For those of you who know us or follow us on Facebook, you know we have a bit of a, shall we say, obsession, for naming objects. Theodore, the wooden rooster, is perhaps our most well-known example of anthropomorphism, however, this thread runs deep. I think you will find, in most restaurant settings, staff members have deep connections with different objects: chefs have a favorite knife, servers may have a particular pair of shoes they love, bartenders have a favorite corkscrew or bottle opener.
This brings me to the newest member of our kitchen staff at Ellie’s – Vivian. Vivian is our new oven. The name Vivian is derived from The Vivendier. The Vivendier is a cookbook from northern France written around the year 1450. Though there are surviving manuscripts of other medieval French cookbooks, The Vivendier is thought to be unique for the times in the generous use of butter and milk. Incidentally, we are pretty fond of butter, too.
Beyond the use of butter and milk, there are several recipes in The Vivendier that have yet to be found in other medieval cookbooks; wild hare basted in goose grease is one example. Here is a recipe for snails taken from the Gode Cookery website: (editor’s note: we cannot vouch for the tastiness of this recipe).
Original recipe from Un Vivendier: Snails, on any good meat, piglet or other. The meat is cut up into chunks and cooked in good bouillon, then set to dry on a clean cloth. Get white bread crumbs tempered in verjuice, and egg yolks, everything strained, saffron, ginger, cloves, grains of paradise and long pepper, distempered with wine and vinegar. Boil everything together. Set out your meat in platters, pour the sauce on top.
Source: Scully, Terence. The Vivendier. Devon: Prospect Books, 1997.
While we may not be using any of the recipes from this antique cookbook, we do appreciate some of the ideas held within it. Among the recipes in this book are offerings of medicinal and botanical tips and suggestions. We believe that good, wholesome food and drink is beneficial to our health and our spirit. The medicinal qualities of vegetables, herbs, and spices are documented in folklore (think chicken soup or eating honey to ward off seasonal allergies) and in scientific studies (spinach as an anti-inflammatory or garlic to reduce the risk of heart disease).
We will be here, with Vivian, working on new recipes and refining old favorites. While we probably will not be consulting The Vivendier for recipes, we will continue to honor the history and idea of good food as an important part of life.