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The Use of Spices in Middle High German Cooking Recipes

The use of spices in general and the amount of spices used in particular has been discussed comprehensively over a long period of time but the topic still holds enough potential for heated discussions. Some of the many dated conclusions – the myth that spices are used to freshen up spoiled meat, for instance – have at least been permanently rejected but there is a vast amount of open questions like: What defines a ‘spice’ in medieval times? Why are spices used? Which spices are used and are some spices used more than others or are certain spices used for particular purposes? There are a lot of general theses on their use (Baufeld, Bober, Hirschfelder, van Winter, Weiss-Adamson, Wiswe, etc.) but none of those seem to consider individual circumstances and clues on a textual level – facts that can be of great importance for an overall discussion! Most of the newer editions of MHG recipe collections (Ehlert, et al) do reflect on the cultural historical background of the specific texts and provide statistical analyses of the spices in use but these findings all turn out to be too specific to yield much potential for a more general (but still detailed) explanation model.

In my paper I want to specifically analyze the context in which spices are used and find out if my findings conform to existing theses. I base my findings on a broad corpus of recipe collections and my analysis is conducted rather on a semantic than a linguistic level!

PDF for downloading (Language = German): Helmut W. Klug: Zur Verwendung von Gewürzen in mittelalterlichen Kochrezpten

The paper will be published in 2011 in an anthology based on the PhD seminar “Binarität und Skalarität als kulturelle Ordnungsmuster – Kategorien und Typologien in den Kulturwissenschaften“ held by Wernfried Hofmeister, Bettina Rabelhofer und Klaus Rieser in the summer semester of 2010 at the Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz.

The paper will be published in Medium Aevum Quotidianum.