NEW IN this issue
By Vanessa Da Silva Baptista
Le Vivendier is a fifteenth-century anonymous French cookbook, surviving in a single miscellany of medical, botanical, and household recipes. It retains an innocuously titled recipe ‘To make a chicken to be served roasted’  But this is no ordinary recipe for a roast dinner: the cook is instructed to pluck and paint a live chicken….
AROUND THE TABLE PODCAST: An Interview with James Freeman about Curious Cures in Cambridge Libraries
By Sarah Peters Kernan
In this episode, Sarah Kernan speaks to the principal investigator of Curious Cures in Cambridge Libraries, Dr. James Freeman. Curious Cures is an impressive project to digitize, catalogue, and conserve over 180 medieval manuscripts that contain unedited medical recipes in the University of Cambridge Libraries. Dr. Freeman talks about manuscripts, recipes, digitization, the Curious Cures team, and some of the challenges and rewards of working on such a large projects. To stay up-to-date with the project’s progress, follow #CuriousCures on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and the University Library on Twitter.
PUBLICATION HIGHLIGHT: Hannah Bower, Middle English Recipes and Literary Play, 1375–1500 (Oxford University Press, 2022)
An Interview with Hannah Bower
This month, we have the pleasure of highlighting the work of Hannah Bower, author of Middle English Medical Recipes and Literary Play, 1375-1500, published by Oxford University Press in 2022. Dr Bower is a Junior Research Fellow in the Faculty of English at Churchill College, University of Cambridge. Below is an edited conversation between Elizabeth Hunter, Recipes at Play Series Editor, and Hannah Bower.
By Madison Clyburn
Dragons were not unusual in early modern Europe, at least as depictions of art and material culture. In architectural embellishments, domestic goods, military regalia, and recipe books, dragons were frequently depicted in a wide variety of works…
By Chelsea Silva
The anonymous Scots poem “Lord Fergus’s Gaist” instructs its reader in summoning a spirit. It calls for a range of ingredients, some of which are unusual but obtainable, such as horse teeth, the tails of toads, and bundles of withered grass—just the kind of vaguely spooky materials we might expect to use in a conjuration….
By Amy Froide
Recipes are powerful tools to teach about the past and the present. I like to experiment with assignments that mix a dash of fun with a quantity of learning in my courses on early modern British and European history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County….
By Anna Speyart
For anyone fearing the winter blues, a recipe collection from the seventeenth-century Low Countries presented a delightful remedy. Simon Witgeest’s Het Nieuw Toneel der Konsten [The New Theatre of Arts] (1679) aimed “to shorten winter evenings, which some find very dismal and which give rise to myriad wicked temptations”….
Tales from the Archives
Avery Blankenship, PhD Student, Department of English, Northeastern University “A good many husbands are utterly spoiled by mismanagement,” begins a recipe printed in the December 31, 1885 edition of the South Carolina Anderson Intelligencer , “some women go about as if their husbands were bladders and blow them up. Others keep them constantly in hot … Continue reading “A Recipe for Cooking Husbands,” and Nineteenth-Century Joke Recipes
By Laura Mitchell In my last post I discussed the line between healing charms and recipes in fifteenth-century recipe collections and how the line between charm and recipe could blur. Healing charms, however, are obviously not the only kind of charm that can be found in late medieval recipe collections. Some of the surviving charms … Continue reading “And it is a marvellous thing”: The Lighter Side of Magic
By Melissa Reynolds One of the many pleasures of studying late medieval English “how-to” manuscripts is the wide and often surprising array of knowledge to be found within them. Most contain a good bit of medical information, such as herbal recipes and instructions for bloodletting, and many also contain useful household information, like directives for animal husbandry, … Continue reading But does it work? Playful magic and the question of a recipe’s purpose
In keeping with the theme of my previous post, I wanted to look at another of the numerous trick recipes I’ve come across. The topic I’ve chosen for this post is rather less rude than the last one, however. In late medieval books of secrets and recipe collections we can find a lot of recipes … Continue reading Gunpowder, treason, and plot? Not quite.
By Jessica Eichlin and Amanda E. Herbert Food rations during wartime do not have the reputation for being delicious, fresh, or even edible, and this was especially true during the American Civil War. Fought from 1861-1865, the war disrupted supply lines across the United States, making food difficult to acquire for soldiers and citizens alike. … Continue reading Ironclad Apple Duff: Exploring Recipes from the American Civil War
A compact fifteenth-century paper book, MS Sloane 1315 (British Library, London), stands as a manuscript witness to many of the works of popular Middle English instruction. The book might be said to be a miscellany or multi-text manuscript that is home to vernacular works of the kind that were widely-read and much copied in the … Continue reading Magical Charms, Love Potions, and Surreal Tricks