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!!!]
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.