The Science of Cooking

So, how did this happen? Therein lies the story…

A while ago, the famed scholar and storyteller Duke Cariadoc of the Bow was traveling through the far-off lands of Hungary in his mundane disguise. And while there, he had the genius inspiration to ask at a local University “Hey, are there any medieval Hungarian recipe manuscripts?” And they said “Yes!” They pointed him at a website ( with a bunch of scanned older books on it, and voila! It was a scan of a book, written in 1893, with a transcription of “The Science of Cooking”, a cookbook written in the late 1500’s by the master Chef of the Prince of the Court of Transylvania (Transylvania being one of the principalities of Hungary). Nearly 600 recipes! And further, the book also had a list of the Court’s menus from the year 1603–yes, just barely post-SCA-period, but damned useful still.

So our hero, Duke Cariadoc brought this information back, and posted it to the SCA-Cooks email list. And lo, we did all bemoan the fact that none of us read Hungarian. Google Translate gave us some intriguing menu titles …The Name of the Veal is Veal, Trout Doughnuts, and the fascinating Grim Reaper Cow Beef Juice to name a few. But Google Translate puts the idiot into idiot savant, and you just can’t trust it with recipes. Alas.

And that’s where I came in. I don’t speak or read Hungarian. I’m way too busy (read:lazy) to learn, and anyway there are other languages in my learning queue already. And I was running around town doing errands.

So it hit me on my way around town. What would it take to GET it translated? Surely there were professional translators I could find online. How much would it cost? The initial searches were a little grim…15 cents a word adds up fast. But then Mercy Newmark steered me to another website, and I found a MUCH better deal, from a bilingual professional freelance translator who quoted me a much better price. About $1500 for the whole thing. Which was great but … I’m a petty county bureaucrat, and there was no way I could pull that much money together in a reasonable amount of time.

I mentioned it on my wall on Facebook, and in just a few of the local-ish medieval/SCA cooking groups I’m part of.

Fifty hours and twenty eight minutes later, I had commitments for the funds for it all. With more people wanting to jump in after that. No stretch goals. No special prizes for contributors. Just the idea that it would be done and made available to the medieval cooking community for use by everyone who wanted it. So here it is.

I have to thank the people who made this possible (in no particular order): Kat Griffith, Angus, Gwendwyn the Silent, Heidi Woordhuis, Mercy Newmark, Kathleen Madsen, Sue&Balin&Balthazar, Tracy Jonson, Donna Green-Tye, Annora/Bjarni, Leslie Schweitzer, David Friedman, Rhonda Wise, Paul Morris, Siranna of Hawthorne Hall, Amanda Ackerman, Mozelle Williams, Danae Fesler, John Gower, Pam Gorsuch, Monica Stroud, Wulfric of Creigull, Keri Geppert, Da’ud ibn Ali/Moira of Kent, Master Eduardo, Kenneth Colwell, Aurelia

You all are a great credit to this shared insane hobby of ours.

Bence, who was our wondrous translator. Five stars all the way for keeping the flavor of the original.

And of course, my lovely Lady wife Lori of Rivenoak, who didn’t even sigh and shake her head at me. Even though I deserved it.

David, Marti, and Julia–three fellow SCA Cooks met along the Internet-road who actually can -read- Hungarian, and while they never would have had the time to translate the whole thing, are quite happy to error-check, using some of their most excellent resources!

These translations, then, are a work in progress. I’ve now included a version number so you can see if you have the most up-to-date version. Right now, that’s VERSION 1.04, in which we changed the names of some spices and ingredients, updated the formatting a bit, and worked out a bit what the original actually MEANT in a few cases.

The recipes:

The menus listings:

Enjoy, and let’s see some redactions, people!
Gwyn Chwith ap Llyr
(Glenn Gorsuch)

Legaloid note: Recipes may be reproduced or reprinted as long as it is accompanied by a credit line giving the source, and crediting the original source. Any recipe quoted must be quoted in full, with no changes, deletions, or additions. Please be mindful of copyright issues.

Updated: 10/19/2017 Version 2.0

Some notes to make your redactions easier:

Hungarian bacon is a very high-fat, low meat product, usually smoked or otherwise partially cooked, much fattier than American bacon, with the rind usually left on. If you have a Hungarian/eastern European grocery nearby, look for “salo”.

Paste. pastry, and pasta are all the same word in Hungarian.

Likewise, to bake or to fry are the same word. Check your context!

Clean, as in “clean pepper” seems to refer to pure, or unadulterated.

Break is meant to usually mean chop or mince.

More as we figure it out!