[This is the third of a three-part posting on BETWEEN-ness in recipes and their translation. For the first two parts, see here and here.]
The following is a translation of our long-translated Manchu medical recipe in dialogue form, to explore the between-ness of the recipe through a conversation among materials: fluid, powder, and flesh. In this dialogue-shaped translation of the recipe, the major characters are the major materials interacting in the story. There are three of them – Oil, Flour, Flesh – with an early cameo by Spoon. Here, the medium of the conversation is not sound, but instead touch and movement. When speech is touch rather than sound – when voicing is touching and enabling your conversation partner to be touched, moving and enabling your partner to be moved – then the conversation works somewhat differently from what we tend to expect. Here, a single instance of touching functions as a single unit of this touch-speech. The conversation becomes a dialogue in gestures and movements over, across, with, etc. The problem that animates the dialogue is the event that stimulates and initiates movement; resolution is the circumstance in which movement eases. It is a critical issue that must be resolved: a body has been poisoned.
Between: A Dialogue in Touch
Flour: (pillowed powder pile, then a smooth arc planes the surface as a small spoon cuts through to measure out a portion)
Spoon: (smoothes a concavity in the powder before cradling it away to a bowl and releasing it to its next home)
Flour: (bids farewell, dissolving into liquid and becoming something new)
Flesh: (suffering from a relationship with a substance that does not wish it well; welcomes flour in its new liquid form, into its throatspace and down and down)
Flour: (meets flesh, tries to soothe its suffering as it passes through the throat and down, roils the unkind substance poisoning the flesh and tries to bring it back up and out again)
Flesh: (pulses after ejecting the flour from itself)
Oil: (pours from container to handflesh)
Flesh: (flesh slides on flesh to warm the oil; hands slide oil over belly)
Oil: (warms and slides and soaks into belly and hands)
Flesh: (bucks and roils, breaks and bleeds, angry and unplacated)
Oil: (keeps trying; drops into meat broth – or drops into buttered milk – and mixes and swirls)
Flesh: (takes the oil back into its throatspace and down and down and retches and roils and drinks…and again…and again…)
Oil: (pours from container to handflesh)
Flesh: (still roiling; flesh slides on flesh to warm the oil; hands slide oil over belly)
Oil: (warms and slides and soaks into belly and hands…and again…and again…)
Flesh: (roiling and retching…but less…and less…and on like that more and more gently…)
Oil: (sliding and dropping…now more faintly…and gently…and more gently)
[This is the second of a three-part posting on BETWEEN-ness in recipes and their translation. For the first part, see here.]
Happy new year, readers of the Translating Recipes series! When last we met, I was telling you about the latest exploration of “Recipes in Time and Space” with some early thoughts on between-ness in recipes and beyond. We left off by considering the characteristics of the dialogue, a storytelling genre that embodies the spirit of between. You might want to take a moment to revisit that post, which addressed the importance of some basic components of the dialogue form: character, speech, and problem. Briefly put, in translating our Manchu medicinal recipe we would expect to see characters that are involved in some sort of a relationship speaking to one another about a central problem that animates the conversation.
For your reference and reminding, here is a straightforward rendering of the Manchu recipe that has been the focus of this series of translations:
A medicinal oil eliminating (harmful) poison.
One kind [of oil] used if a person has just been poisoned.
Before eliminating the poison, after taking a flour-based drug in accordance with the 30th prescription, and after that drug causes the poison to be vomited up, spread this oil on the navel part of the stomach.
If the person has consumed so much poison that a lot of internal things are going wrong and the condition has become very serious, after taking 15 – 20 drops of the oil and combining it with either the fatty broth from boiled meat, or butter combined with milk, drink it. Having already smeared this oil on the navel part of the stomach again after 2 erin periods, the following day smear it again two times.
If this has still not eliminated the poison, after taking one or more drops of this medicinal oil again according to the prescription, if you smear it according to the prescription all will be well.
When I think of translation as rendering, my thoughts now turn to the work of STS scholar and anthropologist Natasha Myers. We recently had a chance to talk about her new book, which explores many different senses of “rendering” – separating, surrendering, modeling, deciphering, and more – in a study that emphasizes the importance of movement and kinesthetics in making knowledge. That linking of rendering, movement, and materiality has inspired how I approach translation here, and specifically how I think about translating relationships and between-ness.
With that in mind, the translation that follows – a translation of our Manchu medical recipe in a spirit that emphasizes the between-ness inherent in the text – is going to take us back to the materiality of the recipe, letting us linger over the physical matter of the story and thus helping us understand the ways that between-ness creates material experience. This is a world where speech happens not with words, but in patterns of materials. What does the voice of a powder sound like? Is sound even the right medium for understanding the voicing of a powder? Can we hear it at all, or do we instead feel this voice via touch? What does the voice of a liquid sound (or feel) like? How do these voices communicate with each other in telling a larger story?
The translation takes the form of a dialogue, and this dialogue becomes a conversation among materials: flour, oil, flesh. Each material will have its own voice. (Though we are accustomed to associating speech and voice with the sonic, here voicing is something that happens through touch, not through sound.) The conversation will allow us to explore the conversational aspects of material experience itself. Thinking about the voices of powders and liquids and flesh in this way will help us to understand materials as individuals that engage in relationships with one another, that grow and develop and change as a result of those relationships. Tune in to Thursday’s post to read the full translation!
In May and June of this year, I had the opportunity to research recipe books and midwifery manuals at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. One manuscript, inscribed “John Dauntesey 1652,” contains several manuscript copies of printed medical texts, including information on gynecology and alchemy, along with numerous English and Latin recipes in nearly half a dozen hands. While I had anticipated focusing much of my attention on its gynecological recipes, I became fascinated by MSS 2/0070-01’s treatment of time.
Mastering time to manipulate the material world was a significant component of seventeenth-century recipes when treating and preserving the body, as Wendy Wall has recently considered and as Rachel Rich has discussed in terms of the Victorian kitchen. Recorded in John Dauntesey’s (1629-1693) Recipe Book, an unidentified scribe advises, “Also note that the houres of the planete be different to them of the Clock for the houres of the Clocks be alwais equall of 60 minute” (fol. 9r). That recipes often speak in time—the time to pick particular herbs, the time and duration to perform a step, the time to ingest food or medicament for the body, etc.—is not surprising, yet what I find fascinating here is the scribe’s awareness that recipes employ and distort different types of time: one natural and one artificial in order to preserve the natural world and the human body. To preserve is “to protect or save from (injury, sickness, or any undesirable eventuality)” (“Preserve”). Consequently, to participate in food preservation through recipe writing is to obviate undesirable contamination as to slow entropy and prolong the time that a product can askew the natural growth of bacteria, fungi, or other microorganisms. However, in early modern recipes, food is not the only object being preserved. Understood through Galen’s humoral theory, recipes exist to preserve, sustain, and prolong human life. Controlling Nature’s and human-made temporalities, then, becomes a means of both making recipes and treating the body.
I’m also interested in MSS 2/0070-01’s own temporality, what it may suggest about early modern medical practice, and how changes in medical practice effected the period’s perception of the body. Compiled from the mid- to late-seventeenth century, Dauntesey’s Recipe book is situated in a time when renouncing Galenic medicine and turning to alternative medical practices became increasingly common. Shortly after the above discussion of clock and planetary time, the manuscript turns to a section titled “12 Celestiall signes,” an almanac that describes the humors and character traits of those born in each month, again reminding us that much of early medicine depended on reading time (fol. 10v). The section incorporates many terms and phrases associated with Galenic medicine: “hot and drie cholericke nature,” “cold & dry and . . . Melencholy meridionall,” “Sanguine of Complexion hot & moist,” “cold moist & waterie fegmatuke of Complexion” (fol 10v, 111r, 112v). Understanding this almanac would have been instrumental, presumably, when choosing and creating recipes to balance the humors and restore bodies to good health. However, after recording only one month, the almanac is interrupted. A second scribe turns to transcribing “An hundred and fourteene Experiments and cures of Phillip Theophrastus Paracelsus” before the first scribe continues the almanac over one hundred pages later (fol. 11r).
Of course, my literary heart fluttered to see two of the century’s most influential medical theories interrupting each other, and as I continue to study issues of chronology, genealogy, and geography present in MSS 2/0070-01, I hope to be able to address the following types of questions: Can MSS 2/0070-01 be used to understand the ideological shift from humoral theory to Paracelsus’ hermetical views? How is the ideological shift manifest in the period’s recipe writing? And what effects did the change in focus from balancing humors to treating symptoms have on the early modern period’s perception of the body?
Melissa is an MA candidate in English at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Her research interests are in early modern English literature, the history of medicine, ecocriticism, and feminist and queer studies. You can follow her on Twitter @MelSchultheis and @Engl3000Omeka.
 For more information on early modern astrology and medicine, see Lauren Kassell’s chapter “Astronomy, Magic, and the Mathematical Practitioners of London” in Medicine and Magic in Elizabethan London; for more on almanacs, see Bernard Capp’s English Almanacs, 1500-1800: Astrology and the Popular Press.
 Theophrastus von Hohenheim (1493-1541), also known as Paracelsus, was a physician and alchemist known for his rejection of many sixteenth-century medical traditions and his contributions to what we now call toxicology. For more information on Paracelsus’ thoughts on medicine, theology, and occultism see Charles Webster’s Paracelsus: Medicine, Magic, and Mission at the End of Time.
Between 1749 and 1754 in South Carolina, the South Carolina Colonial Assembly (the governmental body of the British colony) freed two enslaved healers, Caesar, and Sampson, in exchange for their willingness to publicize the ingredients in their antidotes for rattlesnake bites and poisons. This was not the first time that antidotes for snakebites and botanical poisons appeared in the colony. In 1743, a peripatetic Frenchman, Mr. Bonnetheau, set up in Charleston and boasted of his ability to cure “bites of the most venomous serpents, scorpions, and mad dogs,” with the use of “Rattle-snake-stones.”  In 1749, the colony’s newspaper and journal of record, The South Carolina Gazette, reprinted an article from Britain on an herb known as the Sensible Weed, which the article claimed an “extraordinary specific antidote against the Indian or Negro poison” in South Carolina. The prevalence of colonists’ fears about African botanical knowledge in societies like South Carolina where enslaved Africans formed a black majority certainly added to the credibility given to the therapeutic claims proffered by enslaved healers. But snakebites, this post shows, also formed an unrecognized feature of enslaved people’s work in plantation South Carolina, one that made antidotes for venomous bites part of enslaved people’s therapeutic armamentarium. These two features of plantation agriculture in the colony, this post argues, augmented the value of antidotes that functioned as specifics in the cure of snakebites and poisons and goes far to explain why lawmakers panted after Sampson’s and Caesar’s cures specifically. Sampson and Caesar, in turn, manipulated the environmental and social circumstances of colonial South Carolina for their own ends to augment the value of their cures and acquire manumissions from slavery.
For enslaved people, encounters with venomous snakes formed a significant occupational hazard of tidal rice cultivation, one that often terminated in death. Far too often, the fangs of Cottonmouths (water moccasins), Copperheads, as well as Pigmy, Eastern Diamondback and Timber Rattlesnakes pierced the legs and arms of the slaves as they tramped out into maritime grasslands and tidal pine forests, pulled weeds and hunched down to plant rice at the behest of their owners. Whites probably suffered less from actual cases of poisoning than they imagined. But colonists’ fear of enslaved people’s motivations and loyalties made them wary of the botanical knowledge possessed by many slaves even as they acknowledged their skill in this area of medicine. “The negro slaves here seem to be but too well acquainted with the vegetable poisons… which they make use of to take away the lives of their masters who they think uses them ill, or indeed the life of any person for whom they conceive any hatred or by whom they imagine themselves injured,” the South Carolina naturalist Alexander Garden complained in a letter to the Edinburgh botanist Charles Alston.  The idea that enslaved people were exceptionally skilled with botanical poisons and their antidotes enhanced the epistemological weight of the medical claims made by enslaved healers like Caesar and Sampson.
The members learned about Caesar and his cure before hearing of Sampson’s. In November of 1749, “another member,” of the Assembly “acquainted the house that there is a negro man named Caesar belonging to Mr. John Norman of Beach Hill, who had cured several of the inhabitants of this province who had been poisoned by snakes.” Caesar leveraged the urgency for an antidote to snakebites in his dealings with the Assembly. Caesar “expected his freedom and a moderate competence for life, which he hoped the committee would be of opinion deserved one hundred pounds currency per annum,” in exchange for “the satisfactory discovery of his antidotes against poison.” Yet as a slave, the value of Caesar’s knowledge was not legally his to claim, it belonged to his owner, John Norman. The Assembly resolved to manumit Caesar and to compensate Norman for the loss of “all the advantages the said Negro Slave Caesar (aged nearly sixty-seven years) might be to the owner of his knowledge and skill,” which they set at £500 Carolina Sterling.
Caesar had been unknown to the colony’s lawmakers. Sampson, in contrast, cut a striking figure in Charleston as a snake-handler, one who “used frequently to go about with rattle-snakes in Calabashes, and who would handle them, put them into his pockets or bosom, and sometimes their heads into his mouth, without being bitten.” In January of 1754, a motion passed in the Assembly to form a committee in order to find “the most effectual way to procure a discovery of the cure for the bites of rattle snakes from Sampson, a negro fellow belonging to Mr. Robert Hume.” Sampson’s pension and valuation were considerably less than Caesar’s. Sampson was paid less, I think, because he only offered an antidote for rattlesnake bites whereas Caesar’s cure could alleviate both poisons and venomous bites. In exchange for his cure, the Assembly decreed that “the said Sampson be from thenceforth manumitted and delivered from the yoke of slavery,” and the members resolved to provide a lifetime annuity “for the said negro Sampson,” which amounted to £50 per year. The Assembly paid to Mr. Robert Hume £300 Carolina Sterling to compensate Hume for the loss of Sampson’s earnings.
Part I of this series on the “discovery” and publication of Caesar’s and Sampson’s poison antidotes examined why the South Carolina Colonial Assembly was so keen to get their hands on the two enslaved people’s medical secrets as well as lawmakers’ struggles to determine the monetary compensation the two enslaved men would receive in exchange for their cures. In their negotiations with the Colonial Assembly, Caesar and Sampson exerted a strong hand in determining the value of their antidotes: by deliberately leveraging their familiarity with the destruction that poisons wrought on the social fabric of white colonists as well as their intimate knowledge of the havoc that venomous snakebites visited on the fortunes of slaveholders (and, by implication, the economy of the colony), the two healers put manumissions from slavery and annual annuities on the bargaining table and won these compensations from the colonial government.
 Mr. Bonnetheau’s adverstisement for Rattle-snake-stones in South Carolina Gazette, November 21, 1743 and September 10, 1744.