E masserizie in chucina detta
Food preparation is a household activity that can require specialized equipment and utensils, purpose-built furniture, and the time and attention of skilled culinary workers. Nearly every dossier in the Florentine Wards collection, including the set of 1388 documents in which Gian Berniche’s home was inventoried, features a lengthy list of items used for making and serving meals. The goods found in Gian’s home provide a useful example of what was needed in a fully stocked fourteenth-century Florentine kitchen, and nearly all these items can be found in the lists from the homes of Gian's neighbors as well.
Some of the items documented in Gian’s home and those of his fellow Florentines reveal how preparing meals in the later middle ages differed from how it is done nowadays. Andirons, metal pot-holders, and chains and tripods that supported large cauldrons (caldaia) and suspended pots were all necessary for cooking over an open flame, as the images from contemporary manuscripts illustrate. Large amounts of salt listed alongside tubs and containers for preserving meat as well as substantial stores of grains and dried fruits are a reminder that without stable refrigeration, certain foods needed to be treated before they were stored for the long term. These foodstuffs were held separately from the jugs of oil and barrels of wine that were often kept in the cellar, which was maintained at a cooler temperature than the kitchen.
Other items, however, are recognizable to cooks today, and may even appear in our own cooking spaces. Aside from the heavy-duty fire-safe wares found in the inventory, Gian’s kitchen held pots and pans of various sizes and materials, made of copper or iron, some with covers and others without, kitchen knives (coltella da chucina) and scissors to cut or slice foods, graters, mortars and pestles to shred, grind, and pulverize food, and towels and kitchen linens to wrap bread or cover other food items. Florentine kitchens were furnished with cabinets to store food items and preparation tools, and tables, benches, and chairs for kitchen workers to sit, stand, and work. Serving dishes, including platters made from metal or earthenware, were stored in the same room so that meals could be presented to household members when the food was ready. Although no people were listed in the inventory of Gian’s home, the dossiers of some Florentine householders include the names of enslaved persons who worked in the kitchens, an indication of how much personal effort and labor were needed to keep a Florentine family well fed.