Category Archives: Sally Osborn

Contributing to The Recipes Project – Five Years On

Editorial: This is the seventh of a series of reflection posts from Recipe Project contributors and editors.

By Katherine Allen and Sally Osborn

We’ve both had the privilege of being regular contributors to The Recipes Project for the past five years, and we’ve found it a really rewarding experience. Life as a PhD researcher can be a little lonely and disorientating, and it’s been fascinating to be able to get glimpses into other people’s research, activities and thinking in so many diverse and yet still relevant areas.

Katherine says: My first post was on distillation in eighteenth-century recipe books, with a case study on Rebecca Tallamy’s unique manuscript. I wrote that post to introduce my work to the public on a digital platform —  a task I agonised over, since I’d never shared my thoughts and writing with such a large audience — and I used the opportunity to develop my ideas at an early research stage.

What is distillation?
From Katherine’s post The Art of Distillation Image: Wellcome, WMS 4759, f. 2r.

Since that first post, my work on distillation became a focal chapter in my thesis, a published journal article, and I’ve presented that research at several events, most recently at the 2017 Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry Seminar in Oxford. These past five years I’ve enjoyed sharing different aspects of my work-in-progress, including recipes and spa culture, ‘movember’ in recipe books, medical recipes in newspapers, and emotions in communicating recipes; this was immensely helpful in formulating my arguments.

I completed my doctorate at the University of Oxford in 2015, and I’ve used The Recipes Project to stay connected to fellow historians of recipes as I dip in and out of the academic sphere. The Recipes Project remains my favourite platform on which to share my research relating to eighteenth-century manuscript recipe books, and it has kept that passion for scholarship alive while I’ve struggled to find a career path and permanent employment in an extremely competitive and precarious academic job market.

Sally says: I started a blog when I began my PhD research and found it a useful way of trying out concepts, thinking and sometimes off-the-wall connections, and just as regular exercise for my writing muscles. I therefore welcomed the chance to contribute on the wider platform of The Recipes Project, which has become a valuable network of people with a seemingly endless range of research interests.

Recipe for artificial Westphalia ham
From Sally’s post Not Quite the Real Thing Image © Wellcome Collection

Like Katherine, I shared ideas at a relatively embryonic stage, such as ‘What is a recipe?’ which became part of the exploration in my thesis of recipe categories and formats. My first contribution, ‘Chicken soup for…’, was a light-hearted look at the area of food as medicine, which I developed at much greater length in a conference paper and a chapter section on diet drinks. I’ve been able to indulge my interest in the history of food more generally with posts on ‘counterfeit’ dishes and Victorian vegetarianism. There’s also nothing like agreeing to write a conference report for encouraging you to analyse and compare the presentations you attend. Now that I’m spending my time restoring a house built in 1789, maybe I ought to look up the recipes from my post on eighteenth-century DIY – and maybe even try building that ice house…

While writing up my PhD I regularly visited The Recipes Project for ‘time out’, knowing that I was bound to find something there that would stimulate my thinking or point me to work I hadn’t come across before. It is so often the case that a stray comment in someone else’s writing will lead to that ‘aha’ moment that helps unravel a knot in your own argument. Two years later I still look forward to reading the diverse posts on The Recipes Project, finding in them an endless source of interest as well as research envy!

We’ve both enjoyed reading posts from other scholars and continue to be truly amazed at the depth and breadth of scholarship relating to recipes. We look forward to continuing to share our love of eighteenth-century recipes and remedies, and we’re excited to see what the next five years hold for this community.

Recipes Round-up: Research Presented at Scientiae and SSHM 2016

by Katherine Allen

In early July I attended two conferences: Scientiae (on early modern science), and the Society for the Social History of Medicine (SSHM) conference. Both had an impressive range of scholarship, and it was exciting to see recipes featured so prominently. Included here are some of my thoughts on the research, sources, and challenges currently being tackled by recipe historians.

Scientiae

Scientiae was held at St. Anne’s College (Univ. Oxford) and the theme was disciplines of knowing in the early modern world. This conference was interdisciplinary, and brought together scholars working on more traditional aspects of the history of science, alongside those exploring the histories of magic, alchemy, medicine, music, and religion.

In the panel on medicine in early modern Europe, Tillmann Taape’s presentation on alchemical medical guides in early modern Germany reinforced the idea that printed distillation guides were used by ‘the common man’, and his texts included herbal sections with registers of diseases and medical recipes. I discovered that waters had ‘bad attitudes’, and that distilling was seen as a way of making the water ‘obey’ the craftsman.

I spoke on the continued practice of distilling household medicine in early eighteenth-century England. I stressed the continued importance of printed distillation guides as sources of technical instruction for domestic practitioners, and that distilling medicine was done primarily as a leisure activity with the products used to supplement a family’s medical care.

Distillation figures in Ambrose Cooper's 'The Complete Distiller' (1757)
Distillation figures in Ambrose Cooper’s ‘The Complete Distiller’ (1757)

In a session on ‘understanding the vegetable world’ Rachel Koroloff introduced us to the travnik, a challenging term used to simultaneously describe an herbal manuscript, an herbalist, and an herbal collection in 17th C Muscovy. The term originated in the 1630s with the Tsar ordering apothecaries to source plants for the palace’s medical stores. The travniki as texts included recipes, and balanced Russian folklore and supernatural beliefs with a hybrid version of Galenic medicine. Rachel argued that there was an assumed base knowledge of the plants listed in travniki and that this rested on the presumption of the travnik as an individual with expertise in herbal knowledge.

Medicine in its Place: SSHM 2016

The SSHM conference was held at the University of Kent and had well-balanced temporal scope on spaces within medical history. I found the panels on approaches to research (the place of digital history in medicine and one on social media) particularly thought-provoking and inspiring.

I organised a panel on 17th and 18th C domestic medicine. This panel included my research on the evolving material history of 18th C recipe collections with the commercialisation of medicine, and the incorporation of newsprint and proprietary medicine advertisements into these personalised books. One particular challenge of this research is determining from where recipes were sourced, given that citations referencing print/newsprint were not commonplace.

Newsprint in 18th C Manuscript Recipe Books
Newsprint in 18th C Manuscript Recipe Books

Anne Stobart spoke on Margaret Boscawen’s 17th C plant notebook, and the links between the garden and the kitchen in household healthcare. She challenged the historiographical idea that ingredients were readily and freely collected from the garden and countryside and argued that Boscawen was concerned about the availability of plants in her locality. A question I found interesting for Anne was how she (and contemporaries) distinguishes between ‘wild’ and ‘the garden’.

Culpeper Garden. Post-conference visit to Leeds Castle, Kent.
Culpeper Garden. Post-conference visit to Leeds Castle, Kent.

Sally Osborn highlighted the far-reaching networks used by 18th C recipe collectors to share medical knowledge; these included familial, social, and political networks which were used to build social credit. She suggested that tried and trusted recipes acquired from family and other correspondents may have been valued and chosen over other recipes, like those collected from print sources.

In a panel on landscapes, Sophie Greenway examined the post-war shift of the British garden from a place of production to one of leisure. In 1950s magazines, advertisements encouraged women to purchase efficient kitchen appliances so that they could spend recreational time in their gardens. Paradoxically, this ‘aspirational literature’ featured this message alongside recipes for desserts like blancmange and blackcurrant jelly, which suggests that a woman’s time was best spent in the kitchen. I found this paper valuable for thinking about recipes used alongside advertising, as well as the relationship of print with the domestic space.

The Household in 1950s Magazine Advertising
The Household in 1950s Magazine Advertising

In a roundtable discussion on digital history, Lisa Smith represented the collaborative work being done here at The Recipes Project, as well as the transcription efforts over at EMROC and Shakespeare’s World. Lisa emphasised that in the digital projects, the message board is useful for attracting new transcribers, encouraging discussions, and demonstrating the value placed on close reading and deeper engagement with recipes.

I thoroughly enjoyed my ‘conference holiday’ and these papers represent the range of sources, topics, and temporal contexts with which recipe historians are currently engaging. And, it is on digital platforms like this that we can share our research, collaborate, and explore new avenues of inquiry on recipes.

Introducing… Graduate Student Posts!

By Chelsea Clark

In October, we added a collection of research posts written by undergraduate and postgraduate students to the Credit Page. We here at the Recipes Project wanted to show off the great and exciting work being done by emerging scholars in the field of recipes! Posts can be found here.

While collecting posts for the student showcase page, I came across two contributors in particular who have been steadily posting on the Recipes Project website and who have recently defended their PhD theses: Katherine Allen (Oxford) and Sally Osborn (Roehampton). [editorial note: CONGRATULATIONS, Dr. Allen and Dr. Osborn!!!]

Two naked children wrapping and inspecting champagne bottles. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.
Two naked children wrapping and inspecting champagne bottles. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Both authors have shared several posts of their explorations within recipe books, going beyond a focus on recipes for food or medicine to delve in to the ‘advice’ sections to point out the oddities that they came across in their work. They explore the social structures that surround the recipes, the process of recipe transmission through manuscripts and newspapers, and even explore the social interaction these processes describe. Katherine and Sally capture the diversity of recipes and situate recipes within their broader societal context and offer insight into some specific and curious details.

In addition to binge-reading their blog posts, which you can find here and here, I interviewed both authors on their work.

What is the title of your thesis and, in a couple of sentences, what is it about?

KA: “Manuscript Recipe Collections and Elite Domestic Medicine in Eighteenth-Century England.” My thesis uncovers why the tradition of recipe collecting continued as an elite cultural practice associated with domestic medicine, within the scope of the commercialization of medicine in eighteenth-century England.

Newspaper advertisement for Bateman's Pectoral Drops. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.
Newspaper advertisement for Bateman’s Pectoral Drops. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

SO: “The role of domestic knowledge in an era of professionalisation: Eighteenth-century manuscript medical recipe collections.” This thesis explores manuscript medical recipe books as material objects, as well as considering what they contained, who compiled them and where the information came from. It outlines three forms of network through which both women and men circulated recipes, and offers reasons for the practice continuing given ability of a range of practitioners, commercial alternatives and a proliferation of print sources.

Why do you study recipes?

KA: Recipe books are fascinating personal documents and they are fantastic resources for exploring my research interests in English social history, and the associated histories of medicine and science.

SO: Because they offer glimpses of everyday life and individuals from a range of perspectives

What is the most intriguing recipe/recipe book that you have come across in your research?

KA: Recipe – Snail water. More generally, I enjoy claims of efficacy and testimonials associated with recipes.

A man is cooking snails in a pot over an open fire, by the side of him is a sack of mussels and a man is reading from a book. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.
A man is cooking snails in a pot over an open fire, by the side of him is a sack of mussels and a man is reading from a book. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

SO: A closely written book in the Wellcome (MS 7893) with multiple remedies but also other fascinating sections – from feeding calves to ‘mushrooms, raising’ to a ‘curiosities’ section with experiments.

Why do you blog?

KA: I blog for three reasons. To work through my ideas and present research in-progress. To Network and be part of an academic community. To engage with the public.

SO: Because it connects me with other people working in the same or similar areas, but also because it helps me work through my ideas in writing.

Which of your posts on RP is your favourite and why?

KA: My post on tobacco smoke enemas simply because it was fun to research.

SO: “What is a Recipe?’ Because I hope it gives readers an idea of why I find recipes so compelling to research.

More about their posts:

Tobacco Pipe Enema circa 1773. Image Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tobacco_smoke_enema.png
Tobacco Pipe Enema circa 1773. Image Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tobacco_smoke_enema.png 

Katherine Allen posts about remedies and their transmission and delves into some specific odd ingredients found in common remedies. Her most recent post was on choosing categories when building a database of eighteenth-century recipes. Elsewhere, she has looked at domestic medicine’s life outside the home; such as how recipes could be found in newspapers and personal correspondence. Allen posted about the commonness of the common cold and the oddness of tobacco smoke use in medicine, as well as the alchemy involved in many recipes through the use of distillation.

Sally Osborn‘s most recent post was on early modern Vegetarian diet, prompted by her discovery of an advertisement for the Vegetarian Society founded 1847. She has also posted on recipe books themselves, examining the oddities they can contain and urging readers to think beyond what we consider to be a recipe and exposes sections of recipe books modern eyes wouldn’t expect, such as household tips and advice beyond medicine, cookery, or cleaning recipes. Osborn also examines the sharing of recipes and books between and amongst families and attempts to track certain recipes through several different books. She even tackled a post on chicken soup recipes.

The Vegetarian Society, Victorian style

By Sally Osborn

Inside a late eighteenth/early nineteenth century recipe book in the Herefordshire Record Office (G2/1030), I found a leaflet advertising the Vegetarian Society, which was founded in 1847. It carries the following rather earnest declaration:

The objects of the Society are, to induce habits of abstinence from the Flesh of Animals as Food, by the dissemination of information upon the subject, by means of tracts, essays, and lectures, proving the many advantages of a physical, intellectual, and moral character, resulting from Vegetarian habits of Diet; and thus, to secure, through the association, example, and efforts of its members, the adoption of a principle which will tend essentially to true civilisation, to universal brotherhood, and to the increase of human happiness generally.

Image credit: Pixabay.com
Image credit Pixabay.com

No ambition there, then! Unfortunately the recipes themselves are rather stodgy – no low carb to be seen – and miles away from the varied and enticing vegetarian food we are used to today.

Take a look and see if you fancy any of them:

Bread-crumb omelet

One pint of bread-crumbs, a large handful of chopped parsley, with a large slice of onion minced fine, and a teaspoonful of dried marjoram. Beat up two eggs, add a teaspoonful of milk, some nutmeg, pepper, and salt, and a piece of butter the size of an egg. Mix altogether, and bake in a slow oven till of a light brown colour. Turn out of dish and send to table immediately.

Yorkshire pudding

Flavour your batter with pot marjoram, lemon thyme, and sweet balm powdered, a little chopped parsley, and an onion minced fine. Bake in moderate oven; serve hot with gravy.

Macaroni pudding

Two ounces of macaroni; boil till tender, drain the water from it, and add half-a-pint of new milk, and half-an-ounce of parsley chopped fine. A teaspoonful of lemon thyme powdered, some lemon peel, pepper, salt, and dash of nutmeg. Put it in a well buttered dish, and bake twenty minutes. If wanted richer, beat up an egg in the milk.

Buttered onions

Take enough (rather small) onions to make a dish; let them all be of like size; peel them and throw them into a stew-pan of boiling water with some salt. Boil for five minutes; drain them, put them into a saucepan with a good thick piece of butter, a sprinkling of nutmeg, pepper, and salt; toss them about over a clear fire until they begin to brown; add a tablespoonful of mushroom ketchup, and a dessert-spoonful of sage, and marjoram and parsley. Do them gently for a quarter of an hour, and serve upon toast moistened in lemon-juice.

Mushroom pudding

One pint of mushrooms, half a pound of bread crumbs, and two ounces of butter. Put the butter in the bread crumbs, adding pepper and salt, and as much water as will moisten the bread; add the mushrooms cut in pieces; line a basin with paste, put in the mixture, cover with paste, tie a cloth over, and boil an hour and a-half. It is equally good baked.

Image credit: Pixabay.com
Image credit: Pixabay.com

Buttered eggs, or rumbled eggs

Break three eggs into a small stew pan, put a table-spoonful of milk and an ounce of fresh butter, add a salt-spoonful of salt and a little pepper. Set the stew pan over a moderate fire, and stir the eggs with a spoon, being careful to keep every particle in motion until it is set. Have ready a crisp piece of toast, pour the eggs upon it, and serve immediately. [This mode of dressing eggs secures that the white and the yolk shall be perfectly mixed. The white, which is so very nutritious, is insipid and unpalatable when the egg is simply boiled, fried, or poached.]

Potted lentils or haricots

Stew a teacupful of lentils in water with a morsel of butter, and some mushroom powder. Beat up to a smooth paste. When cold, add an equal quantity of fine brown bread crumbs, with seasoning of salt, mace and cayenne, and the size of a walnut of old cheese. Beat all together with two ounces of butter. Press firmly into pots. (Haricot beans may be used instead of lentils.) If it is to be kept long, hot butter must be poured on the top.

Baked potatoes with sage and onion

Peel as many potatoes as you require; put them in a pie dish, and a good sized onion, with half a teaspoonful of dried sage, two ounces of butter, and enough water to cover the bottom of the dish. Season with salt and pepper.

Barley soup

Soak four table-spoonful of Scotch barley in cold water for an hour. Put it in stewpan with about a pint of cold water. Set it on a moderate fire; let it stew gently, and add three good-sized onions, two small turnips, a carrot, and head of celery. Season to taste with salt and pepper. When quite soft, add a table-spoonful of mushroom ketchup.

Groat pudding

Pick and wash a half-pint of groats, and put them in a dish with a pint of water, a large onion chopped small, a little sage or marjoram, a good lump of butter, pepper and salt. The groats may be steeped thus for some hours before baking. Apples may be added, or substituted, for the onions and herbs. If substituted, use sugar instead of the seasoning. Bake in a moderate oven till the groats are tender.

Savoury pie

Pare several potatoes and two or three onions. Slice them, if large. Place these in a buttered pie-dish, in layers, with a little well steeped tapioca, pepper, salt, and powdered sage upon each, also mushroom powder, or fresh mushrooms if liked. Slices of cold bread omelet, or a few Brussells sprouts, may be inserted. Cover with a plain crust; one made of ordinary bread dough, with a very little butter, is preferable to anything heavy. Keep the bottom of the pie supplied with hot water while baking, or it will be without gravy.

Vegetarian gravy

This may be flavoured either with mushroom powder or browned onion, and coloured with a little chicory, the basis being made as plain melted butter, with less flour or thickening, and seasoned with pepper, salt, and mace, if approved.

There are some interesting seasonings there. The herby Yorkshire pudding looks worth trying and trendy chefs have rediscovered mushroom powder… But the potato pie with tapioca, bread pudding and a bread dough crust? You’d put on half a stone just looking at it.

This post was originally published at Eighteenth-century Recipes.