The Bishops’ of Warmia cuisine – the season for off-topics

I am translating a very interesting book at present. But as I am a champion in search of alternative topics, here is what I found browsing through my notes…

The cuisine of Warmia bishops’

Warmia was Poland’s unique bishopric, one of three richest in the Polish kingdom. As such it also had it’s own court. Bishops’ court. Between the 14th and 18th century the Bishops of Warmia also bore the title of the  prince. It was not a hereditary title, but still it gave the splendor to the family of the bishop.  The bishop was usually elected from among the capitular canons. And throughout the history (until the partitions) this little Bishops’ State could and was able to keep relative independence.

Today Warmia region is rich in quite a  number of reminders of the glorious past.  Among them are the  historical buildings that survived the 1945 (mostly monumental churches). But among the most of all are: the wonderful castle in Lidzbark WarmińskiSmolajny palace, and the Cathedral Hill in Frombork.

As mentioned above, the bishops held courts. Sometimes they were quite numerous, like the court of Bishop Martin Kromer, which had 123 members, others hald  smaller courts, but still demanding. By stating “demanding” I mean – there seldom were days without a guest… So the court had to provide visitors with proper welcome and board. The cooks held at the court were among the best of their times. And we have documents saying how the bishops recruited their cooks.

As for the cuisine – it was a very rich one, and often compared to the cuisine of the richest.

Meals were served twice a day, and the court was seated at eleven tables. At the first one – placed on the dais – sat the bishop. Then were the tables at which ate the courtiers, guests, officials, all according to the certain order which was specified in the Ordinatia Castri (Castle Regulations).

What was eaten then?

According to Stanisław Achremczyk (Polish historian, professor at the Warmia-Mazury University) – there was a variety of fish dishes: salmon, cod, herring, eel, pike, tench, Dutch herrings. They were grilled, boiled, fried, marinated, smoked. We can read about grilled salmon, carp cooked in wine with nutmeg.

Also oysters from the North Sea were often eaten.

Foreign guests were served venison, pheasant, geese, caviar…

A variety of sauces were used to accompany meat and fish dishes. There was a yellow sauce (whatever it was), white sauce with cream, gray with garlic and onions, black with jam, or the so called red sauce – made on the basis of cherry juice, and also the horseradish sauce…

As for the vegetables – pickled cucumbers were eaten, fresh ones too. Cabbage, cauliflowers, asparagus and lettuce were eaten very gladly. Potatoes became very much welcome. Of course bread was served also. It was baked mostly in Lidzbark, and Olsztyn.

Oil for cooking was supplied by one of Gdansk merchants. It was imported from Provence. Mustard was imported from England, and cheese – from France. Fruits such as pears, plums, apples, and wild strawberries, raspberries, etc were also wery fondly eaten.

Best wines and beer were served, also different kinds of confectionery.

In the 17th century Warmia adopted the habit of drinking coffee, hot chocolate and tea. Coffee was drunk black, or with milk, cream and alcohol. Therefore new tableware needed be purchased.

Indeed, amazing how many off-topics can be found during work 😉

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