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Sunday, 23 June 2013

An Earlier Cooks' Guild Charter

A baker; Boccaccio, Le Décameron, Flandres, 1432. Bakers had a separate guild - picture just to give the sense of what a medieval food shop looked like.

(This follows on the last post about the London Cooks' Guild.)

The cooks of Paris have a medieval history that is far better recorded than that of the cooks of London. Under Louis IX (St. Louis) of France (r.1226-1270) the cooks of Paris were registered as a royally-chartered guild with control over the cookery trade throughout Paris. The following list of rules comes from the cooks' charter of 1258. This charter was included in the famous Livre des métiers written by Étienne Boileau, in 1268. Boileau was a Provost of Paris under Louis IX and was instrumental in helping Louis achieve his dream of a city marketplace that was subject to finite royal oversight.

Terence Scully included a few extracts from the charter in the conclusion of his masterful The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages (1995), which led me to revisit the original source and translate the remainder of the text (I ended up translating the whole thing).   

The rules contained in this charter are highly formulaic in nature, typical of Middle French legal jargon, and are in keeping with the language and format of the other charters contained in in Boileau's work. The first few outline the path toward mastership and running a medieval Parisian cook shop, while later ordinances outline specific operational prohibitions among other concerns. 

Interestingly, these rules only applied to market cooks; they did not apply to the cooks of the royal household nor to the cooks working in the other large noble residences of Paris. Instead, they were an early attempt at enforcing a craft-wide standard on the public cook shop, food stall, and marketplace cooks of the city. 

One famous element of medieval guild life that is almost wholly absent from this charter is the confraternal or community nature that guilds were famous for fostering among their members. We can see that one ordinance seeks to establish a system of old and infirm maintenance for members of the craft, but there is no mention of the halls, church, masses, feasts,and festivals sponsored by the cooks that medieval guilds would become famous for. These communal elements of the cooks' guild may have (likely did) exist, though the legal focus of this document does not offer such depth of information.

(If anyone notices an error in the translation, I would welcome an alert!)

 Statutes des Oyers, Paris

From: Étienne Boileau, Livre des métiers, 1268 AD.

Original Middle French

-PREMIEREMENT, Que tous ceulx qui vouldront tenir Estal ou Fenestre à vendre Cuisine, sçachent appareiller toutes manières de Viandes communes & prouffitables au Peuple que à eulx appartient à vendre.

-Item, que nulz ne puisse prendre varlet ou dit mestier d'ores en avant s'il n'a este aprentiz ou dit mestier deux ans, ou s'il n'est filz de mestre, et aucune chose sache ou dit mestier; et se le filz du mestre ne sait riens du mestier par quoi il puisse la marchandise exercer, que il [tiegne] à ses despens un des ouvriers du mestier qui en soit expert, jusques à tant que ycelui filz de maistre le sache convenablement exercer, aus diz des maistres du dit mestier. Et se il avient que aucuns des ouvriers du dit mestier face le contraire, il paiera x s. d'amende, c'est à savoir vj s. au Roy, et iiij s. aus maistres du dit mestier pour leur peine.

  -Item, que pour chascun aprentiz qui sera mis ou dit mestier, li mestre chiès qui il sera miz, paiera x s., c'est assavoir vj s. au Roy, et iiij s. aus dit maistres du mestier.

  -Item, que nulz ne puisse avoir que un aprentiz suz peine de x s. d'amende, vj s. au Roy, et iiij s. aus diz maistres.

-Item, que se li aprentilz se rachate, que le mestre de qui il se rachatera ne puisse prendre autre aprentiz, jusques à tant que li termes soit cheuz, que l'aprentiz qui se racheta, estoit aloué, et que bonnes lettres se facent lors du marchié entre les maistres et les aprentiz ou leur amis, suz peine dix s. d'amende, c'est assavoir vj s. au Roy, iiij s. aus maistres.

-Item, que se un maistre a un valet aloué, que un autre maistre ne lui fortraye, reçoive ou aloue jusques à tant que il ait fait son terme, et ce n'est du gré à ycelui à qui il fu aloué, sur paine de x s. d'amende, c'est assavoir vj s. au Roy, et iiij s. aus maistres.

-Item, que nulz ne cuise ou rotisse ouès, ou vel, agniaux, chevraux ou couchons se il ne sont bons, loyaux et souffisans pour manger et pour vendre, et aient bonne mouelle, sur la peine de l'amende de diz solz, vj s. au Roy, et iiij s. aus maistres.
-Item, que nulz ne puisse garder viande cuite jusques au tiers jour pour vendre ne acheter, se elle n'est salée souffisamment, suz les peines dessus dites.

-Item, que nulz ne puisse faire saucisses de nulle char que de porc, et que la char de porc de quelle elles sont faites soit seine, sur peine de la dite amende; et se elles sont autres trouvées , elles seront arse.

-Item, que nulz ne cuise char de buef, de mouton ne de porc, se elle n'est bonne et loial et souffisante à bonne mouelle, sur la peine dessus dite.

-Item, que toutes chars qu'il vendront, soient cuites, salées et appareilliées bien souffisamment; et se celui chiez qui aucune chose sera trouvée des viandes en ait aucun desus dites reprouches, que elles soient condempnées à ardoir, et lui tenuz à paier la dite amende au Roy et aus jurez toute foiz et quantes foiz que aucun y sera repris.

-Item, que nulz du dit mestier ne puisse vendre boudins de sanc, à peine de la dite amende, car c'est périlleuse viande.

-Item, que le tiers des amendes qui seront levées afférans à la portion des maistres du dit mestier, pour les causes dessus dites, soient pour soustenir les povres vieilles gens du dit mestier qui seront decheuz par fait de marchandise ou de vielleuce.

-Item, que se aucune personne est devant estai ou fenestre de cuisinier pour marchander ou achater des dits cuisiniers, que si aucuns des autres cuisiniers l'appelé devant que l'on sait partiz de son gré de Testai ou fenestre, si soit en la peine de v s., iij s. au Roy et ij aus diz maistres.

-Item, que nulz ne blasme la viande à l'autre, se elle est bonne, sur peine de v s. d'amende. 

 Statutes des Oyers, Paris

Translated: Ryan Whibbs

Modern English

-FIRST, concerning all those who seek to hold a stall or window from which to sell cooked food, that all manner of dressed meat should be common and profitable to the people to which it is sold.

-Item, That none seek to take a valet of the said mystery, now or ever, if he is not apprenticed of the said mystery for two years, or if he is not the son of a master and is not learned in the ways of the said mystery; and if he is the son of a master but knows nothing of the mystery of which he is seeking to exercise, he shall [hire?] at his own expense a worker of the said mystery who is expert in the craft, until he is approved by the masters of the said mystery. And if he is found to have none of the workers of the said mystery or to be in contravention, he will pay 10 s. in fine, of that, 6s. to the King and 4 s. to the masters of the mystery for their troubles

-Item, all who shall seek to take an apprentice of the said mystery, that the master [seeking to take the apprentice] will pay 10s. of which 6 s. will go to the king, and 4 s. to the masters of the said mystery

-Item, that no other person may seek to take an apprentice under a fine of 10 s.

-Item, that if an apprentice’s contract is bought by another master, that the master who took the apprentice will not seek to take another apprentice until the end of the bought apprentice's term, such as is allowed, and that the certificates of apprenticeship are to be presented during market times [ie: in public] to the masters, the apprentice, and their family, on pain of 10s…

-Item, that when a master seeks to hire a valet, that the hiring master may not seek to keep or continue employment past the end of the stated term, unless the valet shall agree to be rehired, on pain of 10 s…

-Item, That no one seek to cook or roast geese, neither lamb, kids or piglets unless they are good, loyal, and sufficient for eating and sale, and as well that the marrow is good, on pain of 10 s. …

-Item, That no one hold cooked meat more than three days, neither to sell nor to buy, if it is not sufficiently salted, upon the said fine.

-Item, that no one may seek to make sausages of anything but pork, and that the pork which is used is healthy, upon the said pain, and if other [meats] are found, they are [to be confiscated?]

-Item, that no one seek to roast beef, mutton, or pork unless it is good, hearty, and sufficient and with good marrow, on the said pain

-Item, that all meats that are sold are well cooked, salted, and dressed well and sufficiently; and if he is found to have [other] meats upon inspection and is without answer to the said reproaches, the food items will be condemned to being burned and he will be held liable to pay the said fine to the king and jury…

-Item, That none of the said masters seek to sell blood sausages, on pain of forfeiture, for they are a dangerous dish.

-Item, that one-third of the portion of fines that are levied and paid to the masters of the said mystery, for the infractions stated above, shall be used to sustain the poor and elderly men of the said mystery who are retired or infirm.
-Item, that if a person is before the stall or window of a cook in order to buy food, and if another of the cooks calls out before the customer has departed the stall or window, the fine of 5 s. will be assessed, of which 3 s. will go to the king, and 2 s. to the said masters.

-Item, that no one seek to defame the meat of another, if it is good, upon the fine of 5 s.

Attribution: Anon. “L’Ordonnance des Cuisiniers-Oyers” [32 Louis IX, 1258]. Le livre des métiers d'Étienne Boileau.Ed. René de Lespinasse et François Bonnardot. Trans. Ryan Whibbs (Paris: Impr. Nationale, 1879) 145-147. <>.
 By: Ryan Whibbs

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