JF Ptak Science Books Post 1690
I was looking for an antique recipe for pesto and came across this remarkable book by Salvatore Massonio, Archidipno overo dell'insalata e dell'vso di essa, published in Venice by Marc'Antonio Brogiollo in 1627. It is in short a philosophical cookbook for salads—and the first of its kind dedicated solely, devoted entirely, to the salad. It must have been a revolutionary publication, and probably intended for the very wealthy, given that the vast majority of people in Europe didn't have money for a book, and many couldn't read, and lettuce and its makings were outside the standard diet for the working poor. The book is no slim effort: 68 chapter and 425 pages long, it describes the stuff of the salad and its dressing. Unfortunately there are no illustrations, no images on presentation--not even the new chapter capital letters are designed in a food motif. Nothing. (The full text is available here.)
Actually salad wasn’t limited to just greens in this book, and his quasi-vegetarian sentiment was tested by including cold salted meats, cold salted tongue, livers and such in the mix. But Massonio was definitely far ahead of anyone else at the time dealing with the benefits of the salad for both health reasons, as well as for making the salad not a meal in itself but an appetizer for something larger to come. In another great possible “first”, the wonderful Massonio seems to be the first to describe the use of garlic in a sauce.
Now. About that pesto recipe…all I need is some stuff from Italy and a special-marble mortar and I’ll be somewhat on my way, at least as the purists are concerned. The birthplace of pesto, Liguria, takes its position as the originator of the great green delicacy very seriously, legislating exactly how and with what peso should be made. And that is as it should be. Maybe I'll just buy the pesto...
(Robbing Peter website has taken a translation of the cucumber salad from Massonio and created it here--looks pretty good.)