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Medieval Cheese: Meet Pantaleone da Confienza

Did you know the man who helped shape how we think and write about cheese lived in Italy — in the 15th century? 

Pantaleone da Confienza is the reason we know so much about cheese in the Middle Ages. Recipe books, technique books and how-to guides were fairly common among the right circles in Medieval times, but Pantaleone was the very first to write a book on just one ingredient. He discussed everything that had to do with cheese; cheese production, what a cheese was made of, what it looked like and what it tasted like. This all-in-one manual was the first of its kind — anywhere.  

Pantaleone was born around Turin in the 1440s, and eventually became the first travel cheese writer. In his book, Summa lacticiniorum (translated to “A Compendium of Milk Products”) was published in 1477 and instantly (well, as instant as you can get in the 1470s) became a success among cheese producers and cheese lovers alike. The work was commissioned by the Duke of Savoy (who’s family members were patients of Pantaleone’s medicine practice), sending Pantaleone on a seriously cheesy mission. He traveled from Italy to Brussels, Antwerp, Paris, London, and more, all with the goal of finding new and delicious cheese. Along the way he spoke to everyone he encountered that made, produced or even liked cheese. 

What cheese you should pick if you are on a budget? How can eating cheese make your dentist happy? Which cheeses are appropriate for your age? These questions were just some of the topics covered in Pantaleone’s work — stay tuned for next week’s edition of Medieval Cheese to find out his answers!

Freedman, Paul. 2007. Food, The History of Taste. University of California Press.
Sitwell, William. 2013. A History of Food in 100 Recipes. Little, Brown and Company. 
Photo Credit: Sexy Codicology

Virginia Hyde

Virginia Hyde is a southern girl at heart who just moved to Boston to submerge herself in food - mainly cheese, to be honest. Game for any food-related adventure, festival, or gathering, she is ready to share her passion for cheese with others. Virginia is currently working on a Masters in Gastronomy at Boston University.