Jan 032018

Today is the birthday (1840) of Father Damien or Saint Damien of Molokai, SS.CC. or Saint Damien De Veuster (Dutch: Pater Damiaan or Heilige Damiaan van Molokai), born Jozef De Veuster, a Roman Catholic priest from Belgium and member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, who won recognition for his ministry from 1873 to 1889 in the kingdom of Hawaiʻi to people with leprosy who were required to live under a government-sanctioned medical quarantine on the island of Molokaʻi on the Kalaupapa Peninsula. During this time, while he acted as a missionary to the people of Hawaii, he also cared for the patients himself and established leadership within the community to build houses, schools, roads, hospitals, and churches. He dressed residents’ ulcers, built a reservoir, made coffins, dug graves, shared pipes, and ate poi with his hands with lepers, providing both medical and emotional support. After 11 years of caring for the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of those in the leper colony, Father Damien realized he had also contracted leprosy when he was scalded by hot water and felt no pain. He continued with his work despite the infection but finally succumbed to the disease on 15 April 1889.

I have not thought about Father Damien since my primary school days when his story was recounted in our reader. I don’t remember what year I read the story, but I am guessing that I was 10 or 11 years old, and the story deeply affected me at the time. I have always admired selfless devotion to a cause, especially when it involves risk to one’s own health and safety.

Father Damien was born Jozef (“Jef”) De Veuster, the youngest of seven children and fourth son of the Flemish corn merchant Joannes Franciscus (“Frans”) De Veuster and his wife Anne-Catherine (“Cato”) Wouters in the village of Tremelo in Flemish Brabant in rural Belgium. Growing up on a farm, it was assumed that he would eventually take over its management. Instead, he attended college in Braine-le-Comte, then entered the novitiate of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Leuven. He took the name of Brother Damianus (Damiaan in Dutch, Damien in French) in his first vows, presumably in honor of St Damian (https://www.bookofdaystales.com/cosmas-and-damian/ ) who by synchronicity was a doctor who gave his services to minister to the sick.

Following in the footsteps of his older sisters Eugénie and Pauline (who had become nuns) and older brother Auguste (Father Pamphile), Damien became a “Picpus” Brother (another name for members of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary) on 7 October 1860. His superiors thought that he was not a good candidate for the priesthood because he lacked education. However, he learned Latin from his brother, so his superiors relented and decided to allow him to become a priest. During his ecclesiastical studies, Damien prayed daily before a picture of St. Francis Xavier, patron of missionaries, to be sent on a mission. Three years later when Damien’s brother Father Pamphile could not travel to Hawaiʻi as a missionary because of illness, Damien was allowed to take his place.

On 9 March 1864, Damien landed at Honolulu Harbor on O’ahu. He was ordained into the priesthood on 21 May 1864, at what is now the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, originally built by his religious order, the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Today it serves as the Cathedral of the Bishop of Honolulu. In 1865 Father Damien was assigned to the Catholic Mission in North Kohala on the island of Hawaiʻi. While Father Damien was serving in several parishes on Oʻahu, the kingdom of Hawaiʻi was struggling with a labor shortage and a public health crisis. Many of the native Hawai’ians had high mortality rates due to the spread of such Eurasian infectious diseases as smallpox, cholera, influenza, and whooping cough, brought to the Hawai’ian Islands by foreign traders, sailors, and immigrants. Thousands of Hawaiians died of such diseases, because they had no acquired immunity.

It is believed that Chinese workers carried leprosy (later known as Hansen’s disease) to the islands in the 1830s and 1840s. At that time, leprosy was thought to be highly contagious and incurable. In later years, the medical community determined that roughly 95% of humans are immune to leprosy and, in the 20th century, developed effective treatments. In 1865, out of fear of the spread of leprosy, Hawai’ian king Kamehameha IV and the Hawai’ian Legislature passed the “Act to Prevent the Spread of Leprosy”. This law quarantined the lepers of Hawai’i, requiring the most serious cases to be moved to a settlement colony of Kalawao on the eastern end of the Kalaupapa peninsula on the island of Molokaʻi. Later the settlement of Kalaupapa was developed. Kalawao County, where the two villages are located, is separated from the rest of Molokaʻi by a steep mountain ridge. Even in the 21st century, the only land access is by a mule trail. From 1866 to 1969, a total of about 8,000 Hawaiians were sent to the Kalaupapa peninsula for medical quarantine.

The Royal Board of Health initially provided the quarantined people with food and other supplies, but it did not have the resources to offer proper health care. The kingdom of Hawaii had planned for the lepers to be able to care for themselves and grow their own crops, but, due to the effects of leprosy and the local environmental conditions of the peninsula, this plan was impractical. According to researcher Pennie Moblo, accounts about the colony from the 19th until well into the 20th century overstated its poor condition, adding to the colonial narrative of Europeans as saviors of the colony and the island. But most of the houses and other buildings were constructed and owned by the residents, even after the change of government and increased investment by the Territory of Hawaiʻi.  Meanwhile the narrative of the Catholic Encyclopedia (1911) what that, “Drunken and lewd conduct prevailed. The easy-going, good-natured people seemed wholly changed.” Such accounts fulfil contemporary European ideas about the Hawaiians rather than being an accurate record of conditions.

There is evidence that lay volunteers offered to help on the island, and that the Hawaiians would have preferred a native priest, if one had been available. While Bishop Louis Désiré Maigret, the vicar apostolic of the Honolulu diocese, believed that the lepers needed a Catholic priest to assist them, he realized that this assignment carried a  high risk of infection. He did not want to send anyone “in the name of obedience.” After much prayer, four priests volunteered to go, among them Father Damien. The bishop planned for the volunteers to take turns in rotation assisting the inhabitants.

On May 10, 1873, the first volunteer, Father Damien, arrived at the isolated settlement at Kalaupapa, where 816 lepers then lived, and was presented by Bishop Louis Maigret. At his arrival he spoke to the assembled lepers as “one who will be a father to you, and who loves you so much that he does not hesitate to become one of you; to live and die with you.” Damien worked with them to build a church and establish the parish of Saint Philomena. In addition to serving as a priest, he dressed residents’ ulcers, helped build a reservoir, homes and furniture, made coffins, and dug graves. Six months after his arrival at Kalawao, he wrote to his brother, Pamphile, in Europe: “I make myself a leper with the lepers to gain all to Jesus Christ.” It is said that Father Damien told the lepers that despite what the outside world thought of them, they were always precious in the eyes of God. Under the leadership of Father Damien, laws were more strongly enforced, working farms were more organized, and schools along with an education system were established.

Some historians believe that Father Damien was a catalyst for turning the community around. Under his leadership, basic laws were enforced, shacks were upgraded and improved as painted houses, working farms were organized, and schools were established. However, many such accounts completely overlook the roles of superintendents who were Hawaiian or part Hawaiian. William P. Ragsdale, who was part Hawaiian, served as an interpreter as well as in other government posts. After finding that he had contracted leprosy, he “gave himself up to the law”, and was appointed to serve as superintendent at Kalaupapa in 1873. He led it until his death in 1877. Father Damien succeeded him briefly as superintendent, but he gave that up after three months in February 1878 in favor of another appointee. His superiors did not want priests serving in government posts.

King David Kalākaua bestowed on Damien the honor of “Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Kalākaua.” When crown princess Lydia Liliʻuokalani visited the settlement to present the medal, she was reported as having been too distraught and heartbroken at the sight of the residents to read her speech, but she did subsequently share her experience, lauding Damien’s efforts. Consequently, Damien became internationally known in the United States and Europe. US Protestants raised large sums of money for his work and the Church of England sent food, medicine, clothing, and supplies to the settlement. It is believed that Damien never wore the royal medal, although it was placed by his side at his funeral.

Father Damien worked for 16 years in Hawaii providing comfort for the lepers of Kalaupapa. He prayed at the cemetery of the deceased, and comforted the dying at their bedsides. In December 1884 while preparing to bathe, Damien inadvertently put his foot into scalding water, causing his skin to blister. He felt nothing and realized he had contracted leprosy after 11 years of working in the colony. This was a common way for people to discover that they had been infected with leprosy. Residents said that Damien continued to work vigorously to build as many homes as he could and planned for the future of programs he had established.

In 1885, Masanao Goto, a Japanese leprologist, went to Honolulu and treated Damien. He believed that leprosy was caused by a diminution of the blood. His treatment consisted of nourishing food, moderate exercise, frequent friction to the benumbed parts, special ointments, and medical baths. The treatments did relieve some of the symptoms and were very popular with the Hawai’ian patients. Damien had faith in the treatments and said he wanted to be treated by no one but Goto, who eventually became good friends with Father Damien. Despite the illness slowing down his body, in his last years, Damien engaged in a flurry of activity. He tried to complete and advance as many projects as possible with his time remaining. While continuing to spread the Catholic faith and aid the lepers in their treatments, Damien completed several building projects and improved orphanages. Four volunteers arrived at Kalaupapa to help father Damien as he weakened: a Belgian priest, Louis Lambert Conrardy; a soldier, Joseph Dutton (an American Civil War veteran who left behind a marriage broken by alcoholism); a male nurse, James Sinnett from Chicago; and Mother Marianne Cope, who had been the head of the Franciscan-run St Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, New York. Conrardy took up pastoral duties; Cope organized a working hospital; Dutton attended to the construction and maintenance of the community’s buildings; and Sinnett nursed Damien in the last phases of illness.

With an arm in a sling, a foot in bandages, and his leg dragging, Damien knew death was near. He was bedridden on 23 March 1889, and on 30 March he made a general confession. Damien died of leprosy at 8:00 a.m. on 15 April 1889, aged 49. The next day, after Mass said by Father Moellers at St. Philomena’s, the whole settlement followed the funeral cortège to the cemetery. Damien was laid to rest under the same pandanus tree where he first slept upon his arrival on Molokaʻi.

In January 1936, at the request of King Leopold III of Belgium and the Belgian government, Damien’s body was returned to his native land in Belgium. It was transported aboard the Belgian ship Mercator. Damien was buried in Leuven, the historic university city close to the village where he was born. After Damien’s beatification in June 1995, the remains of his right hand were returned to Hawaii and re-interred in his original grave on Molokaʻi.

It’s not as hard as you might think to conjure up a dish to celebrate father Damien’s mission that is both Belgian and Hawai’ian. Belgian waffles, due to US influence, have become a standard breakfast feature in Hawai’i and are frequently given a Hawai’ian twist by topping them with coconut and pineapple instead of European fruits and berries. You don’t need much more in the way of a recipe than I have already given you.  There’s a recipe and video on making Belgian waffles here: https://www.bookofdaystales.com/corpus-christi/  Follow the recipe, but change things up with pineapple and coconut, or whatever tropical fruits appeal. Papaya and/or mango would work just fine.

May 262016


Today is the Feast of Corpus Christi (Body of Christ), also known as Corpus Domini, a celebration in the Roman Catholic church of the tradition and belief that the body and blood of Jesus Christ are literally present in the elements of bread and wine of the mass once the priest has said the words of institution – a doctrine known as transubstantiation. The feast is liturgically celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. At the end of mass on Corpus Christi in Catholic countries, there is often a procession of the elements, generally displayed in a monstrance.


The institution of Corpus Christi as a feast in the Christian calendar resulted from approximately forty years of effort on the part of Juliana of Liège, a 13th-century Norbertine canoness, also known as Juliana de Cornillon, born in 1191 or 1192 in Liège in Belgium, a city where there were several groups of women dedicated to Eucharistic worship. Guided by priests, they lived together, devoted to prayer and to charitable works. Juliana also petitioned Hugh of St-Cher, and Robert de Thorete, Bishop of Liège. At that time bishops could order feasts in their dioceses, so in 1246 Bishop Robert ordered a celebration of Corpus Christi to be held in the diocese each year thereafter on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. Hugh of St-Cher traveled to Liège as Cardinal-Legate in 1251 and, finding that the feast was not being observed, reinstated it. In the following year, he established the feast for his whole jurisdiction (Germany, Dacia, Bohemia, and Moravia).

To be blunt, I find the doctrine of transubstantiation ludicrous, and I find the philosophical treatises concerning it even more so. The central question, “how do the elements look exactly the same after the words of institution as before yet have become the literal body and blood of Jesus?” requires a level of mental contortion that borders on the absurd. Theologians end up wondering if the bread and wine are in any sense physically changed, and even if the human digestive system works differently on them. I don’t have time for taking such ideas seriously, but some of the traditions surrounding the feast are of note.


By tradition, Catholics take part in a procession through the streets of a neighborhood near their parish following mass.  The Eucharistic elements are placed in a monstrance and held high by a member of the clergy during the procession. After the procession, parishioners return to the church where the benediction takes place.

The whole notion of transubstantiation is abhorrent to the Protestant tradition and arguments against it figure prominently in Reformation theology. In one of his homilies Martin Luther wrote:

I am to no festival more hostile than this one [Corpus Christi], because it is the most shameful festival. At no festival are God and his Christ more blasphemed, than on this day, and particularly by the procession. For then people are treating the Blessed Sacrament with such ignominy that it becomes only play-acting and is just vain idolatry. With its cosmetics and false holiness it conflicts with Christ’s order and establishment . Because He never commanded us to carry on like this.. Therefore beware of such worship!


The celebration of Corpus Christi was abolished in England in 1548. In medieval times in many parts of Europe Corpus Christi was a time for the performance of mystery plays. The plays in York in northern England were performed on Corpus Christi day for about 200 years until the feast was suppressed. In many Catholic regions, especially in Europe and Latin America, the processions have taken on a festive air, sometimes including pageant giants or mystic beasts and saints.

In Catalonia, especially Barcelona, Corpus Christi is celebrated with the tradition of the dancing egg which may date from the 16th century.  The contents of an egg are blown out, the holes sealed with wax, and the shell placed in the jet of a fountain where it “dances.”


There is a 16th century MS of a late Middle English song known as the Corpus Christi Carol that is rather mysterious.  It tells of a wounded knight lying bleeding in a richly decorated chamber, grieved over by a lady – ending with the stanza:

& by þat beddis side þer stondith a ston,
“Corpus Christi” wretyn þer-on.
Lully, lulley, lully, lulley!
Þe fawcon hath born my mak away.

No one really knows what the carol represents, although a common hypothesis is that it is a reference to the Fisher King from the Grail legend.

The feast of Corpus Christi is not associated with foods but it did originate in Liège a city noted for its waffles. Also, communion wafers (Corpus Christi) were at one time made in similar fashion to waffles. However, gaufres de Liège are rich and sumptuous, made with a sweetened raised dough much like a brioche, not like plain, unleavened communion wafers.

Here’s a good video with detailed instructions and ingredients at the end:

Jan 282016


The Bal des Ardents (Ball of the Burning Men) or Bal des Sauvages was a masquerade ball held on this date in 1393 in Paris at which Charles VI of France performed in a dance with five members of the French nobility. Four of the dancers were killed in a fire caused when a torch brought in by Charles’s brother, Louis, Duke of Orléans, caught the highly flammable costumes on fire. Charles and another of the dancers, the noble knight Ogier de Nantouillet survived. The event undermined confidence in Charles’s capacity to rule. Parisians considered it proof of courtly decadence and threatened to rebel against the more powerful members of the nobility.

Charles’s wife, Isabeau of Bavaria, held the ball to honor the remarriage of a lady-in-waiting. Scholars believe it may have been a traditional charivari, with the dancers disguised as wild men, mythical beings often associated with demonology, that were commonly represented in medieval Europe and documented in revels of Tudor England. The event was chronicled by contemporary writers such as the Monk of St Denis and Jean Froissart, and illustrated in a number of 15th-century illuminated manuscripts by painters such as the Master of Anthony of Burgundy. The incident later provided inspiration for the main scene in Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “Hop-Frog” (http://poestories.com/read/hop-frog )

In 1380, after the death of his father, Charles V of France, the 12-year-old Charles VI was crowned king, beginning his minority with his four uncles acting as regents. Two years later, one of them, Philip of Burgundy, described by historian Robert Knecht as “one of the most powerful princes in Europe,” became sole regent to the young king after Louis of Anjou pillaged the royal treasury and departed to campaign in Italy. Charles’s other two uncles, John of Berry and Louis of Bourbon, showed little interest in governing. In 1387, the 20-year-old Charles assumed sole control of the monarchy and immediately dismissed his uncles and reinstated the Marmousets, his father’s traditional counselors. Unlike his uncles, the Marmousets wanted peace with England, less taxation, and a strong, responsible central government—policies that resulted in a negotiated three-year truce with England, and the Duke of Berry being stripped of his post as governor of Languedoc because of his excessive taxation.


In 1392 Charles suffered the first in a lifelong series of attacks of mental illness, manifested by an “insatiable fury” at the attempted assassination of the Constable of France and leader of the Marmousets, Olivier de Clisson—carried out by Pierre de Craon but orchestrated by John V, Duke of Brittany. Convinced that the attempt on Clisson’s life was also an act of violence against himself and the monarchy, Charles quickly planned a retaliatory invasion of Brittany with the approval of the Marmousets, and within months departed Paris with a force of knights.

On a hot August day outside Le Mans, accompanying his forces on the way to Brittany, without warning Charles drew his weapons and charged his own household knights including his brother Louis I, Duke of Orléans—with whom he had a close relationship—crying “Forward against the traitors! They wish to deliver me to the enemy!” He killed four men before his chamberlain grabbed him by the waist and subdued him, after which he fell into a coma that lasted for four days. Few believed he would recover. his uncles, the dukes of Burgundy and Berry, took advantage of the king’s illness and quickly seized power, re-established themselves as regents, and dissolved the Marmouset council.


The comatose king was returned to Le Mans, where Guillaume de Harsigny—a venerated and well-educated 92-year-old physician—was summoned to treat him. After Charles regained consciousness, and his fever subsided, he was returned to Paris by Harsigny, moving slowly from castle to castle, with periods of rest in between. Late in September Charles was well enough to make a pilgrimage of thanks to Notre Dame de Liesse near Laon after which he returned again to Paris.

The king’s sudden onset of insanity was seen by some as a sign of divine anger and punishment and by others as the result of sorcery. Modern historians speculate that Charles may have been experiencing the onset of paranoid schizophrenia. Charles continued to be mentally fragile, believing he was made of glass, and according to historian Desmond Seward, running “howling like a wolf down the corridors of the royal palaces.” Contemporary chronicler Jean Froissart wrote that the king’s illness was so severe that he was “far out of the way; no medicine could help him.” During the worst of his illness Charles was unable to recognize his wife, Isabeau of Bavaria, demanding her removal when she entered his chamber, but after his recovery Charles made arrangements for her to hold guardianship of their children. Queen Isabeau eventually became guardian to her son—the future Charles VII of France— (b. 1403), granting her great political power and ensuring a place on the council of regents in event of a relapse.


In A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century the historian Barbara Tuchman writes that the physician Harsigny, refusing “all pleas and offers of riches to remain,” left Paris and ordered the courtiers to shield the king from the duties of government and leadership. He told the king’s advisors to “be careful not to worry or irritate him …. Burden him with work as little as you can; pleasure and forgetfulness will be better for him than anything else.” To surround Charles with a festive atmosphere and to protect him from the rigors of governing, the court turned to elaborate amusements and extravagant fashions. Isabeau and her sister-in-law Valentina Visconti, Duchess of Orléans, wore jewel-laden dresses and elaborate braided hairstyles coiled into tall shells and covered with wide double hennins that reportedly required doorways to be widened to accommodate them.


The common people thought the extravagances excessive yet loved their young king, whom they called Charles le bien-aimé (the well-beloved). Blame for unnecessary excess and expense was directed at the foreign queen, who was brought from Bavaria at the request of Charles’ uncles. Neither Isabeau nor her sister-in-law Valentina—daughter of the ruthless Duke of Milan—were well liked by either the court or the people. Froissart wrote in his Chronicles that Charles’s uncles were content to allow the frivolities because “so long as the Queen and the Duc d’Orléans danced, they were not dangerous or even annoying.”

On 28 January 1393, Isabeau held a masquerade at the Hôtel Saint-Pol to celebrate the third marriage of her lady-in-waiting, Catherine de Fastaverin. Tuchman explains that a widow’s remarriage was traditionally an occasion for mockery and tomfoolery, often celebrated with masquerades or charivari characterized by “all sorts of licence, disguises, disorders, and loud blaring of discordant music and clanging of cymbals.” On the suggestion of Huguet de Guisay, whom Tuchman describes as well known for his “outrageous schemes” and cruelty, six high-ranking knights performed a dance in costume as wood savages. The costumes, which were sewn on to the men, were made of linen soaked with resin to which flax was attached “so that they appeared shaggy and hairy from head to foot.” Masks made of the same materials covered the dancers’ faces and hid their identities from the audience. Some chronicles report that the dancers were bound together by chains. Most of the audience were unaware that Charles was among the dancers. Strict orders forbade the lighting of hall torches and prohibited anyone from entering the hall with a torch during the performance, to minimize the risk of the highly flammable costumes catching fire.


According to historian Jan Veenstra the men capered and howled “like wolves”, spat obscenities and invited the audience to guess their identities while dancing in a “diabolical” frenzy. Charles’s brother, Orléans, arrived with Phillipe de Bar, late and drunk, and they entered the hall carrying lit torches. Accounts vary, but Orléans may have held his torch above a dancer’s mask to reveal his identity when a spark fell, setting fire to the dancer’s leg. In the 17th century, William Prynne wrote of the incident that “the Duke of Orleance … put one of the Torches his servants held so neere the flax, that he set one of the Coates on fire, and so each of them set fire on to the other, and so they were all in a bright flame,” whereas a contemporary chronicle stated that he threw the torch at one of the dancers.


Isabeau, knowing that her husband was one of the dancers, fainted when the men caught fire. Charles, however, was standing at a distance from the other dancers, near his 15-year-old aunt Joan, Duchess of Berry, who swiftly threw her voluminous skirt over him to protect him from the sparks. Sources disagree as to whether the duchess moved into the dance and drew the king aside to speak to him, or whether the king moved away toward the audience. Froissart wrote that “The King, who proceeded ahead of [the dancers], departed from his companions … and went to the ladies to show himself to them … and so passed by the Queen and came near the Duchess of Berry.”


The scene soon descended into chaos; the dancers shrieked in pain as they burned in their costumes, and the audience, many of them also sustaining burns, screamed as they tried to rescue the burning men. The event was chronicled in uncharacteristic vividness by the Monk of St Denis, who wrote that “four men were burned alive, their flaming genitals dropping to the floor … releasing a stream of blood.” Only two dancers survived: the king, thanks to the quick reactions of the Duchess of Berry, and the Sieur de Nantouillet, who jumped into an open vat of wine and remained there until the flames were extinguished. The Count de Joigny died at the scene; Yvain de Foix and Aimery Poitiers, son of the Count of Valentinois, lingered with painful burns for two days. The designer of the dance, Huguet de Guisay, survived a day longer, described by Tuchman as bitterly “cursing and insulting his fellow dancers, the dead and the living, until his last hour.”

The citizens of Paris, angered by the event and at the danger posed to their monarch, blamed Charles’s advisors. A “great commotion” swept through the city as the populace threatened to depose Charles’s uncles and kill dissolute and depraved courtiers. Greatly concerned at the popular outcry and worried about a repeat of the Maillotin revolt of the previous decade—when Parisians armed with mallets turned against tax collectors—Charles’s uncles persuaded the court to do penance at Notre Dame Cathedral, preceded by an apologetic royal progress through the city in which the king rode on horseback with his uncles walking in humility. Orléans, who was blamed for the tragedy, donated funds in atonement for a chapel to be built at the Celestine monastery.

Froissart’s chronicle of the event places blame directly on Charles’ brother, Orléans. He wrote: “And thus the feast and marriage celebrations ended with such great sorrow … [Charles] and [Isabeau] could do nothing to remedy it. We must accept that it was no fault of theirs but of the duke of Orléans.” Orléans’ reputation was severely damaged by the event, compounded by an episode a few years earlier in which he was accused of sorcery after hiring an apostate monk to imbue a ring, dagger and sword with demonic magic. The theologian Jean Petit would later testify that Orléans practiced sorcery, and that the fire at the dance represented a failed attempt at regicide made in retaliation for Charles’ attack the previous summer.


The Bal des Ardents added to the impression of a court steeped in extravagance, with a king in delicate health and unable to rule. Charles’ attacks of illness increased in frequency such that by the end of the 1390s his role was merely ceremonial. By the early 15th century he was neglected and often forgotten, a lack of leadership that contributed to the decline and fragmentation of the Valois dynasty. In 1407, Philip the Bold’s son, John the Fearless, had Orléans assassinated because of “vice, corruption, sorcery, and a long list of public and private villainies”; at the same time Isabeau was accused of having been the mistress of her husband’s brother. Orléans’ assassination pushed the country into a civil war between the Burgundians and the Orléanists (known as the Armagnacs), which lasted for several decades. The vacuum created by the lack of central power and the general irresponsibility of the French court resulted in it gaining a reputation for lax morals and decadence that endured for more than 200 years.

I have chosen a recipe for waffles (gaufres) from Le Ménagier de Paris, a 14th century French manuscript. Waffles were very popular in the Middle Ages in France. They were made using waffle irons in much the same way as they are made today.

Gauffres sont faites par quatre manières L’une que l’en bat des œufs en une jatte, et puis du sel et du vin, et gette-l’en de la fleur, et destremper l’un avec l’autre, et puis mettre en deux fers petit à petit, à chascune fois autant de paste comme une lesche de frommage est grande, et estraindre entre deux fers et cuire d’une part et d’autre; et se le fer ne se délivre bien de la paste, l’en l’oint avant d’un petit drappelet mouillé eu huille ou en sain.

La deuxième manière est comme la première, mais l’en y met du frommage, c’est assavoir que l’en estend la paste comme pour faire tartre ou pasté, puis met-l’en le frommage par 1’esches ou milieu et recueuvre-l’en les deux bors; ainsi demeure le frommage entre deux pastes et ainsi est mis entre deux fers.

La tierce manière, si est de gauffres couléisses, et sont dictes couléisses pour ce seulement que la paste est plus clère et est comme boulie clère, faicte comme dessus; et gecte-l’en avec, du fin frommage esmié à la gratuise; et tout mesler ensemble.

La quarte manière est de fleur pestrie à l eaue, sel et vin, sans œufs ne frommage

Waffles are made in four ways. First way, beat eggs in a bowl, then add salt and wine;sprinkle with flour and mix together.Then gradually fill two [waffle] irons with this mixture, no more than the equivalent of a cheese strip at a time, then tighten the two irons, and cook on both sides.If the dough does not come off easily from the iron, rub it first with a piece of cloth that has been soaked in oil or fat.

The second way is like the first, but add cheese, that is, spread the batter as though making a tart or pie, then put slices of cheese in the middle, and cover the edges. Thus the cheese stays within the batter and then you put it between two irons.

The third way gives dropped waffles, so called simply because the dough is more fluid;it is made ​​as above but with the consistency of a clear broth.Mix in the grated cheese.

The fourth way is to knead the flour with water, salt and wine, no eggs or cheese.

Well, I don’t have a waffle iron, so I made this recipe using the second method, with a skillet, much like a pancake.

First, make an egg batter as you would for pancakes or waffles. Here’s my version:


Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, and pour in your batter. Cook until the top is no longer moist.


Place a slice of cheese on top.


Then cover with another layer of batter.


Cook the top under the broiler.


You can see that the finished product has two layers with melted cheese in the middle. Made a nice breakfast as I was writing. Bon appétit.