Category Archives: Series: What Is A Recipe? Virtual Conversation

Day 2: What is a Recipe?

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Good morning everyone – got your coffee ready?

Welcome to the second event day of our ‘What is a Recipe?‘ virtual conversation.  Join us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook today to further discuss all things recipes!

We will be hearing from

If you want to pick up any conversation threads from June 2, Lisa Smith has Storified the themes over here.

All of our participants will be using the #recipesconf handle on Twitter – see you there!



What is a Recipe? Week 2

Hi everyone, welcome to week 2 of our virtual conversation. First, thank you all for the interesting and stimulating conversation on Friday. For this recipe enthusiast, there were a large number of high-points. I particularly enjoyed the discussions on recipes and algorithms (thanks in particular to  for getting us started and for his participation via Twitter, see also Paul Engle’s guest blog post here). From watching the live-streamed ‘Repast and Present: Food History Inside and Outside the AcademyBerks 2017 panel (my first Facebook live event!), I also enjoyed learning about the rich and wide-ranging ways colleagues in classrooms, museums and on the internet use recipes as a vehicle for fostering conversations about constructing identities and our relationships with the past. (Lisa Smith has Storified the day over here.) I look forward to continuing these conversations with everyone in the coming week!

We’re delighted to host a rich programme for week 2 of ‘What is a Recipe?’. This week, our main event day is Wednesday June 7. see below for abstracts and summaries. In addition, our friends at the University of Glasgow Archives and Special Collections (@UofGlasgowASC) and the Cardiff University Special Collections and Archives (@CUSpecialColls) will continue to share their holdings on twitter.

The Recipes Project team all look forward to seeing you on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and more. Don’t forget to #recipesconf on all Twitter conversations!

Titles and Abstracts:

‘Recipes in the Early Royal Society Archives’, Sietske Fransen (tweets 7 June, 13 June, and 20 June; blog post 5 July.)

The seventeenth-century fellows of the Royal Society were interested in every part of the natural world. They collected and reproduced a large variety of recipes, from the making of pigments to finding the recipe for the best French bread, to a recipe for universal medicine. During my research days in June, investigating the visual practice of the early Royal Society (, I will tweet the various recipes I encounter in the archive of the Royal Society. At the end of those weeks the found recipes will feature in a blogpost on recipes in  the early Royal Society.

‘Spuddenly Farming: A reconstruction of Rev. Mr. Cochran’s Potato experiment, 1791’, Siobhan Carlson, 2 June, 7 June, 13 June. 15 June, 20 June, 24 June, 27 June, 3 July, 5 July

Following the American Revolution, the British crown gave Loyalists land to farm throughout the Canadian Maritimes. This migration gave rise to the emergence of an English print culture in the region that included agricultural recipes. Amongst these entries, on the 24th of March, 1792, the Royal Gazette and Miscellany of the Island of Saint John, printed the experiment entitled, ‘To determine whether it is best to plant large or small Cuttings of Potatoes ; in a Letter from the Rev. Mr. Cochran to the Secretary of the Agricultural Society for the County of Hants, dated Winsor, Feb. 1791.’ The experiment outlines the best methods to grow Prince Edward Island’s famous export – the potato. The goal of this project is to reconstruct the experiment, to think about/consider the experience of Maritime Settlers.

‘Gwendolyn Brooks’ Fruit Salad’, Newberry Library podcast (Alex Teller)

We’re releasing a podcast episode about a fruit salad recipe by Gwendolyn Brooks on Wednesday, June 7 (the 100th anniversary of her birth). The audio will appear on Soundcloud and iTunes, but we’ll repurpose it (along with pictures of how the fruit salad came out when we made it) for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well.

‘Historical Recipes + Digital Humanities’, Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and  Medicine at the University of Minnesota (Lois Hendrickson and Emily Beck)

Recipe Workshop digital poster (from Carleton College June 2 Digital Humanities Conference. Our ‘poster’ session on the Historical  Recipes + Digital Humanities symposium, which was held at the Wangensteen.




Day 1: What is a Recipe?

The Potato Eaters, Van Gogh (1885). Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Here we are, Day 1 of our Virtual Conversation on “What is a Recipe?” How can you get involved? Read the blog posts, follow contributors on social media, watch the livestream — and comment away. You can always comment directly on a blog post or social media, or even below this post. We’ll find you! If you’re using social media, just remember our hashtags: #recipesconf and #recipesproject.

Our main event today is a livestreamed panel discussion from the Berkshire conference on the subject of ‘Repast and Present: Food History Inside and Outside the Academy‘, chaired by an RP co-editor, Amanda Herbert.  This will stream on our Facebook page ( from 8:30-10:00 a.m. (EST)/1:30-3:00 p.m. (U.K.). The panel will be taking questions from the virtual audience, so you’re very welcome to ask questions there or on Twitter.

But there are lots of other offerings. In particular, today has several potato-related posts — purely by accident, but serendipity is a wonderful thing.

On our own blog, Harry Hayfield takes us on a culinary time-travel from today to seventeenth-centur France, with “Henri’s kitchen: Cheese and Potato Nests”.

At Les carnets de la phonotheque, the recipe of the month — collected from an old farmer in Provence by Professor Jean-Claude Bouvier in 1976 — is on “Les <<Moines>> ou Quenelles de Pomme de Terre”.

Over on Twitter and Instagram, Siobhan Carlson will be sharing her adventures over the month as she tries A reconstruction of Rev. Mr. Cochran’s Potato experiment, 1791”, which took place in the Canadian Maritimes. You can follow her on Instagram as @SpuddenlyFarming and on Twitter as @Spuddenly_Farm.

The Provincial Archives of Alberta (Canada) asks, “What’s a Party without Food?” and celebrates the humble potato. The are also on Twitter as @ProvArchivesAB.

I can’t promise potatoes from the following contributors, but you never know! Cardiff University Special Collections and Archives will be joining in via Twitter: @CUSpecialColls. The University of Glasgow Archives and Special Collections will be busy, too. They will have a blog post here for #recipesconf, as well as be participating on Twitter @UofGlasgowASC and Instagram @uofglasgowasc for #foodieFriday.

If potatoes aren’t your thing, maybe mathematics is. (There is no reason not to love both, of course!) Thanks to Thony Christie, who tweets as @rmathematicus, for posing a series of related questions when he promoted our project over at Whewell’s Gazette:

Having defined recipe so broadly, as a mathematician and logician, I then ask myself how does a recipe differ from an algorithm if at all? Personally I think the two words are in their essence synonyms and there isn’t really a difference. What do you think? How do you define the term recipe? Do recipes and algorithms differ? If so, how?

Answers on a card, please… Or, rather, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or below.

For further details on the projects discussed above (apart from Thony’s), please see our post from earlier this week here.

If you have any questions, @historecipes, @historybeagle, @HistoryElaine and @tallulahmaait will be out and about on Twitter today–or drop us a note on Facebook or below this post.

We can’t wait to hear from you in the Virtual Conversation!

Henri’s kitchen: 1. Cheese and Potato Nests

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.

Bonjour mes amis and welcome to my kitchen. Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Henri de Ceredigion , I am a cadet in the forces of the famed Musketeers that serve loyally under the authority of King Louis XIII of France and I am so pleased that my recipes have been accepted . I hope that these will give you as much pleasure as they have given me. I feel it is only fit and proper that I also introduce my manservant, Planchet, who has been by my side for the last year or so and is an absolute asset in the kitchen. You are, don’t be embarrassed please.

Today, by means of an introduction, I thought I would start with something nice and simple, namely cheese and potato nests which is a firm favourite in this household. First you need six good sized potatoes, about the size of your fist should do, and then you cut them up very small. This is where Planchet comes into his own as he states that he can chop anything to any size and he recommends that you chop them to resemble twigs that you sometimes find on the ground. Whilst that is happening, you finely chop an onion (excuse the tears), some garlic and then place it into a cooking pot with some butter (luckily we get ours from a very friendly farmer just outside Paris) and then cook gently. You can, if you wish add a bay leaf as well as I do, but that is purely optional. As that starts to cook, take some lardon and chop it into small squares and add that to the onion and garlic which should by now be gently cooking.

House mice devouring a large cheese. R. Hicks, 1888 Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Ah, Planchet, well done, there’s the potatoes done now for the cheese, and I have to admit we have had a bit of a disagreement about this in the past. You see, Planchet, comes from the alpine area of France and therefore brought what he called a “devotional cheese” with him. It’s the cheese that monks in that area use when offering communion. The problem that I found was that it was very smelly indeed. In fact, when I first smelt it I declared that it was worse than a farmyard and, I don’t like to admit it, I think I upset him because we then had a blazing row and he stormed out and I was worried I would never see him again. Thankfully I did and I apologised for upsetting him and explained why. The following day, he came back from the market with a cheese that I instantly recognised, as it was made to a recipe form Somerset in my native homeland. Oh, sorry, did I neglect to mention that at the beginning. Sorry, when I am in the middle of something my memory does slip. I’m English by birth here as part of a special mission for His Grace the Duke of Buckingham, but don’t tell anyone that. Anyway, back to the cooking, so as a result of that disagreement we alternate the cheese, but today we are making the classic version and so we’re using half a devotional cheese, but you are more than welcome to use any cheese you like. Chop that cheese into little cubes, about the size of your thumb, and put them to one side, then add two glasses of white wine. Yes, I know that grapes are very hard to find these days, but again, having connections to the south of this country does have its perks. Give that mixture a good stir until there’s only a very small amount of liquid left. When that happens add the chopped potatoes and then pour the whole mixture into a bowl.

Now, has anyone spotted the deliberate mistake? Anyone? No? Well, this is what happened the first time we did this recipe, we forgot to get the bay leaf out of the mixture. So before you pour it into the bowl, take the bay leaf out otherwise you might spend the next few moments looking for it. Once you have removed the bay leaf, just throw in the cheese and give it a good mix and then place it into either several small tins that have been smeared with pig fat or if you fancy something a little on the big side place it all into a large bowl. Then you place it into the oven and cook it for as long as it takes for a cheese smell to permeate through your kitchen or it looks brown and is bubbling away in the tins. Serve immediately lest a certain manservant decides to devour them all or if you are able keep them warm until they are needed with some lettuce, if you fancy it.

About Harry Hayfield: My name is Harry Hayfield and I have been interested in history ever since I was first taught it in high school. My interest in living history is much more recent and was prompted by being able to buy on DVD a cartoon series that I would like to think reflects how I would behave if my father suddenly packed me off to one of the prestigious military academies of Europe (namely the Musketeers of 17th century France) and the interest comes from the fact that I was the only boy to take cookery in high school.