Hispanic Studies

Carolyn Nadeau - Cooking with Spanish Kings

Supported by a research grant, Byron S. Tucci Professor of Hispanic Studies Carolyn Nadeau is preparing and sampling nearly 500 recipes that were once enjoyed by the Spanish monarchy. 

Hear her talk more about this work; a transcript follows.

Carolyn:  I came out of graduate school studying 16th and 17th century Spanish literature and I wrote my dissertation on Don Quixote on The Women of the Prologue. So that was a fun project to do. ...But I kept coming back to food representational literature....My project I'm currently working on is a critical edition and

translation of a 1611 cookbook. That cookbook has 502 recipes in it and so everyday I'm translating and doing editorial comments on those. I'm on leave right now, so I can focus on this exclusively, and then on Fridays I go into the kitchen and I try and recreate some of these and so, I was just telling a friend I had a little stumbling block over the weekend on one of the recipes and trying to figure it out. But it's, it's fun and exciting and I bring friends in to taste test and so it's, it's been a great project so far.

Interviewer: How far are you in the 502?

Carolyn: I've done maybe two dozen. Just starting.

Interviewer: What are the units of measuring in that?

Carolyn: Well, that's an excellent question because there really are none. His most common unit of measure is “a little bit of” or “some.”  But sometimes you'll have quantities of a certain amount of eggs or, of course, when you're dealing with a cut of meat. You know you have that specific cut of meat. But in terms of “a cup of this” or “a teaspoon of that.” No. You don't have that at all. And he uses a very specific spice mix. The flavors are nutmeg, clove, saffron, ginger, and black pepper. And so I've been experimenting with measurements to try and get the perfect spice mix because, as I quickly learned, clove dominates. You know, so I'm reducing that in terms of. And black pepper, there's a lot more I think. So I'm working out that spice mix. But he uses that spice mix in a lot of recipes. It's kind of important to get that mix right.

Interviewer:  Maybe clove was a trendy spice. I don't know if you remember, but in the 80s basil was in every single dish in every restaurant.

Carolyn: Yes! And there was a [taragon] trend. Yeah. I will never really know. You know, because there's no one that's going to go, “Now that's right!” No, that's not. How do we know what the tastes were four hundred years ago?

Interviewer: And I'm sure there were even other cooks who, at the time, his competitors, who said, “No, he's crazy with the black pepper. He's totally out of control.”

Carolyn: That's right, yeah.

Interviewer: But the one who writes the book wins. Long term.

Carolyn: Yeah, and actually his book was. So it was published in 1611 and nothing came along until 1740 after his cookbook, so it really was the definitive cookbook for over 100 years.