Tales from the Archives: A New Year’s Recipe from Old Prussia

As the final post of 2019, we’ve gone deep into our archives with Molly Taylor-Polesky’s piece on a lebkuchen recipe that hails from 14th Century Prussia.  From all of us at the Recipes Project, we wish you a Happy and recipes-filled New Year.


By Molly Taylor-Polesky

Handschrift Stadtbibliothek Nürnberg Amb. 279.2°, Folio 11 verso (Landauer I)
The Lebküchner, Handschrift Stadtbibliothek Nürnberg Amb. 279.2°, Folio 11 verso (Landauer I).

In the winter of 1397, the effects of plague were finally beginning to lift in Königsberg, Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia). The citizens, grateful that the Lord’s wrath had been appeased through their suffering and prayer, made honey cakes. They formed the cakes into deer, rabbits and people and laid them on warm oven tiles to harden. In the afternoon of New Year’s Day they carried the cakes to their neighbors with the wish that God would bless them with long life and health.

This story is recounted by Lucas David in his Prussian Chronicle (Preußische Chronik) of 1575 (p. 25–7).  David, a Protestant convert, was employed by the Duke of Prussia to revise Prussian history without the Catholic slant. He used this story about local customs to jump into a diatribe against the 1564 ordinance by the Catholic French king Charles IX that the year begin on January 1, not on Christmas. (January 1 was later also confirmed as the first day of the year by Pope Gregory’s calendar of 1582.)

The traditional New Year’s cake survived dynastic changes at the court in Prussia and was still being made there in the seventeenth century, when the Hohenzollern were Dukes of Prussia. Palace kitchen accounts from the years 1631, 1646, 1651-2, and 1655 record as much as 24 quarts of honey being used specifically for “the New Year’s dough.”[1] The court was not in residence at the palace in Königsberg over New Years in all of these years, which suggests that the cakes were not for the court itself but rather were gifts either for remaining palace servants or citizens of the town.

Even when the old Julian calendar was abandoned in the Protestant lands of the Holy Roman Empire, the honey cake remained a New Year’s tradition in Prussia-it simply migrated to the new calendar date. The 18th-century lexicographer Johann Georg Krünitz described a “Leib=kuchen (a variant name of the aforementioned honey cake) that “in some regions, for example, Prussia, was a round bread of fine wheat flour that was baked for New Year’s and either sold or given as a gift.” Krünitz continued by relating a superstition associated with the bread in which the name of the intended recipient would be written on a slip of paper and placed atop the loaf before baking. If the loaf cracked, it was an omen that the named person would die in the coming year, which eerily harks back to the role of the cake during the uncertain time of the plague.

In Königsberg in the medieval and early modern period, the honey cake took on religious and communal meanings, which changed in conjunction with other historical shifts. Ultimately, it was not the date, or the religious conflict, or cake’s role in the thanksgiving ritual that mattered. The traditions varied, but the honey cake remained.

Today, the Nuremberg recipe for Lebkuchen is the most famous of this type of spice cake and it is undoubtedly associated with the Christmas holiday in Germany. The East Prussian honey cake is all but forgotten, but recipes can still found online–and perhaps among descendants of displaced Prussians.

[1] Geheimes Staatsarchiv, Preußische Kulturbesitz, XX. H.A. Ostpreuss. Folianten. Current-day measurements estimated for “24 Stof” of honey based on Wolfgang Heidecke. “Alte Maße Altpreußens.” Altpreußische Geschlechterkunde 13 (1939): 22–23, 53–54, and 92.

Christmas Recipes in Early Modern Barcelona

Marta Manzanares Mileo

In 1786, Rafael d’Amat i de Cortada, a member of Catalan nobility known as Baron of Maldà, described the Christmas holiday in his memoirs, noting that: “All sorts of torrons are sold in confectionery shops at Christmas, and eaten as dessert at the table of gentlemen as well as many artisans and other people”[1]. 

Tomás Hiepes, Sweetmeats and Dried Fruit on a Table, ca.1600–1635, Prado Museum. Image Bank ©Museo Nacional del Prado.

During Christmas time, professional confectioners fully engaged in the making of the quintessential Christmas dessert: the torró or turrón. The traditional Torró is a confection made of honey and/or sugar syrup, beaten egg whites, roasted nuts — mainly almonds or hazelnuts — covered with wafer paper and cut into rectangular bars. This combination of ingredients brought together Arab confectionery methods with Iberian ingredients, which shows the intercultural culinary traditions in early modern Spain.


One of the earliest recipes of torró written in Catalan is the recipe for Torrons d’avelanes, or a hazelnut nougat, which is located in the 14th century manuscript recipe book titled Llibre de totes maneres de confits (Book of the methods of making confections) in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at University of Barcelona. According to the preface of this book, all these recipes were provided by many “notable especiers”, the medieval sellers of spices and sugary food. [2]

Recipes for turrón can be also found in the book Los quarto libros del arte de la confitería (Four Volumes on the Art of Confectionery) by the Toledan confectioner Miguel de Baeza (Alcalá de Henares, 1592), the earliest print confectioner book in early modern Spain. Baeza offers two different recipes for turrón: turrón fino (Fine Nougat), a ground roasted almond nougat, and the recipe for turrón entrefino (Common Nougat) made of roasted pine nuts.

Unlike other food recipes, confectionery formulas clearly specify the amount of ingredients as well as the ‘degree’ or temperature of sugar or honey syrup, as being fundamental criteria to obtain good results. Confectioners recognized the correct degree for each confection by the visual and tactile signs given by the boiling honey or sugar syrups. In the recipe Del turrón fino (Of Fine Nougat), Baeza instructed to test the degree of honey syrup as follows:

Take a bowl or a casserole pot and a bit of cool, clear water, and you will dip your finger into the water; and then you will dip your finger into the honey, and look it crumbles and then it is good.

The numerous references to the confectioner’s workshop and journeymen suggest that the Arte de confitería would have been intended for professional confectioners. Only two original copies are known to date, located in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and in the library of the monastery of El Escorial (Madrid). Strikingly, a third handwritten copy of Baeza’s work can be found as part of the manuscript notebook of Melcior Palau, a Catalan confectioner who lived and worked in Barcelona during the early seventeenth century.

Front page of the manuscript copy of Los cuatro libros de arte de confitería by Miguel de Baeza. Biblioteca de la Universitat de Barcelona (BUB), ms. 62, f. 53r. Biblioteca Patrimonial Digital de la Universitat de Barcelona.


From 1562, the members of the College of Druggists and Confectioners of Barcelona (Col·legi de droguers i confiters de Barcelona) were the main suppliers of torrons in the city. They were entitled to exercise as druggists, dispensing drugs, spices and other colonial commodities, as well as confectioners, making and selling sweets. The rich archives of Catalonia have revealed an unusually high number of confectionery books belonged to professional confectioners, in which they collected and recorded a wide range of sweets recipes. 

As regards Melcior Palau’s handbook, it contains an additional recipe for torró titled Per fer torons de amella (To make almond nougat). The annotations following this last recipe make clear that it was added by another reader, specifically Gaspar Arnau, the apprentice of the confectioner Melcior Palau. Here, the apprentice Arnau limited himself to indicate the quantities of honey and nuts.

BUB, ms. 62, f. 43v. Biblioteca Patrimonial Digital de la Universitat de Barcelona.

Palau’s confectionery book suggests handwritten copies of the print Arte de confitería could have encouraged a larger spread among professional confectioners during the seventeenth century. Furthermore, the multiple handwritings and annotations contained in this handbook show a wide circulation across generations of guild members. The exceptionality of Catalan confectioner books raises some questions about the extent to which similar manuscript recipe collections might be used in the acquisition and transmission of craft knowledge in other European urban contexts, alternative to oral transmission and print culture.

Bon Nadal! Merry Christmas!


[1] AMAT i de CORTADA, Rafel d´, Baró de Maldà, Calaix de Sastre (Barcelona: Curial, 1987), vol. I.

[2] FARAUDO de Saint-Germain, Luís, “Libre de totes maneres de confits. Un tratado cuatrocentista de arte de dulcería”, Boletín de la Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona, XIX (1946), p.106.

A Recipe for the Body: Chiropractic Medicine in Mexico (Part II)

Jethro Hernández Berrones


The presence of chiropractic medicine in Mexico City in the 20th century demonstrates the plural market of medical services available to patients after the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917), as introduced in the first entry in this series. In a city where the rate of migration from the rural interior increased and commodities resulting from industrialization abounded, chiropractors offered a therapy that fulfilled the health needs of a varied set of patients. Manipulations resembling those of sobadores appealed to the migrating indigenous and mestizo campesino population, while a foreign novelty with electrical technological devices fit middle-and-upper class sensitivities. How did these chiropractor´s practices look like?

Photographer Enrique Díaz captured the modern facilities of the school in 1932.[1] A three-story art-deco building displays a banner that reads “Quiropráctica” above the main entrance. The photographer captured the population of patients waiting at the internal patio of the building. A musician and a disabled man on a wheel chair stood up amidst a group of around one hundred patients, adult women and men as well as children whose outfits suggest a diverse socio-economic background, perhaps industrial workers, housemaids, drivers, clerks, office assistants, and campesinos, among other working- and middle-class occupations. One consulting room contains an X-ray machine in the corner and two chiropractic tables made of metal and leather cushions and with several levers and pistons to accommodate different patient bodies’ sizes and positions. Diplomas, yearbook photographs, the cartography of the spinal cord’s nervous connections with other bodily organs, a sink, a bookcase and a desk suggest patients had their first medical encounter with a professional chiropractor. Once diagnosed they visited the second room. This room’s photograph displays ten chiropractic tables for massage on top of which ten patients, three women and seven men, lie with their torso uncovered in order to have their spine manipulated by ten chiropractors, two of them women, wearing a white gown. Manlio Fuentes observes from a stand between the two rows of tables as to evaluate the performance of the chiropractic students; two women, perhaps patients´ family members wearing pricy coats, observe with a curious smile in their faces.

The photograph suggested an ordered, disciplined, and efficient school that provided students with hands-on experiences on hundreds of patients who came to the school for bodily relieve. The view contrasted with the goal to sanitize medical practice of post-revolutionary governments. After the violent phase of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917), reformers implemented public health policies to bring adequate medical services to the population. In the 1920s and 30s, politicians, public health officers, education experts, and health practitioners of all extractions, including allopaths, homeopaths, chiropractors, midwives, nurses, dentists, and pharmacists mobilized resources to promote medical education and services. They also came together to design policy and law that ensured Mexicans received services from adequately trained practitioners. Ambivalent and contradictory attitudes spotted the cultural landscape of healthcare in Mexico. Commercial efforts to promote new medicines, nutritional supplements, and therapeutic approaches challenged regulatory policies. Nationalists, scientists, and upper-class actors regarded with suspicion medical systems that came from abroad, that the academic medical community distrusted, and that used the popular press to advertise their services and reach a wider audience. Among their target was chiropractic medicine.

A year after Montaño and Fuentes founded the chiropractic school and association, the Ministry of Public Health prescribed the 1928 Sanitary Code to ensure all doctors, including chiropractors, aligned under the same medical curriculum in order to fix the national medical body. The Ministry did not allow doctors to certify their degrees if they had not graduated from reputable national or foreign institutions, or passed a certification test with the National University. Without this certification, physicians’ publicity became a threat against a healthy city and illegal under the new code. The welcoming environment that the first chiropractors had found in Mexico had turned against them. Montaño and Fuentes raised their complaints to President Portes Gil in 1929.[2] They argued that liberal United States had regulated chiropractic medicine as a “special method for health recovery” and that they had followed the same steps of American chiropractors to professionalize the practice in Mexico.[3] Mexican chiropractors had founded the association and opened the school with the same curriculum as Palmer’s school in Davenport, Iowa, and with the schooling prerequisites required by law for professional schools in Mexico. The chiropractors sustained that their medicine was different from allopathy and homeopathy, because it did not prescribe drugs, and that it resembled more closely massage therapists and physical culture instructors, who were not required a license to practice. An exceptional healing practice required specific regulations. They therefore requested government acknowledgement of the legal status of the chiropractic school and its diplomas.

Figure 3. First license for chiropractic medicine in Mexico. Taken from Jospeh C. Keating, “Notes on the Chiropractic Health Bureau/ICA,” National Institute of Chiropractic Research, April 5, 2016, p. 32.

However, on a December-18, 1933-afternoon in Mexico, an anonymous chiropractor defending the liberal practice of medicine raised his voice in Congress to support the legal existence of homeopathy in the country.[4] He said “we do not oppose to the existence of homeopathy because we do not know where truth lies or who is closer to it. Modern Biology has not been able to tell us in spite of all its efforts. Both schools [referring to homeopathy and allopathy] heal, both have adepts, and therefore both should exist.” The anonymous chiropractor had a stake in this discussion. In spite of Montaño and Fuentes’ efforts four years earlier, both the Ministry of Public Education and the Department of Public Health considered chiropractic practice a threat to the rights of Mexicans to adequate health services and denied certification of chiropractic diplomas in the 1930s and 40s.[5] Alongside other medical unions and associations that grouped homeopaths, free school graduates, unlicensed practitioners, and regular doctors, chiropractors fought in the early 1930s to pass a law of professions that acknowledged their school, diplomas, and practice.[6] It was in this context that the anonymous chiropractor raised his voice. The weight of his words and chiropractors’ actions led politicians to include the recognition of chiropractic training and degrees in the drafts of the professional law, though the final 1943 Law of Professions did not. A resolution in 1955 and a different political environment allowed chiropractors who had obtained diplomas in a foreign university not included in the 1943 law to certify and revalidate their degree.[7] Francisco B. Montaño Luna was the first chiropractor to obtain a license, though from a school with a different name, the “Libre I[instituto] de Quiroprácticos”, followed by his son (fig. 3 and 4).[8]

Fig. 4. Francisco Montaño Pizarro. Personal archives of Francisco Montaño Benet.

In contrast to the policies to regulate medicines that aimed at identifying the specific ingredients in nostrums in the early twentieth century, the recipe to sanitize the Mexican medical body rendered chiropractic medicine invisible to historical memory. In the last few decades, a change in the scope of medical history has made room to hear the voices of practitioners, such as chiropractors, whose soothing hands kept the bodies of Mexican workers fit to build a nation. I hope the historian who undertakes such a project also includes the oral histories of the many empirical masseurs and bonesetters. Without academic training but with keen observational skills, they learned the skills from more experienced sobadores or hueseros. They, like my grandfather in rural Veracruz, kept the bodies of family members and their communities healthy, up to the twentieth first century (fig. 5).  

Fig. 5. Chiropractic clinic. Personal archives of Francisco Montaño Benet.



[1] Fototeca nacional, colección Enrique Díaz, caja 43, subcaja 4, Quiropráctica 1932.

[2] Fuentes and Montaño, ibid, p. 4-6.

[3] Fuentes and Montaño, ibid, p. 4-6. The Archive of the National Schoool of Medicine holds letters from Floyd A. Ozburn to the Mexican College of Chiropractic informing the status of chiropractic in the United States. Fondo Escuela Nacional de Medicina y alumnus, legajo 302, expediente 8, folios 1-15.

[4] Alvaro Bazan, “La verdad es la verdad”, El universal gráfico, December 27, 1933.

[5] Fuentes and Montaño, ibid, p. 7-10.

[6] “Índice del expediente formado por la Cámara de Diputados, con motivo de la reglamentación del artículo 4º constitucional”, Archivo Histórico de la Secretaría de Salud, colección Salubridad Pública, sección Servicio Jurídico, caja 22, expediente 13.

[7] “Chiropractic recognized in Mexico” ICA International Review of Chiropractic 10, 3 (September, 1955), p. 16; Jospeh C. Keating, “Notes on the Chiropractic Health Bureau/ICA” National Institute of Chiropractic Research, April 5, 2016, https://chiro.org/Plus/History/Persons/ChiroHealthBureau/CHB_ICA_Chronology.PDF

[8] Francisco Montaño Luna, “Letter to the editor” ICA International Review of Chiropractic 10, 8 (February, 1956), p. 31; Jospeh C. Keating, ibid.

A Recipe for the Body: Chiropractic Medicine in Mexico (Part I)


Jethro Hernández Berrones

In the 1970s, Posada Press launched a book series for popular audiences that examined topics on science, religion, history, and society. In this series, chiropractor Ignacio Martínez Ugalde published Quiropráctica: La ciencia y técnica de curar con las manos, where he examined the history and foundations of chiropractic medicine. As in domestic health manuals of a century earlier, he also included a series of recipes for the body, “diverse techniques of chiropractic treatment”, like the following one.

Rheumatism. It is a rheumatic mesenchymal ailment with pain, fever, and osteo-articular deformities[. …] Adjustment or treatment. Adjustment should be oriented towards parts of the spine related to the elimination organs. The medial and lower part of the dorsal and lumbar zone are the ones invariable linked to these cases.”[1]

Martínez Ugalde’s work aimed at positioning chiropractic medicine as a new, safe, scientific, and regulated practice that Mexicans could consume in the last decades of the 20th century. However, his examples drew from the practice of chiropractic in the United States and around the world, ignoring its long history in Mexico (fig. 1).

Fig. 1. Francisco Montaño Pizarro in a chiropractic consulting room. Personal archives of Francisco Montaño Benet.


In spite of the long tradition of bodily manipulation for therapeutic purposes in Mexico dating back to pre-Colombian times, the technique disassociated from academic medicine during the colonial and early nationalist periods. Scholars usually associate these bodily manipulations with indigenous practices either preserved in communities with reduced contact with European culture or absorbed by surgery under the colonial model of medical education. Visible among the indigenous population, the sobador (masseur) and the huesero (bonesetter) disappeared from the professional landscape in urban medicine after the 17th century. They, however, continued healing communities in remote or secluded spaces, away from the surveillance of academic and governing institutions. Mexicans’ increasing mobility within the country in the first decades of the 20th century promoted the contact between indigenous and foreign medical cultures. Mexico City became a space of therapeutic encounters and healing opportunities where chiropractic medicine flourished.

Fig. 2. Celebration at the School of Chiropractic Medicine. Francisco Montaño Luna, second row from the top, fourth from the right. Manlio Fuentes, below from Montaño wearing glasses and looking to his right. Taken from “Historia de la quiropráctica en México. La primera ola: Los pioneros” in nova (junio, 2011), p. 20.

The study of the history of chiropractic medicine in Mexico still awaits its historian. This blog entry offers a few ingredients I found prospecting the archival mines of unorthodox healers in post-revolutionary Mexico in an attempt to aid in concocting a nuanced narrative of 20th century Mexican medicine. If bodily manipulations as treatment are common in many cultures, their modern formulation as a systematized body of knowledge belongs to Daniel David Palmer in the United States during the Progressive era.[2] The first chiropractors were American and South American and had studied Palmer’s system in the United States. They obtained a license to practice and offered their services in the early 1920s in Mexico City and the state of Nuevo León.[3] Francisco Montaño Luna, in 1921, and Manlio Fuentes were the first two Mexicans who graduated from the Palmer School of Chiropractic.[4]

Back in Mexico City in 1927, the first generation of chiropractors organized the Mexican Association of Chiropractic and the Hispano-American School of Chiropractic “David D. Palmer” (fig. 2).[5] If they had recipes to manipulate their patients’ bodies to relieve them from their discomforts, they also had a prescription for the body politic.  I detail this recipe in the next blog entry coming soon…



[1] Ignacio Martínez Ugalde, La quiropráctica: Ciencia y técnica de curar con las manos” Colección Duda. (México, D. F.: Editorial Posada, S. A., 1974), 111, 126.

[2] An American healing system, chiropractic medicine has received some attention by historians. Holly Folk, The Religion of Chiropractic: Populist Healing from the American Heartland (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017); Steven C. Martin, ““The Only Truly Scientific Method of Healing”: Chiropractic and American Science, 1895-1990″ Isis 85, no. 2 (1994): 207-27; Martin, Steven C. “Chiropractic and the social context of medical technology, 1895-1925”, Technology and Culture 34 (1993): 808-834; J. Stuart Moore, Chiropractic in America: The History of a Medical Alternative (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993); Walter I. Wardwell, Chiropractic: History and Evolution of a New Profession (St. Louis: Mosby Yearbook, 1992); Walter I. Wardwell, “Chiropractors: Evolution to Acceptance”, in Norman Gevitz, Other Healers: Unorthodox Medicine in America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988), 157-191; and Gibbons, Russell W. “Physician-chiropractors: Medical Presence in the Evolution of Chiropractic” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 55, no. 2 (1981): 233-45

[3] Dr. S. Voquero was a South American who had studied at the Texas Chiropractic College; he established a practice in Nuevo León. Dr. L. M. Driver from the National School and Dr. C. E. Boswell of the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic established their practice in Mexico City before Clarence W. Weiant. Clarence W. Weiant, “The Chiropractor and Chiropractic in Mexico”, The Chiropractor & Clinical Journal 17, 6 (June, 1921), 16, 45, 47, 51; Joseph C. Keating, “Chronology of Chiropractic in Mexico”, June 22, 1998. https://www.institutechiro.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Mexico_Chiro-in-chrono.pdf

[4] Roberto Luis Cerón, “Historia de la quiropráctica en México: La primera ola, los pioneros”, Nova (junio, 2011) 18-21.

[5] Manlio S. Fuentes and Francisco Montaño Luna’ correspondence to President of Mexico Emilio Portes Gil, January 18, 1927, Archivo General de la Nación, Secretaría de Educación Pública, Departamento de Psicopedagogía e Higiene, Box 35536, referencia 143, expediente 47, folios 1-6.