Viandier, known as the “Manuscript of Sion”.
The first medieval cooking treatises date back to the end of the 13th century and the beginning of the 14th century. The most famous - and the most copied in the Middle Ages - is undoubtedly the Viandier, attributed to the master chef of the kings of France Charles V and Charles VI, Guillaume Tirel known as Taillevent (around 1310-1395). This scroll is the oldest known copy of this text.
Medieval culinary treatises are mostly anonymous; in the rare cases where the author is named, he is almost always a cook in the service of a great prince or prelate. The text of the Viandier mentions a certain Taillevent which was identified with Guillaume Tirel at the end of the Middle Ages, so great was his fame.
But the rediscovery of this scroll of parchment in 1953 invalidated this data since it predates the birth of Guillaume Tirel. It is indeed common in the Middle Ages for anonymous culinary treatises to be attributed to famous chefs.
This text is a collection of 133 recipes, 116 of which are based on meat or fish; this omnipresence of meat products, as well as the high spice content of the dishes described (cinnamon, pepper, cumin, cloves, saffron, nutmeg...) definitely places this treaty at the heart of aristocratic gastronomy. The parchment measures 13.3 centimetres by nearly 2 metres length. It was therefore easy to roll it out on both sides and select only the desired recipe.
This parchment roll, generously lent by the Médiathèque du Valais, is on display at the Château de Chillon™ from 14 September 2018 to 28 April 2019 as part of the temporary exhibition Water in your mouth – Drinking and eating in the Middle Ages.
Latter half of the 13th century
Médiathèque du Valais, Sion