Supportive Research Books

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Sooooo….at Pennsic, I was shopping at the book tent.  Three times in an hour.  My shopping buddy, was busy getting a belt to fit himself and took over an hour.  That meant “Hey I’m going to check out the books while you get your belt.” “Cool, see you in a few.”.  20 minutes later and $80, I go in search of said companion.  “Oh, it’ll be another 20 minutes.  The belt is being tailored for me while I wait.” “Ok, I had a couple of other books I had my eye on…I’ll be right back!”.  20 minutes and another $45, I again go in search of my friend. “It’ll be another 15 minutes.” “Omg!!  I can not go back to the book tent! I’m going to spend EVERYTHING on books if I do!!!”  So I spent the next 20 minutes, in withdrawals trying NOT to go back to the the book tent for another 3 books I had my eye on.  White knuckled chewing commenced.

The upside to the second round of shopping is that I indulged in a very secret guilty pleasure.  I bought a book that brings to life the foods from A Game of Thrones.  C. Monroe-Cassel and S. Lehrer, in their book A Feast of Ice & Fire, do a fantastic job of bringing most of the foods described by George Martin to life.

A view of the book

A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Companion Cookbook

I know I know!  I can hear you now going “That is soooo not period!”.  Weeeell yes and no.  George Martin states he is not a foodie, couldn’t cook if his life depended on it.  The fine ladies who do the book though are cooks.  And they do a very nice job in period research for most of the recipes, tying the food described to both period recipes and to modern recipes.  So for each recipe, a reader gets the period recipe and a modern equivalent.

Now the part I don’t like about this book is that the period translation is in the original language, either old English (which I can handle) or the original Latin/German with out an English translation (which I do NOT like).  Each recipe also has the corresponding period book/information per recipe.  Very nice!  I disappointed that the ladies who do this book did not look into the Middle Eastern recipes for some of the Dorne recipes.  But that is a very small issue over all.

This book is probably one of the best I have come across for people new to period cooking and who want to start by dipping their toes into the warm saucy ocean of period goodness. An A+ for cooking and a B- for period recipe listing (only because I wanted to read the original German recipes in English).   If unsure, if cooking is right for you, this is THE book to start with.  Great recipes, easy to play with the redactions (you do not have to follow their measurements at all) and beautiful presentation.



This is a bit of a rambling prelude for a really neat book.

I have a friend who believes that meat appears mysteriously in the store wrapped in plastic.  She’s only half joking.  She doesn’t want to know that the adorable chick you see in commercials or on Easter, will turn up in parts or in whole on the dinner table once full grown.  Those cows in the field are pets, they are not “A feast on hoof”.  Or leather armor on hoof, or a BBQ waiting to happen.  Nope the animals on TV and in the fields are well kept beloved pets.  I had to laugh.

In reality though, today’s meat eater is rather more spoiled then in previous years.  Our grandparents grew up eating the non “prime” meats such as tongue.  I remember when my grandmother would make tongue for tongue sandwiches.  I always thought they went better with may/horseradish spread then ketchup myself.

Period wise, meat was a luxury.   Meat was expensive.  Several Roman physicians thought that vegetarianism was the way to go and extolled on the virtues of a non meat diet.  This is noted in the book Around the Roman table by P. Faas.  Medieval Middle Eastern diets and cooking vegetarianism wasn’t really an option.  In the research done in Medieval Arab Cookery, there is a notation that meat was a gift from Allah.  Meat was just as expensive in the Medieval Middle East as any where else yet eating vegetables was not a mindset by either royalty, physicians or even the lower class.  So meat, no matter what part, was considered a blessing.

I picked up a book the other week called “Odd Bits; How to cook the rest of the Animal“, by McLagan.

The book offers great choices on how to select the various weird things from brain, to tongue and trotters.  How to look for the freshest kidneys for kidney pie or grilled kidneys.  The book gives cooking times for intestine as well as the 3 or 4 different type of intestines.  How to use pig ears and utters.  This is a extremely useful when doing any of the period cooking.

The choicest cuts of meat from a cow, pig or even the chicken use to be reserved for nobility.  They were the ones who could afford these parts.  Every one else who had spare coin or trade made due with the less then choice bits.  From these parts came both flavor and protein.  So when looking at a recipe do more then see pork loin or steaks, check and see what else might have been used or search out for those really odd recipes that we overlook as being to “different”.


This is a listing of books that I think are great supporting research books for food.  Now what I mean by this is the history of some of the basic food items i.e. banana’s, chicken, olives.  Items we don’t really think much of yet consume vast quantities of.  These books give great documentation on such things as the different types of pears that were available to Romans, or Apricots from Armenia.

History of Food. Toussaint- Samat: This book is a must have.  Great references with fun little tidbits thrown in.  I really like this book.  It is one of my go to for information concerning an ingredient.

75 Exciting Vegetables for your Garden.

75 Remarkable Fruits for your Garden.

75 Exceptional Herbs for your Garden.

These three books were written by Staub.  Easily found on and definitly fun useful information present in short bites.  When first perusing these books I had a hard time not turning my entire back yard into a historical garden with the non standard every day plants found in Rome, Persia, Armenia and China.