacon used was intended to be beef bacon, in deference to guests avoiding pork. Beef bacon adds the salt and fat needed to the dish. However, it inadvertently got left out of the pies, so they were a bit dry. This was the opposite problem as we had in the test-cook, in which we needed to leave out some of the juice from the lemons to avoid having a “swimming” pie.

Second Course: Hungarian Braised Pork with Apples

One of the Rumpolt menus specifies “pork cooked in pepper in the Hungarian style”, but there are no recipes within the book which correspond to that dish. However, there are several dishes which mention being in the “Hungarian” style, all of which include dark sauces, usually specified as pepper sauces. Often these dishes include blood and/or onions, as well. I chose one of these dishes, a capon dish, to base my conjectural “Hungarian Pork” on.

6.  Capon eingemacht black in the Hungarian manner.  Take the capons/ and dismember them/ set it to (the fire) in a water/ and beat?? it well/ clean off/ and take the broth/ that the capons cooked in/ and pour it off again through a sieve/ and cut onions small/ let simmer together/ that the onions are cooked with the capons. Then take the blood from the capons/ pour a good beef broth in it/ that is cold/ and a little vinegar/ also cut apples and onions nicely wide/ and a little rye or white bread/ lay tarragon in it/ and let it simmer together/ strain the blood of the capon/ with the onions/ ≥mix it with ground pepper/ and with cloves/ also with ground cinnamon/ let it quickly simmer together/ that the broth becomes thick/ you can make it sour/ or leave sweet/ as you will have it.

Eingemacht means, roughly, “put up in” or “preserved in”.

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Notes on the preparation and outcome of this dish:

  • The final result of this dish is a sweet and sour braise, reminding many diners of modern BBQ. 

Second Course: Barley with Greens

Of course, with 2 meat dishes, a substantial vegetarian option was needed for this course. My “menu plan” called for rice cooked in milk, but the recipes I found were all sweet, like a rice pudding, which didn’t go with the other dishes very well. Thus another grain dish seemed like an appropriate substitution.

43. Take simmer barley/ that is clean picked over/ add them to a pea broth/ also with fresh unmelted butter and look that you do not over salt it. And when you almost wish to dress it/ then toast fresh well tasting herbs/ that are chopped small/ put them with butter into the Soup/ so it becomes good and well tasting.

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Notes on the preparation and outcome of this dish:

  • This is a fairly straightforward dish. The vegetable broth was omitted, as the concentrate was left (with the chicken broth) at my house.
  • The garlic was not specified in the dish, but improved the taste.
  • I suspect the original recipe was more of a soup with the greens mixed in with the barley as a sort of gruel; my presentation was more of a pilaf topped with greens, which I believe better suited the modern palate.

Second Course: Beets with Horseradish

The other vegetable included in this course was beets with horseradish, another fairly straightforward adaptation of the recipe found in Rumpolt.

Beets eingemacht* with little slices of horseradish/ anise/ coriander/ and a little caraway/ particularly when the beets are cut up/ boiled with half wine and half vinegar.

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Notes on the preparation and outcome of this dish:

  • I was unable to source fresh horseradish, and so we used prepared horseradish in this dish. 
  • We used significantly less vinegar than called for – “half wine and half vinegar” was too acidic, especially given all the “pickled” recipes in the first course.
  • These were tasty, even for those like myself who are not fond of beets – the spices and vinegar cut the “earthy” flavor. However, the combination of red wine and red beets may be the substance most likely to stain hands, clothing, and cookware known to man.

Third Course: Roast Goose

One of my favorite things to do in a feast is to serve at least one item not eaten as an everyday item in the modern day – venison, goat, duck, etc. I feel this adds to the atmosphere. Since the feast was in January, I was able to source frozen geese on sale during the Christmas holidays – while they were still expensive, they were affordable, although they were about 1/6 of the total feast budget. Even then, the meat had to stretch, which is why it was served in the 3rd course after people were mostly full.

1.  To roast a goose/ that is fat. Stick it on a spit/ and set a roasting pan under it/ that the fat runs in it/ take a good sweet milk and egg yolks/ and a little flour put in the milk/ and strain through a hair cloth/ when you have strained it/ then set it on a fire/ and let a boil open (come to a boil)/ stir well/ that it does not burn/ nor coagulate/ or run together / when it has cooked/ then take goose fat/ pour it through a hair cloth/ and put it in the milk/ check/ if it is salted or not/ because the salt comes away from the goose.  When you will dress it/ then pour the milk in a dish/ and lay the roasted goose on it/ and let be carried on a table/ while it is warm/ like this one calls it goose milk.

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Notes on the preparation and outcome of this dish:

  • This was roasted directly on the grill, rather than in pans as I had intended, thus there were no drippings for the sauce. I compensated with extra salt and nutmeg, making something between a white sauce and a thin savory custard.
  • The goose and sauce was served over the spaetzle (see next recipe), again with extra held in the kitchen for vegetarians if requested.

Third Course: Spaetzle

The spaetzle, too, is a somewhat loose interpretation of the recipe from Rumpolt.  “Chop together / until it is small” read to me like chopping of spaetzle dough into a pot; my interpretation put the milk in before chopping rather than after. The butter and salt remain, of course.

74.  Take clean flour/ and two or three eggs/ chop together/ until it is small/ put it in a dish/ and hold towards the fire/ stir around/ until it becomes thick/ stir in boiled milk/ and put butter much there in/ and simmer with it/ salt it/ like this is a good pottage.

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Notes on the preparation and outcome of this dish:

  • I think this was the most popular dish at feast. 
  • For a non-feast quantity of spaetzle, I highly recommend the traditional spatula-and-cutting-board approach to making the noodles, as it improves the texture and is in some ways actually faster than a spaetzle maker. 

Third Course: Lamb with Vegetables

Another expensive meat is “stretched” by inclusion in a vegetable stew and placement in the third course. Rumpolt specified “cabbage and turnips with lamb”, and used turnips with carrots in other dishes, so that addition is justifiable. The addition of the leeks is less plausible / documentable, as they are not mentioned in Rumpolt. However, leeks were available in the area, as they are used in a recipe in Ein buch von guter spise. I also felt they would be more palatable to a modern audience than boiled cabbage.

28.  Boiled lamb feet in Cassenat/ and when one dresses it/ then one pours vinegar and green parsley over it/ especially give it near the salad/ in another dish.  And when one will make many dishes/ the one can also take the feet to bake (or fry)/ and to einmachen*/ be it white or yellow/ or in a  pepper sauce/ in gescharb sauce/ or to einmachen* in a pie warm/ or to prepare in an aspic/ be it yellow or white/ especially when one makes it well clean/ and when it is smoked/ Or singe it over a fire/ then it quickly becomes brown/ then one can use it for various things/ be it for sour/ green or white head cabbage/ for white or yellow roots (turnips or carrots)/ when one browns it in the butter/ then they both become brown/ and is good and well tasting.182. Take turnips (white roots)/ cut them in cubes/ and toast in hot butter/ pour in a beef broth/ that is lightly salted/ set to (the fire)/ and let boil/ that a short broth develops.  You might put mutton with it/ that is boiled? and browned on a grill/ or might give it without meat/ as it is good in various manners.  Or might might let simmer with the turnips/ so it becomes nicely brown/ good and well tasting.

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Notes on the preparation and outcome of this dish:

  • Although I planned to, I did not brown the turnips before placing in the stew, nor did I deglaze the drippings from browning the leeks, as they were browned on a griddle rather than in a pan.
  • The stew was quite tasty, though would be better in smaller batches as it was difficult to keep meat and vegetables evenly distributed for serving. 

Third Course: Lentils

The last vegetarian dish for the course was planned to be lentils. 

126. Cook lentils with a pea broth/ and with good fresh butter/ that  is unmelted/ sweat onions in butter/ and when you are almost ready to dress/ then also put green well tasting herbs/ that chopped small/ under it/ or garlic chopped nicely small in place of the onion/ thus be it with onion or with garlic.

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Notes on the preparation and outcome of this dish:

  • Unfortunately, this dish was not served. I ran out of time for cooking onions and garlic, and especially given the missing vegetable broth, the lentils weren’t very good without their “add-ins”, so I axed the dish at the last minute and moved on to dessert.

Fourth Course: Pears

The dessert courses in Rumpolt were elaborate things, including various fruits, cheeses, nuts, cakes, cookies, and candies. I chose to simplify this tradition by serving only two dishes, a fruit dish and a fritter dish.

For the fruit dish, I wanted to do something more interesting than the fresh fruit often mentioned in the menus. 

22. Take pears/ and peel them/ and cut apart into four pieces/ throw them in hot butter/ and brown them/ put them in a fish kettle/ that is tinned/ also put in anise and a little ground cinnamon/ over it pour sweet wine that has been boiled/ like this you need no sugar in it/ let come to a boil together/ dress it (in dishes)/ and sprinkle it with sugar.

Though pears in wine sauce are a staple of SCA feasts, frying them in butter before putting them in a wine syrup makes a more elegant an interesting dish. 

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Notes on the preparation and outcome of this dish:

  • Due to timing, the pears were placed in the syrup rather than baked or boiled in it.
  • Regardless, the buttered pears pleasantly contrasted with the wine syrup, and were very attractive as the wine only soaked into the pears a few millimeters, so they were still white in the middle when cut into.

Fourth Course: Fritters

When I toured the kitchen before planning the feast, I was quite enthused to find a large deep-fryer, as an entire chapter of Rumpolt was devoted to Krapffen, aka fritters. Unfortunately, this led to the biggest failure of the feast, as the site decided on Thursday afternoon, the day before I was about to start cooking, that the SCA should not use the fryer. 

41. Make a dough with milk/ eggs/ and beautiful white flour/ put a little beer year in it/ and make a good dough/ that is not completely stiff/ and do not over salt it/ set it to the warm/ that it nicely risen/ punch it down on a clean board/ and do little black raisins around it/ make strutzel from it/ throw it in hot butter/ and fry/ like this it will nicely puff up/ give cold or warm on a table/ sprinkle it with sugar/ like this it is a good pastry.

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Notes on the preparation and outcome of this dish:

  • The site suggested we use a tilt kettle rather than the deep fryer to fry the fritters. The tilt kettle was incapable of reaching frying temperature, so we attempted to fry these on the stove. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to get the oil hot before the diners mutinied, so the doughnuts got placed into the still-hot-from-pies ovens and baked, and served as snacks during site cleanup. As bread, they were tasty, but they would have been much better fried.


Overall this was a successful feast, although possibly a bit overambitious for the amount of labor and kitchen space available. Were I to do it again I would do a bit more pre-feast prep work in order to more closely stick to the schedule on site. However, at the time of the feast, my son was only 3 months old, so it was not an option at that time.


My biggest thanks go to Sharon Palmer, known in the Society as Lady Ranvaig, who has translated (as of this writing) nearly the entirety of the Rumpolt manuscript, without which this feast would not have been possible. I’d also like to thank my wonderful staff, as well as my husband who puts up with my occasional cooking sprees.


Celtis, Conradus. Kuchemaistrey. Wagner, 1490,
Marx Rumpolt. Ein New Kochbuch. Translated by Sharon A. Palmer, 1581,
Atlas, Alia, translator. “Ein Buch von Guter Spise.” Medieval Cookery, 1993,
Holloway, JK. “German Medieval Cookery and Cookbooks.” The Gauntlet, no. 1, 2011.

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