Francois Rabelais (ca. 1494/99- 1553), of gargantuan – and Gargantua – fame, respected the egg as any lover of gastronomy should. According to Timothy Tomasik, the celebrated writer refers to eight dishes featuring the egg prepared in various and, indeed, inventive, ways: frying, steaming, dragging through ashes, jumbled, and thrown down a chimney!
Bartolomeo Scappi, author of the renowned 16th century cookbook,L’arte et prudenza d’un maestro cuoco and a master cook who had conjured marvelous meals for the likes of Cardinal Du Bellay, Cardinal Cornaro, Cardinal da Carpi, and other members of the Vatican elite, offers some 20 egg dishes for “lean” days. Herbs count here, for some eggs are given flavor by the addition of rosemary, others with rosewater and sugar. Utensils are also of interest.
Here’s an example as taken from The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570), Terence Scully, translator and commentary (University of Toronto Press, 2008), p. 379 (recipe # 282):
To Poach Eggs on a Shovel
Heat up a shovel and when it is very hot grease it with pork rind and smear it with white wax or else with oil, and immediately break the eggs onto it. Cook them with another shovel over top, or else in the heat of the fire. Serve them with salt, sugar and orange juice on them. For lazy people the eggs can also be broken onto the embers.
Perhaps I should have tried Scappi’s recipe rather than Maestro Martino’s Neapolitan Rustic Torte, a savory pie that called for 6 eggs. It was less than “pretty” and my taste testers judged it unsatisfactory in terms of texture and ‘weird’ with respect to taste. Reflecting the recipe’s basis in 15th century cookery, one said it actually tasted like something medieval… not a stellar commendation!
Since we were in the experimental mode, we performed another ‘test’, this one involving wine and a blender. In a blind tasting of the same wine – one glass filled with juice poured directly from the bottle, the other having been poured from bottle to blender (briefly whirled about) and then poured into a glass – the aerated wine won hands down! Good to know!