A Dutch translation of Bartolomeo Scappi’s Opera (1612)

Earlier we used the word “evangelizing” in connection with the Koocboec. Magirus uses a propagandist tone throughout his book, defending good food but at the same time warning against intemperate feasting and drinking. He is the first Dutch and one of the very first European cookery authors to consistently and often use the first person, something he has in common with François Pierre de la Varenne (ca. 1615-1678), cook of the Marquis d’Uxelles, Marshall of France under Louis XIV, who was the first French author of a cookery-book to use the first person (albeit only in nine places). La Varenne’s famous Le Cuisinier François (1651) “stands out for the unity of its style and the tone adopted by its author”1. The Koocboec, which, as you will remember, was printed almost forty years earlier, has a comparable unity of style and tone. Similar to La Varenne, Magirus makes “frequent references from one recipe to another, often between recipes separated by many pages”. This indeed indicates “that the text was conceived as a whole”2. For that matter, one could very well argue that Scappi with his Opera fulfils the same criteria for what constitutes a programmatic cookery-book even more years before La Varenne.
We are not implicating that Magirus is the Dutch La Varenne. Magirus was probably not a professional cook. In any case, he copied most of his recipes from a professional court cook, Scappi, and probably also from other sources. Most if not all recipes in his book are therefore not of his own invention. But he is a knowledgeable culinary author, who often implies he has personally prepared the dishes he is describing.
The importance of Magirus precisely lies on the evangelizing front. He aims to convince his bourgeois and admittedly female readership to try something new in their kitchens. He tells them that they do not need expensive equipment and ingredients to cook delicious meals, especially not in difficult, post-war times3. He also warns them not to let their servants convince them that the recipes in his book are too difficult to prepare4. He further instructs them not to take his recipes too literally:

“If you find it too sour to your taste, make it sweeter. If you do not like the cheese, choose another or omit it. Do you prefer sweet spices rather than hot, I do not care. If your pan is too small, use small utensils.”5

  1. Hyman, Philip en Mary [1996] “Printing the Kitchen. French Cookery-books, 1480-1800”, in Flandrin, Jean-Louis en Montanari, Massimo [1996] Food: A Culinary History from Antiquity to the Present. English Edition by Albert Sonnenfeld. London: Penguin Books, 2000, 396. Translation of Histoire de l’Alimentation. Paris: Fayard, 1996. []
  2. Ibid. []
  3. Magirus (1612: 5r-5v). []
  4. Ibid. []
  5. “Ist u te suer, maeckt het soeter: moocht ghy van dien kese niet, neemt eenen anderen, laettender ooc wt: eet gy liever soete specerije als heete, ick ben ooc wel te vreden: is u panneken cleyn, stoffeert het met cleyn gereeschap.” Ibid. []

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