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Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Brigade de Cuisine III:
The Queen's Kitchen in 
Thirteenth-Century France
(From the Ordinance de l'hôtel du roi of 1286)

   In our quest to learn more about the origins of the brigade de cuisine we have begun examining the kitchen operations of the French royal household. In Brigade de Cuisine I we examined the brigade of the royal kitchens under Philip IV (r.1285-1314), while in Brigade de Cuisine II we examined the function of the royal bakeries and the role of the grand panetier. Our primary sources, the medieval Ordonnances de l'hôtel du roi, include  numerous ordinances created to regulate the number and composition of staff working in the household. 

   Although it may seem that we have covered the medieval French royal brigade to its finality, there is, in fact, more to the late medieval royal French kitchens. In particular, we have yet to examine the foodservice departments of the French queens; usually separate from the king's kitchen (cuisine de bouche) and the household kitchen (cuisine de commun) after the late thirteenth century. The ordinance of 1286 outlines the household of Philip's queen, Joan I of Navarre. Like most French queens after her, Queen Joan maintained her own household complete with bakery, drink servers, kitchen, fruit kitchen. 

- Gombaus  
- 2 valets
- 1 porte chape
- 1 oubloier
- La lavendiere des napes

- 2 somelliers
- 2 valets
- 1 boutier

- 2 keus
- 2 aideur
- 2 hasteurs
- 2 paiges
- 1 saussier
- porters

- 1 fruitier
- 1 valet
Bakery and Bread Servers
- Gombaus 
- 2 helpers
- 1 pastry cook
- 1 wafer maker
- Laundress of napkins

Drink Servers
- 2 somelliers
- 2 valets
- 1 cellarer

- 2 cooks
- 2 helpers
- 2 roast cooks
- 2 helpers
- 1 saucier
- porters

Fruit kitchen
- 1 fruitier
- 1 helper

   Like the paneterie of the household, the queen's bakery was staffed by about six individuals. Joan's chief baker was actually named in the ordinance: Gombaus. Assisting Gombas were two baker's assistants, a pastry cook, a wafer maker, and one laundress (bread was wrapped in napkins for service with the laundress overseeing cleaning of the napkins). The primary duty of the queen's bakery was to prepare bread for the queen each day, bread for the queen's household, and also sweet wafers and likely Eucharistic wafers for masses. Since the queen's household was smaller than the king's, fewer workers were needed for baking. 

   After the bakery was the buttery or drink service department ("eschançonnerie"), staffed with two overseers, two helpers, and one cellarer. Together, these five workers ensured that appropriate quantities of wine were drawn from butts in the cellar, that the wine was transported to the hall without adulteration, and that it was portioned and served in manageable quantities for all of the queen's staff and guests. 

   The queen's kitchen, itself, mirrored the king's on a smaller scale. Two cooks oversaw two roast cooks, one saucier, four assistants, and the porters, or guards, of the kitchen. Together, these workers laboured in the queen's kitchen to prepare all major elements of meals including roasts, sauces, and also likely stews and soups. 

   Finally, the queen's kitchen was assisted in its preparations by the fruit kitchen. Here, two workers laboured to prepare fruits for desserts at dinner and supper time, and may also have been engaged in preparation of minor elements of the meal (possibly vegetable prep and such). 

   Overall, in the Brigade de Cuisine I, II, III we can finally get a basic sense of how kitchen workers were arranged in order to feed the French royal household. Cookery was complex and so, too, were the hierarchies of workers that saw to its production. Not only was there a brigade de cuisine long before Escoffier, but it was essentially as diverse as many of the large hotel brigades of today. While the brigade may have been useful in the bureaucracy of the grand hotels of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it was also extremely useful for the seven preceding centuries of aristocratic preeminence in Europe. 

By: Ryan Whibbs  

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