Category Archives: Article Round-Ups

Midsummer Folly

By Lisa Smith

A woman with shears holding a sheep; representing June. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.
A woman with shears holding a sheep; representing June. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Today is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year–and, this year in a rare event, it coincides with the Strawberry (full) Moon! This gives you a bit of extra light, assuming you’re not out jumping bonfires, to catch up on your internet skiving. To this end, I put out the call on Twitter for posts for a ’roundup’.

Thony Christie obligingly pointed out the accidental seasonal nature of my tweet, as Roundup is a weedkiller:

One very diverting read, which I spotted on Twitter, is A Handbook of Weather Folk-Lore (1873). (Alas, I lost the tweet and can’t remember who shared it. Apologies!) From this handbook, we learn that the slightest bit of rain on Midsummer’s Day (June 24) will ruin hazelnuts, walnuts and corn, although apples, pears or plums will not be affected.

Saints John and Paul as protectors against storm, thunder an Credit: Wellcome Library, London.
Saints John and Paul as protectors against storm, thunder an
Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been noticing an unusual amount of thunder this month. Troubling. For you see:

Thunder in June signifieth that same year that the woods shall be overthrown by winds, and great raging shall be of lions and wolves, and so like of other harmful beasts (101).

I hope that sheep aren’t too harmful, because we’re also at peak sheep-shearing season. Tamsin Lewis sent in this description of a sheep-shearing feast from a seventeenth-century ballad.

C17 Sheep Shearing FestivalFor those of you struggling with the font…

With wild Curds and Custards,/ with Chees-cakes and Pyes,/ With Sider and Sugar,/ Cream and Strawberries,/ Green Tanseys and White-pots,/ with Fish, Fowl, and Beasts,/ Our table is spread at a Sheep-shearing Feast./ And when are filled we laugh and lye down:/ Embrace one another,/ and give a green Gown.

An allegory of plenty: a scene of sheep-shearing with a corn Credit: Wellcome Library, London.
An allegory of plenty: a scene of sheep-shearing with a corn
Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Sounds delightful, and most in keeping with the season!

With the long days and summer sun, be sure to treat yourself right. But I’m sure this rather horrible remedy (not suitable for vegetarians) to treat freckles (courtesy of the Royal College of Physicians, London) is not the answer. And if you suffer from hayfever, as this post from our archives shows, there are some other remedies you might want to avoid…

L. Fuchs; De historia stirpivm commentarii insignes (1542). Credit: Wellcome Library, London.
L. Fuchs; De historia stirpivm commentarii insignes (1542). Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Poppies are out for their brief moment in the sun, looking all blowsy and beautiful. In this post, which is a visual treat, an artist looks at historical depictions of poppies.

Garlic is also coming into season. Editor Amanda Herbert spotted this blog post by Fredrika Jacobs at Pulcinellapasta on a short history of garlic’s uses, with a recipe for garlic soup.

With summer in full bloom, bees are buzzing busily. And, in Grantham, going to the pub. Joanne Major tells us about the history of a pub with an intriguing living pub sign… a beehive!

If the post on garlic hasn’t already given you some ideas for summer cookery, this Metro article about 1970s foods might provide inspiration for your summer dinner parties.  Who wouldn’t want jellied spaghetti loops?

Some good news tweeted by The Casebooks Project: ‘OUR LARGEST RELEASE TO DATE: Napier’s casebooks 1610–1620 and 21 volumes of colour images. 48,000 cases now live.’ It is very easy to while away your time playing with The Casebooks Project, where you can look at the medical cases of two early modern medical astrologers. There are intriguing details about patients, astrological charts, and more.

If you haven’t already discovered the blog #FolkloreThursday: Public Folklore in Action and their Twitter account @FolkloreThurs, you should check them out. They just celebrated their first anniversary last week! There are lots of wonderful folklore posts on their blog and, on Thursdays, you can follow #FolkloreThursday on Twitter for all sorts of folklore tidbits.

Mark your calendar for July 22. Our regular contributor Rachel Rich will be  talking about nineteenth-century cookbooks on British Muslim TV’s ‘Sister’s Hour’. This will be streamed online at and still available on the Sister’s Hour page afterwards for subscribers.

A group of children are stealing food from a picnic they have found under a tree. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.
A group of children are stealing food from a picnic they have found under a tree. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Last, but not least, you might fancy checking out our new, slowly growing, YouTube channel, Historical Recipes. We have a few playlists and subscribe to some channels that might interest you. (And RP contributors: if you fancy trying your hand at a video post for us, do let us know!)

Happy summertime playing to you!

Happy Holidays!


Advert for Borwick's Baking Powder Credit: Wellcome Library, London.
Advert for Borwick’s Baking Powder
Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Dear readers far and wide,

It’s been a big year here at the Recipes Project. As 2015 draws to a close, it seems a right time to reflect a little on our joint research efforts. 2015 has been a year of exploration and expansion for The Recipe Project. The over 100 posts which we collectively penned this year showcase the place of recipes in contexts across the pre-modern global world and the myriad of innovative ways in which project members study and analyse these short texts. It has been amazing to be part of a virtual research community and to participate in conversations on such diverse topics as recipes in the classroom, beer, reconstruction, dung and gold!

As always, our editors and guest editors have treated us with a number of guest series. Carla Nappi continues to blog on her series ‘Translating Recipes’; Hillary Nunn and Rebecca Laroche remind us of the myriad of questions which one might ask a single manuscript source; historian and herbalist Ann Stobart explored the working of herbs; and and Sietske Fransen and Saskia Klerk have started a new series on ‘A Manuscript of Dutch Medicines’ which take us to the world of alchemy, books and medicine in the early modern Netherlands.

Laurence Totelin kicked off the 2015 thematic series with a month of posts on recipes in the ancient world, Amanda Herbert curated the annual September Teaching series and Amanda Moniz and her authors brought us stories from the cutting edge of food history in the wonderful series “Historical Recipes as Sources“. We are already working hard on commissioning special series for 2016 – so watch this space!

Before I go grab that mug of glühwein and some more of that hot roasted salmon brötchen at the Christmas market (Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin, see photo below), I wanted to end my post with a round of congratulations and thank yous.

2015-12-20 12.24.14

You might have noticed our new look this year and our new resources section (inc. the ever handy Zotero bibliography). For that, we should give a big hand to Lisa Smith and her student assistants Chelsea Clark and Erin Spinney.

Many of our contributors completed book projects this year, so if you have time over the holidays, check out Meredith Ray’s Daughters of Alchemy, Laurence Totelin’s Ancient Botany, Olivia Weisser’s Ill Composed or Marieke Hendriksen’s Elegant Anatomy. (Apologies if I missed anyone’s book, let me know and I’ll update the post).

This year, a record number of graduate students have contributed to the blog, sharing their research gems with our community and continually reminding us of the vibrancy of our field. This is a shout out to them – click here to see some of their work. Two of our regular graduate student contributors, Sally Osborn and Katherine Allen,  received their PhD’s this year – so many CONGRATS!!

In other work-related news, two of the Recipes Project editorial team also moved jobs this year. Founder and co-editor, Lisa Smith is now Lecturer of Digital History at the University of Essex and our social media maven Laura Mitchell moved back to Toronto to join this cutting edge digital history initiative at the University of Toronto. Another editor, Amanda Herbert is currently the inaugural Molina Fellow in the History of Medicine and the Allied Sciences at the Huntington Library working on her new project “Spa: Faith, Public Health, and Science“.

Finally, you might recall that The Recipes Project was nominated for the British Society for the History of Science inaugural Ayrton Prize for outstanding web projects and Digital Engagement. Well, alas we didn’t win (but many congratulations to the winners – the Voices of Science Project) but we did come second! Over the year, the site has seen more than half a million visits and we average around 15,000 unique readers a month.  So, a huge thank you to everyone – our contributors, our readers, our twitter followers and more – for making 2015 such a wonderful year for recipe studies.

The book of household management by Mrs Beeton Credit: Wellcome Library, London.
The book of household management by Mrs Beeton
Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Now, recipe fans, let Mrs Beeton be your inspiration. It’s time to go back into that kitchen (or stillroom or your basement brewery) and test out some recipes over the holidays. The Recipes Project will be on break until January 5 when Carla Nappi will kick off the 2016 edition. In the meanwhile, don’t be shy, share those recipe stories on twitter!

Wishing you all a fantastic recipe-filled holiday,

Amanda, Elaine, Laura, Laurence and Lisa







Summer Recipes: A Recipes Project Round-up


Belgian Summer.  Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Belgian Summer. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Amanda E. Herbert

Here in the southeastern US, the summer weather is sweltering, and it seemed like the perfect time to dig into the Recipes Project Archives for some posts on how best to survive the hottest (northern hemisphere) months of the year.

I’ll start with Sally Osborn’s post about how to make your own ice house.  In the eighteenth century, fashionable women and men created these structures in order to provide their households with ice centerpieces and ice cream year-round.  If only I’d thought to start this project over the winter…

Many of our authors have written posts about swimming and bathing.  Colleen Kennedy explored scented baths in the Renaissance in two posts, “Dipping Your Toes,” and “A Sweet Bath.”  Katherine Allen wrote of floating in the pools at Bath in her post on eighteenth-century spas.

Gardening, another popular summer activity, has also been a central theme for many of our authors.  Daniel Trambaiolo discussed the cultivation of ginseng in his post on the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century East Asian herbal tradition.  Jane Draycott talked about Cato’s ancient-world flower gardens in her recent “Flower Power” post.  In one of the Recipe Project’s earliest posts, from 2012, Helen King discussed the ways that red plants were used to cure the green sickness.  And if you find yourself slapping at summer insects in the garden, I can recommend Stefanie Gänger’s post on Medicine and Malaria in Late-Colonial Lima, which will help to put any modern mosquito troubles in perspective.

Best wishes to all of you for cool breezes, shady green spaces, and lots of ice cream.

The funeral of Mrs Potato: a round-up of World War I recipes

A few days ago, while visiting the exposition ’14-18 – it’s our history’ at the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History in Brussels, Belgium, one document particularly caught my attention: an obituary notice for the passing of Mrs Potato.

The French text reads as follows:

Announcement of the death of Mrs Potato, 1916
Announcement of the death of Mrs Potato, Brussels, 1916

Mr Joe SPUD, his wife Industry TATER [the word in the original is the dialectal Walloon word ‘crompire’];

Mr ONION, his wife Mrs LEEK and their children shallot and gherkin;

Mr CELERY, his wife Mrs CHERVIL, their child parsley;

Mr SPINACH, his wife Mrs SORREL, their children salt and pepper;

Mr CARROT, his wife Mrs TURNIP, their children green cabbage and cauliflower;


Widow CHICORY, born in Brussels;

have the great pain to inform you of the cruel loss they have suffered in the person of


Born in Canada, piously deceased in Brussels

The funerals will take place every day at one (Central European time) in all homes where bellies go empty and cooking pots are in mourning.

Pray that her soul may rest in peace and that she may resurrect soon.

No flowers or wreaths.

Having never suffered from hunger, this satirical text brought things home for me. How does one cook without the most basic of ingredients? How does one go through their day without one of the cheapest source of carbohydrates? Here is a round-up of sites and blogs that may offer some answers to these questions.

Painting by R. Willems-Geurt on a sand cabine at the Belgian sea resort of Koksijde. Photo: Laurence Totelin, August 2014
Painting by R. Willems-Geurts on a sand cabine at the Belgian sea resort of Koksijde. Photo: Laurence Totelin, August 2014

The Telegraph tells us how to prepare a Trench Cake, which included currants, cocoa, ginger and nutmeg, perhaps to hide the fact that it was mostly made of flour and margarine – no eggs or butter in sight. Cookit! for its part gives us the recipe for a Trench Stew based on the recollections of a soldier from the 9th Bedfordshire Regiment. Beth Wilmshurst at greatfood mag reproduces several recipes from the 1918 British Ministry of Food, Win the War Cookery Book. The fish sausages are particularly intriguing –  might give them a try myself.

David Setevenson devotes an interesting post to the War effort at home on the British Library website, including information on food supply and rationing. Note at the bottom of the post the photo of the Belgian Cookbook (1915), which includes recipes sent by Belgian refugees. Edible Swansea had written a fascinating post on that same book a couple of years ago.

Painting by L. Ardaean at the sea-resort of Koksijde, Belgium. Photo: Laurence Totelin, August 2014
Painting by L. Ardaen at the sea-resort of Koksijde, Belgium.
Photo: Laurence Totelin, August 2014

In the USA, the University of Wisconsin has an amazing collection of North American documents relating to food and cooking during and after World War I: Recipe for Victory: Food and Cooking in Wartime. The following title  by the United States Food Administration particularly caught my attention: Food saving and sharing, telling how the older children of America may help save from famine their comrades in allied lands across the sea, prepared under the direction of the United States Food administration in cooperation with the United States Department of agriculture and the Bureau of education (1918). The tract is 102 pages in length, showing that the Food Administration expected quite a lot from its ‘older children’. The National World War Museum at Liberty National in collaboration with American Food Roots has produced a series of videos on food, cooking and rationing. The Doughboy Cookbook, by the Quartermaster Corps Foundation, presents several adapted recipes (with no claim to full authenticity) that soldiers would have used. Note in particular the ‘Mess Sergeant’s Java‘ or ‘Black Jack’ a nauseating recipe for recycling coffee involving egg-shells and salt.

Finally, in Toronto a Symposium ‘Recipe for Victory – Great War Food‘ took place in September. It involved recipe testing and tasting, including a tasting of Canadian butter tarts, on which you will find more information here.

There is of course much more to be found on the web, but no orgy of blog-reading on war recipes will ever give me a full sense of what it really felt to be hungry and scared in a trench or on the home-front. Lest we forget.

NB: many of the links above were suggested by Amanda Herbert, who is currently on leave.