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 Spring Clean for Recipes Project

By Chelsea Clark

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.

It might be autumn in the northern hemisphere–but in the southern hemisphere, it is spring! My experience in helping to tidy up the Recipes Project website has felt much the same as the typical spring cleaning that goes on after a long winter with the intent of brightening up a household or workspace. While keeping the essence of the site, I set out to make it a bit more accessible and user friendly by adding additional resource material and attempting to showcase the growing diversity of the site.

First, I would like to draw your attention to our new blog appearance. I wanted to show our clean-up in a very visual way by choosing a more sleek looking format for the blog. One of the things that I like most about the Recipes Project is its use of pictures. The main thing I wanted to showcase on the front page of the site was… even more pictures! When it comes to recipe manuscripts and books, there are so many images available–and our contributors are great at choosing images that complement their posts.  I wanted to use images on the front page to display the growing diversity of post on the site, from medicine to gardening, from exploring texts to trying out recipes, from delving into recipes for cakes to plaisters, and from gender to cultural explorations.

Original illustration (1865), by John Tenniel for Lewis Carroll's novel, Alice in Wonderland. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Original illustration (1865), by John Tenniel for Lewis Carroll’s novel, Alice in Wonderland. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The clean-up also led me deep into the back pages of the website to analyze the categories and tags that our posters were currently using in order to see if there was anything to make searching the recipes posts more intuitive. With the website expanding in so many ways, it is important to us to make that information as easily accessible as possible. We’ve tried to make specific topics more findable (student posts, for example), as well as to connect posts on related information that may have been unexpected to the searcher initially (lists of series). Falling down the rabbit hole, so to speak, can be a delightful blogging experience.

I hope that a reader flipping through the categories will get an idea of the breadth of topics the site covers. Categories describe themes, while tags are used to break those themes down further. Any frequently used tags suggest that these topics are popular enough to need their own categories. When deciding which of these tags to change into category titles, I tried to place myself in a browser’s position. If I was to click on the categories drop-box, what would I be interested in seeing? I found that while “Recipes” and “Recipe Books” were popular tags, they did not need to become categories: for a recipe website to have a recipes category seemed redundant.

Categories can also separate the posts in ways that make them intuitively searchable. The country categories show diversity, so I added “Germany,” “Russia,” and “China” as new categories. I also saw the categories menu as a place to showcase some of the fun tags that had gotten a fair amount of hits, such as “Chocolate” and “Distillation.” In addition, I combined the two categories “Plants” and “Herbs” due to their overlap; this also included posts with the tags “Herbs,” “Herbals,” and “Herbal Remedies.”

The SEARCH box is another, often overlooked, way of searching both tags and categories to find posts which are related. Don’t be afraid to throw your own ideas in this box and see what the site can retrieve!

In addition to the Clean-up, We have also added something new and exciting to the site … ZOTERO!

In order to keep with the ‘shiny and new’ theme, the next step was to redesign our old resource page. We decided to go with a searchable, linkable, expandable, and downloadable Zotero resource list. The idea behind the Zotero list was to create a resource list for the site that was easily searchable by both contributors and readers with varying degrees of familiarity with the sources. I consolidated many resource lists from various recipe related projects and then hunted down the sources online and familiarized myself with them in order to link them together with tags and entered them on Zotero.org.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.

For those not familiar with Zotero, this site is truly an amazing research organization tool. The Primary and Secondary sources entered so far cover a broad range of subjects, from recipes and medicine to reading and publishing, including English, American, Italian, Welsh, French, and Latin sources. The primary sources are searchable by library or archive and even have the manuscript identification where possible to make finding them easy as pie. The secondary sources are linked together with subject tags to make not only finding the one you want easy, but can link you to other sources you may not have known about.

The Zotero link can be found on our new page Additional Resources along with several other research tools that are useful for recipe exploration.

I hope you all enjoy the new and improved Recipes Project site. Please explore, search, browse even better than before!