Category Archives: Amanda Herbert

A Recipe’s Place is in the Classroom

[This post is part of The Recipe Project’s annual Teaching Series.  Here, series editor Amanda Herbert discusses the Folger Shakespeare Library’s “Test-Kitchen.”  This piece was cross-posted on the Folger’s blog, The Collation, which seeks to present bite-sized pieces of useful information and observations from staff and researchers of the Folger Shakespeare Library.]

Cookery and Medicinal Recipes (c. 1675-c.1750) V.a.429, Folger Shakespeare Library. Image courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library's LUNA: Digital Image Collection.
Cookery and Medicinal Recipes (c. 1675-c.1750) V.a.429, Folger Shakespeare Library. Image courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library’s LUNA: Digital Image Collection.

Amanda E. Herbert

The Folger Shakespeare Library is many things: an internationally-renowned research library, a museum, a performance space, a center for innovative digital initiatives.  But it’s also a classroom, or even many different kinds of classrooms: education is central to the Folger mission, and every year the Folger offers hundreds of programs designed for all kinds of classrooms, from bright, lively elementary-school homerooms to spare, echoing college lecture halls, and from traditional school-houses filled with desks and chalkboards, to pioneering online learning communities populated by students from around the world.

This past summer, the Folger created a special kind of classroom: a test-kitchen.  The Folger’s test-kitchen was used during a week-long skills course in paleography (the study of handwriting) for scholars who study the early modern period (c. 1450-1750).  Under the direction of Folger Curator of Manuscripts Heather Wolfe, the students in this workshop learned how to read and transcribe early modern handwritten documents.  They did this through their own “hands-on” work: scrutinizing letters, notebooks, and diaries written by women and men hundreds of years ago, experimenting with historical writing materials (bird-feather quills, iron gall ink, and rag paper), and – best of all, from my perspective – bringing an old recipe to life.  Our paleography students used a recipe taken from an early modern book (Folger V.a.429) to make an early modern dish: Almond Jumballs, a sweet, cookie-like confection that was a popular treat in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Ingredients for our modern Jumballs. Image courtesy of the author.
Ingredients for our modern Jumballs. Image courtesy of the author.

Kitchens are my favorite kinds of classrooms, and recipes are my favorite teaching tools.  I’ve written about using recipes in my own higher-education classrooms.  Friends and colleagues have also used them to great effect in elementary/primary schools, high schools, and in museum and library programming intended for members of the general public.  Recipes seem simple, and they seem approachable and even familiar, and for this reason they draw in people of all ages, backgrounds, creeds, and kinds.  But once you start to examine a recipe more closely, it reveals incredibly rich, complex details about the moment and place in which it was written: recipes tell us about socioeconomics, migration and immigration patterns, and religious prohibitions and practices.  They teach us about environmental policies, agriculture and sustainability, foodways, and cultivation practices.  They offer evidence of mercantilism and trade, of culture and aesthetics and taste.  They tell stories of war, dearth, and conflict as well as those of peace and plenty.

Toasting almond flour in the Folger Test-Kitchen. Image courtesy of the author.
Toasting almond flour in the Folger Test-Kitchen. Image courtesy of the author.

Under the guidance of Marissa Nicosia (Assistant Professor of Renaissance Literature at Penn State Abingdon, a Folger fellowship recipient, and the co-creator of Cooking the Archive, a blog devoted to re-creating historical foods) our paleography students read, studied, and transcribed the Almond Jumball (pronounced like “jumble” with a hard J) recipe.  There’s an excellent post on Cooking the Archive which provides a step-by-step description of the experiment, and I highly recommend it, especially if you’re interested in re-creating the recipe yourself.  I’d also recommend two Folger food resources: a Shakespeare Unlimited podcast featuring Wendy Wall, where she talks about her new book, Recipes for Thought, and our Shakespeare & Beyond blog post on early modern food culture and food in Shakespeare’s plays.

But there were also some larger scholarly lessons that we took away from our afternoon in the Folger test-kitchen.  The ingredients in the Jumball recipe included almonds, orange-flower water, and about a pound of sugar, and it called for the use of a kitchen “syringe,” a specialized instrument used by chefs for piping and shaping foods; all of these things were high-end, valuable commodities in the early modern period, and suggest that the Jumballs would have been commissioned and consumed by higher-status people, even if the labor involved in making them might have fallen to lower-status ones.  The recipe’s instructions called for the combination of “shelf-stable” ingredients in stages, which would have kept the food from spoiling and allowed the maker to start and stop cooking at intervals, a gendered, pre-industrial labor pattern common to early modern households.  And the recipe, like the book in which it was contained, was possibly collaborative, as the collection was compiled by several women from the same family: Rose Kendall, Ann Kendall Carter, Elizabeth Clarke, and Anna Maria Wentworth.  Despite their familial ties, the authors did not, however share chronological or geographic ones: the book was compiled gradually, over the course of about forty years (c. 1682-1726), and members of the family lived in locations across England, including Yorkshire, Lancashire, Bedfordshire, and London.

Heating sugar syrup in the Folger Test-Kitchen. Image courtesy of the author.
Heating sugar syrup in the Folger Test-Kitchen. Image courtesy of the author.

The time that it took to make the Jumballs in the Folger test-kitchen was brief, lasting only a few hours, but the exercise has continued to make me think.  The Almond Jumball recipe seems to offer just the smallest scrap of evidence about the early modern world.  But through careful study and experimentation, our community of scholars uncovered important, large-scale concepts: questions of authorship and identity, experiences of material culture, evidence of labor patterns, constructions of gender and social status, and examples of the cultivation, dissemination, and sharing of early modern knowledge.  Although the charm and ostensible simplicity of historical recipes draw many people in to study the past, it’s the big-picture ideas engendered in their study which help to demonstrate the value and impact of our scholarly work.  This is the kind of payoff that we can expect from recipes, and it’s why they’re wonderful pedagogical tools, suited to all types of classrooms.

Hans Sloane: Eighteenth-Century Mixologist

Amanda E. Herbert

Hans Sloane by Stephen Slaughter, 1736, National Portrait Gallery, London. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Hans Sloane by Stephen Slaughter, 1736, National Portrait Gallery, London. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

When it comes to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century culinary recipes, Hans Sloane (1660-1753), the famed doctor, naturalist, and collector, is best known for his chocolate. Sloane lived briefly in Jamaica, where he observed many people drinking liquid cacao; upon his return to Britain, Sloane adapted the recipe for metropolitan consumers. (This was apparently such a success that Sloane’s recipe was later used by Cadbury.) But Sloane was interested in drinks of all kinds, and wrote extensively on the fruity Caribbean cocktails which were apparently made and consumed by people in the eighteenth-century West Indies. In his 1707 treatise, A Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers and Jamaica, Sloane described seven of these sweet concoctions: Cool Drink, Corn Drink, Cane Drink, Acajou Wine, Plantain Drink, Perino, and Rum-Punch.

Title page of "Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbadoes, Nieves, St. Christophers and Jamaica." Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Title page of “Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbadoes, Nieves, St. Christophers and Jamaica.” Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Sloane explained that the first three of these – Cool Drink, Corn Drink, and Cane Drink – were very simple, containing herbs or plants like “Sorrel or Pines,” a sweetening agent like molasses (plentiful in the eighteenth-century Caribbean), and water. These ingredients were allowed to ferment, “they turning sower in twelve or twenty four hours.” Cool Drink contained just two ingredients, “Molossus and Water,” and Sloane wrote that “To make cool Drink, Take three Gallons of fair water, more than a Pint of Molossus, mix them together in a Jar; it works in twelve hours time sufficiently, put to it a little more Molossus, and immediately Bottle it, in six hours time ‘tis ready to drink, and in a day it is turn’d sowr.” This produced a mildly alcoholic, mead-like drink which Sloane dismissed as “unwholesome.” Drinks made by fermenting fruit and water together, such as Acajou – an eighteenth-century term for cashew – and Plantain wines were, in contrast, “very strong,” but Sloane warned that they “keep not long, and cause vomiting.”

Sloane had better things to say about Perino, which was made from old loaves of cassava (Manihot utilissima) root bread. Sloane instructed his readers to “Take a Cake of bad Cassada Bread, about a Foot over, and half an Inch thick, burnt black on one side, break it to pieces, and put it to steep in two Gallons of water, let it stand open in a Tub twelve hours, then add to it the froth of an Egg, and three Gallons more water, and one pound of Sugar, let it work twelve hours, and Bottle it; it will keep good for a week.” Sloane said that Perino was “a Drink much used here” – not a ringing endorsement, but it was apparently better than Rum-Punch, which Sloane despised.

Punch bowl of porcelain, painted en grisaille and gilt. Outside are two scenes, one showing a sea battle and the other, ladies in an English park. Made in Jingdezhen, China, ca. 1785. Artist/maker unknown. Victoria and Albert Museum.
Punch bowl of porcelain, painted en grisaille and gilt. Outside are two scenes, one showing a sea battle and the other, ladies in an English park. Made in Jingdezhen, China, ca. 1785. Artist/maker unknown. Victoria and Albert Museum.

Sloane’s feelings about Rum-Punch weren’t necessarily based on the drink’s ingredients or taste. He explained that the cocktail was made up of “Rum, Water, Lime-juice, Sugar, and a little Nutmeg scrap’d on the top of it.” Although this might sound, at least to modern readers, like the most appealing of all of the cocktails described in this post, Sloane was unconvinced.  He explained that Rum-Punch was made from burnt or very low-quality sugar, scraped from “the Sugar-Pot-bottoms” of colonial refineries.  But, Sloane explained, “because ’tis cheap, Servants, and other of the poorer sort” could afford it.  Rum-Punch was a bargain, and Sloane believed that for this reason, it was problematic.

For Sloane, the consumption of Rum-Punch was bound up with assumptions about poverty, self-determination, and social status.  He explained that if lower-status people drank in Rum-Punch, they risked falling “into a fast Sleep, whereby they fall off their Horses in going home, and lie sometimes whole nights expos’d to the injuries of the Air, whereby they fall into Consumptions, Dropsies, &c., if they miss Apopleptic Fits.”  This might seem like a pretty elaborate (and perhaps unlikely) scenario, but it fit precisely with Sloane’s prejudices about the poor: that they were unable to control how much they drank, that they didn’t know how to take care of their own bodies, and that they could not monitor and treat themselves if they fell ill.  For this reason, Sloane declared, Rum-Punch was off-limits, and he finished by asserting that because lower-status people could become “very easily fuddled with it,” the drink should be classified as “very unhealthy.”

*****
Quotations in this post come from Hans Sloane, A Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers and Jamaica… 2 Vols. (London, 1707), xxix-xxx.

Teaching Recipes: A September Series (Vol. II)

Students in a "Domestic Science" course, Wilberforce University, Wilberforce Ohio (1915).  Image courtesy of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, The New York Public Library. "Domestic Science class." New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed August 12, 2015. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dd-f3af-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
College students in a “Domestic Science” course, Wilberforce University, Wilberforce Ohio (1915). Image courtesy of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, The New York Public Library. “Domestic Science class.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed August 12, 2015. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dd-f3af-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

A year ago this month, we ran a special series at The Recipes Project, highlighting the ways that recipes could be used to teach students of all kinds – primary, secondary, graduate, and postgraduate – about the lives and experiences of people in the past. The series proved to be so popular that we were determined to do it again, and now we’re proud to present another slate of posts about recipes in the classroom. During the entire month of September, we’ll be featuring posts about all of the innovative and engaging work that our Recipes Project educators are doing in using recipes as pedagogical tools.

This year we’re highlighting culinary history. Bringing food and drink into the classroom is almost always popular with students (no matter how old they are!) but managing the mechanics as well as the messages of these lessons can be challenging. Our authors are going to share their insights about the most effective ways to teach about historic cookbooks, ingredients, foodways, and methods of cultivation and production. We’ll start the month with a post by food historian Ken Albala, who will talk about his experiences in teaching hearth- and open-fire cooking. If you’re not quite ready to kindle flame in your own classroom, we have plenty of other posts for you to try: Erika Rappaport will discuss education, empire, and her use of “Mrs. Beeton’s Mango Chetney”; and Ben Wurgraft will share his thoughts about the ways that recipes can convey information to students.  We’ll also learn about the ways to use recipes as teaching tools in very large classes – David Fouser writes about teaching recipes in the Western Civ survey – and also in smaller, more intimate groups – such as Jennifer Munroe’s use of recipes in an Attending to Early Modern Women seminar. We’re especially pleased to feature two posts by two authors who taught recipes to primary- and secondary-school students: Evelien Bracke (who will talk about her “Technologies of Daily Life” program in Wales) and Carla Cevasco (who is writing about an American high school “Teach-In”).

As many of us are busy preparing syllabi and lesson plans for the upcoming academic year, we hope that the series will be timely. Twice each week, you’ll be able to glean information about the best ways to bring recipes to your classrooms, lecture halls, seminar tables, and conference sites. And let us know what you think! We’re very eager to learn about your own work in teaching recipes.

A Ladies Home Journal in 18th-century Nottinghamshire, England

by Lisa M. Lillie

Tucked away in the Papers of the Mellish Family of Hodstock, Nottinghamshire, in the University of Nottingham’s Rare Books and Manuscripts collections, Lady Mellish’s “Old Accts dinners & c. 1706” sits rather unobtrusively among generations of Mellish family correspondence, account books, and estate ledgers. [1] Although the 17th century featured a shift in what were traditionally women’s professions such as beer-brewing and midwifery to the purview of men,[2] it still fell to the lady of an upper-middling home to coordinate the activities of her household members, manage the procurement and preparation of provisions, and arrange the entertainment of guests. Judging from Lady Mellish’s notes, the Mellish family entertained at least twice monthly. Particularly distinguished guests were cause for elaborate culinary preparations: for the visit of the “Duke of Leads” on the 12  September 1705, for example, she made “stued pidging, pees, goose, egge pyes, hanch of venison, revived Jupe tongue & chikins, whit frigeee, collered eale hot / Ducks & Partriges Peas, Damson Tart, Tansey Tueky, scollops” among other dishes! But the Mellishes most frequent visitors seem to have been gentry neighbor families – the Huetts, Garves, and Cliftons.

Historians of Tudor England have noted a late-16th century decline of the manor house as a place where the lord and his laborers could commune directly and do business; the gentry’s greater desire for privacy and separation from the laboring sorts meant architectural changes in the great manor homes: more private spaces for the family and greater distance between the servant’s and the family’s living quarters.[3] Lady Mellish’s account books contain floor plans of the family’s home as well as sketches of what appear to be table seating arrangements for dinner parties, indicating what appears to be Lady Mellish’s keen interest to use the resources at her disposal to strike just the right tone for social gatherings.

Frontispiece showing a domestic kitchen scene, from The housekeeper's instructor; or, universal family cook / Being an ample and clear display of the art of cookery in all its various branches..by William Augustus Henderson. Published ca. 1790. Henderson's success in this genre to some degree resonates with a larger early modern trend of men becoming experts in fields which were previously dominated by women, such Hannah Woolley's renown for housekeeping advice a century prior. Image Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Frontispiece showing a domestic kitchen scene.  The housekeeper's instructor; or, universal family cook / Being an ample and clear display of the art of cookery in all its various branches. Containing proper directions for dressing all kinds of butcher's meat, poultry, game, fish ... To which is added, the complete art of carving, illustrated with engravings ... bills of fare for every month in the year ... / by William Augustus Henderson. 1790-1799 The housekeeper's instructor; or, universal family cook The housekeeper's instructor; or, universal family cook / W. A. Henderson Published: [between 1790 and 1799?] Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Frontispiece showing a domestic kitchen scene, from The housekeeper’s instructor; or, universal family cook / Being an ample and clear display of the art of cookery in all its various branches..by William Augustus Henderson. Published ca. 1790. Henderson’s success in this genre to some degree resonates with a larger early modern trend of men becoming experts in fields which were previously dominated by women, such Hannah Woolley’s renown for housekeeping advice a century prior. Image Credit: Wellcome Library, London.
Lady Mellish’s talent for household management would have no doubt pleased the preeminent lifestyle guru of the 17th century, Hannah Woolley.[4] While Lady Mellish was concerned with hosting smashing dinner parties, she showed no less interest in the less glamorous aspects of household affairs, namely that most useful of food preparation to early moderns – jarring and pickling. Her recipe for pickled salmon is straight-forward:

“Take your samon and wash it well then take 4 quarts of water and one quart of viniger putt it in to a sose pan and boil it and skim it well, sisen it with Mase and Clovs and peper and salt to you tass and 12 bay livs then putt in your samon boil it till it is anof a quarter and half of a hour a sid, then take your samon out and putt it in your pickels when it is cold, if it is to be kip long you must stop it up Clos. if thee samon is biger you must boil it half a hour if you want mor pickels you Must doe as bee for.”[5]

With the addition of savoury herbs such as cloves and bay leaf, Lady Mellish’s recipe seems far more palatable than that found in The Accomplish’d Lady’s, published in 1675, which instructed the reader to simply cover the salmon with vinegar and rosemary in an earthenware pot to keep “for a whole month”. [6]

Not only did Lady Mellish take notes on her gastronomic exploits, but she also kept a detailed account of all her expenses, as well as making alphabetical lists of words, seemingly at random. Also Included is an “Account of my Jewells March the 9th 1707.” In short, Lady Mellish’s papers would make for an interesting study on the role of gentry women in culinary history and in the changing social landscape of early modern England.

[1] University of Nottingham Rare Books and Manuscripts, Me 2E/1/1, Old Accts dinners & c. 1706. See also the National Archives’ Discovery entry on the Mellishes (accessed 4 July 2015).

[2] On the phenomenon of brewing and midwifery gradually becoming men’s professions, see Judith M. Bennet, Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600 (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), and Michelle Dowd, Women’s World in early modern English Literature and Culture (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

[3] For examples of scholarship on the transformation of early modern English domestic space, see Roger Chartier (ed), A History of Private Life: Passions of the Renaissance (volume III), Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1989; Felicity Heal, Hospitality in Early Modern England (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993); Amanda Vickery, “An Englishman’s Home Is His Castle? Thresholds, Boundaries and Privacies in the Eighteenth-Century London House,” Past and Present No. 199 (May, 2008), pp. 147-173.

[4] By the turn of the century, Wolley’s publications had secured her international reputation as a household management expert. See “Wolley, Hannah (b. 1622?, d. in or after 1674),” John Considine in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, see online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, Oxford: OUP, 2004 (accessed July 9, 2015).

[5] University of Nottingham Rare Books and Manuscripts, Me 2E/1/1, Old Accts dinners & c. 1706.

[6] Hannah, Woolley, The Accomplish’d lady’s delight in preserving, physick, beautifying, and cookery containing I. the art of preserving and candying fruits & flowers …, II. the physical cabinet, or, excellent receipts in physick and chirurgery : together with some rare beautifying waters, to adorn and add loveliness to the face and body : and also some new and excellent secrets and experiments in the art of angling, 3. the compleat cooks guide, or, directions for dressing all sorts of flesh, fowl, and fish, both in the English and French mode… (London: 1675), 297. In the ODNB entry on Hannah Woolley, John Considine maintains that this work was not actually written by Woolley; rather, it was one of several copy-cat publications design to replicate the success of her work. Early English Books online, however, attributes the work to Woolley.