An Extra Slice…

By Tallulah Maait Pepperell

Selected illustrations from the cookbook Dra. Oetkera przepisy dla skrzętnych gospodyń [Dr. Oetker’s recipes for industrious housewives] (Poland, 1930s). Left to right, top row: Bundt cake (baba), chocolate (marble) Bundt cake; middle row: cheesecake (sernik), spice cake (piernik), hazelnut torte; bottom row: chocolate and coffee torte, poppyseed torte. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Earlier this month, I was given a chance I would have been mad to pass up. A week before, Lisa Smith forwarded an email from Sean O’Hanlon from Love Productions, asking for recipe and food historians who would be interested in putting together some historical bakes and appearing on The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice. I was a little unsure, due the fact that I’m only a second-year undergraduate, and I wouldn’t call myself a food historian at all, but with some gentle encouragement and some serious Fear Of Missing Out, I applied.

I had never made a historical recipe before, but I had one on hand that I had wanted to try. A recipe for English Biskotts from the seventeenth century, it was easy enough to make in my student accommodation, but the measurements were so complicated that I spent half my time trying to work out what the end result would be. This was the perfect excuse.

Friday was a pretty frantic day of baking, trying to assemble a recipe that–perhaps–had not been tried for close to four centuries, trying to make it edible, tasty, and historically accurate at the same time. In the end I made two tin-loaves worth of what ended up like very strange, but also delicious, old English biscotti.

To entertain myself, I took a few of them into the university, asking for reviews from brave members of the History Department who were willing to trust my baking skills. While I did not find the biskotts very tasty, my willing guinea pigs seemed to enjoy them. The reviews came back positive: they reminded people of gingerbread, salted caramel, and evoked memories of Christmas.

I wasn’t expecting anything back from the producers but by the next week I had a reply; they were interested in having me on the show! I was asked to come to London on Saturday, 14th October, bringing with me my biskotts, my “Production Guest” ticket, and a stomach full of butterflies. I made my way to the ITV studios on London’s Southbank, arrived half an hour early, was told to come back later. I was  finally given a wristband and escorted upstairs with all the other audience members and guests to watch a preview of the latest episode before filming.

In the studio, I was informed that sadly I was not going to be interviewed for the show, but they managed to fit me in the front filming audience instead of the background audience! I took my seat with two very lovely guests and settled in for filming. I was in the back row but still had the chance to see Jo Brand, Stacey Solomon, Joe Wilkinson, and Richard Osman do their thing. Filming is a tiring job, especially when you’re asked to fake-cry over Liam leaving (some of those were real tears though), clap until your hands hurt, and eat leftover cake! It’s a tough job, but I was glad I could help.

By the end of the day I was tired, aching, and full of cake, but it had been a day I was so glad I hadn’t passed up. There’s something special about being able to sit behind the scenes and watch a show come together, and even help in your own way. Thank you so much to Lisa for recommending I do it, Love Productions for inviting me on, and–if you look hard enough–you can maybe spot me in the background! (Hint: short hair, purple cardigan, looks a bit star-struck the whole way through, and if you need a clue check out the picture below).

Audience at Extra Slice filming, 14 October 2017.

 

Tallulah is a student at the University of Essex and worked as an assistant on our ‘What is a Recipe?’ Virtual Conversation in the summer of 2017.

Stories and memories: Day 8 of the Recipes Project

By Tallulah Maait Pepperell

On Day 8 of the Recipes Project, we revisited some themes that had popped up on previous days of our virtual conversation. There were reconstructions, along with discussions of the ‘art’ of a good recipe. And, of course, we came back to the connections between recipes and family history, and the many forms of recipes that appear in our daily lives.

To start with the reconstructions, Maria Galanaki shared her video on constructing a meal that follows the Hippocratic Regimen.  Simon Walker continued his “Feeding under Fire” series with a video on Classic French Soldiers’ Food and a twitter thread on the subject.

There really was no end to the bready delights available yesterday (though specifically absent in Maria’s Hippocratic menu!).  We had @Pamphilia2‘s video on gingerbread recipes, Deborah Lawton writing on gingerbread in historical re-enactment, and Molly-Taylor Polesky’s interview with a master baker.

A lot of the activity of the day was focused around Twitter, with conversations surrounding family medicine recipes. We had chicken soup, hot toddies, mustard plasters, “The Remedy”, onion compresses, honey and salt water, honey-onion syrup, lemons, and Schmaltzwickel… All old family recipes, bringing together themes of family, memory, and personal links to recipes that has permeated this project.

Then I took over the Twitter feed for a few hours to indulge a personal project and explore the subject of fictional foods and recipes. A few suggestions of my own started us off on a journey through Studio Ghibli’s “Spirited Away” to Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” and then it took on a life of its own. Our wonderful contributors pitched in their own literary recipes, with a number from fairy tales and books from their childhood; we had an overflowing porridge pot, Little Red Riding hood’s picnic, the darker sides of Beatrix Potter, Narnian Turkish Delight, and the wonderful stories of Roald Dahl.

Participants came together around common themes, all  falling under the topic “recipes”.  We all have recipes that hold personal meanings, whether from tradition or memories associated with them. Recipes are just another way that family history is kept alive– like quilts, cookbooks, or photograph albums. This is also the case with the Winslow family in the bread posts today, and with the use of recipes as a wider historical teaching, such as the gingerbread reconstructions.

Similarly, the focus on fictional recipes explored the meanings food and recipes hold in both narrative and real life. Many of the recipes contributed dealt with fairy tales and children’s literature, showing how people can be shaped by what they encounter as a child. For me, the most vivid fictional recipe that sticks in my mind is the hideous roly-poly from Tom Kitten that Michael Rosen reminded me of during the discussion.

If there’s anything that the virtual conversation on ‘What is a Recipe?’ has shown us this last month, it’s that while they may not always be historical, recipes connect people in a multitude of ways.

Day 5: What is a recipe?

Credit: Wellcome Library, London.
Recipes, by H.J. Green & Co. Ltd.

Welcome to Day 5 of our virtual conversation on ‘What is a Recipe?’. Things have already kicked off for the week at H-Nutrition. So far,  there are posts on ‘Weight Watchers’ Fried Chinese Chicken‘, ‘First Bouillon, Then Meat with Potatoes‘, ‘Spaghetti Mexican Style‘  and ‘Statistical Analysis of Yorkshire Pudding‘. Lots to think about here on sacred vs profane recipes, ethnicity, and methodology!

But before you settle in today, you might want to catch up on last week in our virtual conversation if you missed it. There  was a whirlwind of recipe recreations, cosmetic explorations and “beauty enhancers”, potato measuring, podcast explorations, ancient breast engorgement treatments, recipes via sound archives, and a consideration of a module in which students explored recipes. You can read the Storify of Day 3 here, and the reflection on the theme of connectivity on Day 4  here.

Today is a continuation of current projects and a few new ones:

  • H-Nutrition will have discussion and new posts every day this week.  Check them out at their website here or over on twitter @HNetNutrition?
  • Siobhan Clark continues her eighteenth-century potato growing experiment on Twitter @Spuddenly_Farm and Instagram @SpuddenlyFarming.
  • Sietske Fransen delves deep back into the Early Royal Society Archives and continues her always interesting recipe tweeting @sietske_fransen
  • “The Endless Knot” podcast will be hosting a special episode with Laura Carlson of “The Feast” podcast, discussing and sharing recipes, attempts to recreate old recipes, and what we can learn from these recipes.  Catch them at http://www.alliterative.net/podcast/2017/6/16/episode-37-what-is-a-recipe-with-laura-carlson for the episode itself, uploading at 5am EDT, and then on twitter as well @AllEndlessKnot
  • Dorothy Cashman will explore Irish culinary history and cookbooks over at @Irish_Cookbooks
  • The College of Physicians Philadelphia will be tweeting throughout the day @CPPHistMedLib, sharing serious and whimsical items from their collections, focusing on medicinal and scientific recipes.
  • The Cooking With Anger experiment is still on, with fun short recipe stories. Why not take a few minutes from your day to grab a few ingredients and create your own tantalising story concoction?

As always, comments, contributions, stray thoughts, questions, and anything else you wish to put forward are always welcome! Join us on twitter using #recipesconf, or comment on any one of the projects above. We look forward to hearing from you!