All posts by Sarah Kernan

Sarah Peters Kernan is an independent culinary historian. She holds a PhD in medieval history from The Ohio State University. Her research focuses on the production and use of cookbooks in medieval and early modern England. She has published in the journal Food & History and regularly contributes blog posts for The Recipes Project. Sarah collaborates regularly with the Newberry Library, assembling modules for Digital Collections for the Classroom, teaching Adult Seminars, and developing culinary history programming. She has also worked with organizations including The Met Cloisters and the Culinary Historians of Chicago.

Around the Table Podcast: Historical Recipes in the Digital Age with Elaine Harrington

By Sarah Peters Kernan

Listen here, or subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts!

In this episode, Sarah Kernan speaks to Elaine Harrington, Special Collections Librarian at University College Cork about Historical Recipes in the Digital Age. This project was created by a partnership between UCC Special Collections and Digital Learning and relied on the contributions of staff and students to shape and analyze the project. To stay up-to-date with UCC Library Special Collections & Archives, follow @UCCLibrary and @theriversideUCC on Twitter and UniversityCollegeCorkLibrary on Facebook.


Frédéric Chopin, Etude Op. 10, no. 5 in G flat major

Provided by through Creative Commons Public Domain Mark 1.0

Historical Recipes in the Digital Age Project Team

Elaine Harrington, Special Collections Librarian (@walkerabroad)

Emma Horgan, Library Archivist (@emshorgan24)

Stephanie Chen, Digital Learning Specialist (@iamstephanie_c)

Cara Long and David Leen, student workers in Digital Learning, UCC Library 

Kian O’Mahony, student on internship in Special Collections & Archives

Manuscript Sources

UCC Library Special Collections Manuscripts U.59, U.295, and U.368

Project Resources

Patrick O’Dwyer (2019) “HI6091: Work Placement in Special Collections (2019).” The River-side. 

Elaine Harrington and Emma Horgan (2022) “Pi Day and Historical Recipes.” The River-side.   

Kian O’Mahony (2022) “Work Placement and Historical Research Skills in Action.” The River-side.  

Cara Long and David Leen (2022) “Reflection on the Use of Scalar.” The River-side.  

Stephanie Chen and Elaine Harrington (2022) “Remaking the printed word in the digital age.” Poster Presentation at 87th IFLA World Library and Information Congress, Dublin, Ireland 25-28 July 2022 and complementary interactive website.

Elaine Harrington (2023) “From Books to Bytes: Transforming Access to the Printed Word in the Digital Age.” Poster Presentation at BOBCATSSS 2023: A New Era – Exploring the Possibilities and Expanding the Boundaries, Oslo Metropolitan University, Oslo, Norway.  25-27 July 2023.  

Elaine Harrington (2023) “Remaking the Printed Word in the Digital Age.” An Leabharlann: The Irish Library, 32 (1): 4-9. 

Mentioned in the Show

Historical Recipes in the Digital Age

George Boole


#PiDay and #PieDay


Snails in Recipes

National Folklore Collection


Sarah Kernan 00:08

This is Around the Table, a new podcast from the Recipes Project. I’m your host, Sarah Kernan. Together, we will learn about exciting scholars, professionals, projects, resources, and collections focused on historical recipes.

Today I’m speaking to Elaine Harrington, Special Collections Librarian at University College Cork. She was part of the team who created Historical Recipes in the Digital Age, a digital project based on manuscript recipes in UCC Library Special Collections. Elaine, thank you so much for joining me today.

Elaine Harrington 00:46

Not at all. Thank you for having me.

Sarah Kernan 00:49

Could you begin by telling us a bit about Historical Recipes in the Digital Age? What exactly is part of this digital project and how is it connected to University College Cork?

Elaine Harrington 01:01

Sure. So Historical Recipes in the Digital Age is a digital publication. You can consider it an exhibition, where apart from the introduction, you can dive right in and maneuver around. That is, it doesn’t necessarily have a linear flow to it. And we look at primary sources of three manuscript recipe books from the eighteenth century to the early twentieth century. These are Irish recipe books, but written in English as opposed to written in the Irish language. They’re held in Special Collections and here in UCC Library, which is how we have easy access to them. And the excerpts from them form the basis of the Scalar instance which is where we host Historical Recipes of the Digital Age. So, the project is a combination of images of the recipes, textual transcriptions of the recipes, visual visualizations based on those textual transcriptions, and then combinations that are not so readily identifiable if you were looking solely at the paper version. In addition, we’ve included some contextual information about Cork from a postcard collection that’s held in the Archive Service in UCC Library. So it’s a good way to get lots of different parts of our collection into an online digital setting.

Recipe from U.295, Special Collections, UCC Library. Photo courtesy Elaine Harrington.

Sarah Kernan 02:29

Well, could you speak a bit about how you and anyone else from the project team actually came up with the idea for this project? And could you also tell us more about the project team, too?

Elaine Harrington 02:39

So, when I started thinking about this question initially, I thought about the project team, but I realized that it originated, my interested in recipe books, around 2014, 2015. And this was when the university celebrated the year of the life of George Boole. And George Boole is the person for whom Boolean Algebra is named, which is big in libraries, or if you’ve ever done AND, OR, NOT searching. Um, he was the first professor of mathematics here in the university and he’s someone really important at the heart of the university, and the library that I’m based in is named for him. And as part of the celebrations for his year, they wanted to introduce the contextual information about what had happened in his life, so they included food and Cork. And one of the recipes that they looked at was college pudding, which is a kind of a rice pudding that’s boiled. And it’s not very nice even when you dolly it up with syrup, but it came from one of the recipe books, and that made me think that there’s always a way for food in particular to have interest to pretty much everyone. It’s one of those universals. Then in 2019, there was a student who as part of a work placement for a postgraduate history module, Skills for Medieval Historians, he came and he worked on that same manuscript recipe book.

Elaine Harrington 04:10

His background was a chef so we thought that he would be familiar with some of the food terms, but he had difficulty reading some of the handwriting from the eighteenth- and nineteenth- century recipe books. But he was used to the terms that were used. And from there we moved into thinking how could we use some of the recipe books in different ways. And then the pandemic happened and suddenly we had no more in-person access from March 2020 to July 2020, and then over the next year access was so much more restricted that we had to find ways to bring our collections into a digital environment. Around about the same time, about May 2021, a digital learning specialist was hired in UCC Library, and that’s Stephanie Chen. And over the next year, she and I started collaborating together on a series of projects of which this Historical Recipes in the Digital Age was one. And it was a great way to get our content into a space, but I wasn’t the only one who had to do all parts of the project, and who had made for greater collaboration and interactivity across the different parts of the library service. So we wanted to have both enhancing access to the collections, learning new technologies, but also a really important part within UCC is our connected curriculum, where students are co-creators, co-researchers, and they learn lots of new skills. So for us to have student partners, that was key.

Elaine Harrington 05:45

So the project team was myself, Special Collections librarian; Stephanie Chen, the digital learning specialist; there were two undergraduate students, Cara Long and David Leen, who were studying law and business information systems, who worked on Stephanie on a series of digital projects including this one; a postgraduate student who is working with me on a work placement portfolio module, Kian O’Mahony; and Emma Horgan, one of the Library archivists. And she came in later the project where both she and I started to try our hand at making some of the recipes and it wasn’t always successful. So that’s the project where we came up with the idea and the project team.

Sarah Kernan 06:28

That’s wonderful. I love how diverse the group of people and interests and contributions are from everyone on the team. That’s wonderful, especially the input from students, too.

Elaine Harrington 06:46


Sarah Kernan 06:46

Could you talk a little bit about Scalar, for anyone, in particular, who’s not familiar with that platform. How did you decide to use it, and did you use any other projects as inspiration, whether or not they were born on Scalar or not?

Elaine Harrington 07:05

Sure. So, during the pandemic, I wrote a blog post on WordPress. This is The River-side, which is Special Collections’ and Archives’ main communication tool for longer-form pieces than tweets. So, the post I wrote was on an eighteenth-century Cork library, a charity school, and the library was donated to the university in the early 1990s. I had looked at visualizations limited on what Google could do for me. Between places of publication, who is the donor, the different types of books that were present, overlapping items with other things in the collection, but it was actually really limited between what was the tools available on WordPress, the plugins that were available to me, and then looking at, say, Google Maps as a way of creating some of those visualizations, so I was eager to see what else was out there. In searching for it, I came across Scalar and some other annotation tools like Hypotheses. But again, there was so much going on during the pandemic. It was, it’s too much for one person to do on their own.

Elaine Harrington 08:14

In the summer of ’21, I participated in the American Library Association International Librarians networking program which is the initiative of one of their roundtables, and it allows participants to form a collaborative relationship with someone else for four months at a time, and the intention is that you can continue to network with that person if you so choose. The person I was partnered with was Dr. Win Shih, who is Director of Integrated Library Systems at the University of Southern California, and we were both interested in emerging technologies. So, he was telling me about some of the different technologies being done in the University of Southern California and he mentioned Scalar, and they were actually the ones who created it. I had come across Scalar already, so I was hugely interested and I asked him lots and lots of questions about how he found it. So, he passed me on to the Special Collections team and their actual technology people so that when I suggested to Stephanie that we could use Scalar, not to replace WordPress but to sit alongside it to do things that weren’t possible on the blogging site, we already had an entry in. At the time, I think so many people were pursuing Scalar as an option. So, it was really handy to have had that personal connection.

Elaine Harrington 09:35

I could see from their Special Collections site the things that they had used it for. Alice Online: The Works and World of Lewis Carroll, A History of Photography in USC Libraries Collections, and these were things that we could then explore ourselves and go yes, we like that item, we can see how we can use it for not just the blog post that I had done on the Cork charity school but lots of other things. It was far more interactive than what the WordPress could be. It was also important that the tool was open source and web-based so that we could access this anywhere, and they gave us options about did we want a registration key and it would be hosted on the USC site, or did we want to self-host, the source code is all available on GitHub. Or you could use a different site. They suggested one called Reclaim Hosting and they offer Scalar as an option as an option rather for their hosting packages. But because we were so new to it, we said we would start low-key first and ask them to host it and we would have an access through a password and username, etc. So that’s probably enough for that part.

Sarah Kernan 10:48

Wonderful. Well, you’ve talked a little bit about, in terms of the project team, how staff and students have been involved in the creation of Historical Recipes. Has input into the project been tied to coursework, or has it been totally independent of that? Could you just talk a little bit about how it’s actually integrated into courses and learning?

Elaine Harrington 11:16

So, it actually stands independent of courses and learning. We decided to do the first iteration of it by linking it to Pi Day, which is three point one four so fourteenth of March.

Sarah Kernan 11:31

We are very familiar at the Recipes Project with it!

Elaine Harrington 11:33

And yeah, of course I’m saying it to the wrong people! So, I had seen it come up on Twitter and I thought this is a great combination of mathematics and recipes, plenty of collaboration with different groups who might not think of recipes necessarily. And so we specifically picked, we don’t really have pies in Ireland, so I widened it out to baking in general, and then widened it out again to maybe like syrups or frosting or the like. We took an expansive view of what pie was. So I selected which recipes and which recipe books to use. I showed all the students that were involved in the project all the different recipe books, what they look like, then we, I scanned the items uploaded them to a OneDrive folder that we had access to and they immediately knew that they wanted to work only with the twentieth-century one because that was by far the easiest to read and required the least amount of transcription on their part. So, it already had the list of ingredients. They didn’t have to create that themselves from, oh I see that they mentioned gooseberries here, I should add gooseberries to my ingredients list. So, a lot of the detective work was removed.

Elaine Harrington 12:54

Stephanie liaised with USC, and she set up the UCC instance, and then she worked with the students on figuring out how Scalar worked. Emma came in towards the end of the project when she and I started making the recipes specifically for Pi Day. Only one of the students was involved in doing coursework and that was the student who worked with me while he was on placement, but he also worked on a series of other projects, so this wasn’t the sole focus. Every year UCC Library hires various student workers, whether for invigilation, shelving, data entry, and two of them came on board to work with Stephanie on a range of digital projects which included 3D scanning of objects, creating 360 degree tours based on mapping of historical advertisements in eighteenth-century Cork and newspapers, and creating a coloring book for #ColorOurCollections. Um, they were involved in lots of other projects as well over the course of the eight months, but those were the ones that they also had input from Special Collections on. The intent was to return to the project again this year for Pi Day, but you know the way of it, other projects pop up in the way. But it is a resource we intend to return to, and I never did get back to pushing, transferring the blog post of the eighteenth-century Cork charity school into Scalar, so I have to do that separately.

Sarah Kernan 14:18

Well, this project is different than a site with complete digitized manuscripts or recipes collections, and it’s obviously quite different than looking at the physical objects, the original physical books. Could you talk about the value of working with these kinds of digital images and what skills students developed to work with these recipes. You’ve already mentioned some of the challenges that they encountered in terms of reading the handwriting and transcribing them, coming up with the list of ingredients, for example…

Elaine Harrington 14:51


Sarah Kernan 14:52

But what are other skills that they might have acquired during this process?

Elaine Harrington 14:58

So, if I start with how it’s different from the original. So, with the digital projects, we should be mindful of what is omitted. For example, with the recipes in Historical Recipes in the Digital Age, I have scanned around the recipe itself rather than seeing the full page, so we don’t know the person who wrote the recipe did they think, ooh Apple Charlotte, I also want to put in Apple Cake so that the two of those would be side by side. That part of it is now missing from the site itself. All of the recipe books had inserts and those weren’t scanned, but if you were looking for a specific Apple Charlotte recipe, then you would spot it if you were looking at the physical item. And then two of the recipe books have indexes that were created by a series of people over a number of years. We didn’t transfer those over. And there’s also newspaper cuttings on the front of one for everything from tips for burns and skulls, or diphtheria, how to mend broken china, and simple disinfectant. So they’re not recipe books, it’s also folk cures and a whole range of other things. Some of the challenges, I had mentioned the handwriting is the most obvious but I think it’s the food terms, for how much has food changed in the last one hundred years. The students had never heard of dripping, which is a type of fat, and I had to explain that to them. They had never considered that beef tea could be used for colds. Why wouldn’t you have access to all of the different, you know, pharmaceutical pills that we would have now.

Elaine Harrington 16:44

They really didn’t like the handwriting. We keep coming back to it, but it’s something that the history department and UCC have also noted and they’re specifically creating different modules to accustom students to get used to handwriting because we write so much less now. But the students involved were business and law students, so they wouldn’t have those modules in the same way that Arts Humanities students would. So it was really interesting seeing their perspective on that. As part of the summing up of their presence on the projects. We asked them like what could you say that would be useful to other students who might be considering but don’t have a background in Arts and Humanities. So, they said they really liked working on the variety of projects, how they learned new skills which would further assist them post-college. These were undergraduate students. They developed digital fluency and greater experience in different technology types. They became more capable in troubleshooting technical problems whether it was software, or 3D printers, not specifically used on this project but on others, and they became more comfortable with adapting to new types of technologies, and we talked about that as well at the start before we started chatting about this. They enjoyed using Scalar to create an interactive and virtual book to display historical recipes. And they enjoyed deciphering the handwritten recipes, as challenging as it was, and they found it really rewarding then to input them into Scalar.

Elaine Harrington 18:15

They found the process of learning and navigating their way through Scaler more challenging and inconsistent than they thought it would be. They thought that it wasn’t an intuitive tool, which is why the project itself took longer than expected. But they had also used H5P which they preferred. So, the personal preferences really showed up. But they did, they really did like using Scalar in different ways. And I think that’s something that all of us need to be mindful for, because you think that people are these digital natives and I use that with caution. That they are more comfortable with stick them in front of a digital tool they’ve never seen it before and they get going and I think for them as well to know that there is this learning curve is definitely worthwhile in learning at that point.

Recipe from U.295, Special Collections, UCC Library. Photo courtesy Elaine Harrington.

Sarah Kernan 19:07

Well, you’ve hinted a bit that you’d like to add a bit more to the Scalar site and grow it a little bit. Could you speak to that a bit and could you also talk about how this project may have influenced any other projects that have gone on at UCC?

Elaine Harrington 19:28

So, at the moment we would be aiming to work towards Pi Day 2024. It’s hard to believe it’s coming up so fast. But also to grow it out and I mentioned that there are lots of other different things included in the historical recipe books, so to focus on some of those folklore cures, or to look at things that were unexpected. For example, there’s a recipe for curry powder. Which I wouldn’t have expected in the middle of the nineteenth-century recipe book. But then I must remember that Cork was a port city as part of the British Empire and there are the influences from other parts of the then British Empire and which are brought to bear on that recipe book. How has it influenced other things. We’re exploring other tools such as Transkribus to um, almost shortcut handwriting in a way, but we need a significant body of work for that to be possible. And the Archives Section within the Library are working with the History Department for those history students to learn different ways of looking at letter forms and thinking, okay, so that’s that, this is how I do that. But those are really good for anyone who are in Arts Humanities departments and not anyone else and that’s one of the challenges we find in the Library Association of Ireland where books group, where there isn’t, where books courses taught within many of our universities. How do you bring on the next group of librarians like myself who might not have as much familiarity with handwriting either. I sound like I’m mentioning only handwriting when there were so many other different challenges to focus on. But if you can’t read what the content is about then it’s a really limiting factor. No matter how much people are interested in food, and we’re so much used to the printed word now, that it really is quite the challenge.

Sarah Kernan 21:34

Absolutely, absolutely. If other institutions are considering similar projects in scale or in theme or scope to yours or instructors are considering devising similar digital projects for their courses, what sort of advice would you provide to them?

Elaine Harrington 21:57

Sure. So, new digital tools aren’t always as easy or intuitive no matter our level of familiarity with digital tools, in general. With each new technology, there is a learning curve and time to master that should be factored in. But also consideration of what else you’ve going on either in the students’ lives or in your own life. As I mentioned, Pi Day 2023 didn’t happen this year for that very reason. If you have other resources available like transcriptions of recipes from previous projects then reuse them. There’s no point reinventing the wheel unnecessarily. But as a positive, we reach the highest number of potential users in such a short space of time, we’ve created a variety of different resources as part of the project. So, there’ve been two posters at different international conferences. We have an interactive website so that you can see the Scalar project alongside all the other projects that was created at the same time, there’s been a journal article and four different blog posts associated with recipes and how we use them. So already we have this tremendous body of work where we can really showcase what is possible with what is seemingly such a small activity.

Sarah Kernan 23:20

Recipe from U.295, Special Collections, UCC Library. Photo courtesy Elaine Harrington.

Final question. Do you have any favorite recipes from the manuscripts in the project and are there any features in the manuscripts that you think are really ripe for scholarly attention?

Elaine Harrington 23:33

So, for Pi Day I chose to make the afternoon teacake recipe in part because I thought it would be easy and fast to make and it was. But also it was easy to follow, unlike the one for lemon filling which went horribly, horribly wrong. It still tasted nice, but I couldn’t use it for what I had intended which was to put between the two afternoon teacakes and kind of create a sandwich. It was far too liquidy for that in the end. And the second question sorry again was…

Sarah Kernan 24:03

Are there any features in the manuscripts that you think are really ripe for scholarly attention?

Elaine Harrington 24:08

Yes, absolutely. So I touched on that earlier, the different combinations of recipes for cures for diphtheria, or mending china, but there’s also one, and I can’t condone it, for using snails to do something else. It’s a very odd little cutting, but we have this large collection in Ireland called the National Folklore Collection. A lot of it is already available online. And I think there are lots of synergies between that collection and some of the folk cures that are present which aren’t typical recipes as we would expect to see them in modern cookbooks but were definitely part and parcel of the tradition of manuscript recipe books. So I think there is something there and also because the National Folklore Collection where a lot of the contributions have been in the Irish language. So for here these recipe books they’re all in English, which is open to far more users than would be otherwise.

Sarah Kernan 25:15

Elaine, thank you again for joining me today to talk about this great project, Historical Recipes in the Digital Age.

Elaine Harrington 25:22

Thank you so much for having me, Sarah. It’s been an absolute pleasure.

Sarah Kernan 25:27

Thanks to everyone for listening today. Please remember to subscribe to this podcast so you never miss an episode! I’ll see you again next time on Around the Table.

Around the Table Podcast: Talking Curious Cures with James Freeman

By Sarah Peters Kernan

Listen here, or subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts!

In this episode, Sarah Kernan speaks to the principal investigator of Curious Cures in Cambridge Libraries, Dr. James Freeman. Curious Cures is an impressive project to digitize, catalogue, and conserve over 180 medieval manuscripts that contain unedited medical recipes in the University of Cambridge Libraries. Dr. Freeman talks about manuscripts, recipes, digitization, the Curious Cures team, and some of the challenges and rewards of working on such a large projects. To stay up-to-date with the project’s progress, follow #CuriousCures on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and the University Library on Twitter.


Frédéric Chopin, Etude Op. 10, no. 5 in G flat major

Provided by through Creative Commons Public Domain Mark 1.0

Mentioned in the Show

Medieval Medical Recipes in the Cambridge Digital Library

Curious Cures Project and Team

Cambridge Library Digital Content Unit

Cambridge Library Conservation and Collection Care


The Polonsky Foundation Greek Manuscripts Project

Index of Middle English Prose

eTK/eVK2 Project

Peter Jones

Text Encoding Initiative

Culinary Recipes of the Middle Ages (CoReMa)


This Podcast Will Kill You (Episode 108 Gout: Toetally fascinating)

Hannah Bower


Sarah Kernan 00:08

This is Around the Table, a new podcast from the Recipes Project. I’m your host, Sarah Kernan. Together, we will learn about exciting scholars, professionals, projects, resources, and collections focused on historical recipes. Today I’m speaking to Dr James Freeman, principal investigator of Curious Cures in Cambridge Libraries, an impressive project to digitize, catalogue, and conserve over one hundred and eighty medieval manuscripts that contain unedited medical recipes in the University of Cambridge Libraries. James, thank you so much for joining me today.

James Freeman 00:48

My pleasure. Thank you very much for the invitation.

Sarah Kernan 00:51

Well, let’s start off with some basics. Could you tell everyone about Curious Cures, what exactly does the project encompass, and what manuscripts are part of this project?

James Freeman 01:01

Well, you summarized it very well in your introduction. So, as you say there’s over one hundred and eighty, I think it’s one hundred and eighty-six in total, medieval manuscripts, so handwritten books. They are predominantly late medieval manuscripts…fourteenth, fifteenth century, some into the early sixteenth century, though there are a few earlier. I think the earliest is eleventh century that we’ll be covering. And the one thing that they have in common is that they contain unedited, or uneditable even, medical recipes. So, these are recipes that have never been published in print before, or for the most part haven’t been published in print. They’re mostly English in origin and particularly the later medieval ones. Many of them contain recipes written in Middle English, but there’s a big mix of Middle English, Latin, there’s some in Anglo-Norman French, and there’s some, a few, in Old English. But it’s a fairly miscellaneous kind of corpus because, of course, the one thing it has in common is the unedited nature of the medical recipes that these books contain. So there were also manuscripts from Italy, in particular, but also France, I think there’s some from Germany, too, that are being covered by the project. But most of them are English and that’s a reflection also of the way in which the collections at Cambridge University Library and the Colleges and Fitzwilliam Museum that are collaborating with us have developed and what our collection strengths are.

Sarah Kernan 02:42

What kind of conservation and cataloging and digitization is actually taking place with these?

James Freeman 02:49

So, the conservation is, for the most part, focused on the conservation for digitization. So, this is the sort of routine stabilization work, repairing tears, that sort of thing, and where items are particularly fragile, providing the photographers in the University Library’s Digital Content Unit with sort of help in setting up, supporting, and handling the manuscripts. There’s a certain number within the project that will be able to do more intensive treatments which might involve in some cases doing a bit of rebinding or kind of more time consuming work that will ensure that these materials are accessible, not only digitally, but also in in the flesh, so to speak, to researchers for decades to come. All of the manuscripts that are being covered will be re-boxed or boxed, the ones at the University Library. So that’s the conservation sort of side of things.

James Freeman 04:03

Digitization, so it’s a bit of a mixed picture. Because we’re collaborating with twelve Cambridge Colleges, the Fitzwilliam Museum, and doing some of our own manuscripts at the University Library, as well, the picture is quite, is a bit mixed. So, for instance, Trinity College, they’ve digitized all or almost all of the manuscripts that we’ll be covering there and they have their own set up. Some, but most of the colleges, don’t. Corpus is another one that has had all of its manuscripts already digitized, but most of them don’t, so they will be coming to the UL for conservation treatment and for digitization by my colleagues in the Digital Content Unit. That digitization is going to be cover to cover. So, all of the, you know, the bindings, spines, four edges, all of the end leaves, all of the pages, and I mean I couldn’t go into the technical specifications about photography. But if there are some photography enthusiasts among your listeners, they’re welcome to get in touch and I can put them in touch with Raffa Losito, who is the project photographer, and she could give them all the details about the lenses, and the photography cradle, the rig that they’ve got set up, because I know some people get really interested in this. So yes, so that’s the conservation and the digitization.

James Freeman 05:26

The cataloging, again, it’s kind of the usual sort of thing that you would expect with a digitization project. So, I’ve got a team of three catalogers, Clarck Drieshen, Sarah Gilbert, and Tuija Ainonen, who will be describing the manuscripts textual contents. So, what the texts are and the intellectual contents of the manuscripts, their material characteristics, so what they’re made of, the collation, the structure of the gatherings of leaves, the dimensions, the layout of the text, what the decoration is, style of handwriting, etc., etc., etc. And also the history of those manuscripts as objects, so what their date and place of their origin, to the degree that we’re able to know this either from explicit evidence like scribal colophons, which are quite rare in English manuscripts, or more generally paleographical or art historical evidence, and also their provenance. You know, their ownership. And then the point at which they’ve come to the UL, you know, and there’s a number of common ways in which they’ve been acquired or donated to us over the centuries.

Sarah Kernan 06:43

How have you determined, or how has your team determined, which manuscripts would actually be conserved and digitized in these collections, as well as what kind of transcription or contextualization work was actually necessary?

James Freeman 06:58

So, it’s a tricky one for conservation because, you know, we don’t have the capacity outside of a project, outside of an externally-funded project, to do the sorts of detailed condition survey work that is the step one, if you will, of the Curious Cures project. So we have to make a kind of guess and an informed estimate of what is likely to be required on the basis of our experience with previous digitization projects. So, we’ve just come to the end of a major project to digitize, catalogue, and conserve all of the manuscripts in Cambridge Libraries that contain texts in Greek, which was funded by the Polonsky Foundation. So, we’ve got a bit of experience there, so we can. My colleagues in Conservation Shaun Thompson, who’s the lead conservator, and his colleagues Marina Pelissari and Rachel Sawicki, can come up with a sort of per manuscript estimate of what materials they’re likely to need, you know, materials to make a box and you know, wheat starch paste, Japanese tissue paper, that kind of thing, for doing the repairs. But then can also make an estimate of what might be required for more intensive work, both materials and their time, for a subset of maybe a dozen, or a few more, that will require a bit more, a bit more TLC, let’s say. Though obviously they’re much better informed than I am, and they could again provide the kind of detail that me as a non-expert can’t. So, if there’s any, again, if there’s any of your listeners who are interested in what they’re doing, there will be blog posts, I can promise you that, but we could also give you further information if you’re interested.

Sarah Kernan 08:47

Well, you’ve mentioned a couple other individuals who are part of the team who are helping out with this project. How large is the team, is it is it all staff, are there faculty or students or members of the public, or who all is involved in this project?

James Freeman 09:04

So, it’s a combination of existing members of staff whose time the project has essentially bought out. So, part of my time has been bought out while I run the project so we’ve recruited somebody as backfill for my role. Although coincidentally, he is actually also working as a cataloger the rest of the time. So, for instance, the cataloging team, they’ve all been hired from outside and they’re on fixed-term contracts for the project. But members of Conservation and Digital Content Unit, for instance, they already worked at the UL, so the Digital Content Unit, for instance, has to be sort of self-financing. So, the wages of the photographers that are paid, that work there, are paid by digitization projects, commercial orders, that kind of thing, so it’s a little bit of a mix. So, I mean the team is pretty large. I think there’s, and a rough guess I think, there’s about a dozen or maybe fifteen people involved in one way or another. It’s larger if we also count all of the librarians in the college libraries who are liaising with my colleagues in Conservation about the transfer of manuscripts from their library to ours and so on. So, it’s a fairly big enterprise, you could say, so we have regular team meetings and there’s a steering group that meets quarterly just to kind of keep a handle on progress.

James Freeman 10:39

There aren’t members of the public involved at this stage in what we’re doing, simply because the focus of the project. So, we’re funded by Wellcome by one of their research resources awards, and the focus, or what Wellcome’s kind of priority, are in their formulation health researchers in the humanities and social sciences. So, you know historians of medicine, historians of science, that kind of thing. So this is a sort of scholarly endeavor aimed at providing those researchers with better access to the collections that we have at the UL and other libraries in Cambridge. That said, there’s clearly great scope for public engagement and the response to the project so far to the initial publicity and the announcement of the launch has been kind of a bit mind-blowing, to be honest. Like I knew people would be interested, but I didn’t, I wasn’t quite prepared for how interested and what level of attention the project has received so far. I mean, it’s really encouraging and a lot of that, you know, that’s testament to the kind of skill of my colleague Stuart Roberts and his team in the Library’s communications office in getting the press release prepared and sent to the right places. So myself and other members of the team have been trying to keep the momentum going from that by doing podcast recordings like this. But also we’ve got blog posts that are forthcoming, and it’s in the very, very early stages, but after the project there is potentially the possibility that we might do a physical exhibition at the UL that can communicate some of the outputs of the project to a broader popular audience.

Sarah Kernan 12:37

Well, given all the excitement about the project, how long do people have to wait to see any of these digitized manuscripts? Will we start seeing any soon, or will we have to wait a couple years for anything to be posted?

James Freeman 12:51

No, no. For the sake of my sanity, we’re going to release them in batches rather than leave it all to the end. So, the first group of manuscripts, which I think might be sort of maybe around twenty or so, are going to, hopefully, all being well, unless there’s some major technical hiccup, will be appearing on the Cambridge Digital Library at the end of this month. It’s tricky, big digitization projects. There’s a lot of moving parts and eventually, obviously at the end everything comes together. But at the moment, we have a bunch of manuscripts that the catalogers have catalogued, a bunch of manuscripts that the photographers have photographed, but the two groups aren’t necessarily the same manuscripts, so where those two groups do overlap we’ll be putting those online as soon as we can. And so the plan is to do the first release at the end of this month and then to do quarterly ones thereafter; so end of March, end of June, end of September, and end of December.

Sarah Kernan 13:55

Digitizing these manuscripts obviously has great value for anyone studying medieval medicine, but what else is included in these manuscripts that other scholars might find useful? Are there culinary recipes, or literature, or poetry, or interesting household or scientific texts?

James Freeman 14:16

It’s a real mix, because the selection criteria, if you will, is that a manuscript contains an unedited medical recipe. We have got receptaria manuscripts, you know, compilations of dozens or even hundreds of medical recipes. We’ve got medical recipes that contain, medical manuscripts that contain recipes dotted in their, you know, texts or in their peripheries, but also non-medical manuscripts that have had recipes scribbled onto end leaves, or fly leaves, or margins, or blank space, or whatever. So, it’s a real mix. One thing I haven’t said so far is that in addition to the cataloging, digitization, and conservation, you know as if we’ve not got enough to do, I’ve also set us the challenge that we’ll be transcribing all of the recipes in full. I can say a bit more about that in due course. So, the idea is that what the cataloging will do is give researchers a sense or an insight into the intellectual contexts in which recipe medical recipe knowledge was being recorded and disseminated. And the digitization, kind of complementary to that, will show how that knowledge is being arranged and organized on the page.

James Freeman 14:51

We know where the recipes are because of the great work that contributors to the Index of Middle English Prose or Thorndike and Kibre’s index of incipits or Linda Voigts and Patricia Kurtz’s work on Middle English medical texts which are now in the kind of eTK and eVK online resource, the fantastic work that they’ve done. We know where this stuff is, but we don’t necessarily know what the, you know, the kind of granular detail. You know, where can we find recipes that concern toothache, or headache, or difficult pregnancies. Or where do we find instances of, I don’t know, herbs like rosemary, or sage, or rue being used. And in combination with what other sorts of ingredients. It’s much harder to get at the at the nitty gritty. So, the idea behind the transcriptions is that we can give researchers that sort of access. So yes, so the other contents can be very, very varied. They’ll be the kinds of medical texts that you would expect to see, texts by, I don’t know, Matthaeus Platearius and others, or Johannes de Sancto Paulo, but also nonmedical texts. You know, so we have bibles, books of hours, liturgical books. I think we have literary texts as well. Legal manuscripts.

James Freeman 17:08

I have to say I was when we were thinking, when I was thinking about the project and putting things together and considering the scope for the project, I thought, you know, can we really justify all the energy and effort and expense that digitizing a non-medical manuscript that might just contain a few recipes on its end leaves when we could focus on more medical, more medically-focused, or you know, medical-specific manuscripts. Now, my rationale was that, well, manuscripts that contain more stable medical texts are, if they haven’t already been edited, are more likely, or have a greater chance than tiny little recipe texts which are anonymous and very mutable and often have very small variations between them. They have the more stable medical texts have a much greater chance of being edited in a more traditional sort of scholarly edition whether it’s printed or online. And, I was looking at some of the manuscripts, as well, just thinking about the non-medical contexts in which you find these recipes, and there’s a legal manuscript at the at the UL that I was looking at as part of the project. I think it’s called Additional Manuscript 2994. And it contains copies of statutes, legal formularies, that kind of thing. Interesting if you’re into that kind of thing. And I looked at the recipes which are on the end leaves, and they are, you would expect, they’re going to be miscellaneous, they’ve been scribbled in by a number of different hands, they don’t have any kind of rationale. It was just, you know, convenience, or there’s the most easily to hand bit of spare parchment. What I found here, was that there’s a couple of dozen or more recipes, all for the same complaint, that have been deliberately gathered by one person. They’re all copied by the same hand or thereabouts. Most of them have been copied by one hand, there might be a couple of others that have been added on by different hands. So, there’s a sort of deliberate organizing, you know, intention behind this. I mean they’re all for gout, so insert obvious joke about medieval lawyers and their rich diets here. So yes, so the contents of the manuscripts is going to be very varied. Now that fulfills sort of our own institutional objective, which is to get as many of our manuscripts digitized and cataloged and available to people virtually as possible, but it also fulfills Wellcome’s requirements and the needs of these historians of medicine, health researchers in the humanities and social sciences, in being able to access this kind of stuff.

Sarah Kernan 20:07

Well, going back to when you were coming up with the idea for this project, what was your intention? What makes now the right time to do such a large project like this?

James Freeman 20:21

Well, we were, I mean it’s been long in gestation, I have to say. I think that our first kind of conversations about it, and I have to acknowledge the help of Peter Jones who’s a fellow at King’s College here in Cambridge and he was very helpful in these sort of early stages, thinking about medical manuscripts at the at the UL. It was not a part of the collection, I have to confess, I knew very well at that time. But I think we were, I think we were first talking about it in certainly pre-pandemic times. So I think maybe 2018. And we were at that stage just at the start of the Polonsky Greek Manuscripts project. But of course, you know how it is. You’re already thinking about what the next thing might be, and we knew that Wellcome offered this research resources award to enable libraries like us to make our collections more accessible to researchers. And we also knew that and we’ve got a kind of proven track record of cross-collection collaborative digitization projects. So, we thought well, how could we best leverage, if you will, what we’re doing with the Polonsky Project to the kind of next thing.

James Freeman 21:34

One of our collection strengths as well as medical manuscripts, are manuscripts containing text in Middle English, you know, and literary texts, you know, Canterbury Tales, works by, you know, William Langland, John Gower, and so on, are very frequently used for undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, as well as being sort of internationally significant for research. The medical ones are as well, but I have to say I hardly ever get those out for teaching. And I thought students would really take to this because, of course, you know, well, they would take to them for the reasons that they take to Chaucer, because it’s full of kind of bodily functions and you know very kind of visceral descriptions of human life and death. So, I thought these will have a great role to play in student teaching in the future. So, then I sort of started to look at what kind of resources existed and think, well, how could we improve on all the brilliant work that the IMEP or eTK and eVK have done.

James Freeman 22:43

And in September 2019, I went to a conference in Austria in Graz about TEI, the Text Encoding Initiative. So, this is about the kind of marking up of text with custom tags to essentially make it machine readable, categorizing what the content of the text is. And I met a researcher called Helmet Klug who is working on the Culinary Recipes of the Middle Ages project, CoReMA, which I’m sure your listeners will be familiar with, and his team were transcribing and marking up these cooking recipes using TEI tags, so marking up what words described ingredients, preparatory techniques, measurements of weight or quantity or time, equipment, that kind of thing, and I thought, well, this would map brilliantly onto medical recipes. I don’t feel embarrassed about saying that I thought, well, I’ll just nick this methodology, it’s brilliant! Why change it? You know, and in keeping some consistency with what CoReMA were doing, then of course you could bring the corpus of culinary and medical recipes together potentially, which would be really valuable for research so to see what kind of crossover there is in in these two texts. Now, first of all, you need the transcriptions, so we’re not going to be able to do what CoReMA are doing at this stage. We may actually have to leave that to health researchers in the humanities and social sciences to do that more involved kind of compact marking up and then comparative analysis. But, the development of handwritten text recognition technologies as well, means that we stand a good chance of being able to generate the full text, the quantity of full- text transcriptions, that previous initiatives, cataloging and indexing projects, haven’t been able to do.

James Freeman 24:51

So, we’ll be using Transkribus as a platform to do the, you know, line division and transcribe the text. We’ve got some developers here at the UL, Mary Chester-Kadwell is one of them, and she is going to help us kind of get up and running with Transkribus and improve on the TEI export that Transkribus generates. Because it’s a TEI description that will be produced, that the catalogers are producing, so we can bring that data together and put it onto the digital library. So yes, so that’s, those sorts of all of those sorts of things came together in terms of the timing of the project. We’ll have to see, there’s going to be a bit of, you know, trial and error and testing with Transkribus now, because of course. So, I went to the latest conference in Innsbruck last September and it’s clear that the machine, if you could call it that, requires much less manual training than it used to, say, five, six, seven years ago, in order to produce a model that comes up with an acceptable or a workable character error rate. And some people who were presenting their research were getting you know, really quite incredible resources. You know, character error rates of not just less than ten percent, less than five percent. So, and I was assured by people who are more familiar with this than I am, which was basically everybody else at that conference, that it’s much quicker to run things through Transkribus and then correct, than it is to do it manually. But, we’re not dealing with beautifully organized, neatly laid out texts with most medical recipe manuscripts. We’re dealing with scruffy layouts, multiple hands, writing in in different directions, you know, texts on the margins and the peripheries. So, we’re going to have to just sort of see how things go. Some manuscripts undoubtedly will respond better to the to the Transkribus treatment than others, but I think it might be quite interesting and push the boundaries a little to see what the capabilities of this software is with this somewhat un-standard, un-standardized style of manuscripts.

Sarah Kernan 27:28

The digitized images that come out of this project, those will obviously be able to be freely viewed by anyone. Will researchers be able to use those images freely?

James Freeman 27:40

Sure. So, we’ll be making them available as you say on the Digital Library using the Creative Commons license CC BY-NC 4.0. So, people can, they’re free to share them and adapt them so long as attribution is given and that the purposes are non-commercial in terms of publication. So, you know, you could use things on your blog or in teaching or in slideshows. Go for it. But for publications, they would have to apply for licenses to reproduce. Now, there might be room for negotiation about terms on that, I’d have to leave that to my colleague Domniki Papadimitriou in the DCU. She could advise, but I hope that seems kind of reasonable. The images will be available in one form or another, I mean, I would say in perpetuity to the degree that, you know, any of us know what’s going to happen in five, or ten, or twenty years’ time, but certainly the descriptions will be uploaded as a data set and individually to the university library’s repository, Apollo. So, it will be possible to access them both there and through the Digital Library. So, the idea is that there’s a kind of stable version. Each catalog entry has its own DOI and the collection as a whole has a DOI, so that there is a record of each of the catalogers’ work that they can point to in their future research and whatever. But also, then we can, we may as the years go by want to enhance and augment and revise and expand those descriptions in the Digital Library.

Sarah Kernan 29:19

Yes. Well, final question. Do you have any favorite recipes yet that you have come across in these manuscripts, or are there any really outstanding features that you are excited for researchers to discover?

James Freeman 29:35

Well, yeah. That’s a hard question to answer because there’s so much good stuff in there, and if people, you know, and your listeners, you know, work on this stuff they’ll be, they’ll know this already. I mean, I like one that’s a cure for headaches which basically involves grinding pepper and boiling it in white wine, and then, “as hot as thou might suffer hold thereof in thy mouth and when it is nigh cold spit it out and take new and so do till the ache be away.” So, basically deal with your headache by getting drunk again. I mean there are some really interesting recipes deal with sort of female health and particularly childbirth. And it’s interesting. You know that the head-to-toe organization of recipes, such as it is, struggles, I think, to know where to place these treatments. You know it does start off with the head and you know works through headaches, and toohaches, and sore eyes, and, you know, coughs, and, you know, aching arms, and then it sort of gets to the gets to the middle regions and then sort of loses its way. But there are charms in amongst these medical recipes, of course. You know, there’s one in Additional Manuscript 9308, which is at the UL, very common, it’s one of the so-called peperit charms and it’s for a woman that travailth of child. So it, and peperit being the, you know, Latin verb give birth to or bear a child, you know, invokes all of these female saints who, you know, gave birth. So, invokes, you know, Saint Mary peperit Christ, Sancta Anna peperit Mariam, Sancta Elizabet peperit Johannem, Sancta Cecilia peperit Remigium. So, it’s invoking all of these important female saints, and you’re supposed to write this on a strip of parchment and bind it around, you know, the arm, or the leg, or the belly of the of the woman who’s in a kind of having a bad labor. And in fact, I think the Wellcome have a surviving example of this.

James Freeman 31:54

So that’s the kind of charm side of it, but then you also see the medical side of it, as well. And there’s a recipe for a woman in a similar predicament and it instructs you to take the juice of vervain, so the kind of common plant verbena, and give this to her to drink in cold water and she shall soon be delivered with the grace of Jesus. So, I mean, I wouldn’t dare to presume how effective or not that might be. I suspect not very effective at all. But I don’t know what the juice of vervain tastes like, maybe it’s utterly disgusting and the idea is that it takes your mind off things. But yes, there’s so many to choose from. There’s, if anybody here listens to the podcast This Podcast Will Kill You, you know they had one on gout recently. And the ones for gout are absolutely brilliant. Ah, you know there’s a very elaborate recipe which I couldn’t resist mentioning in the publicity for the project, about roasting a puppy stuffed with snails and sage, or the one that involves taking an owl, gutting it, salting it, baking it in an earthenware pot and then grinding it up and mixing it with boar’s grease to make a salve that you then rub on the affected area. None of which will have worked. But yeah, the elaborateness of some of these recipes. And there’s a researcher here in Cambridge, Hannah Bower, who works on recipes and magic tricks, as well, and she’s sort of suggested, you know, what’s the kind of value of these, is there a kind of entertainment dimension to them, were some of them not actually intended to be taken seriously, which I think is really interesting. So, hopefully what the project is doing will provide her and other researchers in this area with the material for new discoveries and new insights.

Sarah Kernan 33:47

Yeah, I’ve no doubt that this project is going to yield a lot of incredible research with all the information that researchers will now have access to freely. James, thank you again so much for joining me today to talk about Curious Cures.

James Freeman 34:04

My pleasure. Thanks very much for the invitation, Sarah.

Sarah Kernan 34:07

Thanks to everyone for listening today. Please remember to subscribe to this podcast so you never miss an episode! I’ll see you again next time on Around the Table.

Teaching Through Virtual Cooking Demonstrations

By Sarah Peters Kernan

As we continue to negotiate the use of virtual, hybrid, and in-person teaching methods, I offer a reflection on my recent experiences teaching through virtual cooking demonstrations and workshops. I began leading live historical cooking workshops at the Newberry Library via Zoom in the summer of 2020 when the pandemic forced my planned in-person demonstration to a virtual one. I have regularly offered workshops and cook-a-longs since then, teaching continuing education students interested in food and history. Cooking is an outstanding way to draw people into new ideas, topics, and areas of study; this is what makes the preparation of food a useful tool to teach and to research. It is also no surprise to the Recipes Project community that this type of activity complements traditional lectures, virtual and in-person transcription activities, classroom website creation, and other in-person modules on recipes.

This year, I have been asked to speak to several academic audiences about my experiences with virtual cooking workshops, discussing the benefits and drawbacks to the exercise, as well as providing step-by-step tutorials for designing workshops. I hope that providing some of this information here will serve as a helpful starting place for anyone interested in using this model as part of their own courses, or for those interested in trying out in-person demonstrations or workshops in a virtual format.

The author teaching in a virtual cooking demonstration.

In my demonstrations, I do not exactly replicate historical recipes. I do not have the kitchen for it and I do not always have the accurate historical ingredients. I do, however, try to make recipes accessible modern home cooks and kitchens. This method of adaptation rather than exact replication in the cooking process is also an incredibly useful way to interest my students in my own area of research: medieval and early modern cookbooks. Together we can discuss and negotiate what are appropriate changes to make to a recipe and why, and how this compares to the adaptations a medieval or early modern cook might make to a recipe.

Additionally, the more I have presented cooking demonstrations, the more I have come to view the exercise of preparing historic recipes as akin to codicology, bibliography, and other hands-on studies of material books, the other methods of research in which I received more formal training. Cooking historical recipes, however imperfect the process is in a modern kitchen, is one way, and an important way, to teach history, buttress other research methods, and unearth new topics of inquiry. For students, learning that cooking can be a research methodology is an empowering realization, as they usually have some kind of background in preparing food, however limited that might be.

Obviously, I’m not the only one interested in this way of incorporating “creation” into teaching and scholarship: several major projects, like EatMediveal and the Making & Knowing Project, have hinged upon the ways in which performative labor and the creative act is important for understanding a recipe or manuscript. By creating, the product of the recipe is no longer ephemeral. It actually exists and can be studied in a different way than just the recipe text or another historical document or object.

I enjoy incorporating cooking in my teaching because performing or cooking a recipe creates another layer of information that you would not otherwise access by reading and imagining a recipe. That is, the physicality, however temporary, of preparing the recipe, of smelling the ingredients and final dish, and of tasting it, provides a different layer of knowledge than considering it intellectually. Additionally, preparing a historic recipe reveals that there is so much more labor at every stage of the cooking process. This helps students envision how much time was spent by a housewife, cook, or entire kitchen staff preparing food. And finally, the sensory experiences, primarily the smells and tastes, not only provide a helpful historical backdrop, but also make points about the tastes and preferences of consumers.

Why does all this information that comes through a cooking demonstration matter? What can this possibly impart for students, particularly those in a general course? First, it can assist in the understanding of motivations for events, like the global medieval spice trade or the rapid establishment of the colonial sugar industry. If such a large number of recipes reflect the same spices or sugar, you can quickly identify broad historical trends. It is easy to grasp this by smelling and tasting, then move onto the critical work of considering texts and data. Second, students quickly understand the desire for technological changes in the kitchen after experiencing the physicality of cooking. My students and I have the luxury of cooking without open flames and with amenities like refrigeration and appliances. Still, it is easy to imagine in the most modern setting how destructive and dangerous an earlier kitchen might be. The fire, smoke, and embers, no matter how careful you are, can be destructive for you, buildings, parchment and paper recipes, especially if you have to stand close to turn a spit or simply stir a pot. Experiencing the cooking of this period will make you understand how much food needed to be cut, chopped, or minced. Trying to complete some of this work with a small mortar and pestle hammers home the physical toll kitchen laborers experienced.

The author teaching in a virtual cooking demonstration. Photo by Thomas Kernan.

Teaching through cooking demonstrations is a very different experience than lecturing or leading a seminar. Cooking as teaching, in both a practical and performative way, requires different preparation and instincts. In contrast to my strict outlines and detailed PowerPoints for traditional lectures, I have loose lists of things to discuss while cooking, whenever I have time during the process. I also have to think about what the students can see of me and the food, and I have to describe other sensory aspects they cannot sense through Zoom. I have to elaborate on the process itself, noting the steps students and participants must take to get their oven or stove ready, how to chop ingredients, and in many instances, the differences between what we are doing that day and what would have been done a few hundred years ago.

Virtual cooking demonstrations are not without drawbacks, however. Just as a lecture or seminar on Zoom can be difficult to facilitate, ensuring that students feel welcome and are able to easily ask questions can be challenging. While Zoom can feel like a silent, black hole at times, I have found that the demonstrations come alive in a way that I don’t normally experience in other online meeting settings. For example, when participants have questions and I can hear the clanging of their pots and pans, or they want to check their sensory cues against mine to compare our processes, or verify information about certain ingredients. Using a virtual platform means that I can get right up to the camera and show them something like grains of paradise or blade mace up close, so while they cannot smell or taste it, they are able to see it in a way that might be otherwise difficult. Other logistical hurdles can arise, like ensuring students have access to the right equipment and ingredients, that you have a high-quality audio feed, and you do not let a pot boil over on live video, but those issues can be addressed with thorough planning and practice.

That planning and practice is paramount to a successful cooking demonstration in any teaching setting, whether in-person or virtual. Unfortunately, there is not enough space here to provide a full tutorial for designing a cooking demonstration, but for anyone interested in crafting a demonstration for a preexisting class or as a standalone workshop, I have created an infographic below to help you get started. It provides an overview of the design process, logistical parameters, and the long and short term preparations.

Virtual cooking demonstrations are a useful teaching method that can stand alone as a distinct workshop, or can be integrated into virtual, hybrid, or in-person classes. The setting is an engaging and creative place to teach.



Around the Table: Re-Introductions

By Sarah Peters Kernan

Nearly four years ago, the Recipes Project introduced Around the Table, a monthly series intended to highlight the blog’s community of scholars, writers, and readers. I proposed the series in order to further promote a sense of community among Recipes Project readers; while I had long turned to the blog as a source of new ideas and information and as a resource for identifying scholars with related interests, I hoped to formalize this role for others.

Happily, Around the Table has been a success! The series has allowed readers to connect with recipes scholarship and learn about a variety of related professional activities, such as publishing, bookselling, and curatorial work; library and museum collections; and research methodologies. The series, already well-established by the time the Covid-19 pandemic began, provided the Recipes Project community with a platform for sharing information about our shared virtual reality, like online conferences and presentations, digitized teaching resources, and eventually hybrid and in-person museum exhibitions and programming.

In the editors’ recent introductory post to the new Recipes Project format, we mentioned a change in the format of Around the Table. We are trying out the series as a podcast! You can expect an episode at least once a quarter. We will be offering the same exciting interviews and community-building for the Recipes Project you have come to expect, just in an audio format.

As we pivot to a new delivery method for community information, the editors wish to again remind you that we want and value your suggestions! Please reach out to pitch any ideas for Around the Table or the Recipes Project. You can find us on social media (we are active on Twitter and Facebook) or email the Recipes Project.

I look forward to sharing our new Around the Table format with you soon!

Thomas Rowlandson, “Here’s Your Potatoes, Four Full Pounds for Two Pence from the Cries of London” 1811, The Metropolitan of Art, The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1959. Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art.