Translating Recipes 12: Recipes in Time and Space, Part 6 – BETWEEN

By Carla Nappi

(This is part of an ongoing series of posts exploring prepositional attitudes and their translation in recipe literature. For the previous posts, check out this link.)

In the most recent posts of the “Translating Recipes” series, we have been exploring various ways that recipe literature creates relationships among bodies in space and time. (The premise undergirding this experiment is that material experience emerges from these relationships.) We have been looking specifically at the ways that prepositions and related kinds of terms function as grammatical and linguistic technologies that create proximities among bodies in time and space: with-ness, if-ness, afterness, etc. Today we’ll consider another of these tools: between-ness. Returning to the spirit from which the “Translating Recipes” project initially emerged – considering the literary form of the recipe as a vehicle for storytelling – this entry and the next will explore the way between works by looking at a storytelling genre that embodies the spirit of interaction, conversation, and between: the dialogue.

The dialogue format integrates a number of key elements. Typically, a dialogue is understood to be a conversation, an oral or written rendering of speech among characters. The dialogue might center on a problem and take the shape of an argument or debate: we can see this in some classic examples of the form that are familiar to many historians of science and medicine, including Plato’s dialogues and Galileo’s Dialogue upon the Two Main Systems of the World. This exceptionally brief description of dialogue makes reference to some important basic components of the form: character, speech, and problem. Let’s consider what these might look like in the context of a medicinal recipe.

Character. There are several ways to think about the centrality of character in the context of a recipe. We might imagine the drugs, patients, and other material actors in a recipe as they are embroiled in a drama, for example, or consider them more allegorically as characters in a fairy tale. In the context of a dialogue, the interaction of the characters is of paramount importance, and so they should explicitly be involved in some sort of a relationship. There are clear relationships in an anti-poison recipe: between poison and the drug used to treat it, poison and the patient’s body, the body and the drug. And so a translation of the recipe in this spirit would need to reflect at least one of these character relationships. (Ideally, in order to maximally explore the importance of relationships, more than one would be reflected in the translation: in that way. the relationships themselves become characters and we would be able to explore a dialogue among the relationships themselves.)

Speech. Fundamental to the nature of a written dialogue is its ability to embody and convey speech in some form: the text itself becomes a kind of vocalization, and – importantly – we as readers can imagine that the characters are not just interacting with one another, but are also performing their speech for the benefit of the audience of readers. As a result, in our translated recipe it would be important to convey this aspect of textual oratory. The form of the text would be crucial to this: each of our characters, as they explore their relationships and the problems emergent therein, would be given an opportunity to take the page and have the floor.

Problem. In many textualized dialogues, the speakers are not merely speaking, but are speaking with each other in an effort to debate or resolve something: a problem, an argument, a disagreement. There should be a sense, by the conclusion of the text, that some issue has been resolved. Our translation would need to convey this sense of dramatic conflict and ultimate resolution. In the case of the Manchu recipe that we’ve been focusing on for the “Recipes in Time and Space” series, this is a natural fit with the conditions from the which the recipe emerges: a crisis wherein a body has been poisoned and demands an immediate remedy (or as close to it as can be managed). At the successive stages of the recipe there are multiple points of possible resolution or the marked absence thereof, and these points of resolution (or not) motivate further action on the part of the readers/users of the text.

In the next post, we’ll continue these reflections and look closely at a new translation of our Manchu medical recipe that embodies a spirit of between in its form and mode of storytelling, in light of the reflections above. Tune in next time!

Translating Recipes 11: Recipes in Time and Space, Part 5 – …A Flowing Oil…

By Carla Nappi

(This is part of an ongoing series of posts exploring prepositional attitudes and their translation in recipe literature. For the previous posts, check out this link.)

In my previous post, we talked about the importance of the sense of after in the experience of reading and using medicinal recipes, and wondered what it might look like to translate our (now multiply-translated) Manchu recipe for eradicating poison in a sense that honored and celebrated the importance of after. What might that translation look like?

The translation would have several qualities. In a very important sense, after creates the possibility of defining events in terms of cause and effect. In the space of after, in fact, there are only causes and effects: nothing exists outside of its being a cause or effect of something else. If we translated our recipe in light of that aspect of after, we might be interested in preserving a sense of constant movement from word to word and action to action, where everything flows into the next thing (and every action into the next action) without giving us a chance to pause and consider it on its own terms.

Our translation would also emphasize and embody the importance of a particular way of thinking about ordering and sequence. When there is an after, there’s also a before. In a sense, then, after creates a before, and in doing so it helps create the past. A text in the spirit of after erases the present: in a text inspired by after, there is no now, there is only procession and movement forward and back.

So how does one give a reader the experience of flow of one thing into another, and the experience of the absence of now? The text has constantly to move. There can be no punctuation, no pausing. There should be some disorientation and discomfort, while simultaneously having a clear order. How might one create a feeling of sequential, orderly disorientation, where everything is just what it is insofar as it is a cause and/or an effect of another thing? Well, in the spirit of starting somewhere, let’s give it a shot!

This translation will begin with the same Manchu recipe used in Translating Recipes 2, 6, 8, and 9, but proceed instead in the spirit of after. Here goes…

…a flowing oil eliminating poison one kind can be used immediately after a poisoning has happened then take a floury drug described earlier in the text and after that drug causes the patient to vomit up the poison then the oil should be spread on their stomach but after that if there’s so much poison that the condition is getting more and more serious then about 15-20 drops of the poison should be mixed with fatty broth made after meat is boiled or buttery milk and after that is mixed then drink it and after that then smear the oil on the stomach again after two hours and then after that on the next day smear it again two times and after that if there’s no improvement and the poison hasn’t been eliminated then another drop or two of the oil should again be taken according to the prescription and smeared on the stomach again and if you do that everything will improve because this is a flowing oil eliminating poison one kind can be used immediately after a poisoning has happened then take a floury drug described earlier in the text and after that drug causes the patient to vomit up the poison then the oil should be spread on their stomach but after that if there’s so much poison that the condition is getting more and more serious then about 15-20 drops of the poison should be mixed with fatty broth made after meat is boiled or buttery milk and after that is mixed then drink it and after that then smear the oil on the stomach again after two hours and then after that on the next day smear it again two times and after that if there’s no improvement and the poison hasn’t been eliminated then another drop or two of the oil should again be taken according to the prescription and smeared on the stomach again and if you do that everything will improve because this is a flowing oil eliminating poison one kind can be used immediately after a poisoning has happened then take a floury drug described earlier in the text and after that drug causes the patient to vomit up the poison then the oil should be spread on their stomach but after that if there’s so much poison that the condition is getting more and more serious then about 15-20 drops of the poison should be mixed with fatty broth made after meat is boiled or buttery milk and after that is mixed then drink it and after that then smear the oil on the stomach again after two hours and then after that on the next day smear it again two times and after that if there’s no improvement and the poison hasn’t been eliminated then another drop or two of the oil should again be taken according to the prescription and smeared on the stomach again and if you do that everything will improve because this is…

Translating Recipes 10: Recipes in Time and Space, Part 4 – AFTER

By Carla Nappi

(This is part of an ongoing series of posts exploring prepositional attitudes and their translation in recipe literature. For the previous posts, see here, here, and here!)

Last time we met, we talked about the importance of recipes for situating bodies and their possibilities in time, and we looked at the ways in which if did this kind of work. Today, we’re going to maintain that temporal focus but turn our attention to another time-making technology: after.

After is the friend (or enemy) of all storytellers and crafters of narrative. When we read, we read in time. Even the most self-consciously non-linear and a-chronological of narratives is ultimately constrained by the experience of the reader who reads one word (or line, or page, or chapter) and then reads another, and then another, and so on. This comes after that. Unless you’re Doctor Manhattan from Watchmen, it’s probably going to be the case that you feel time (and thus narratives in time) as a succession of experiences or events. Here is where after comes in: it describes and enacts this aspect of temporal experience.

In the context of a recipe, after is crucial: it orders our practices and physical actions in time. Thanks to after, a recipe becomes an architecture of activity, a way to choreograph time and sequentially relate bodies together. The use of a recipe becomes a kind of dance or ritual practice: directions dictate the movements of a body, the creation and consumption of substances, the intermingling of materials in time and space.

After takes us out of the simultaneous, creates the possibility of cause and effect. And the realm of cause and effect is precisely the realm of a recipe. Here, the flavor of after takes on a very particular cast: it’s not this comes after that and that’s that, but instead this comes after that and you need to pay attention to the ordering here because there are consequences, there are reasons for and outcomes that result from this particular ordering. By doing this, you lay the groundwork for that: part of the nature of this depends on that happening first. In this way, after becomes a technology for making this and that.

In a very fundamental way, after is vital to the existence of the recipe we’ve been translating and the larger group that it’s part of: here we have a recipe for a drug that is indicated in cases of poisoning. The act of poisoning (or rather, of being poisoned) is the kind of critical event that generates a before and an after: in other words, it creates after. Once that happens, the recipe moves into action. Though the prescribed practices that follow the recipe aren’t critical events in the same way, they still mark paths in time, and thus mark possible ways of being after.

With that in mind, since we’re in the business – here in this “Translating Recipes” series – of considering the creative possibilities of translation by creating multiple translations of our handful of Manchu medical recipes: what would a translation that emerged from and in the spirit of after look like? You’ll find it in the next post in this series. Stay tuned, and I’ll see you soon!

 

Transcription-as-collaboration

In a recent class session of my graduate seminar, “Thinking Green: Eco-Approaches to Texts,” my students and I transcribed and discussed at length the first recipe that appears in a manuscript book in the Wellcome Medical Library: MS 213, “A Booke of diuers Medecines, Broothes, Salues, Waters, Syroppes and Oyntementes of which many or the most part haue been experienced and tryed by the speciall practize of Mrs Corlyon. Anno Domini 1606.”

www.plantlife.org.uk
Wild daisies
www.plantlife.org.uk

To do this, we worked with the first recipe in the book, “A Medecine for a Pinn and a Webb or any other soore Eye,” which instructs as follows:

Take one handfull of three leaued grasse that is
most spotted with white: Gather it close to the roote,
as much of wilde Dasye rootes: Stampe them all in a
woodden dishe, and boyle them in one pinte of water, in
a clean brasse skillet with a very soft fyer. When
it is scommed putt in so much Allome as will make the
water tast roughe uppon your tounge. After putt in so
much honny as will make it Looke yeollowe and taste
very sweete. When it hath boyled a pretty while and is
cleane scommed, straine it into a cleane vessell, and
when it is colde poure the clearest into a glasse and
keepe it in a colde place, and it will last three weekes
in Winter and 14. Dayes in the Sommer: The water is to
be applied to the Eyes one hower before they aryse and when
they goe to bedd. If the Eye be very soore dresse it at two of the
clocke in the after noone, and sleepe after it, if they cann.

We then worked together on a (deceptively) simple question: “Who/what seems to have agency in this recipe, and what is the source of authority?” What followed was a 2-1/2 hour collaboration that I would say is at the heart of what I hope recipe transcription can do in our classrooms and central to how I think recipes work.

We began, well, at the beginning. Students turned to the title of the book, a collection of that which had been “experienced and tryed by the speciall practize of Mrs Corlyon.” As such, authority lies in the tried and tested text itself, evidenced too by claims of “probatum” throughout these books. As students pointed out, the user/practitioner was also an authority. To “Gather [the grass] close to the roote” is evidence, that is, of how the woman using this recipe necessarily walked among the plants she gathered, touched them, identified which, in this case, had the white spots and three leaves (and not another grass). She was expected to exercise her discretion, using “so much Allome as will make the water tast roughe uppon [her] tounge” or ascertaining how much honey is just enough to make it “Looke yeollowe” and “taste very sweete.”

As we talked, though, we queried whether the patient him/herself, the treated body, was also a source of authority here. After all, the body receiving the cure, it was hoped, would respond positively to the treatment, whose precise timing was determined, at least in part, by how “soore” the eye was; and the patient’s more willful response played a role in the cure’s efficacy as demonstrated by the directive to “sleepe after it, if they cann.” But what about the potential authority and/or agency of the ingredients themselves, the nonhuman things from which the cure is derived—the grass and daisy roots, the honey, the fire, etc? After all, they contain properties that might be predictable to some extent, but individually and collectively they are arguably not entirely within the control of human manipulation. And we made note that the durability of the product comprised of such ingredients depended on seasonality—it, not surprisingly, lasts one less week during summer than during winter. In this way, do not the seasons dictate terms that the human practitioner cannot entirely mitigate through careful preparation?

What we concluded, and I think it is an important conclusion, is that this recipe illustrates a powerful collaboration of agents—human and nonhuman alike—whose efficacy is determined by multiple sources of authority, all acting together in dance-like fashion, where lines of demarcation between the individual and collective necessarily vanish. Just as importantly, though, we came to these conclusions collaboratively. And that, I would say, gets at the heart of what environmental justice (and ecofeminist) work aims to do and precisely what is, for me at least, what working with these books can teach us. We interrogate and revise together, looking anew at that which we often don’t see or take for granted: the relationship between human and nonhuman comprised, mitigated, and expressed in the most complicated of ways by a multitude of agents, articulated most powerfully in the substratum and the margins. We need to look and listen. And we need to do it together.

**I want to note the outstanding students in my graduate seminar without whose collaboration this post would not exist: Taryn Dollings, Henry Doss, Kailan Smith, and Breane Weber.