The recipes, which include both food and medical ointment concoctions, were compiled and written in Latin. Someone jotted them down at Durham Cathedral’s monastery in the year 1140.
It was essentially a health book, so the meals were meant to improve a person’s health or to cure certain afflictions. The other earliest known such recipes dated to 1290.
There really was no distinction between food and medicine in the thirteenth century, or for several centuries thereafter; every food was thought to have properties that affected health. So even the recipe for “hen in winter,” which a researcher says is just a seasonal formula relying on herbs available in cold weather, looks to me like a preventative for colds and flu: “Heat garlic, pepper and sage with water.”
For an explanation, I’m going to excerpt from a talk I gave last year on “Herbs for Meate and Medicine”: More →