Day 7: What is a recipe?

Modest cup of tea with cakes. Credit: Upload Wizard, Wikimedia Commons.

By Rosie Redstone

Welcome to day 7 of our virtual conversation on ‘What is a Recipe?’

Today is a continuation of current projects and a few new ones:

  • “What’s the Recipe for a Recipe? From ancient medicine to women’s mags”, Alliterative Video (Mark Sundaram and Aven McMaster). You can watch on YouTube here, visit their website here or follow them on Twitter @AllEndlessKnot, @Alliterative or @AvenSarah
  • “A Pinch of This and a Handful of That: Food and Recipes in Kitchens of Rural North India”, Paveen Puneet and Priyanki S. Bishnoi. Visit Instagram @ppp_cookingchronicles
  • “Transcribing Early Modern Recipes at Guelph: Experiments and Inquiries”, Hillary Nunn, Amy Tigner, and Guelph Team. Find the blog post here.
  • “Reconstructing Recipes from an Eighteenth-Century Manuscript Recipe Book”, Katherine Allen. On Saturday, she was tweeting about the project here, Instagramming here and blogging here. And today’s contribution is a blog post here at The Recipes Project!
  • “Spuddenly Farming: A reconstruction of Rev. Mr. Cochran’s Potato experiment, 1791”, Siobhan Carlson. Follow on Twitter here or Instagram here.
  • The MMSH has revisited their initial post on what makes a good sound archive recipe — this time in French.
  • College of Physicians Philadelphia sharing recipe related items from their collection, particularly medical and scientific recipes. Follow on Twitter here or their blog here.
  • And yesterday on Twitter, Cardiff University Special Collections and Archives (@CUSpecialColls), University of Glasgow Archives and Special Collections (@UofGlasgowASC) and Thomas Fisher Library (@FisherLibrary) were tweeting about ink recipes!

 

The results from Kierri Price’s live-cooking!

In case you missed it, Kierri Price’s Live-Cooking event is now available on YouTube. We are editing it down, if you’re hoping for a snippet instead — but this was a lot of fun to watch, with contributions even from a three-year old who was joining in. Let there be sprinkles!

As always, comments, contributions, stray thoughts, questions, and anything else you wish to put forward are always welcome! Join us on twitter using #recipesconf, or comment on any one of the projects above. We look forward to hearing from you!

Reflections on Reconstructing Eighteenth-Century Recipes

By Katherine Allen

For the ‘What is a Recipe?’ Virtual Conversation on Saturday, 24th June, I reconstructed two eighteenth-century recipes from Mary Wise’s recipe book: a lip salve remedy and a pound cake. You can find out how these experiments unfolded over at my blog, and you can also check out Twitter @KAllen622 for the tweets on making the lip salve, and Instagram @raspberrythriller62 for photos of the pound cake.

The task: choosing a manuscript recipe collection

Actually, this wasn’t difficult. I knew that I wanted to pick both recipes from the same manuscript because this gives me insight into what one individual (or connected group of people creating one collection) desired to record: whether it was out of use, interest, or preserving inherited knowledge. I’ve long been interested in the two manuscripts belonging to the Wise family of Woodcote, which are housed at the Warwickshire Record Office, so I decided to look at these manuscripts for inspiration. For more information on the manuscript I selected, and the family, please refer to this post.

What’s particularly interesting about the lip salve remedy and the pound cake recipe is that they are the third and fourth recipes recorded in Mary’s collection. This means that she could have been inspired to begin a manuscript and had these recipes in mind at the start, and they could have been her own creations or ones passed down to her. Or, she copied recipes from another collection/printed work/letters and these recipes are again among the first she selected.

It’s also worth noting that this manuscript is organised with a table of contents, with a large proportion of the medicinal recipes following the culinary ones written in two different hands. Yet, there are several intermixed medical/culinary recipes (such as these two) recorded at the start of the collection.

Much of the research involving manuscript recipe books is based on speculation and inference: why the compiler began his/her collection, why recipes were selected, if these recipes were deemed effective/valuable, and why the compiler organised the work in a specific way. As neither of these recipes have annotations or statements of efficacy to guide me in determining their value and use, they proved an exciting and unknown challenge for reconstruction. They were also safe to create and I could source the ingredients.

The challenge: selecting a medicinal remedy to re-create

I would have loved to make a plaster or medicinal drink, but I quickly found the ingredients to be prohibitive. For instance, most early modern plaster and salve remedies for treating aches or burns contain lead and turpentine (no thank you!). The main category of remedies found in eighteenth-century recipe collections is for digestive complaints, and many of the recipes I considered contain purgative ingredients such as senna and ‘true’ rhubarb. These ingredients were common since early modern medicine focused on evacuating the body as part of treatment.

I also don’t think my local Boots chemist has Peruvian Bark (cinchona) on hand, and let’s not even get started with the opiates to avoid… I also obviously don’t have access to popular early modern panaceas like Venice treacle (theriac) or mithridate, both of which were cited several times in Mary’s collection for plague and bite of the mad dog (rabies) recipes.

Even when ingredients weren’t toxic, they were difficult to source. Many remedies are herbal-based and I simply don’t have the time or resources to try and track down handfuls of fresh flowers/herbs (unless they’re available at the supermarket). I was additionally restricted by the process of creating recipes. Although my research is on household distillation in eighteenth-century England, I do not own a still and, in any case, wouldn’t feel confident trying to distil a cordial water.

‘How to make Lipsave’

For a transcription of the recipe and my troubles with re-creating it please see my blog post.

Once I settled on this recipe (a few weeks ago) I knew that I had to source beeswax, golden pippins, and orange flower water. Orange flower water could be prepared at home via distillation, and some early modern collections contain recipes, though Mary’s  does not.

As Mary may well have purchased her orange flower water, I too ordered a bottle off Amazon. Simultaneously, I was fortunate enough to find exactly a 1 ounce bar of beeswax! The golden pippins were more difficult to find. They certainly don’t sell pippins in my local shops, and it’s also the wrong season for harvesting apples. So, I opted for golden delicious.

The final line of the recipe is ‘& if you see occasion pair of the Drops’. This instruction presumably meant that you can use it in conjunction with another liquid-based remedy. However, nowhere does it specify what the drops are for, and, moreover, there is no recipe in either of the Wise family books that has ‘drops’ in the title. This leads me to suspect that Mary copied this recipe from another source, but omitted the accompanying ‘drops’ remedy.

‘How to make a pound Cake’  

Again, please see my blog post for further details on the process of creating this cake.

Sourcing ingredients for this culinary recipe was easier. I ordered a bottle of rose water at the same time as the orange blossom water off Amazon. The only ingredient hurdles I encountered were substituting medium dry sherry for sack (an antiquated term for fortified white wine), and deciding how many large eggs I would use, since early modern eggs were likely not as big.

Upon reflection, this was a hugely rewarding and enjoyable experience and I’m thankful that I was able to participate in this virtual conversation on several platforms. The challenges I faced sourcing ingredients in a modern marketplace (and interpreting instructions) likely compare to those that eighteenth-century compilers could have faced when navigating which recipes and remedies to collect and prepare. Sometimes ingredients are simply unattainable, unsuitable for one’s constitution, or undesirable. Instructions are frequently lost in translation, and households needed to improvise and adapt recipes to their available equipment and domestic circumstances.

It is a few days later and I’m still using the little pot of lip salve, and my lips feel very smooth! The cake is disappearing slice by slice.

Day 6: What is a recipe?

Welcome to Day 6 of our virtual conversation on ‘What is a Recipe?’. Don’t forget to check out the H-Nutrition discussion which has been going on all week! This is their last day of joining in! They’ve been discussing ‘Weight Watchers’ Fried Chinese Chicken‘, ‘First Bouillon, Then Meat with Potatoes‘, ‘Spaghetti Mexican Style‘ , ‘Statistical Analysis of Yorkshire Pudding‘, ‘Branding Bran: School Breakfast As A Recipe For Healthy Children’, ‘Who Says We Can’t Cook!’, ‘Carbohydrate Hell’, ‘A Healthy Dose of Skepticism’, ‘Organic Tools For Social Standing: Oehm’s and Allestein’s Recipes for Brain, Lung and Udders, 1850-60s’, ‘Dehydrated Rations for Indian Soldiers in the Second World War’,  ‘Bachelorette Chow’, and ‘What is a Recipe? Update #2’.  Lots to get your teeth into!

‘Cooking With Anger’ will be continuing with their Story Telling Project! Topics so far have included: ‘The Terror of Chard’,  ‘Chukkar’,  ‘Rawhide’, ‘The Fountainhead of Regret’, and ‘Father’s Day D. Lights.’ You can play in the comments here!

Today is a continuation of current projects and a few new ones:

  • Katherine Allen “Reconstructing Recipes from an Eighteenth-Century Manuscript Recipe Book” with Instagram, Twitter and a Blog! Live tweeting about her experience reconstructing the medicinal remedy and doing an Insta Story as I create an eighteenth-century dessert. Afterwards, a de-brief on the experiments over blog. Find Katherine on Twitter @KAllen622, Instagram @raspberrythriller62 and on her Blog at   https://raspberrythriller.wordpress.com/ and recipes.hypotheses.org
  • Siobhan Carlson is back with “Spuddenly Farming: A reconstruction of Rev. Mr. Cochran’s Potato experiment, 1791”, Find her on Instagram at @SpuddenlyFarming or Twitter at @Spuddenly_Farm
  • Harry Hayfield brings us “Henri’s Kitchen” with ‘Croque Madame’ at the Recipes Project
  • Kierri Price is going to be using Facebook Live to present “Into the Mix: Creating a Recipe” at 2pm today. This project invites anyone and everyone to contribute to the creation of a recipe – without any set idea in mind! Viewers’ suggestions will shape the steps of the recipe, with something perhaps starting as a pastry eventually evolving into a cake. Drawing upon the experience and imagination of diverse people, “Into the Mix” hopes to explore the potential of social media to bring us together and encourage creativity, while (hopefully!) making something tasty at the same time. The Facebook Live will be broadcast here!

As always, comments, contributions, stray thoughts, questions, and anything else you wish to put forward are always welcome! Join us on twitter using #recipesconf, or comment on any one of the projects above. We look forward to hearing from you!

Food, Magic, Art, Science, and Medicine