Chris's Renaissance Recipes
by Chris

I love to cook, so when my class studied the Renaissance, I specialized in Renaissance food.

Renaissance food was nothing like what I expected. For one thing, it was missing many key ingredients! 

The Columbian Exchange: A lot of the food that we take for granted wasn't known to the Europeans until after the Columbian Exchange.  Can you imagine pizza without tomato sauce? What about dessert with no chocolate? That's what you'd find before the Columbian Exchange -- the exchange of food and ideas between the Old and New Worlds.
Old World Foods New World Foods
Old World Foods
New World Foods
PizzaHistory of pizza
This is definitely more legend than history!

Pizza is from Naples, a city in southern Italy. There are many theories about the origin of pizza bread-that originated in Egypt, Greece, or Rome-but the story gets interesting when we reach the topic of pizza toppings.

Tomato is a New World food, and the Europeans thought it was poisonous. One reason is because many would eat the tomato off their pottery, and their pottery had lead in it. (Maybe the acid from the tomato releases some of the lead out of the pottery.) So for a long time, pizza was just a plain flatbread-- sort of like focaccia. Later, people figured out that you could put tomato on things like pizza and it wouldn't have lead in it, so it wouldn't be poisonous.

Queen Margherita visited Naples and asked for pizza. The cook dressed it up with some tomato, mozzarella cheese, and a little bit of basil. (Red, white, green-colors of the Italian flag!) Queen Margherita loved this pizza so much that it was named after her. Now, you can go to any Neapolitan pizzeria and order a Pizza Margherita--pizza fit for a queen!

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PeasRenaissance peas

I made this for my friends and told them about how Renaissance sailors spread peas on the decks of their ships so that attackers would slip around on the peas and have a harder time attacking. What I wonder is, wouldn't the good guys slip around, too?

What you need:

  • 2 lbs. frozen or fresh shelled peas
  • 2-3 small onions, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt & sugar to taste
  • Pinch of saffron (optional)

How to make it:

  1. Bring the onions and peas to a boil.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and return to boil.
  3. Lower the heat slightly and cook until everything is tender.
  4. Drain & serve.
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Sausage Dish"A Dish from Sausage or Tongue"

This is a traditional favorite from Renaissance times.  I recommend sausage!

What you need:

  • 2-3 lbs. sausage
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley - fresh
  • 1 teaspoon chopped mint - fresh
  • 2 teaspoons chopped sage - fresh
  • Spices - salt & pepper; use to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Vinegar - red wine, white wine, or cider

How to make it:

  1. If using uncooked sausage: boil in water until done. Remove & drain well.
  2. If using cooked sausage: just continue with this recipe.
  3. Chop the sausage and combine it with the freshly chopped herbs.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a skillet, then gently saut´┐Ż (cook at a low heat in the oil) the meat and herb mixture until the meat has warmed and the herbs have become aromatic.
  5. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  6. Place in a serving dish and pour a little vinegar over top; serve. Note: I usually skip the vinegar!!
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GingerbreadRenaissance Gingerbread

This gingerbread is not like modern gingerbread-it's more like candy.

What you need:

  • 4 cups honey
  • 1 lb. unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon each ginger & cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • Pinch of saffron (optional)
  • Red food coloring (optional)

How to make it:

  1. Bring the honey to a boil and skim off any thickness at the top.
  2. Keeping the pan over very low heat, stir in the breadcrumbs and spices. Add a little red food coloring if desired.
  3. When it is thick and well-blended (add more bread crumbs if necessary), remove from heat & let cool slightly.
  4. Lay out on a flat surface and press firmly into an evenly shaped square or rectangle, about 3/4 of an inch thick.
  5. Let cool, then cut into small squares to serve.

Note: if you don't feel like flattening the dough and cutting it into squares, you could roll the dough into little balls.

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