Category Archives: Virtual Conversation

Day 6: What is a recipe?

Welcome to Day 6 of our virtual conversation on ‘What is a Recipe?’. Don’t forget to check out the H-Nutrition discussion which has been going on all week! This is their last day of joining in! They’ve been discussing ‘Weight Watchers’ Fried Chinese Chicken‘, ‘First Bouillon, Then Meat with Potatoes‘, ‘Spaghetti Mexican Style‘ , ‘Statistical Analysis of Yorkshire Pudding‘, ‘Branding Bran: School Breakfast As A Recipe For Healthy Children’, ‘Who Says We Can’t Cook!’, ‘Carbohydrate Hell’, ‘A Healthy Dose of Skepticism’, ‘Organic Tools For Social Standing: Oehm’s and Allestein’s Recipes for Brain, Lung and Udders, 1850-60s’, ‘Dehydrated Rations for Indian Soldiers in the Second World War’,  ‘Bachelorette Chow’, and ‘What is a Recipe? Update #2’.  Lots to get your teeth into!

‘Cooking With Anger’ will be continuing with their Story Telling Project! Topics so far have included: ‘The Terror of Chard’,  ‘Chukkar’,  ‘Rawhide’, ‘The Fountainhead of Regret’, and ‘Father’s Day D. Lights.’ You can play in the comments here!

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

  • Katherine Allen “Reconstructing Recipes from an Eighteenth-Century Manuscript Recipe Book” with Instagram, Twitter and a Blog! Live tweeting about her experience reconstructing the medicinal remedy and doing an Insta Story as I create an eighteenth-century dessert. Afterwards, a de-brief on the experiments over blog. Find Katherine on Twitter @KAllen622, Instagram @raspberrythriller62 and on her Blog at   https://raspberrythriller.wordpress.com/ and recipes.hypotheses.org
  • Siobhan Carlson is back with “Spuddenly Farming: A reconstruction of Rev. Mr. Cochran’s Potato experiment, 1791”, Find her on Instagram at @SpuddenlyFarming or Twitter at @Spuddenly_Farm
  • Harry Hayfield brings us “Henri’s Kitchen” with ‘Croque Madame’ at the Recipes Project
  • Kierri Price is going to be using Facebook Live to present “Into the Mix: Creating a Recipe” at 2pm today. This project invites anyone and everyone to contribute to the creation of a recipe – without any set idea in mind! Viewers’ suggestions will shape the steps of the recipe, with something perhaps starting as a pastry eventually evolving into a cake. Drawing upon the experience and imagination of diverse people, “Into the Mix” hopes to explore the potential of social media to bring us together and encourage creativity, while (hopefully!) making something tasty at the same time. The Facebook Live will be broadcast here!

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!

Henri’s kitchen: 3. Croque Madame

Harry Hayfield, a resident of Ceredigion in Wales, has long had an interest in the stories of the Musketeers which are set in early 17th century France, this led in turn to an interest in the Stuart period of history and joining a living history group. However, as a registered carer for his grandparents, he is unable to get to many of the events and yet wanted to do something to help. One day he was watching “The Little Paris Kitchen” broadcast on the BBC and thought “These are recipes designed by the French, therefore could they be converted in the 17th century versions of themselves?”. Doing some research he found that they could. Harry will therefore contribute four of the recipes as shown in the programme as if cooked by Henri de Ceredigion (Harry’s Stuart persona) a cadet member of the Musketeers, with able assistance from Planchet, his manservant cum stable lad.

Whenever I invite people to have a meal with me, they are always very surprised by how little I actually have. I explain this by saying that both Planchet and myself are very careful about what we eat for two reasons. Firstly, I don’t want to be as big and rotund as Athos and secondly, I have always had a very small appetite and therefore all my meals are very small. That does not mean that they are boring, as demonstrated when Planchet introduced me to what he called Croque Monsieurs, which were absolutely delicious, but so filling I could only manage one of them. So I wondered if I could make a version just a little smaller, and that’s when I came up with the idea of Croque Madames (after all, most ladies are smaller than me) with a few English connections.

The first thing that you need is to make a sauce, which is the simplest thing in the world to do. Take a knob of butter and melt it in a pan, then take roughly the same amount of flour, give it a good mix then pour a good quarter pint (English I should point out) of milk slowly into the mixture whilst still mixing. Then, depending on your opinion on the subject, add some mustard and then start to make your croques. These are so simple even Porthos could make them (but don’t tell him that I said he was simple). First you take a loaf of bread and slice it into as many slices are you want croques, ignoring the comments from a certain manservant about how dull and uninspiring that sounds, then cut off the crusts. Then flaten them with a roll until they are as half as thick as they were to begin with and then brush them with butter on both sides. This is the get the crunch. As Planchet has often told me “Monsieur, no crunch, no croque”, and who I am to argue with him!
 
A nice piece of ham for my croque madame. Credit: Wellcome Images.
Place the buttered slices into a cup, adding some ham, a small egg and the sauce last of all before dusting them with a liberal amount of cheese of your own choice and brushing the exposed pieces of bread with some more butter before placing into the oven. Now, depending on how runny you like your egg, you leave them in for about fifteen minutes for a soft egg (as Planchet prefers) or twenty minutes for a set egg (as I prefer). Once you take them out of the oven, don’t worry if the edges of the bread look a little burnt as this adds to the crunch. Then simply serve and enjoy your meal as myself and Planchet will in about thirty minutes, as writing about these has made me rather peckish. Planchet, have you got any sliced bread not doing anything? I would like a Madame.

 

Boundaries: Reflections on Day 5

By Lisa Smith, with Rosie Redstone

I found myself thinking of the importance of limts and boundaries throughout the day:

  • What is the importance of place and time for a recipe?
  • How does the way in which we record a recipe shape our experience of it?
  • What is the significance of constraint, either in terms of ingredients or method?

The theme of place came up in several presentations. Dorothy Cashman discussed the specific Irish and familial context for Mrs. Baker’s book; it served as a family memorial in her widowhood and served as a microcosm of early nineteenth-century Dublin society. In an interview for the Endless Knot podcast, Laura Carlson (of The Feast podcast) considered the meaning of specific foods (and chickens) along the Camino de Santiago and the ways in which medieval recipes reflected Mediterranean trade. Over at H-Nutrition, several of the posts in their recipe series this week have looked at ethnicity: the Americanization of pasta in a 1920s cookbook, the ideal Central European meal, and a recipe that revealed the privations of the poor in Soviet Ukraine.

Recipes were, of course, on the move — between people and between regions. But sometimes a recipe’s significance remains fixed in its original place. Mrs. Baker’s book can be read alongside the family’s archives, and emphasises just how connected the collection was to time and city, even if we encounter similar recipes elsewhere. But a recipe occasionally becomes something ‘other’, as Anastasia Lakhtikova found.  She realised how privileged her family was when she discovered another family’s treasured, and quite horrible, recipe for ‘Wonder Sand’. This recipe cannot be detached from the context of Soviet privation.

The way in which recipes are recorded can also shape our experience of them: are they in print, manuscript or digital? are they on recipe cards or scraps, or in a book? In an article in The Observer last weekend, Bee Wilson looked at the rise of digital recipes and whether more recipes mean better cooking. (Spoiler: no! But you should read the whole thing.) Digital recipes, she suggests, lack life and context, even if they are convenient. Although there are some super recipes in circulation, there is also far more dross than ever before. This is all very true, though perhaps it’s not all bad — I’ve often been struck by the sense of community in the comment sections, where users assess the recipe, discuss any adaptations they made, and even connect it to their own family’s life.

The physical object is often important to us, as well. The messier side of manuscript recipes is appealing, drawing us into a sense of intimacy, as with the crossings-out in a recipe that Sietske Fransen shared (above). The importance of presentation is something that came out in Wilson’s article, too. Her son, she noted, trusted the shiny recipe cards of Hello Fresh as being authoritative, even though recipe cards and their exchange has fallen out of use in the past decade.

For their exhibition on food history, the Provincial Archives of Alberta is displaying old recipes in recipe card format. Recipe cards are pleasingly organised; no wonder they might be seen as authoritative.

As in the case of Wonder Sand, recipes sometimes reveal constraints. Ingredients are frequently substituted, whether because of seasonality, regionality, or cost. But are there other ways in which constraint might shape recipes? Format is one way. For example, recipe cards limit the writer to two small sides and enforcing brevity, while digital readers are notoriously fickle and tending to skim-read, which forces short statements and clearly marked ingredient amounts.

This month, the Cooking with Anger Project is available at The Recipes Project. It’s an intriguing story-telling game in which you’re given a list of ‘ingredients’ that must be mentioned in a (very) short story. I found the strictness difficult, and flicked through several baskets over several days before settling on one to try. (My attempt is in the comments, along with several much better ones.) But as good poetry shows, working within a tight framework can encourage creativity to flourish.

Siobhan Carlson’s potato experiment continues. When I started writing this post, I was prepared to suggest that the boundary  between experiments and recipes might not be very permeable; after all, the purpose of a modern experiment is replicability–and she has been very careful with her timing and measurements this week. But perhaps even here, there is some scope for creativity, as she found last week when confronted with the problem of unclear instructions with regards to the size of potato cuttings.

An interesting day all around. You can check out the full day in Rosie Redstone’s Storify of Day 5. It’s worth it for the summer drinks and crocodile alone, even before getting to our interesting presentations!

 

Recipes as a Connecting Thread: Reflections on Day 4

By Amanda Herbert and Elaine Leong

Day Four represented the best of what our “What Is A Recipe” digital conversation has come to represent.  Our contributors joined the #recipesconf conversation in a wide range of media: blog posts, podcasts, YouTube videos, Instagram photo essays, and Tweetstorms.  As our discussion ranged across platforms and topics, we were reminded that recipes act as a connecting thread, bringing together helpful research and insights that help us to understand the past from many perspectives, disciplines, and time periods.

We had some new recipe recreations today, via Simon Walker and Siobhan Clark.  Both of these contributors reminded us – in keeping with Marissa Nicosia’s post on early modern chocolate – that recipe recreation helps us to see a past which is available yet not necessarily accessible.

Siobhan Clark’s Spuddenly Farming experiment continued as Siobhan began to divide and cut potatoes that had been grown according to eighteenth-century farming methods.  This was not straightforward, as the potatoes came in a variety of sizes and each had very different numbers of eyes.  What started as a math puzzle quickly became an exercise in aesthetics.

But Simon Walker’s brilliant YouTube tutorial on how to make WWI Lemon Hardtack Pudding reminded us that aesthetics are sometimes lost in translation. As Simon shared, soldiers in WWI were expected to eat 4,500 calories per day, approximately 500 of which were devoted to puddings — or, as the soldiers called them, “duff.” (For another RP post on wartime duff, see Jessica Eichlin’s post on Apple Duff in the American Civil War.)

The most important things about these dishes were probably their characters (filling) as well as their contents (sugar) rather than their visual or textural appeal. Puddings made out of things like bacon grease, sugar, and rehydrated hardtack might seem today to be only marginally edible — but they were nonetheless critical to WWI soldiers’ morale and their sense of normalcy.  Both Siobhan’s and Simon’s recreations might not allow a replica of past experience, but they do offer unexpected and useful insights into things like the material conditions of labor, the impact of tradition and culture, or the importance of logistics, supply, and trade.

Two other contributors, Louise Cilliers and Véronique Ginouvès, offered blog posts.  Cilliers discussed remedies to treat breast engorgement in the ancient world, and Ginouvès reflected on her experiments with podcasting at the sound archives at the MMSH.  Cilliers shared insights about a North African doctor, Theodorus Priscianus, who was a student of the famous Carthaginian physician, Vindicianus (late 4thcentury CE).  Priscianus’ cures for postpartum women revealed that the physician was attuned to and respectful of ancient women’s own systems of knowledge and their experiences.

Meanwhile Ginouvès wrote about the ways that  she her team have approached a series called “La Recette Du Mois,” uncovering recollections of recipes in the MMSH Sound Archive Center’s more than 8,000 hours of sound archives (6,000 of which have been digitized, and  3,000 of which are directly accessible online).  Although Cilliers’ and Ginouvès’ topics vary widely in terms of time period and topic, both offered the opportunity to reflect on the important work that recipes do in making the past seem relevant, approachable, and accessible.

This was a point forcefully born out by Lisa Smith’s tweetstorm about her innovative undergraduate teaching with recipes. Smith’s tweets directed readers to blog posts and citizen transcription projects completed by her students at the University of Essex as part of their goal to consider ‘What is a Recipe?’. For more, go here.

Finally, joining the conversation from Australia, Marguerite Johnson shared her analysis of beauty recipes from Ovid’s Medicamina Faciei Femineae via a podcast and storify.  Ovid, Marguerite tell us, offered his readers not recipes for cosmetics (make-up and such) but rather ‘cosmeceuticals’, substances which could be used to augment natural beauty. Here, we again see recipes as a connecting thread. Not only were there crossovers in the ingredients, techniques and equipment used between medical, culinary and cosmeceutical production but many of the ingredients recommended by Ovid, such as honey and egg,  are still in use today in our more natural face creams. Inspired by Marguerite (and Ovid, of course), we now view those eggs sitting our kitchens with new intentions! Who knows, next week, you might see us sporting smooth, glowing complexions! And that’s only one of the reasons why we appreciate #recipesconf.

… And in case you missed it, a Storify of Day 3 by Tallulah Maait Pepperell is available here.