Around the Table: Digital Resources

By Sarah Peters Kernan

Since the COVID-19 pandemic restricted physical access to resources for teaching and research this spring, educational, research, and cultural institutions have been busy digitizing their collections and creating digital content to assist their patrons. This is a roundup of some recently digitized recipes-related materials and newly created digital content (like videos, exhibitions, and source guides), compiled with the assistance of the Recipes Project community on social media. Thank you to all who contributed! This list is incomplete, as hearty as it is. Also, some digital items have been around for several years, but have recently received an update or reorganization due to increased web traffic during the pandemic.

Crowdsourced Digital Resources

The Early Modern Recipes Online Collective (EMROC) is hosting its annual Transcribathon in coordination with the Wellcome Library and the Royal College of Physicians on 4 March. This is a great opportunity to delve into some digitized early modern English recipe books and transcribe the text to benefit researchers and students alike! For details and updates, visit the EMROC website.

The Sifter, an online database of culinary writing, especially cookbooks and recipes, is now publicly available after years of development. Free for all users, it is a tool in finding, identifying, and comparing historical culinary texts. It currently includes over 5,000 works in multiple languages. Registered users can also populate The Sifter with texts and information, in addition to using the database for research.

Videos

The William Andrews Clark Jr. Memorial Library launched a web series titled “Bad Taste, where we explore what it truly means to be disgusted.” Each episode documents the process of recreating and tasting a historical recipe which seems “disgusting” to modern palates. Episode 1 is about an eighteenth-century recipe for toast water.

The Center for Renaissance Studies at the Newberry Library launched a series of brief collection presentation videos in coordination with the recent conference Food and the Book: 1300 to 1800. Each of the five videos highlights a food-related early modern resource in the Newberry’s collections.

English Heritage’s History at Home presents an array of digital content, especially videos, related to English Heritage sites and programming. The site contains videos on Georgian makeup application, Victorian cooking, and grand historic feasts. The site is also family-friendly, with content like coloring pages for children, and tours of historic sites.

Refashioning the Renaissance’s website contains an engaging archive of the project’s activities and experiments involving historic textiles, dyes, fabric cleaning, and fragrances. Many of the documented experiments include brief video summaries, which can be very helpful in digital classroom settings. The project also has blog posts and a podcast to introduce new audiences to these topics.

Digital Collections and Exhibitions

The Library of Congress has long hosted a collection of digitized Community Cookbooks; it has been consistently updated since its originally posting in 2009. Here you can find links to nineteenth- and twentieth-century community cookbooks from the United States. In addition to searching for specific items, you can also sort the collection by place or date.

The National Library of Medicine has gathered links to their digital projects, exhibitions, and collections onto a single page. Here you can find links to their digital collections (which include many digitized manuscript recipe books) and exhibitions ranging from the consumption of intoxicants as medical prescriptions and Food and Enslavement in Early America.

Lifting the Lid: 400 Years of Food and Drink in Scotland is an online exhibition at the National Library of Scotland in 2015. It explored 400 years of Scottish food history, telling the story of Scotland’s relationship with food and drink. Here you can find digitized recipes for turtle soup and curry powder, as well as the library’s Burnfoot family recipe books, which include the same recipes by different people over four generations.

An Image from the Newberry Library’s Digital Collection for the Classroom on Foods of the Columbian Exchange. Thomas Hariot’s A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia (1590). Used with permission through a Creative Commons Public Domain license.

The Newberry Library’s Digital Collections for the Classroom contains a wide range of digitized primary source collections for teaching based on collection items at the Newberry. While many collections only mention recipes-related materials in passing, some collections are more explicitly connected, like those on the Discovery of Chocolate, Foods of the Columbian Exchange, and the Medieval Spice Trade.

The New York Academy of Medicine has just posted a new digital collection, Recipes and Remedies: Manuscript Cookbooks. This digital collection boasts eleven fully digitized manuscript recipe books of the NYAM’s physical collection of approximately forty.

The Mexican Cookbook Collection at UTSA Libraries includes a breathtaking array of texts, many available online. Now the collection is even more accessible to public audiences through their recent outreach effort, Cooking in the Time of Coronavirus. Visit the link to find booklets of updated recipes, published in Spanish and English, picked from the collection’s many options.

Digitized Materials

First introduced to the Recipes Project in this 2019 blog post by Rachel Rich and Lisa Smith, the English royal household’s menus for each day when they were in residence at Kew Palace between 1788 and 1801 is now digitized and available on Adam Crymble’s website.

Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library has been busily digitizing since the pandemic began and have kept readers updated about their progress through blog posts. Their most recent includes mention of several items of interest to the Recipes Project community, including fragments of medical encyclopedias, alchemical texts, and instruction on the “treatment of eye sores.”

Digital Collection Guides and Compilations of Resources

McMaster University History of Medicine has compiled a list of digital exhibits based at institutions in North America and Europe. This list is organized into an array of medical history topics, ranging from Canadian cookbooks, significant works of the Renaissance, and Ancient and Classical medicine.

The British Library has just published a collection guide for Food History: Archives and Manuscripts. The guide highlights several physical and digital items at the British Library related to food history; however, the guide is limited to the library’s holdings from the seventeenth through twentieth centuries.

Several institutional libraries have created and updated online resources lists for teaching food history. Examples include lists at the Culinary Institute of American, Marshall University, and Virginia Tech.

Thank you to everyone who contributed a digital resource to include in this post! If you’d like to feature a project, scholar, or institution on Around the Table, please email Sarah Kernan.

Recipes and Remote Teaching, the EMROC Way

By Hillary Nunn

Suddenly taking your class online? EMROC can help! Campus coronavirus responses are bringing huge unexpected changes to many classes, forcing us to think about ways of sharing knowledge across distances. We never planned it this way, but what a great opportunity for exploring how early modern people dealt with their own sicknesses, often while coping with the effects of social distancing. 

We currently have a number of recipe manuscripts awaiting transcription, and they make for ready-made assignments and fantastic virtual conversations about early modern health. After students take their shot at transcription, they’re often filled with questions about household and family dynamics, medical practices, and views of the body, not to mention about the recipe manuscripts themselves. This recipe about “distillation” of the lungs, for example, opens up questions about medical knowledge and ingredients:

The receipt book of Catherine Bacon, Folger MS V.a.621

With the sources available at the EMROC site, https://emroc.hypotheses.org/transcribathons/transcribathon-2019, moreover, students can find out more about the thinking behind these cures as well. And, of course, the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Dromio transcription platform offers a straightforward tool for beginners.

EMROC has been collecting resources on how to use recipe transcription in classes ranging from first-year Composition to Shakespeare to upper-level history seminars. You can find out collection here: https://emroc.hypotheses.org/teaching-transcription. And, with the Folger now providing an interface for searching these transcribed manuscripts through LUNA, students can compare the texts they are transcribing with others that are already searchable. Check out https://emroc.hypotheses.org/search-in-luna. On Twitter, #HistoricPieDay offers useful step-by-step instructions on using Luna, the Folger’s searchable database, which is full of the recipes transcribed through Dromio.

Interested but unsure? We have a team of experiences EMROC transcribers who’d be glad to help with integrating transcription into your class activities. If schedules allow, we’d be glad to zoom in as well! Just let us know via contactemroc@gmail.com.

An invitation to EMROC’s Thankful Thanskgiving

For this Thanksgiving, why not try cooking from a seventeenth-century recipe?

EMROC is hosting a transcribe, cook, and post of FB party as its “Thankful Thanksgiving,” and is inviting you to join them.

EMROC would like you to transcribe a recipe from the mid-17th-century cookbook, “Mrs Fanshawes Booke of Physickes, Salues, Waters, Cordialls, Preserues and Cookery”(MS7113), which is housed at the Wellcome Library and available digitally.

If you are interested in participating, visit the EMROC blog!

Recipes and the Unanticipated

[This post is part of The Recipe Project’s annual Teaching Series.  In this entry, Jen Munroe discusses the unintended – and wonderful – consequences of bringing recipes and transcription into the curricula.]

Hubert Robert (French, 1733 - 1808) A Draftsman in the Capitoline Gallery, about 1765, Red chalk 45.7 × 33.7 cm (18 × 13 1/4 in.) The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
Hubert Robert (French, 1733 – 1808)
A Draftsman in the Capitoline Gallery, about 1765, Red chalk
45.7 × 33.7 cm (18 × 13 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

By Jennifer Munroe

Teaching recipe transcription has become a regular part of my classroom practice. And the more I teach about recipes and transcription, the more I’m convinced that one could do so in virtually any class context. The connections are there in more obvious ways when I am teaching a course on early modern texts and culture—a graduate seminar on knowledge-making in the period or an undergraduate/graduate “Shakespeare and Ecofeminist Theory” course, for instance. Its relevance is perhaps less obvious to an “Introduction to Graduate Studies” or “Ecological Theory” course, but the import of recipes and transcription have resonated in ways that neither I nor the students anticipated.

My focus here is on the unanticipated consequences of teaching recipes, on the ways that they have come to the connective tissue between theory and practice not only for me as a scholar, but in my classroom and beyond. In spring 2015, I had the pleasure of teaching “Thinking Green: Ecological Theory” to a group of some of the most talented graduate students in our Master’s program. In that course, I introduced them to early modern manuscript recipes, to the practice of transcription, and to the Folger’s incredible transcription software, Dromio. As we turned to the opening page of “A Booke of such medicines as have been approved by the special practize of Mrs. Corlyon” (Folger MS v.a.388) with our focus on ecological theory meant that we asked questions about how the recipe for “A Medecine for a Pinn and a Webb, or any other soore Eye” related to how it reflects the relationship between the practitioner and the nonhuman world. But something else happened in that classroom, something I didn’t expect: the ink on the page, the curious qualities of stamped wild daisies and yellowing honey, the “soft fier” compelled the students, made them obsessed, really, to do more.

That one class period on recipes turned into a summer-long directed reading of transcription, which then became a full-on student organization on campus committed to the study and transcription of recipes: that is, the several hours of discussion I planned became much bigger than I or that group of students in the room with me. It was in that room, and because of Mrs. Corlyon, that EMPS (the Early Modern Paleography Society) was born.

Our summer of transcription was, then, without our realizing it at the time, a prelude to these amazing students fully embracing their obsession with early modern recipes. True to their fashion, the students who did the Directed Reading with me during the summer wanted a special challenge: not only did they want more transcription, they wanted a more difficult hand. So we turned to Lady Frances Catchmay’s “A booke of medicens” (Wellcome MS 184a), a difficult book in multiple hands, including secretary. Over the summer, these students became more than familiar with this challenging book and its component parts; they became fluent with the particulars of early modern handwriting, of the domestic practice and relation to the household and its surrounds articulated in the book. Such fluency laid the groundwork for the year that followed, in which these impressive students joined with others and made early modern recipes have a greater presence in our English department and on our campus.

In fall, 2015, Breanne Weber, Taryn Dollings, Kailan Sindelar, Robin Kello, and Nadia Clifton became the co-founders of an official UNC Charlotte campus organization, EMPS. [Editor’s Note: in our next post, the members of the EMPS offer their own post on their group and its activities.]  Over the course of the academic year, EMPS transcribed one full book during their regular meetings—the “Cookbook of Mary Cruso and Timothy Cruso” (Folger MS x.d.24), composed blogs about their experiences (which were featured on the EMROC website), and hosted a transcribathon where they transcribed a second book, an anonymous 17th century cookbook (Folger MS w.b.653). At the transcribathon, they also served candied angelica (which they made using a recipe from the Cruso book) and hosted a panel of faculty, graduate students, and an employee of the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens, who grew the angelica for the event. The panel discussed a range of topics from researching early modern recipes to growing and harvesting plants to the relationship between recipes, domestic practice, and sustainability issues today. And more than 70 students, faculty, and others participated in the transcribathon, a much higher turnout than achieved for most campus events.

What began with a handful of students in a small classroom with no windows over a year ago, then, transformed into something much bigger, something very much unanticipated. And isn’t that one of the things recipes do? They remind us that what we think might happen doesn’t always happen, or at least it doesn’t always happen in the ways we expect; and their sphere of influence extends beyond the individual to the others, the many named and unnamed whose practice is contained in their pages.

*****

Jennifer Munroe is Associate Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where she teaches courses in early modern English poetry and prose, Shakespeare, ecofeminism and ecocriticism, gender studies, literary theory, and film. She is co-author (with Rebecca Laroche) of the forthcoming Shakespeare and Ecofeminist Theory (Bloomsbury/Arden, 2017), author of Gender and the Garden in Early Modern English Literature (Ashgate, 2008), and editor of Making Gardens of Their Own: Gardening Manuals For Women, 1550-1750 (Ashgate, 2007). Munroe is co-editor (also with Rebecca Laroche) of Ecofeminist Approaches to Early Modernity (Palgrave, 2011); and with Lynne Bruckner and Edward J. Geisweidt of Ecological Approaches to Early Modern Texts: A Field Guide to Reading and Teaching (Forthcoming. Ashgate, 2015). She has published articles in Shakespeare Studies, Tulsa Studies for Women’s Literature, Prose Studies, Early Modern Studies Journal, Renaissance Studies, and Pedagogy. Munroe is currently working on a monograph, an ecofeminist literary history of science that examines the relationship between women’s everyday practices, nature, and writing in seventeenth-century England. In addition, Munroe is a founding member and blogger for EMROC (Early Modern Recipes Online Collective), a group that is developing a public-access database of transcribed manuscript recipe materials from the early modern period. Munroe’s work with EMROC stems from her interest in making women’s manuscript recipes (and the way women’s everyday practices with plants in particular are instructive about their relationship with the nonhuman natural world) available to a wider public as well as from her commitment to collaborative research.