All posts by Elaine Leong

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.

 

 

 

Seasonality and the (Re)creation of Early Modern Color Worlds

By Jenny Boulboullé

Color played an important role in the early modern world across a number of areas from arts and crafts to Christian religion to politics to natural history and philosophy. In recent years, scholars have begun to explore how early modern men and women engaged, produced and conceptualized colors within and across color worlds.[1] Just as in early modern culinary and medical recipes, seasonality is a recurrent theme in artisanal recipes. The art of preservation was highly valued for its powers to make flavors and healing properties of foodstuffs, plants and herbs endure well beyond their seasonal availability. In my contribution to the seasonality series I focus on recipes that celebrate the art of color preservation and on the mindful attention to seasons called for in color making recipes. I am particularly interested in the challenges that recipes for making natural dyes and pigments from seasonal products posed to modern historians trying to reconstruct them.

Today the symbolic significance of colors in early modern Europe is perhaps most readily associated with the compellingly colorful medieval and renaissance art works that have survived in sacred spaces and museums.

Figure 1, Caption: Giotto (1266-1337), The Scrovegni Chapel frescoes, Padua, Italy. ca. 1305. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

But in the pre-modern period a deep concern with colors was not limited to the arts: colors were associated with the four humors and close attentiveness to colors was of vital importance to practices of healing in the Hippocritean and Galenic medical tradition.[2] The perception and display of colors was also highly charged with political meanings: colors were a form of symbolic communication and played an important role in consolidating and displaying religious and secular power relations. European courts and courtly events were important sites of “chromatic politics” as contemporary witness accounts and meticulous historical reconstructions of ephemeral, yet splendid and compellingly colorful festive events have shown.[3]

Figure 2, Caption: Peter Paul Rubens, Design for state decorations for the triumphal entry of Cardinal Infante Ferdinand into Antwerp, on April 17, 1635, Hermitage, St. Petersburg. Image from Pubhist.com

The historical reconstruction of a sixteenth-century dress, originally created for the Augsburg Imperial Diet from 1530, is a particularly compelling example of the politicized use of brightly colored dress made from dyed textiles.[4] The owner of this dress and his contemporaries might have regarded its colors “as related to intrinsic qualities and powers”. Deep scarlet reds were regarded at that time “as carriers of life and heat, while a strong yellow was linked to gold as metal, which had given its powers by the influence of the sun”. Ulinka Rublack notes the challenges encountered during the reconstruction process. The yellow color obtained in their first dying trials “was just not quite vibrant enough” which was detrimental “as faded hues of yellow could have negative associations of weakness and coldness”.[5]

Other sixteenth century recipes for ‘yellows’ from organic sources, demonstrate that making natural dyes of this color depended on local seasonal knowledge. As Marieke Hendriksen has discussed, here in Utrecht, we are building a new database of artisanal recipes. A quick search in the Artechne Database yields several fifteenth- and sixteenth century German recipes for green and yellow colors that call for buckthorn berries (some with precise indication for picking times, like this one for “Green color” from 1543). Here an Italian one from the anonymous Padua Manuscript (ca. end 16th/17th century), translated and published in English:

To make giallo santo

Take the berries of buckthorn towards the end of the month of August, boil them with pure water, until the water is loaded and thick with color; add a little burnt roche alum and then strain it. You may boil the strained liquor to make the color deeper, mixing with it some very pure gilder’s gesso; then make the color into pellets, and dry them in the shade.[6]

In color recipes such as this one, seasonality and intimate knowledge of seasonal products sensitivities to additives play a key role. Berries had to be picked at specific times of the year to attain the right hues, and while the juice of ripe buckthorn, available in most of Europe, gives a greenish color, also known as sap green, one needs to get hold of unripe berries, fresh or dried, in particular a species imported from the Middle East, also known as “Persian berries”, to attain the deep golden yellow hue that the reconstruction team had envisioned for this dazzling sixteenth-century dress.[7] Only by patiently repeating the dye processes using the right berries picked at the right moment, can the desired vibrant hue of rich quality be achieved – both in the early modern period and during 21th century reconstruction.[8]

Thus, the commission of brightly dyed dresses for display at important events must have been a time-consuming affair that required planning long ahead of the political event and entailed a collaborative process of sourcing and experimenting that depended not only on seasonal knowledge and availability, but was also prone to risks of seasonal change. As Rublack’s work shows, reconstruction research makes us of acutely aware of the complexities and risks posed to those who aspired a part in the “chromatic politics” of the Holy Roman Empire in the sixteenth century. Moreover, as I will show in my next post, color recipe reconstructions allow us to experience the efforts and knowledge that went into the creation of early modern color worlds, which have become unfamiliar to our modern period eye.

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[1] Tarwin Baker, Sven Dupré, Sachiko Kusukawa, and Karin Leonhard, eds., Early Modern Color Worlds (Brill, 2016).

[2] Baker, Dupré, Kusukawa, and Leonhard 2016, 4.

[3] Ulinka Rublack, “Renaissance Dress, Cultures of Making, and the Period Eye.” West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture 23, no. 1 (March 1, 2016): 6–34. doi:10.1086/688198.

[4] Rublack 2016.

[5] Rublack 2016, 23, 24.

[6] Maria Philadelphia Merrifield, Original Treatises, Dating from the XIIth to XVIIIth Centuries, on the Arts of Painting, in Oil, Miniature, Mosaic, and on Glass; Of Gilding, Dying, and the Preparation of Colours and Artificial Gems (John Murray 1849), 708.

[7] Jo Kirby, Susie Nash, and Joanna Cannon, eds. Trade in Artists’ Materials: Markets and Commerce in Europe to 1700 (Archetype Publications, 2010) Glossary, 447.

[8] Rublack 2016, 25.