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Salsamenta pictavensium: Gastronomy and Medicine in Twelfth-Century England

Gasper, Giles E.M.; Wallis, Faith

Salsamenta pictavensium: Gastronomy and Medicine in Twelfth-Century England Thumbnail


Faith Wallis


This article presents a collection of culinary recipes from a manuscript produced in England from the later twelfth century. The suite of ten recipes for ‘Poitou sauces’ or ‘Poitou relishes’ (salsamenta pictavensium—literally ‘of the Poitevins’) to garnish various kinds of meat, fish and fowl are introduced and analysed, with an appended edition and translation. These are, to date, the oldest extant medieval recipes for such sauces, and in their role as gastronomic enhancements, the earliest surviving medieval culinary recipes. The historical and cultural contexts for the recipes at Durham Cathedral Priory are explored: the nature of the community for whom the recipes were written, its choices of library acquisition, its relationships with the bishopric, and attitudes within the community towards food and medicine in a monastic setting. The Poitevin designation of the sauces is also considered. Above all the article investigates the question of the relationship between gastronomy and medicine in the twelfth century, and seeks to demonstrate that any distinction between medical and culinary recipes suggests a false dichotomy, particularly in the case of salsamenta. The authors argue against the position that medieval cuisine is, in its origins and essence, applied dietetics, and suggest that in the twelfth century salsamenta belonged in the first instance to gastronomy, but were in the process of being appropriated as medicines by the authors of the new literature of therapeutics.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 3, 2016
Online Publication Date Feb 16, 2017
Publication Date Dec 1, 2016
Deposit Date Sep 8, 2016
Publicly Available Date Feb 16, 2019
Journal English Historical Review
Print ISSN 0013-8266
Electronic ISSN 1477-4534
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 131
Issue 553
Pages 1353-1385
Public URL


Accepted Journal Article (660 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in The English historical review following peer review. The version of record Gasper, Giles E. M. & Wallis, Faith (2017). Salsamentium pictavensia: Gastronomy and Medicine in Twelfth-Century England. English Historical Review 131(553): 1353-1385, is available online at:

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