Category Archives: Virtual Conversation

Henri’s kitchen: 4. Boeuf Bourguignon

Harry Hayfield, a resident of Ceredigion in Wales, has long had an interest in the stories of the Musketeers which are set in early 17th century France, this led in turn to an interest in the Stuart period of history and joining a living history group. However, as a registered carer for his grandparents, he is unable to get to many of the events and yet wanted to do something to help. One day he was watching “The Little Paris Kitchen” broadcast on the BBC and thought “These are recipes designed by the French, therefore could they be converted in the 17th century versions of themselves?”. Doing some research he found that they could. Harry will therefore contribute four of the recipes as shown in the programme as if cooked by Henri de Ceredigion (Harry’s Stuart persona) a cadet member of the Musketeers, with able assistance from Planchet, his manservant cum stable lad.

Picture the scene for a moment, you open the door to your house and find a person who blows a bugle in your face. Once you have finished twiddling with your eyes he declares “Henri de Ceredigion, Musketeer Cadet, you are hereby summoned to attend His Majesty at once. God Save the King!” That is precisely what happened to me a week before my first Christmas in Paris, and let me tell you, it was not an invitation you could ignore. So what had I done to warrant such a meeting? I had been challenged by no less a personage than the King himself to, as he put it himself, “on the day of the celebration of the birth of our Lord, the King commands that you give your Captain, Musketeers Porthos, Athos, Aramis and your manservant a present to be given at the end of a meal for those aforementioned!”. After bowing so meekly I wondered if I would ever get back up again, I reversed out of the throne room, leant against a wall and just gasped with disbelief. I had to make a full-blown meal for six people, including someone with the most voracious appetite possible, in just a week! Needless to say when Planchet got back from his trip to the market he found me absolutely in a state of panic. Thankfully he managed to calm me down a bit and set a plan in action. It would be a combination of all the things I had cooked up to that moment in time, which I have told you about, plus something from the Planchet school of cookery, Boeuf Bourguignon with Baguette Dumplings. 

Needless to say, the following day I was rushing around the market like a man about to face execution, so the fact that just as was about to return home Jussac, the captain of the Cardinal’s guards, decided to interfere was not welcome. He and I have a bit of a history, that I shall not go into, and fearing the worst I was about to draw my sword when he thrust a small envelope into my face. I cautiously opened it and found a card with the message: “This month is a month of peace to all men, be they living in the moors or the fen, and so I wish to say to you, Joyeux Noel and god speed too.” This took me a little by surprise, but as he explained being employed by a Cardinal of Rome, Christmas is the one time when normality reigns. Thus with the ingredients bought, it was time to make everything. The ingredients were: beef shin cut into six large chunks, some flour, oil, a small collection of lardons, peeled onions, a bay leaf, some parsley, thyme and rosemary, peppercorns, red wine, a small amount of sugar and salt and some mushrooms and then we got to work with Planchet doing the rest of the meal and me tackling this monster of a dish.

You will need a good wine for this dish! Credit: Agne27, Wikipedia

First, I dusted the beef with flour, and then placed them into a hot pan until they browned, and when they had done I added the lardons, onions, one of cloves of garlic, and some of the peppercorns. Now, whilst I was doing all this, there was a knock at the door. My Englishness came to the fore and I answered it. It was the butcher’s son from down the lane asking for something for the family for Christmas but as I found him a coin I smelt something burning and rushed back to find the bottom of the pan burnt. I was devastated, the meal ruined before it had begun, but Planchet placed a friendly hand on my shoulder and reassured me that it was a good thing. I knew he would never tell me a lie so I carried on by adding the meat back to the pan. Next I went to add the red wine, the usual bottle that I serve for Athos, but as I went to pour it in, Planchet grasped my hand firmly and said “Use a wine that you can drink” and with that handed me a bottle of wine I was going to give to Aramis for Christmas. Again, I knew he was in the right and so added the wine, followed by the same amount of water (rainwater, before you raise any eyebrows) and with that put the lid on and placed it in the oven, where it stayed for three hours. As I said, this was a mammoth task, and so during that time we made up all the things that I have mentioned earlier, the cheese and potato nests, the croque madames and the chouquettes and just in time too, because an hour before the meal was due to start in walked Athos, and demanded feeding. Thankfully, Aramis arrived a short while later and put a stop to his devouring, followed by Porthos and then the Captain, during which time I had to act like a host.

About fifteen minutes before the meal was due to be served, Planchet asked me to attend him in the kitchen and gave me some very bad news. We had forgotten to make the dumplings that go with the dish, mainly due to having so much to do anyway. I immediately panicked and when I do I sometimes have flashes of inspiration. And that’s what happened here. I grabbed a very old baguette and sliced it into large cubes, placed it in a bowl with some herbs, poured over some milk, added an egg and gave the whole thing a good mash together, then added some flour mixed it all up, grabbed a large handful, squeezed in my hand and said to Planchet, “Remind you of anything?” to which he declared “Dumplings, master!”. We then quickly made up six of them, fried them in a pan with some oil and just as they cooked I heard a voice saying “Henri, time to serve!”.

Taking a deep breath I pulled the pot out of the oven, placed the dumpling replacements on top and carried it to the table declaring “Henri has completed his task!” From the looks on their faces they were very impressed indeed with the end result, so much so that, and I don’t like to sound too boastful about this, the King declared me to be “un gentilhomme” which Aramis explained was a very high title for someone like me to hold and I will admit that for the rest of that Christmas I did rather have my nose up in the air on a large number of occasions, but it was all in the name of fun.

Stories and memories: Day 8 of the Recipes Project

By Tallulah Maait Pepperell

On Day 8 of the Recipes Project, we revisited some themes that had popped up on previous days of our virtual conversation. There were reconstructions, along with discussions of the ‘art’ of a good recipe. And, of course, we came back to the connections between recipes and family history, and the many forms of recipes that appear in our daily lives.

To start with the reconstructions, Maria Galanaki shared her video on constructing a meal that follows the Hippocratic Regimen.  Simon Walker continued his “Feeding under Fire” series with a video on Classic French Soldiers’ Food and a twitter thread on the subject.

There really was no end to the bready delights available yesterday (though specifically absent in Maria’s Hippocratic menu!).  We had @Pamphilia2‘s video on gingerbread recipes, Deborah Lawton writing on gingerbread in historical re-enactment, and Molly-Taylor Polesky’s interview with a master baker.

A lot of the activity of the day was focused around Twitter, with conversations surrounding family medicine recipes. We had chicken soup, hot toddies, mustard plasters, “The Remedy”, onion compresses, honey and salt water, honey-onion syrup, lemons, and Schmaltzwickel… All old family recipes, bringing together themes of family, memory, and personal links to recipes that has permeated this project.

Then I took over the Twitter feed for a few hours to indulge a personal project and explore the subject of fictional foods and recipes. A few suggestions of my own started us off on a journey through Studio Ghibli’s “Spirited Away” to Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” and then it took on a life of its own. Our wonderful contributors pitched in their own literary recipes, with a number from fairy tales and books from their childhood; we had an overflowing porridge pot, Little Red Riding hood’s picnic, the darker sides of Beatrix Potter, Narnian Turkish Delight, and the wonderful stories of Roald Dahl.

Participants came together around common themes, all  falling under the topic “recipes”.  We all have recipes that hold personal meanings, whether from tradition or memories associated with them. Recipes are just another way that family history is kept alive– like quilts, cookbooks, or photograph albums. This is also the case with the Winslow family in the bread posts today, and with the use of recipes as a wider historical teaching, such as the gingerbread reconstructions.

Similarly, the focus on fictional recipes explored the meanings food and recipes hold in both narrative and real life. Many of the recipes contributed dealt with fairy tales and children’s literature, showing how people can be shaped by what they encounter as a child. For me, the most vivid fictional recipe that sticks in my mind is the hideous roly-poly from Tom Kitten that Michael Rosen reminded me of during the discussion.

If there’s anything that the virtual conversation on ‘What is a Recipe?’ has shown us this last month, it’s that while they may not always be historical, recipes connect people in a multitude of ways.

Day 8: What is a Recipe?

Une Boulanger, A female Baker. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

A lovely summer day ahead–what awaits us on Day 8 of ‘What is a Recipe?’ Lots of videos! And also bread and gingerbread, and more!

Let’s kick off with a blog post that takes us on a trip to Wales… Lisa Tallis, from the Special Collections and Archives at the University of Cardiff, offers a blog post on their delicious collections, from brewing to farriery. She examines recipes from the perspective of Welsh-English bilingualism and cross-cultural travel between the two countries.

The Wellcome Library will be joining from around 11:30 on Twitter (@WellcomeLibrary) to consider: what is a medieval recipe? How did medieval people create and use recipes?

Siobhan Carlson’s eighteenth-century potato experiment, ‘Spuddenly Farming’, continues on Twitter and Instagram. She includes some videos of her experiment to show the differences between the cuttings. Spoiler: it’s very noticeable! It certainly seems like there just might be a recipe for growing better potatoes…

Molly-Taylor Polesky has a lovely ‘Interview with a Baker’ on YouTube. She visited a historical bakery in Berlin (Alte Bäckerei Pankow) and spoke to a master baker there, who tells us (among other things) that ‘Recipes are an art.’ Make sure to turn on the Close Captioning for English subtitles!

Un Boulanger, A Baker
Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

 

Over at her new blog, Cooking up the Archives, Deborah Lawton will be exploring ‘A Recipe is a Tasty History Lesson’. Indeed.  In this she looks at a gingerbread recipe and how it provides opportunities to discuss wide-ranging historical information. (She also has a taster from last week in which she ruminates on #recipesconf.)

Gingerbread mould, Alsatian, 1650. Credit: Musée du pain d’épices et de l’art populaire alsacien.

Edith Snook and her team at the Early Modern Maritime Recipes project (Annabelle Babineau, Karim Baccouche, and Siobhan Carlson) will have a video on ‘Edward Winslow’s Receipt for Gingerbread Cakes’.  They will prepare a nineteenth-century recipe found in the account book of Loyalist and early Fredericton settler Edward Winslow. Along the way, they will think about  recipes and communities, how recipes bring things together—ingredients, tools, methods, flavours, tastes, people—and the tensions in these migrations across political, geographic, and cultural spaces.  (Link here.) You can also follow their discussion about the video on Twitter, with @BellePepper1, @Spuddenly_Farm, and @Pamphilia2.

Maria Galanaki shares video of ‘A Hippocratic Menu’ on YouTube (here). In this, she demonstrates the preparation of three recipes–a starter, a main course, and a dessert—using ingredients reported in the Hippocratic Regimen.

And from ancient Greece, we head to the trenches of the First World War with Simon Walker who will have a video on ‘Classic French Soldiers’ Food’ for his series Feeding Under Fire. (Link to the video here.) He will also be joining in to discuss his video on Twitter as @Dark_Nocterna.

If you haven’t yet tried it, I encourage you to try ‘Cooking with Anger‘. Get your list of emotional ingredients from the Protag-o-matic and write a VERY short story in the blog post comments. After all, as the German Master Baker says, ‘Recipes are art.’

Lots to keep us busy at #recipesconf today. Please do come join in the conversation in the comments below, on Twitter (@historecipes and #recipesconf), or at the individual projects. We’d love to hear from you!

 

 

Reconstructing Recipes? : Day 7 of “What is a Recipe?”

By Amanda Herbert and Elaine Leong

Here at the Recipes Project virtual conversation Day 7, reconstruction has also emerged as a main theme.  What does “reconstruction” entail?  Is it following directions laid out by someone long-dead?  Or is it breaking down a past concept or culture according to our own systems, standards, and logics?  As our participants in Day 7 proved, reconstruction can mean many things.

Siobhan Carlson (@Spuddenly_Farm) continues to monitor her potatoes (see here and here). Working in parallel, Hillary Nunn (@HillaryNunn )  and Whitney Thompson (@klahom) explored eggs and the making of orange pudding. Prompting them to ask “What is an egg?” and “What is pudding?”. Elsewhere, Katherine Allen (@KAllen622 ) tried her hand at making lip salve and seed cake from an 18th century recipe book now in the Warwickshire Record Office. Katherine’s blog post highlights the difficulty and ease (via Amazon) of sourcing ingredients. Though we might be talking about potatoes, eggs or beeswax, one clear theme emerges from these #recipesconf about reconstruction – the difficulty in identifying precisely what our historical actors mean when they name an ingredient and in pinpointing their modern equivalents. Hillary and Whitney’s parallel experiment was particularly enlightening as the two versions of the pudding look somewhat different but still pretty appealing! 

#recipesconf aside, twitter has been filled with recipe reconstructions lately. The @makingknowing and @artechne projects have both taken advantage of the summer breaks to reconstruct recipes for all kinds of art processes from casting, soldering, melting to the production of colours like azurite. So, if you’re interested in reconstructing historical recipes, you’re in good company and there are plenty of resources out there!

Approaching “reconstruction” from a slightly different angle, Mark Sundaram (@alliterative) and Aven McMaster (@avensarah) reconstruct the history and etymology of the word “recipe” in their podcast, The Endless Knot.  If you’ve ever wondered how “recipe” was used in the ancient, medieval, early modern, and modern worlds — or even where we get the “Rx” symbol used for prescriptions, chemists, and drug stores! — then Mark and Aven’s exploration of words, history, and meaning offers some revealing insights.

The Instagram photo essay produced by Paveen Puneet and Priyanki S. Bishnoi explored “reconstruction” in the sense of breaking down and documenting the architecture, scaffolding, and framing of space and place.  Puneet and Bishnoi’s gorgeous images of cooking sites – both indoors and outdoors – in rural north India reveal that it is critical to explore the constructions which surround recipe activities.  You can find their essay, “A Pinch of This and a Handful of That: Food and Recipes in Kitchens of Rural North India” on Instagram @ppp_cookingchronicles

Courtesy of Paveen Puneet and Priyanki S. Bishnoi, on Instagram @ppp_cookingchronicles.
Courtesy of Paveen Puneet and Priyanki S. Bishnoi, on Instagram @ppp_cookingchronicles.

A more metaphorical reconstruction involves delving deep into one’s own family recipe collection to examine themes of cultural exchange of foodways, commercial functions of recipes, and memes, cliche, and memory. Will Burdette launched his new project, Food Moves, in which he’ll be exploring and reconstructing the family rolodex of recipes digitally! His video discussion is an intriguing counterpoint to Puneet and Bishnoi’s project. Where their interviewees dismissed the importance of written recipes as fuel for the fire, Burdette considers commercial recipes written on the side of boxes–as decoration, marketing… and family tradition. As @AvenSarah responded on Twitter:

Finally, we “reconstructed” the archives of several libraries and special collections with a series of tweets from The College of Physicians in Philadelphia (@CPPHistMedLib), the Cardiff University Special Collections and Archives (@CUSpecialColls), the University of Glasgow Archives and Special Collections (@UofGlasgowASC) and the Thomas Fisher Library (@FisherLibrary).  All four institutions offered images and descriptions of images from their collections, focusing particularly on medical recipes, scientific recipes, and recipes revealing the cultures of composition and writing–specifically, of ink.

Of course, reconstruction has been a strong theme throughout the virtual conversation and indeed on our blog (and elsewhere–the researchers at The Chymistry of Isaac Newton, for example, have been doing replications for years now, see videos here). All this talk about reconstruction reminded us of our conversations on Day 1 of the virtual conversation (Storify here), where Thijs Hagendijk’s tweeted on how to make pearls from fish eyes and @rare_cooking‘s  discussed her work on Cooking the Archive, comparing the blog to a laboratory notebook open to public. We encourage you to start your own notebook on reconstructing historical recipes and share it with us on twitter, blogs, instagram and more.

It’s been a great day at #recipesconf. Please join us again on July 3 for Day 8 of “What is a recipe?”  The Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and  Medicine at the University of Minnesota (@umnbiomedliband the Cardiff University Special Collections and Archives  (@CUSpecialColls ) will continue to bring us gems in their collections. See you very soon!