Welcome to September! A Letter from the Editorial Team

Dear friends and readers,

We’re delighted to welcome you to the September relaunch of The Recipes Project! Over the past five months, the editorial team has been reflecting on our priorities, goals, and the RP community more generally. The site has grown considerably from its launch in 2012, including its vibrant community of contributors, visitors, and partners. We’ve featured work from scholars and community members from all stages of their careers, spotlighting compelling work done on the history of recipes. This includes practical pieces on how to teach with recipes, incorporate transcription practices into the classroom, and work with a range of sources including material culture. Over the past few years, we’ve also significantly expanded our editorial team, including the important contributions of our hard-working Social Media Editors. Overall, we are proud of the work that features on RP, but even more so of the community that we have with all of you. 

The relaunch has been an opportunity to step back and assess, a process made all the more pressing in the wake of a global pandemic and calls for racial equity and justice. We are excited to announce some developments at RP that will serve our readers, all while expanding our community, scope, and the breadth of our coverage.  

First, we are delighted to announce an open Call for Contributions. We especially aim to build on existing strengths in early modern Europe to further foreground global contexts. We look forward to hearing from existing contributors, while expanding our community to showcase dynamic histories of recipes that are taking place around the world. For more information on how to submit a pitch, click here, and please share widely.

Second, we are pleased to announce a quarterly email that will be circulated to community members with updates, information on how to submit your work, and ways to get involved with new developments in the history of recipes and everything related to it. To sign up, please visit here.

Last, but definitely not least, we are so excited that Miles Wilkerson is joining our editorial team! Miles is a PhD candidate in History at UW-Madison, where he mobilizes a disability studies lens to study the Atlantic slave trade. He’s joining us as a Social Media Editor, and you can follow him on Twitter at @mm_wilkerson. Welcome Miles!

Future Element
Odra Noel, “Future Element,” courtesy of the Wellcome Library, CC BY-NC 4.0

In the coming months, we hope The Recipes Project continues to be a place that offers a sense of connection and community, not to mention exciting new developments in historical scholarship, public outreach, and teaching strategies. That’s why, in this month’s header image, we feature a piece from “Future Element,” a series by artist Odra Noel who used paint on silk to depict ovum at the cellular level. With their vivid colours, the images suggest growth, development, and movements toward the future.

Odra Noel, “Future Element,” courtesy of the Wellcome Library, CC BY-NC 4.0

At the same time, we understand the Covid-related pressures that many people face, including those in scholarly positions, public history, and institutional settings. This includes graduate students and early career researchers, who may find themselves denied opportunities to present and share their exciting research at traditional venues like conferences and workshops. Here at the Recipes Project, we hope to help mitigate some of these challenges, acting as a forum for the presentation of new work and the exchange of ideas. This means that, moving forward, our publishing schedule will shift to one post per week, on Thursdays. This allows us to continue spotlighting this community’s fascinating work, all while acknowledging and accounting for uncertainties created by the pandemic that many of us are experiencing. This is an ongoing conversation as we move ahead into 2020. We look forward to hearing from you and developing additional ways we can support and expand this community throughout these challenging times.

Sincerely,

 The Editorial Team



Introducing Our New Co-Editor: Ryan Kashanipour

Interview by Lisa Smith

As April draws to a close and the temperature is already pushing one hundred degrees here in the desert of Southern Arizona, it is my great pleasure to introduce my fellow new co-editor here at the Recipes Project (not to mention fellow Tucson local) Ryan Kashanipour. Ryan is an ethnohistorian of medicine and science at Northern Arizona University, specializing in Latin American history and the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica. Lisa Smith recently caught up with Ryan for an interview on his research and his new role here at the Recipes Project:

Welcome to your new role as co-editor of the Recipes Project, Ryan!  What interests you most about recipes?

I love recipes of all sorts: cookery, medicinal, magical, and the like. I see recipes as a unique genre of records, which can simultaneously be deeply personal accounts that can create family connections, local identities, and a sense of belonging, while also being grand references on everything from metaphysics to the environment to the nation. As everyday records, they can offer rare glimpses at personal and family traditions, along with gendered relations that cut across generations.  Because many of them deal with food and health, they are often intimate accounts of emotions and the body.  All the while, recipes can be regimented and formalized works that are state-level programs that aim to carry nationalist agendas and campaigns.  I have to admit that my life is already filled with recipes. In my home, I have a growing collection of modern and historical print cookbooks.  My six-year-old daughter, in fact, has been writing and leaving recipes all around our kitchen:

We know that you work on medicine and science in colonial Mexico. How do recipes feature in your research?

My work operates at the intersection of magic and medicine in colonial Latin America.  In particular, I look at manuscript books of medicine written by indigenous peoples in southern Mexico in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Most of the works that I deal with are written in the local language, Yucatec Maya, which is what first attracted me to them as an historical anthropologist. The records deal with everything from common skin ailments to epidemic diseases to afflictions caused by curses and sorcery. There are cures for broken legs and broken hearts. The remedies themselves often appear in recipe format, that is to say, as a fairly orderly set of instructions on how to make or perform the cure.  However, because these sorts of practice fell outside of the sanctioned practices of Spanish colonial society, these records were highly protected and secretive. The representatives of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, along with the organization that certified physicians and healers, regularly prosecuted those deemed to be malicious or false healers. Nevertheless, one of the interesting things that I have found is that these recipes circulated among different ethnic and social groups.  There was a constant lack of medical professionals within the colonies and, as a result, people developed their own systems of healing that reflected the social make up of local communities.  In the case of the Yucatán, this meant that natives, African peoples, and Europeans exchanged ideas and practices. As such, I treat these remedies as democratic records that show everyday exchanges and encounters.

We’re excited about new developments here at the Recipes Project. What kinds of posts are you hoping to commission for the RP

As a longtime collaborator (and fan) of the Recipes Project, I am very excited by this new role. Having written for and occasionally edited for the site in the past, I am really thrilled to have the opportunity to actively shape its future directions.  As a Latin Americanist interested in everything from ancient practices to modern traditions, I hope to continue to highlight the breadth and depth of work being done on the Spanish and Portuguese worlds.  My aim, at some core level, is to bring together scholars regardless of the geographic divisions that are often ingrained in our professional and academic training. For me, the Recipes Project is a venue to create connections and foster collaborations about scholarship and teaching through the hybrid of traditional and digital mediums.  I have to say, though, that I am really just excited to try to bring people together from diverse backgrounds and approaches.

Introducing Our New Co-Editor: Josh Schlachet

Interview by Jess Clark

As we mentioned at the beginning of 2019, there are a number of exciting new developments happening here at the Recipes Project, including the arrival of three new co-editors. Today I have the pleasure of introducing one of them: Josh Schlachet! Josh is a historian of early modern and modern Japan who focuses on food cultures, nourishment, and global food studies. I recently had the opportunity to ask Josh about his research interests in recipes. Without further ado, please welcome our new co-editor, in his own words.

 

Welcome to your new role as co-editor of the Recipes Project, Josh!  What interests you most about recipes?

What I find most fascinating about recipes is the multitude of ways that people think up to get from a heap of stuff to a finished product. Even when they set out to make the exact same thing, no two recipes ever imagine quite the same method for getting there. My grandmother’s “secret” matzo ball recipe (the beans now very much spilled) calls for seltzer instead of water, we believed to add some fluff to the rock-hard alternative. And she always added shredded chicken to her soup, though the purists would insist that broth alone would have been enough. Recipes allow a sort of freedom in what we might expect to be a strict formula, a chance for authors and makers to craft new styles of doing old things and a flexibility to interpret among those who follow them. It is these endless permutations that grant us the choice of which to follow, or the creative opportunity to deviate, hybridize, combine. A recipe, despite its self-apparent certainty, is always one of many.

Fig. 1. Teisai Hokuba, "Bowl of New Year Food," c. 1808. Image courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Fig. 1. Teisai Hokuba, “Bowl of New Year Food,” c. 1808. Image courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art.

We know that you work on food and nourishment in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Japan. How do recipes feature in your research?

As someone who writes about food and nourishment in Japan, recipes are all over my research, though not in the ways you might expect. One surprising thing that jumps off the pages of culinary manuals from Japan’s Edo period (1600-1868) is just how little their authors seemed to care about the details of how food was prepared—and possibly even less about how the completed dish was meant to look and taste. Or we could say that the expectation of esoteric knowledge ran so deep that they left such trivial particulars unsaid. Like Escoffier’s elegantly sparse directions in his tree of sauces (for sauce champignons: make a demi-glace, add mushrooms) you were supposed to already know what to do. Yet the documents I work with constantly reveal their formulas for how to assemble a dietary philosophy, as well as how to live by it once crafted. These, too, are recipes in a sense. They walked audiences step-by-step through how to think about their own consumption, and the finished product was meant to be their bodies, not their meals.

As a researcher or educator, what’s been your favorite recipe to use and why?

My favorite collection of recipes to work and teach with, though I certainly wouldn’t want to eat the results myself, appears in An Outline on Famine Relief, a text from the early nineteenth century that sought to alleviate the conditions of mass starvation plaguing Japan at the time. In their defiant ingenuity in the face of misery, these recipes show us the strength of the human will to survive. They instructed readers on how to prepare and combine “ingredients” from the scum that seeped off the bottom of rice-washing water to starch pounded from wild roots, pulped tree bark, beeswax, and whatever other half-edibles famine victims could find. Recipes like these could be useful as philanthropic tools, too, helping to create a sense of urgency and prompting those with enough to come to the aid of those in dire need. They also demonstrate just how adaptable a recipe can be, how formats built for delicacies in times of plenty could transform to fit moments of desperate lack.

We’re excited about new developments here at the Recipes Project. What kinds of posts are you hoping to commission for the RP

I’m excited too! One of my goals for the Recipes Project is to expand our global scope, especially in the areas of East Asia that I focus on in my own work. To that end, I hope to commission posts for the RP that put recipes in cross-cultural perspective and build out from our strengths in the European and American contexts. I also hope to test out some new framings for how we conceive of the already expansive category of recipes. I’d like to organize a series of posts on industrial development recipes in the modernizing world, from concrete manufacturing to chemical flavor enhancers. I’m also interested in a series that explores luxury and lack, including the kinds of recipes for the impoverished I mentioned above. It’s a genuine pleasure to join the RP team, and I look forward to many recipes to come!

Introducing our new Twitter-guru!

Amanda, Lisa and I are delighted to welcome Laura Mitchell as our new twitter-guru. Some of you might already know Laura from our Facebook page. From this month onwards, Laura will also be sending out those 140 character notes, conversing with all of you in the twitter-sphere and keeping us up to date on all things recipe-related.

Above Alexis of Piedmont and Albertus Magnus; centre: William Harvey and Francos Bacon drawing aside a curtain to reveal secrets; below: Dr.R.Reade, Dr. John (Johann Jacob) Wecker and Ramund Lullius.
Wellcome Library, London Engraved title page to: Eighteen books of the secrets of art and nature, being the summe and substance of naturall philosophy, methodically digested …, London 1660.

Laura’s main research interests focus on charms, and more broadly magic, in later medieval England. Her 2011 dissertation “Cultural Uses of Magic in Fifteenth-century England” combined social/cultural history and book history to explore how medieval people used their books to present a certain image of themselves, and what role magic texts and charms played in that. She is currently branching out to examine books of secrets and networks/communities of exchange in fifteenth century England. Those of you lucky enough to be in Manchester for the ICHSTM last year might remember Laura’s paper on the notebook of Thomas Fayreford and networks of knowledge in late medieval Somerset and Devon. For all of you Tolkien fans, Laura’s chapter on magic and The Hobbit is coming out this fall – watch this space.

Recently, I put a few questions to Laura about her work on The Recipes Project. Here is a brief glimpse into our conversations…

Elaine: Hi Laura! Thank you for agreeing take-on the ‘historecipes’ twitter account! You’ve been an active member of The Recipes Project community since our launch in 2012. Can you tell us a little about what attracts you to the project?

Laura: I think what I like best about the Recipes Project is the huge range of topics that have come up! Victorian cosmetics, medicines from early modern China, mare’s milk, who knows what else will pop up. I’ve learned so much about so many different subjects in the past few years. I’ve really enjoyed this range too for giving me some insight into other scholar’s methodologies and work methods.

Elaine: Since completing your PhD, you’ve been actively working as a ‘digital humanist’. Could you tell us a little more about your projects and what attracts you to research in this area?

Laura: The Recipes Project, and my catalogue website, have been my only forays into digital humanities so far. I’ve attended some workshops on the digital humanities in medieval studies and there’s some great things that can be done now. There is a lot of new and interesting digital humanities projects coming out now and I’m looking forward to seeing where the field goes from here.

Elaine: So, Twitter. It seems like that’s the online place to be for historians nowadays! In the past couple of years, I have had so many interesting conversations with PhD students and post docs about the place of Twitter in academic conversations. What is your take on this?

Laura: Twitter is a great way to network online. There are a lot of historians on Twitter now who are lovely, friendly people. I’ve enjoyed using Twitter as a way of meeting new people and keeping in touch with new contacts I have made elsewhere. The 140 character limit may not seem like much, but a lot can be said in a few words, and I’ve had some great conversations there. It’s also helped me keep my writing succinct!

That’s it folks! Take some time off this month and come say hi to Laura on our twitter page.