All posts by Elaine Leong

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!

Recipes as a Connecting Thread: Reflections on Day 4

By Amanda Herbert and Elaine Leong

Day Four represented the best of what our “What Is A Recipe” digital conversation has come to represent.  Our contributors joined the #recipesconf conversation in a wide range of media: blog posts, podcasts, YouTube videos, Instagram photo essays, and Tweetstorms.  As our discussion ranged across platforms and topics, we were reminded that recipes act as a connecting thread, bringing together helpful research and insights that help us to understand the past from many perspectives, disciplines, and time periods.

We had some new recipe recreations today, via Simon Walker and Siobhan Clark.  Both of these contributors reminded us – in keeping with Marissa Nicosia’s post on early modern chocolate – that recipe recreation helps us to see a past which is available yet not necessarily accessible.

Siobhan Clark’s Spuddenly Farming experiment continued as Siobhan began to divide and cut potatoes that had been grown according to eighteenth-century farming methods.  This was not straightforward, as the potatoes came in a variety of sizes and each had very different numbers of eyes.  What started as a math puzzle quickly became an exercise in aesthetics.

But Simon Walker’s brilliant YouTube tutorial on how to make WWI Lemon Hardtack Pudding reminded us that aesthetics are sometimes lost in translation. As Simon shared, soldiers in WWI were expected to eat 4,500 calories per day, approximately 500 of which were devoted to puddings — or, as the soldiers called them, “duff.” (For another RP post on wartime duff, see Jessica Eichlin’s post on Apple Duff in the American Civil War.)

The most important things about these dishes were probably their characters (filling) as well as their contents (sugar) rather than their visual or textural appeal. Puddings made out of things like bacon grease, sugar, and rehydrated hardtack might seem today to be only marginally edible — but they were nonetheless critical to WWI soldiers’ morale and their sense of normalcy.  Both Siobhan’s and Simon’s recreations might not allow a replica of past experience, but they do offer unexpected and useful insights into things like the material conditions of labor, the impact of tradition and culture, or the importance of logistics, supply, and trade.

Two other contributors, Louise Cilliers and Véronique Ginouvès, offered blog posts.  Cilliers discussed remedies to treat breast engorgement in the ancient world, and Ginouvès reflected on her experiments with podcasting at the sound archives at the MMSH.  Cilliers shared insights about a North African doctor, Theodorus Priscianus, who was a student of the famous Carthaginian physician, Vindicianus (late 4thcentury CE).  Priscianus’ cures for postpartum women revealed that the physician was attuned to and respectful of ancient women’s own systems of knowledge and their experiences.

Meanwhile Ginouvès wrote about the ways that  she her team have approached a series called “La Recette Du Mois,” uncovering recollections of recipes in the MMSH Sound Archive Center’s more than 8,000 hours of sound archives (6,000 of which have been digitized, and  3,000 of which are directly accessible online).  Although Cilliers’ and Ginouvès’ topics vary widely in terms of time period and topic, both offered the opportunity to reflect on the important work that recipes do in making the past seem relevant, approachable, and accessible.

This was a point forcefully born out by Lisa Smith’s tweetstorm about her innovative undergraduate teaching with recipes. Smith’s tweets directed readers to blog posts and citizen transcription projects completed by her students at the University of Essex as part of their goal to consider ‘What is a Recipe?’. For more, go here.

Finally, joining the conversation from Australia, Marguerite Johnson shared her analysis of beauty recipes from Ovid’s Medicamina Faciei Femineae via a podcast and storify.  Ovid, Marguerite tell us, offered his readers not recipes for cosmetics (make-up and such) but rather ‘cosmeceuticals’, substances which could be used to augment natural beauty. Here, we again see recipes as a connecting thread. Not only were there crossovers in the ingredients, techniques and equipment used between medical, culinary and cosmeceutical production but many of the ingredients recommended by Ovid, such as honey and egg,  are still in use today in our more natural face creams. Inspired by Marguerite (and Ovid, of course), we now view those eggs sitting our kitchens with new intentions! Who knows, next week, you might see us sporting smooth, glowing complexions! And that’s only one of the reasons why we appreciate #recipesconf.

… And in case you missed it, a Storify of Day 3 by Tallulah Maait Pepperell is available here.

 

 

Day 2: What is a Recipe?

Image from Wikimedia.org

Good morning everyone – got your coffee ready?

Welcome to the second event day of our ‘What is a Recipe?‘ virtual conversation.  Join us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook today to further discuss all things recipes!

We will be hearing from

If you want to pick up any conversation threads from June 2, Lisa Smith has Storified the themes over here.

All of our participants will be using the #recipesconf handle on Twitter – see you there!

 

 

What is a Recipe? Week 2

Hi everyone, welcome to week 2 of our virtual conversation. First, thank you all for the interesting and stimulating conversation on Friday. For this recipe enthusiast, there were a large number of high-points. I particularly enjoyed the discussions on recipes and algorithms (thanks in particular to  for getting us started and for his participation via Twitter, see also Paul Engle’s guest blog post here). From watching the live-streamed ‘Repast and Present: Food History Inside and Outside the AcademyBerks 2017 panel (my first Facebook live event!), I also enjoyed learning about the rich and wide-ranging ways colleagues in classrooms, museums and on the internet use recipes as a vehicle for fostering conversations about constructing identities and our relationships with the past. (Lisa Smith has Storified the day over here.) I look forward to continuing these conversations with everyone in the coming week!

We’re delighted to host a rich programme for week 2 of ‘What is a Recipe?’. This week, our main event day is Wednesday June 7. see below for abstracts and summaries. In addition, our friends at the University of Glasgow Archives and Special Collections (@UofGlasgowASC) and the Cardiff University Special Collections and Archives (@CUSpecialColls) will continue to share their holdings on twitter.

The Recipes Project team all look forward to seeing you on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and more. Don’t forget to #recipesconf on all Twitter conversations!

Titles and Abstracts:

‘Recipes in the Early Royal Society Archives’, Sietske Fransen (tweets 7 June, 13 June, and 20 June; blog post 5 July.)

The seventeenth-century fellows of the Royal Society were interested in every part of the natural world. They collected and reproduced a large variety of recipes, from the making of pigments to finding the recipe for the best French bread, to a recipe for universal medicine. During my research days in June, investigating the visual practice of the early Royal Society (www.mv.crassh.cam.ac.uk), I will tweet the various recipes I encounter in the archive of the Royal Society. At the end of those weeks the found recipes will feature in a blogpost on recipes in  the early Royal Society.

‘Spuddenly Farming: A reconstruction of Rev. Mr. Cochran’s Potato experiment, 1791’, Siobhan Carlson, 2 June, 7 June, 13 June. 15 June, 20 June, 24 June, 27 June, 3 July, 5 July

Following the American Revolution, the British crown gave Loyalists land to farm throughout the Canadian Maritimes. This migration gave rise to the emergence of an English print culture in the region that included agricultural recipes. Amongst these entries, on the 24th of March, 1792, the Royal Gazette and Miscellany of the Island of Saint John, printed the experiment entitled, ‘To determine whether it is best to plant large or small Cuttings of Potatoes ; in a Letter from the Rev. Mr. Cochran to the Secretary of the Agricultural Society for the County of Hants, dated Winsor, Feb. 1791.’ The experiment outlines the best methods to grow Prince Edward Island’s famous export – the potato. The goal of this project is to reconstruct the experiment, to think about/consider the experience of Maritime Settlers.

‘Gwendolyn Brooks’ Fruit Salad’, Newberry Library podcast (Alex Teller)

We’re releasing a podcast episode about a fruit salad recipe by Gwendolyn Brooks on Wednesday, June 7 (the 100th anniversary of her birth). The audio will appear on Soundcloud and iTunes, but we’ll repurpose it (along with pictures of how the fruit salad came out when we made it) for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well.

‘Historical Recipes + Digital Humanities’, Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and  Medicine at the University of Minnesota (Lois Hendrickson and Emily Beck)

Recipe Workshop digital poster (from Carleton College June 2 Digital Humanities Conference. Our ‘poster’ session on the Historical  Recipes + Digital Humanities symposium, which was held at the Wangensteen.