Remembering, Repeating, and Coming To in Early Modern English Recipes

By Katie Kadue

Recipes for food preservation document the fight against oblivion. All recipes are mnemonic: they function both as technical reminders and as records of past practices, passed down as “receipts,” as they were called in early modern England, from one generation to the next. But some early modern recipes proposed a more literal form of re-membering, promising to reverse the process of decay and return organic materials to their previous, livelier states. 

Frontispiece of The Queen-Like Closet, or Rich Cabinet, 1675. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

 

Consider a recipe from Hannah Woolley’s evocatively titled The Queen-like Closet, or Rich Cabinet, stored with all manner of rare receipts for preserving, candying, and cookery, first published in 1670. This recipe for “Walnut water, or the Water of Life,” describes how to gather and distill green walnuts and “keep” the resulting liquid before proceeding to catalog its many “virtues,” concluding:

It is good for all infirmities of the Body, and driveth out all Corruption, and inward Bruises … ; whosoever drinketh much of it, shall live so long as Nature shall continue in him.

Finally, if you have any Wine that is turned, put in a little Viol or Glass full of it, and keep it close stopped, and within four days it will come to it self again. 

If in a way the walnut water memorializes, in distilled form, the walnuts gathered in the summer for months or years to come, it also “driveth out all Corruption” and so recalls human bodies to healthier versions of themselves. Even soured wine can benefit from this panacea: “within four days it will come to it self again.” Despite a timeline similar to that between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, this is less resurrection than correction, as if the turned wine had merely forgotten itself and needed to be given smelling salts to come back to its senses.

This ordinary miracle of physical remembrance encoded in recipes, the promise that bodies and other matter can overcome the degradation of time and come to themselves again, was also a subject of fascination for poets like Edmund Spenser, whose Faerie Queene (1590–96) frequently depicts characters who forget themselves and can only be brought back to life and cognition through the interventions of something like culinary or medicinal preservation.

In book I, the knight Redcrosse, scorched by a dragon, falls backward into a “well of life” that recalls Woolley’s “water of life”: he marinates there overnight and emerges in the morning as a “new-borne knight,” “drenched” from the thorough steeping, like rehydrated fruit, or like the dried artichokes that one recipe in John Nott’s Cook’s and Confectioner’s Dictionary (1723) promises “will come to themselves, and be as fresh as at first,” when soaked in warm water. Having slept it off, the next day Redcrosse is again knocked out by the dragon, and—rinse and repeat—he again revives, this time thanks to the virtues of a healing “Balme” not unlike those described in contemporary recipe books, except this one trickles down directly from the tree of life.

In book III of Spenser’s poem, at the heart of the Garden of Adonis, we learn that this place is peopled by lovers—Hyacinthus, Narcissus—who have metamorphosed into “fresh” flowers and “to whom sweet Poets verse hath giuen endlesse date”: the memorialization of men being, after all, one of the primary functions of poetry since Homer. But a more mundane and domestic art of memory is also at work here. Adonis, having been impaled by a boar, undergoes a similar reconstitution as Redcrosse when his caregiver Venus thoroughly seasons him with “flowres and pretious spycery,” making his body like the sugared flowers that, in another of Woolley’s recipes, can be carefully arranged so that they “look as though they were new gathered.”

The Metamorphosis of the Dead Adonis, Marcantonio Franceschini, c. 1700. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

 

As a result of this spice regimen, Adonis—who corresponds, in Spenser’s allegory, to matter itself—will not altogether die; repeatedly brought back to himself, he will not, the poet assures us, be “forgot.” Like the authors of recipe collections, Spenser reminds us that both culinary techniques and writing have the capacity to recollect what would otherwise be scattered and lost.


About

Katie Kadue is a Harper-Schmidt Fellow and Collegiate Assistant Professor in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. Her book, Domestic Georgic: Labors of Preservation from Rabelais to Milton, is forthcoming from University of Chicago Press in fall 2021.

Teaching Chocolate from the Bean to Drink

By Amy L. Tigner

Making chocolate from bean to bar has become fashionable both in cottage industries, such as the delightful husband and wife shop, El Buen Cacaco, in Idyllwild, California that creates a wickedly hot Ghost Chocolate Bar made with bhut jolokia (aka ghost chili). In 2016, Carol Wiley listed 183 bean to bar chocolatiers on her website, but I would imagine there are even more artisanal chocolate businesses popping up every day.

Making chocolate in the classroom from “bean to drink” also seems to be gaining traction, as least in the early modern recipe world. Amanda Herbert posted her experiments with “teaching with chocolate tasting” which you can read here and John Kuhn and Marissa Nicosia talk about theirs here.

For my own part, I have been interested for several years in the historical aspects of chocolate as it made its way across the Atlantic, and in earlier blog posts, I have written about Hannah Woolley’s mid-seventeenth-century chocolate recipes in her printed cookbooks here and here . The most interesting recipe that I have come across is in the cookbook manuscript by Lady Ann Fanshawe (Wellcome MS 7113), who lived in Madrid in the 1660s as her husband was the English Ambassador to Spain. The recipe, dated 1665, is especially intriguing first because Fanshawe attached a drawing of a “chocelary potte” and a whisk or molinillo and secondly because it is entirely scratched out with large loops. One of my graduate students did quite a bit of transcription magic and was able to recover some of the recipe underneath and ever since that point, I had wanted to try to make the recipe.

Last fall I had the opportunity when I was teaching a senior seminar and graduate seminar on “Early Modern Women’s Writing and Literary Practice.” The class was designed to incorporate as many material practices as possible as we were transcribing women’s letters and recipes from the seventeenth century. Early in the semester we had made ink, as I describe in this blog, but I really wanted to try to make chocolate from the bean, as Fanshawe had done. But because there were still some lacunae in the Fanshawe recipe I thought I had better consult one of her contemporaries, Penelope Jepson, who also has a chocolate recipe in her manuscript cookbook (Folger V.a. 396).

To make chocolato

Take a pound of the cacao nuts finely beaten or searsed, half a pound of hard sugar finely beaten or searsed, an ounce of cynamon, half an ounce of nutmeg, half an ounce aniseede, half a dram of long pepper, as much of Jamaica pepper. Beat and searse all those spices, then put in two stickes of vanillas beaten and searsed (two drachms of Achiote beaten and searsed) with ambergrise as you like to taste. When all those are pounded and well mixt, roast them in an earthen pan till they are as hot as you can endure with finger in it. Keep it well stirred that it burn not then put it into a mortar and beat it very fast till it begin to oile, so as it will work like paste, then make into paste.

As class time was limited, I did most of the preparation beforehand and was struck by how much labor was involved, especially peeling away the outer shell of the cacao after it is roasted. About 2 months in advance, I researched fair trade beans and bought them from Santa Barbara Chocolate.  Jepson’s recipe has quite a few spices, most of which are familiar, except perhaps the achiote and the ambergris. I was able to locate the achiote in a Fiesta Supermercado, which are fairly common in Texas, but I left out the ambergris, which is incredible expensive, since it is used in perfume, and a little bit gross, as it is a secretion from the bile duct of sperm whales. I also bought a traditional Mexican molinillo and chocolate pot, which looked quite amazingly similar to Ann Fanshawe’s drawing.

To facilitate easy recipe assembly, I pre-ground all the spices and the chocolate separately (and I cheated by using a spice grinder). On the day of the class, students combined the various ingredients to make the chocolate mix, and then one student rolled the molinillo in the ceramic chocolate between their hands as another student poured in boiling water.

Though Fanshawe’s recipe specifies china cups, students brought their favorite coffee mug from which to drink their chocolate. Students were surprised by the grainy texture, the bitter taste, and its wateriness, but they tended to like the spicy flavor (perhaps because we are in Texas and Mexican spices are ubiquitous here). We discussed how industrialization and global trade has influenced and changed our taste in the last 400 years. In the words of one student, “I really enjoyed the smell of the cocoa beans and the drink itself, but it was difficult to believe that there was half a pound of sugar in it. Like we mentioned in class, people really like sugar.”

Amy L. Tigner teaches in the English Department at the University of Texas, Arlington.

This is How My Grandmother Cooks: Manuscript Recipes in the Composition Classroom

By Samantha Snively

This past summer, the relationship between early modern recipes and teaching undergraduates was on everyone’s mind at the “Teaching Early Modern Recipes in the Digital Age” workshop at Attending to Early Modern Women. How could we bring manuscript receipt collections into our classrooms, and what could students learn from them?

Manuscript recipes raise questions of form, genre, and purpose, and these questions are key to undergraduate writers’ development of academic writing skills. Most of the ideas proposed in June were intended for literature or history courses, but as a graduate student teaching a standardized composition syllabus, I wanted to know: What could manuscript recipes teach an introductory composition course about writing?

I ran the experiment this winter in my UWP001: Expository Writing class, and it turns out that manuscript recipes are perfect texts to think with in a composition classroom. I incorporated selected manuscript recipes into a unit on rhetorical analysis, and a day on “Genre” seemed most germane for my class to discuss the ways that manuscript recipes intricately combine genre and form with audience concerns. I wanted my students to realize that formal, generic, and linguistic choices are vital to constructing rhetorical messages.

Wellcome manuscripts 2535 and 3107
Wellcome manuscripts 2535 and 3107

I used two recipes from the Wellcome Library’s digital collections: a recipe for “biskett bread” from the 1686 recipe book of Elizabeth Godfrey & others (MS 2535, folio 14) and a recipe for “ginger bread cake” from the 1699 manuscript of Edward & Katharine Kidder (MS3107, folios 19 and 20). I paired this with a recipe for “French Bread” from Hannah Woolley’s 1672 The Exact Cook (142).

However, it would be cruel to make a group of undergrads read 17th-century handwriting, so I transcribed the manuscripts for our discussion. I then asked my students: Based on these texts, what are the formal conventions of a recipe? How does the genre change over time, or among rhetorical situations? And what do these genre conventions suggest about audience expectations and expertise?

My students were at first bemused by the diction, phrasing, and imprecision of the 17th-century recipes, but quickly inferred audience expectations from the genre conventions they observed. They noted that the form of a manuscript recipe required a variety of literacies in its audiences, and from there were argued that manuscript recipes also assumed a body of experiential knowledge acquired prior to reading the recipe.[1] We then discussed the reciprocity of this relationship: if you can infer qualities about the audience from a text, how might a writer use genre conventions to interact with their audience?

Recipe slide 2My students at first had some difficulty articulating the complex way that recipes both required and contributed to a shared culture of experiential knowledge. They found the injunction in Woolley’s recipe to “let not your Oven be too hot,” odd in a text intended to teach its audience a new skill. However, they were able to navigate this question by retracing these ideas through their own experiences interacting with recipes. A number of students noted that “this sounds like the way my grandmother describes her recipes/makes her food,” and we discussed the way that genres function as a contract between writer and reader.

Student wisdom
Student wisdom

Using recipes to think about the ways an audience for a piece of rhetoric is partially determined by form was a productive exercise for my composition students. Not only were they able to watch a genre develop and change over time—thereby realizing the social nature of written genres—they were also able to think about their own abilities to control and work with genre conventions to further their own rhetorical message.

[1] Wendy Wall describes this as “kitchen literacy” in “Literacy and the Domestic Arts.” Huntington Library Quarterly 73.3 (2010): 383-412.

This post was first published on the emroc blog (early modern recipes online collective) on 24/02/2016

A Ladies Home Journal in 18th-century Nottinghamshire, England

by Lisa M. Lillie

Tucked away in the Papers of the Mellish Family of Hodstock, Nottinghamshire, in the University of Nottingham’s Rare Books and Manuscripts collections, Lady Mellish’s “Old Accts dinners & c. 1706” sits rather unobtrusively among generations of Mellish family correspondence, account books, and estate ledgers. [1] Although the 17th century featured a shift in what were traditionally women’s professions such as beer-brewing and midwifery to the purview of men,[2] it still fell to the lady of an upper-middling home to coordinate the activities of her household members, manage the procurement and preparation of provisions, and arrange the entertainment of guests. Judging from Lady Mellish’s notes, the Mellish family entertained at least twice monthly. Particularly distinguished guests were cause for elaborate culinary preparations: for the visit of the “Duke of Leads” on the 12  September 1705, for example, she made “stued pidging, pees, goose, egge pyes, hanch of venison, revived Jupe tongue & chikins, whit frigeee, collered eale hot / Ducks & Partriges Peas, Damson Tart, Tansey Tueky, scollops” among other dishes! But the Mellishes most frequent visitors seem to have been gentry neighbor families – the Huetts, Garves, and Cliftons.

Historians of Tudor England have noted a late-16th century decline of the manor house as a place where the lord and his laborers could commune directly and do business; the gentry’s greater desire for privacy and separation from the laboring sorts meant architectural changes in the great manor homes: more private spaces for the family and greater distance between the servant’s and the family’s living quarters.[3] Lady Mellish’s account books contain floor plans of the family’s home as well as sketches of what appear to be table seating arrangements for dinner parties, indicating what appears to be Lady Mellish’s keen interest to use the resources at her disposal to strike just the right tone for social gatherings.

Frontispiece showing a domestic kitchen scene, from The housekeeper's instructor; or, universal family cook / Being an ample and clear display of the art of cookery in all its various branches..by William Augustus Henderson. Published ca. 1790. Henderson's success in this genre to some degree resonates with a larger early modern trend of men becoming experts in fields which were previously dominated by women, such Hannah Woolley's renown for housekeeping advice a century prior. Image Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Frontispiece showing a domestic kitchen scene.  The housekeeper's instructor; or, universal family cook / Being an ample and clear display of the art of cookery in all its various branches. Containing proper directions for dressing all kinds of butcher's meat, poultry, game, fish ... To which is added, the complete art of carving, illustrated with engravings ... bills of fare for every month in the year ... / by William Augustus Henderson. 1790-1799 The housekeeper's instructor; or, universal family cook The housekeeper's instructor; or, universal family cook / W. A. Henderson Published: [between 1790 and 1799?] Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Frontispiece showing a domestic kitchen scene, from The housekeeper’s instructor; or, universal family cook / Being an ample and clear display of the art of cookery in all its various branches..by William Augustus Henderson. Published ca. 1790. Henderson’s success in this genre to some degree resonates with a larger early modern trend of men becoming experts in fields which were previously dominated by women, such Hannah Woolley’s renown for housekeeping advice a century prior. Image Credit: Wellcome Library, London.
Lady Mellish’s talent for household management would have no doubt pleased the preeminent lifestyle guru of the 17th century, Hannah Woolley.[4] While Lady Mellish was concerned with hosting smashing dinner parties, she showed no less interest in the less glamorous aspects of household affairs, namely that most useful of food preparation to early moderns – jarring and pickling. Her recipe for pickled salmon is straight-forward:

“Take your samon and wash it well then take 4 quarts of water and one quart of viniger putt it in to a sose pan and boil it and skim it well, sisen it with Mase and Clovs and peper and salt to you tass and 12 bay livs then putt in your samon boil it till it is anof a quarter and half of a hour a sid, then take your samon out and putt it in your pickels when it is cold, if it is to be kip long you must stop it up Clos. if thee samon is biger you must boil it half a hour if you want mor pickels you Must doe as bee for.”[5]

With the addition of savoury herbs such as cloves and bay leaf, Lady Mellish’s recipe seems far more palatable than that found in The Accomplish’d Lady’s, published in 1675, which instructed the reader to simply cover the salmon with vinegar and rosemary in an earthenware pot to keep “for a whole month”. [6]

Not only did Lady Mellish take notes on her gastronomic exploits, but she also kept a detailed account of all her expenses, as well as making alphabetical lists of words, seemingly at random. Also Included is an “Account of my Jewells March the 9th 1707.” In short, Lady Mellish’s papers would make for an interesting study on the role of gentry women in culinary history and in the changing social landscape of early modern England.

[1] University of Nottingham Rare Books and Manuscripts, Me 2E/1/1, Old Accts dinners & c. 1706. See also the National Archives’ Discovery entry on the Mellishes (accessed 4 July 2015).

[2] On the phenomenon of brewing and midwifery gradually becoming men’s professions, see Judith M. Bennet, Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600 (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), and Michelle Dowd, Women’s World in early modern English Literature and Culture (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

[3] For examples of scholarship on the transformation of early modern English domestic space, see Roger Chartier (ed), A History of Private Life: Passions of the Renaissance (volume III), Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1989; Felicity Heal, Hospitality in Early Modern England (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993); Amanda Vickery, “An Englishman’s Home Is His Castle? Thresholds, Boundaries and Privacies in the Eighteenth-Century London House,” Past and Present No. 199 (May, 2008), pp. 147-173.

[4] By the turn of the century, Wolley’s publications had secured her international reputation as a household management expert. See “Wolley, Hannah (b. 1622?, d. in or after 1674),” John Considine in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, see online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, Oxford: OUP, 2004 (accessed July 9, 2015).

[5] University of Nottingham Rare Books and Manuscripts, Me 2E/1/1, Old Accts dinners & c. 1706.

[6] Hannah, Woolley, The Accomplish’d lady’s delight in preserving, physick, beautifying, and cookery containing I. the art of preserving and candying fruits & flowers …, II. the physical cabinet, or, excellent receipts in physick and chirurgery : together with some rare beautifying waters, to adorn and add loveliness to the face and body : and also some new and excellent secrets and experiments in the art of angling, 3. the compleat cooks guide, or, directions for dressing all sorts of flesh, fowl, and fish, both in the English and French mode… (London: 1675), 297. In the ODNB entry on Hannah Woolley, John Considine maintains that this work was not actually written by Woolley; rather, it was one of several copy-cat publications design to replicate the success of her work. Early English Books online, however, attributes the work to Woolley.