One of the most interesting sights of the Loire valley between Angers and Tours, is the massive kitchen of Fontevraud, the famous 900 year old Royal Abbey, built of pale tuffaut and set amongst pictureque gardens of herbs, medicinal plants, an orangery and an apple orchard .
What stands out as one enters the complex is the blackened fish scale roof of the Romanesque kitchen or smoke house as it was known in those times.
The interior is amazing, with spaces for ovens and fires at different levels and tall towering chimneys. Influenced a great deal by those sumptuous films of stories set in medieval times, I could imagine the hustle and bustle, as cooks made bread and smoked meats for the large number of inhabitants. Amongst other great personalities from history who lived at Fontevraud, Eleanor of Aquitaine spent her last years at the Abbey and is buried here as also is Richard the Lionheart.
Though the kitchen here was built in the 12th century it is possible that they cooked such wonderful dishes as a 'Bourbelier of Wild Boar in a Spiced Sauce' or 'Chaudume of Pike' as described in "The Medieval Kitchen, Recipes from France and Italy" . This book made me understand how kitchens such as Fontevraud were used and how well cooks understood their ingredients. It is a mouthwatering read and, like the tour of the kitchen, made me want to go back to those old days, hanging and curing meat and fish, using the best of the seasonal garden to flavour and making fabulous tarts from fruit just picked off the trees. The recipes can all be followed and have enough space for tweaking to make them easy to make in your own kitchen especially the fruit and vegetable ones.
"The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy" by Odile Redon, Françoise Sabban, & Silvano Serventi .Translated by Edward Schneider