Translating Recipes 12: Recipes in Time and Space, Part 6 – BETWEEN

By Carla Nappi

(This is part of an ongoing series of posts exploring prepositional attitudes and their translation in recipe literature. For the previous posts, check out this link.)

In the most recent posts of the “Translating Recipes” series, we have been exploring various ways that recipe literature creates relationships among bodies in space and time. (The premise undergirding this experiment is that material experience emerges from these relationships.) We have been looking specifically at the ways that prepositions and related kinds of terms function as grammatical and linguistic technologies that create proximities among bodies in time and space: with-ness, if-ness, afterness, etc. Today we’ll consider another of these tools: between-ness. Returning to the spirit from which the “Translating Recipes” project initially emerged – considering the literary form of the recipe as a vehicle for storytelling – this entry and the next will explore the way between works by looking at a storytelling genre that embodies the spirit of interaction, conversation, and between: the dialogue.

The dialogue format integrates a number of key elements. Typically, a dialogue is understood to be a conversation, an oral or written rendering of speech among characters. The dialogue might center on a problem and take the shape of an argument or debate: we can see this in some classic examples of the form that are familiar to many historians of science and medicine, including Plato’s dialogues and Galileo’s Dialogue upon the Two Main Systems of the World. This exceptionally brief description of dialogue makes reference to some important basic components of the form: character, speech, and problem. Let’s consider what these might look like in the context of a medicinal recipe.

Character. There are several ways to think about the centrality of character in the context of a recipe. We might imagine the drugs, patients, and other material actors in a recipe as they are embroiled in a drama, for example, or consider them more allegorically as characters in a fairy tale. In the context of a dialogue, the interaction of the characters is of paramount importance, and so they should explicitly be involved in some sort of a relationship. There are clear relationships in an anti-poison recipe: between poison and the drug used to treat it, poison and the patient’s body, the body and the drug. And so a translation of the recipe in this spirit would need to reflect at least one of these character relationships. (Ideally, in order to maximally explore the importance of relationships, more than one would be reflected in the translation: in that way. the relationships themselves become characters and we would be able to explore a dialogue among the relationships themselves.)

Speech. Fundamental to the nature of a written dialogue is its ability to embody and convey speech in some form: the text itself becomes a kind of vocalization, and – importantly – we as readers can imagine that the characters are not just interacting with one another, but are also performing their speech for the benefit of the audience of readers. As a result, in our translated recipe it would be important to convey this aspect of textual oratory. The form of the text would be crucial to this: each of our characters, as they explore their relationships and the problems emergent therein, would be given an opportunity to take the page and have the floor.

Problem. In many textualized dialogues, the speakers are not merely speaking, but are speaking with each other in an effort to debate or resolve something: a problem, an argument, a disagreement. There should be a sense, by the conclusion of the text, that some issue has been resolved. Our translation would need to convey this sense of dramatic conflict and ultimate resolution. In the case of the Manchu recipe that we’ve been focusing on for the “Recipes in Time and Space” series, this is a natural fit with the conditions from the which the recipe emerges: a crisis wherein a body has been poisoned and demands an immediate remedy (or as close to it as can be managed). At the successive stages of the recipe there are multiple points of possible resolution or the marked absence thereof, and these points of resolution (or not) motivate further action on the part of the readers/users of the text.

In the next post, we’ll continue these reflections and look closely at a new translation of our Manchu medical recipe that embodies a spirit of between in its form and mode of storytelling, in light of the reflections above. Tune in next time!

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