All posts by Elaine Leong

Happy Birthday to us!

By Elaine Leong

This week, The Recipes Project celebrated its second birthday. It seems like yesterday when Lisa Smith approached me to start an academic blog to showcase the wonderful ways in which our colleagues around the world research and teach with recipes. Over the past two years, the blog has published over 200 posts and featured the work of more than 50 researchers. This is a big thank you to all our contributors. After all, my life is definitely richer having found out about tobacco enemas, learnt about Glauber Salt, discovered the wrong way to distill turpentine, gotten ‘in’ on the medieval Russian secret hangover cure and somehow become a fan of Ed Sheeran through Manchu recipes. Also, now that it is plum season in Berlin, I cannot bite into one of those juicy purple fruits or eat a slice of Pflaumenkuchen without thinking about Johannes Magirus. So, a big round of applause to our contributors around the world.

As a historian of reading, I spend my days and nights dreaming of and writing about early modern readers. At The Recipes Project, we’re lucky to have a band of dedicated readers. If you’re a fan of the blog, you’re in good company. For the past year, around 10,000 of you regularly log on to the site every month. Thank you for your support and we hope that you’ll keep reading and hitting that comment button to let us know your thoughts. Finally, a big thank you to our friends in the Twitter and Facebook spheres, the editors of the H-word on, the editors of the various History Blog carnivals – thanks for all the shout-outs and keep’em coming.

Let’s raise our glasses of seasonal organic cider to another year of discovery on The Recipes Project!

Amanda Herbert on the IHR’s Reviews in History

As some of you might be aware, one of our editors, Amanda Herbert’s new book Female Alliances: Gender, Identity, and Friendship in Early Modern Britain was published earlier this year by Yale University Press. As readers, we were lucky enough to be given tasters of the themes addressed by Amanda in the book in her two posts on ‘Never too many Cooks’ (part 1, part 2). The book takes us into the fascinating world of female friendships, alliances and networks in early modern Britain and how these interactions were not only central to the women’s lives but also were instrumental in shaping the British Atlantic World.  For us recipe bluffs, there are fascinating new readings about recipe exchange and lots about dear old Hannah Woolley.   For those of you want to to know more, click here to listen to an podcast interview which Amanda recently recorded with Jordan Landes, the History Subject Library at the Senate House Library, University of London.


Introducing our new Twitter-guru!

Amanda, Lisa and I are delighted to welcome Laura Mitchell as our new twitter-guru. Some of you might already know Laura from our Facebook page. From this month onwards, Laura will also be sending out those 140 character notes, conversing with all of you in the twitter-sphere and keeping us up to date on all things recipe-related.

Above Alexis of Piedmont and Albertus Magnus; centre: William Harvey and Francos Bacon drawing aside a curtain to reveal secrets; below: Dr.R.Reade, Dr. John (Johann Jacob) Wecker and Ramund Lullius.
Wellcome Library, London Engraved title page to: Eighteen books of the secrets of art and nature, being the summe and substance of naturall philosophy, methodically digested …, London 1660.

Laura’s main research interests focus on charms, and more broadly magic, in later medieval England. Her 2011 dissertation “Cultural Uses of Magic in Fifteenth-century England” combined social/cultural history and book history to explore how medieval people used their books to present a certain image of themselves, and what role magic texts and charms played in that. She is currently branching out to examine books of secrets and networks/communities of exchange in fifteenth century England. Those of you lucky enough to be in Manchester for the ICHSTM last year might remember Laura’s paper on the notebook of Thomas Fayreford and networks of knowledge in late medieval Somerset and Devon. For all of you Tolkien fans, Laura’s chapter on magic and The Hobbit is coming out this fall – watch this space.

Recently, I put a few questions to Laura about her work on The Recipes Project. Here is a brief glimpse into our conversations…

Elaine: Hi Laura! Thank you for agreeing take-on the ‘historecipes’ twitter account! You’ve been an active member of The Recipes Project community since our launch in 2012. Can you tell us a little about what attracts you to the project?

Laura: I think what I like best about the Recipes Project is the huge range of topics that have come up! Victorian cosmetics, medicines from early modern China, mare’s milk, who knows what else will pop up. I’ve learned so much about so many different subjects in the past few years. I’ve really enjoyed this range too for giving me some insight into other scholar’s methodologies and work methods.

Elaine: Since completing your PhD, you’ve been actively working as a ‘digital humanist’. Could you tell us a little more about your projects and what attracts you to research in this area?

Laura: The Recipes Project, and my catalogue website, have been my only forays into digital humanities so far. I’ve attended some workshops on the digital humanities in medieval studies and there’s some great things that can be done now. There is a lot of new and interesting digital humanities projects coming out now and I’m looking forward to seeing where the field goes from here.

Elaine: So, Twitter. It seems like that’s the online place to be for historians nowadays! In the past couple of years, I have had so many interesting conversations with PhD students and post docs about the place of Twitter in academic conversations. What is your take on this?

Laura: Twitter is a great way to network online. There are a lot of historians on Twitter now who are lovely, friendly people. I’ve enjoyed using Twitter as a way of meeting new people and keeping in touch with new contacts I have made elsewhere. The 140 character limit may not seem like much, but a lot can be said in a few words, and I’ve had some great conversations there. It’s also helped me keep my writing succinct!

That’s it folks! Take some time off this month and come say hi to Laura on our twitter page.

An early summer round-up…

By Elaine Leong

Walking down the streets of Berlin, the signs of early summer are everywhere. The flower stalls are selling five different kinds of peonies, the asparagus season is beginning to wane and, my most favourite of all, little strawberry-shaped kiosks have popped up all over the city offering delicious, juicy fruits which have never seen the inside of a refrigerator. For those of us in academia, early summer means more than just the long-awaited strawberry season: the end of the academic year and a summer away from the bricks and mortar of our institutions in a far away archive. Long sunny days filled with reading and more reading… Before we all scatter for the summer, I wanted to write a post to celebrate and highlight the work of some of our contributors.  For the past two years, a wonderful group of graduate students have been sharing their ideas with us on the blog bringing us cutting-edge research and fresh ideas. Just in case you missed their posts, this is a handy round-up!

Katherine Allen (Oxford, History of Medicine), has been telling us about a diverse range of topics over the past two years from tobacco smoke enemas to how eighteenth-century English men and women fought off coughs and colds to distillation and alchemy. When not blogging, she is completing her thesis titled ‘Recipe Books and the Exchange of Medical Knowledge in Eighteenth-Century English Households’ (projected submission date: summer 2015). Her work deals with the material and social history of manuscript collections of medical recipes in eighteenth-century England, and their role in domestic medicine.

Colleen E. Kennedy (Ohio State University, English Literature) has enticed us with her posts about sweet (and not so sweet) smells, perfumes and poetry.  Her dissertation ‘Comparisons Are Odorous: The Early Modern English Olfactory and Literary Imagination’ enhances the vibrant critical conversation about early modern embodiment, affect theory, and sensory history by following different whiffs of the highly subjective past. By exploring the complexities of aromatic discourse in early modern literature, she recovers a lexicon of olfactory imagery and stereotypes, challenge modern assumptions about early modern stench and hygienic practices, and suggest new ways of gaining access to the early modern cultural imagination. You can also follow Colleen’s work at:

Tillmann Taape (Cambridge, HPS and MPIWG, History of Science) is a first-year PhD student writing a thesis titled ‘Hieronymus Brunschwig and the making of vernacular medicine in early modern Europe’.  His research investigates the intersection of learned and artisanal knowledge in Brunschwig’s writings on surgery and distillation.  In the last year, Tillmann has told us stories about an alchemical disaster (complete with an exploding still and knocked-out practitioner), ‘coded’ plague remedies and ‘distilling the essence of heaven’.

Ashley Buchanan (University of South Florida, History) has introduced us to the world of the last Medici Princess, Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici (1667-1743). Her posts on Anna Maria Luisa’s recipe collection has transported us to back to eighteenth-century Florence with virtual tours around the Medici Granducal Fonderia and an introduction to a miraculous powder purported to treat infant convulsions.  In the next couple of years, Ashley will spend much of her time in the Archivio di Stato in Florence.  Her dissertation aims to explore Anna Maria Luisa’s role in the in the collection and production of early eighteenth-century medicinal therapeutics and alchemical knowledge. In particular, Ashley is interested in tracing the networks through which Anna Maria Luisa procured and disseminated her exotic raw materials and “secret” remedies, as well as, to understand the desire for elite women to participate in such activities and the social capital they created for themselves in the process.

Rachel Snell’s (University of Maine, History) dissertation is provisionally titled: ‘“Mistress, Mother, Nurse and Maid”: Domesticity and Women’s Work in the Anglo-American World, 1828-1876’ (project completion date 2015/16). Her project is driven by the question – how did the ideaology of domesticity function in ordinary women’s lives? It focuses on printed and manuscript cookbooks through a comparative Atlantic history perspective on the cultural construction and the lived experience of domesticity in Great Britain, the United States, and Canada. Over the last few months, Rachel has shared her experiences working with historical GIS and in her quantitative analysis of annotations in Maria Rundell’s A New System of Domestic Cookery.

With the working title ‘Food Fit for a King? Dining Culture at the Rising Court of Brandenburg-Prussia under the ‘Great Elector’ Friedrich Wilhelm: 1640-1688’, Molly Taylor-Poleskey’s (Stanford, History) dissertation (planned completion date summer 2015) follows the rise of the House of Brandenburg-Prussia during the reign of Elector Friedrich Wilhelm through the cultural lens of food and dining at court. This angle allows her to zoom in to the minute rituals of everyday dining at court (which reified the court’s internal social structure) and also to look at matters of import on the wider European political stage (such as the acquisition of resources from territorial gains). The topic of food offers her the opportunity to connect political cultural history with medical, environmental and commercial history to understand the motivations of the people involved in the court’s rise. Since joining the project, Molly has shared with us the fascinating histories of our favourite Christmas treat the lebkuchen and the best (?) breakfast in the world – beer soup.

Sally Osborn (University of Roehampton, History) is currently in the final stages of completing her thesis ‘The role of domestic knowledge in an era of professionalisation: Eighteenth-century manuscript medical recipe collections’ (planned completion date 2015). Her project concentrates on exploring medical recipe books as a form of domestic record-keeping. In the last two years, Sally has regularly shared her ideas with readers on The Recipes Project including posts prompting us to ponder on ‘what is a recipe?’, 18th century DIY and ingredient substitution. Sally blogs at and can frequently be found on Twitter, @sallyosborn.