Ah, to have lived during the Renaissance. The world was expanding, technology was influencing influencing culture at an exponential rate, and folks looked to education to further themselves.
This is the world that Martino da Como was born. Martino was a native of the Blenio valley, now in Switzerland, just north of Como. He became a chef who worked at several courts of Renaissance Italy and garnered such a top notch reputation that he ended up working as the private cook to Pope Paul II and Pope Sixtus IV. But beyond that, little is known about his personal life. It was during this time that he took the title “Maestro Martino”, the name to which most others refer to him.
What we do know about him comes from his cookbook entitled Libro de Arte coquinaria (roughly translated to “The Book on the Art of Cooking” or known today as “The Art of Cooking“)
While this book, two hundred and forty handwritten recipes that were bound into a single manuscript, was not the first cookbook ever written, it was one of the first ones written for an audience.
Prior to Martino, cookbooks were more of a guide than an explicit detailing of how to recreate a specific recipe. Good cooks were in short supply and creating a manual on how to recreate a technically difficult recipe was akin to giving away a Magician’s secret.
Martino da Como wrote specifying the ingredients, their cooking times, techniques used, and amounts needed. His book was written for other people, rather than himself. His writing still has a direct influence upon the cookbook section found in your local bookstore.
Of course, having his worked “plagiarized” a few years later didn’t hurt either, but that’s a different story.