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Panel Abstracts

'Reading and Writing Recipe Books 1600-1800'

Abstracts for Panels

Friday, 8 August 2008

Panel 1: New Approaches to Reading Recipe Books

Annie Gray (University of York) : ‘A Practical Art’: Material Culture and Cookbooks, an Archaeological Perspective

Archaeologists are increasingly realising the potential of data derived from food and dining to consider the material realisation of social and cultural tension. Within the post-medieval period, work has traditionally concentrated on ‘excluded’ groups – slaves, criminals and the destitute, apparently seeking ‘text-free’ zones in which to demonstrate the potential of archaeology for enabling study of the historically invisible. However, not only is this concept meaningless but methodologically dangerous in studying a society in which text played a key role. The growing proliferation of manuscript and printed cookbooks in the period up to 1800 provides a rich resource for both historian and archaeologist. This paper will argue that an archaeologically-informed approach to this data can provide insights into the period and contribute to the methodological debate on the use of such sources – providing the uneasy theoretical relationship between text and material record can be resolved.

The idea that the archaeological record is more ‘real’ or ‘ unbiased’ than written descriptions has permeated much archaeological writing. Materially-derived data has been used to ‘ correct’ the written record. Yet the concept of unbiased material data, whether site-specific or from collections, has also long since been questioned. Text has been used to contextualise objects which are then privileged as being capable of communicating in ways and to senses that written sources ignore. Alternatively and most significantly, written sources can be treated as material culture in their own right, tactile objects which themselves contain insights open to archaeological theorising. Drawing on methodological approaches used in the archaeological consideration of food and dining in England from c1750, this paper will demonstrate the way in which cookbooks, both printed and manuscript, have been and can be integrated into an archaeological study. It will emphasise the potential of interdisciplinary working, while using explicitly archaeological theories and approaches to shed new light on cookbook-derived data.

Llio Teleri Lloyd-Jones (Independent Scholar) : The Order of Things: Knowledge and the Culinary Text

Based on current primary research this paper will explore the complex relationship between hand-written and printed recipe books. Primarily focused on the epistemological function of these texts, it will look at the ways and modes of representing information in a variety of publications, 1650-1750.

These books offer a superb insight into developing and challenging systems of information. Partly inspired and aggravated by Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things, the paper will consider whether his dichotomy between Renaissance and Classical modes is prevalent, or even relevant in this instance. As Foucault focuses on the masculine and ‘scientific’ realm of natural history, can an equivalent development be charted through these more domestic and quotidian texts? Or, is the culinary world exempt from such tidy theories?

Using evidence such as order, indexes, contents pages and diagrams, recipe books can display a particular epistemological outlook; the culinary landscape is outlined differently in every text. The rise of printing can be characterised as a moment of schism between the personal and the public within recipe books, as a friction between the order of print and chaos of writing as two distinct technologies. Books by authors such as Sir Kenelme Digbie, Hannah Woolley, Hannah Glasse and Martha Bradley will be considered alongside the manuscripts of Anne Nicholson, Elisabeth Freke and others.

This research seeks to present the recipe book as demanding and stimulating material for discussions about the historical nuances of knowledge.

Stephanie R. Maroney (Arizona State University) : Constructing Curry: England’s Colonial Encounters in Eighteenth-Century Cookbooks

This study historically tracks the “invention” and development of curry in the eighteenth century from Anglo-Indian communities in India to the dinner tables of England, focusing on the construction of curry as an object of material culture. The history of curry offers an opportunity for critical investigation into England’s relationship with India, and represents the process whereby the English incorporate its colonial encounters with India into English public life.

When curry came to England in the eighteenth century, it bore little resemblance to Indian cookery, but rather was the English concoction invented and beloved by Anglo-Indians traveling under the guise of a “real Indian curry.” While Anglo-Indians and East India Company officers are largely responsible for its presence in England, eighteenth-century recipe books cultivated the taste and accessibility of curry, which anglicized the dish and ultimately made it an English invention. Through a close reading of early recipes for curry dishes in English cookbooks, with particular attention to the language and ingredients used, this paper addresses the significance of cookbooks and household manuals as material objects that influenced England’s larger cultural identity.

Panel 2: Early Modern Women and Recipe Books

Jayne Archer (Aberystwyth University) : The Quintessence of Wit: Poems and Receipts in Early Modern Women’s Writing

The early modern period witnessed a burgeoning literature dealing with domestic duties and the philosophy and practice of housewifery. Examining printed receipt books by Hugh Platt, Gervase Markham, George Hartman, and John Shirley, it is apparent that they are more than simple collections of ‘how-to’ receipts: these books also perform symbolic, cultural work. Mapping the interior as well as the domestic spaces of women, these books are intimately connected with notions of appropriate female behaviour. Furthermore, they testify to the sophisticated and complex knowledge systems that informed the theory and practice of early modern housewifery – systems such as alchemy, natural philosophy, astrology, natural magic, and craft traditions.

In large part pure drudgery, housewifery was also creative. In the terminology of early modern receipt books, housewifery could engage the ‘fancy’ and ‘curiosity’ of women; it could be performed for ‘pleasure’ as well as ‘profit’; it was an act of creation and ‘ recreation’. In this paper I examine the relationship between recipes and authorship in early modern women’s writing. Focussing on women’s receipt books and women’s poetry, I show how women writers were able to cross and re-cross the boundaries between what we now categorise as ‘literary’ and ‘non-literary’ genres. Reconstructing the relationship between housewifery and natural philosophy in the early modern period, I argue that one of the legacies of recipe writing was the women writer.

Rebecca Laroche (University of Colorado, Colorado Springs) : Selections from Gerard: Women’s Remedy Books and the Question of Audience

My research interacts with a certain subgenre of remedy books, herbal epitomes. Examining three engagements with John Gerards’ Herball from on or before 1650, the paper I propose asks what these texts tell us about women’s relationships to authoritative texts. It begins with a lone entry in Elizabeth Digby’ s receipt book (1650) in order to explore how Gerard constructs his audience and how one woman may at once be capitulating to and subverting those constructions. It then considers Elizabeth Bulckley’s “A booke of hearbes & receipts | 1627,” which contains nineteen herbal entries taken almost verbatim from Gerard’s text, even though, unlike in Digby’s entry, there are no references to Gerard himself. In this stage of the argument, I ask how the processes of selection and editing that Bulckley undertakes tells us much about her engagement with the herbal as well as her use of herbs, and in thus engaging the text, she virtually strips it of the paratextual apparatus that constructs its audience. Finally, the essay turns to the famous example of Anne Clifford’s depiction of Gerard in her girlhood library in the Appleby triptych. The history of women taking excerpts from Gerard underlines the fact that the book on the shelf is The Epitome of Gerards Herball and not The Herball itself. In representing this epitome on her shelf, I argue, Anne Clifford does not represent a book she merely possessed, but rather one that she very well could have written, analogous to her mother’s alchemical manuscript from the middle panel. In thus referencing the herbal in the context of her education and alongside her mother’s own practice, Clifford reflects a common use of the herbal while she makes it part of her maternal inheritance.

Sara Mueller (Wilfred Laurier University) : Banquet and Anti-Banquet: The Witches of Lancashire and Women’s Banqueting Practice

My paper will focus on the tension between different representations of women's production and serving of banquets foods. In Brome and Heywood's The Witches of Lancashire, women's production of elaborate, fanciful banquet dishes is linked with witchcraft and aberrant femininity. Conversely, cookbooks for and by women represent the activity differently, presenting the creation and serving of banquets as a virtuous, industrious, creative, and agential endeavor for women. Both the anti-banquet literature and the cookery books which instruct women how to produce their own banquets concur that banquets, which featured such outrageous dishes as pies that explode with live birds when cut open, replicas of meat made out of paste, and candles suspended from the ceiling which appear to float, were not simple feasts but theatrical events where the skillful, fanciful, and imaginative creations of the housewife were unveiled to her guests. The radical difference in how the banquet was understood in the years leading up to the civil war, during the Interregnum, and into the Restoration is inextricable from larger religious and political debates, where the struggle over the significance of the banquet stems from its luxury and its association with the aristocracy and royalty. While I do not want to undermine the importance of the political landscape to the differing representations of banqueting practice, I do suggest that there is a further dimension to this contrast. In my paper I will consider women's banqueting in this period to be political both in its association with Royalism and in its response to the negative portrayals of the banquet elsewhere in the culture. Read against one another, these two ideas about the place and propriety of banqueting constitute a debate over the nature of women's domestic theatre and domesticity itself, where the women who wrote cookery books and produced banquets in their households contested both in print and in practice their representation in anti-banquet literature.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Panel 3 : Medicine and Society

Lesley Coates (Independent Scholar) : Medical and Cultural Representations of Healing in English Recipe Books of the Eighteenth Century

Eighteenth-century recipe books provide a wealth of medical and culinary information that goes beyond our traditional perception of them as quaint survivors of folklore and history. Neither are they simply an example of idle collecting without a notion of usage. From my own research at the Wellcome Library (utilising more than 100 manuscript recipe books) it is apparent that, for one family at least, the collecting of cancer recipes was no idle pastime.

This paper will focus on the medicinal (and culinary) remedies used to treat the symptoms of what medical practitioners of the eighteenth century classified as ‘female disorders’. These were a recognised set of conditions which included the commonplace menstrual disorders (amenorrhoea and menorrhagia) but also the more serious and life threatening conditions such as breast and uterine cancer. Although not life-threatening, hysteria was also considered to be a female complaint that few would ever escape from completely. My own research suggests that the medical elite’s perception of hysteria, as one of the most common chronic diseases of the period, is at variance with the ideas of the people (many of them women) who wrote these recipe books.

As well as providing some insight into the compilers’ interest in specific disorders, and of collecting remedies with a particular patient in mind, recipe books elucidate other important medical and cultural diversities of the eighteenth century. For example, some historians emphasise the similarities between eighteenth-century domestic, quack and professional medical practice, arguing that they vaguely shared the same ideas about what plants could be used for and for what purpose. My research has shown that medical therapies were not always vague and that the compilers of recipe books did not necessarily follow the same medical practices as recommended by the medical elite and university- or hospital-trained practitioners.

Anne Stobart (Middlesex University) : ‘Lett her refrain from all hott spices’: Advice on Diet and Remedies in the Treatment of the King’s Evil in Early Modern South West England

Was advice on diet and remedies always incorporated into early modern household receipt collections? In this paper I explore seventeenth century letters and receipts from South West England  which included advice for the treatment of the King's Evil. These papers illustrate the active involvement of one particular household practitioner of healthcare, Margaret Boscawen of Cornwall. Margaret compiled a 'Great Book' of medicinal receipts and was reputed to be involved in treating local people as well as herself and her family. She collected many receipts for treating the Kings Evil in order to treat her daughter Bridget who suffered from this condition. The King's Evil referred to a condition involving swellings and sores of the neck, also known as 'scrofula', a form of tuberculosis affecting the glands of the neck. For this household practitioner, the search for a cure for the King's Evil was supported by an extensive network of contacts, and both lay and medical practitioners gave her detailed recommendations despite tradition that this condition was treated by the Royal Touch. I examine relationships between the advice received and advice in printed sources, and show how some lay advice was adapted from printed sources which were not specific for the King's Evil. I question whether the advice given was always further incorporated into manuscript receipt collections. Some of the lay and learned medical advisers also included dietary recommendations in their letters. However this dietary advice was variable, possibly revealing different therapeutic perspectives. Thus these receipts and letters provide an opportunity to examine changing therapeutic understandings about disease, as well as to consider relationships between dietary and medicinal advice in receipt collections.

Alun Withey (Swansea University) : Cymru Collections: The Importance of Domestic Remedy Collections as Sources for Welsh Medical History

The medical history of early modern Wales is an area into which few historians have ventured. There is only one volume of essays offering a diachronic history of Wales, and this is now over 30 years old. Despite growing interest in regional medical histories, there remains no single monograph of Welsh medical history.

One of the main reasons for this scholarly neglect appears to have been a belief in the paucity of Welsh sources. Partly as a result of this, much work has concentrated on medical folklore in Wales, positing a somewhat unbalanced rural caricature. In reality, the situation was far more complex, and the people of early modern Wales had access to a far greater range of ideas through a strong culture of sharing. There are in fact a variety of Welsh sources available, of which by far the most numerous are domestic remedy collections. Whilst other source types can be patchy in the Principality, remedy collections survive in numbers across most parts of Wales, and in both the Welsh and English language.

This paper will seek to demonstrate the importance of domestic remedy collections as crossover points between oral and literate culture. There is clear evidence that remedies from English printed medical self-help books were recorded in Welsh remedy collections. Such remedies were shared with others in the community, giving the illiterate Welsh people access to ideas otherwise unavailable to them. This has wider implications, and poses questions for the spread of medical ideas in other similarly rural areas. Although such sources must be used with care, especially since possession of knowledge cannot necessarily be taken as proof of usage, they represent an important and underused resource. Examples from Welsh collections will be used to demonstrate the importance of such sources in charting issues such as the spread of medical information, both into, and around, Wales.

Panel 4 : Culture and Cookery Books

Kate Heckmann Hanson (University of Southern California) : Visualizing Early Modern Italian Culinary Culture

Both emerging from and responding to an increasingly lavish culture of banqueting among Italian courts, printed culinary treatises of the 16th and 17th century proffered guidance and recipes to the growing ranks of kitchen personnel. In this paper, I will examine two such treatises: Bartolomeo Scappi’s Opera (Venice, 1570) and Mattias Giegher’s Tre Trattati (Padua, 1639), focusing on the relationships between text and image in both. Offering guidelines for the conduct of a cook, recipes, menus, as well as 28 engraved illustrations of kitchen utensils and interiors, the Scappi text is the more well known of the two. However, I believe that the Giegher offers a useful point of comparison, as it instructs the kitchen steward and carver the proper methods for napkin folding, table setting, and butchery.

My discussion is three-fold; to begin, I will propose a context for the treatises, exploring the contemporary culture of courtly banqueting, dietary discourses, and still-life painting. In the second part of the paper, I will leverage Pamela Smith’s discussion of artisanal knowledge and seek to analyze the Scappi and Giegher texts as examples of a codification of previously “embodied” knowledge. By necessity, the practice of cookery engages each of the five senses, and therefore is an excellent example of knowledge typically carried in the body – via taste, touch, and muscle memory. Finally, I will place these works in a larger context of other “how-to’s” and scientific texts as concerted efforts to transform artisanal knowledge into quantifiable information. The publication of these texts not only represents an attempt to legitimize and elevate the roles of the kitchen staff, but also suggests a pivotal moment in the articulation of their specialized knowledge. As such, both the Scappi and Giegher function in distinct but ultimately related modes, as both attempt to replicate the master-apprentice relationship in visual, printed form.

Raelene M. Inglis (Otago University) : From Pickle Lila to Peccadillo: Tracking the Spread of Piccalilli

One of primary mechanisms of transmitting culinary knowledge is through recipes, written instructions containing the ingredients and codified cookery techniques required to reproduce a specific dish. The printing of recipes accelerated their diffusion and left a trail for the later analysis of textual material. Once recipes were captured in text, available for scrutiny and duplication, they could bear witness to the subsequent movement of the dishes they described across countries and continents. The very nature of cookery books, repositories of expert knowledge, markers of social prominence and purveyors of culinary innovation, inevitably inspired copying. But duplication ensured the survival of recipe concepts and culinary traditions. The cultural environment in which transmission of recipes takes place has considerable impact on acceptance or rejection, and any subsequent adaptations. This paper describes a method for tracing the movement of culinary knowledge both geographically and temporally through the detailed analysis of recipes and cookery books. Recipes are unique tools for tracking culinary transmission because of their inherent precision and datable contexts and those with distinctive names and/or ingredients are particularly suited to such scrutiny. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there was a noticeable increase in recipes influenced by the culinary customs of India and surrounding regions, almost certainly as the result of trade and the East India’s Company’s ventures into that region. A significant number of cookery books exhibit some of these trends, for example, in their pickle recipes. The method of recipe micro-analysis is used to trace the introduction and subsequent dissemination of piccalilli and ‘mangoes’ in British cookery books.

Lauren F. Winner (Duke Divinity School) : Elizabeth Washington’s Fish Sauce: Cookbooks as a Key to Lived Religion in Eighteenth-Century Virginia

With a few notable exceptions, the most important studies of eighteenth-century cookery books almost wholly ignore the topic of religion. Similarly, most studies of eighteenth-century religious practice neglect to consider cookbooks as a source. Yet, insofar as, for both Catholics and Anglicans, the ecclesial calendar required both feasts and fasts, cookery books are a crucial source for “lived religion” and, especially, for the domestic practice of religion. My paper is adapted from my study A Cheerful and Comfortable Faith: Household Religious Practice in Eighteenth-Century Virginia (Yale University Press, forthcoming). It considers the case of elite Anglican households in eighteenth-century Virginia, and argues that cookery books—both published English cookbooks elite Virginians used*, and the extant manuscript cookbooks created by elite Virginia women--attest to a liturgical cycle of feasting and fasting. That cycle included feasts at Shrove Tuesday, Christmas, and Twelfth Night, and, most significantly, meatless meals at Lent. The Lenten recipes on which I focus offer a window onto a classic instance of lay piety – laity who observe a modified form of the stringent practices clerics advocate. After specifically considering cookbooks from elite Virginia households, my paper will offer a few broader methodological points about the use of cookbooks in the study of lived religion.

* The paper introduces a copy of E. Smith’s The Compleat Housewife that can be tied to Virginian Elizabeth Washington (who was a close relation, by marriage, of George Washington). This copy of The Compleat Housewife is a notable exception to Gilly Lehmann’s generally apt lament that most extant eighteenth-century cookbooks inscribed with owners’ names belonged to “owners…usually unknown to us,” thus the inscriptions do little to further our interpretation of published cookbooks (Lehmann, The British Housewife, 62).


Panel 5: Tracking Genre Changes

Julia Abramson (University of Oklahoma) : Carving in Print, 1600-1800

The practice of ceremonially cutting up and portioning out meat at the dinner table is an everyday act that resonates in a nearly universal fashion with food experiences, both real and ideal, in the meat-eating cultures of the West. Carving embodies tensions fundamental to occidental culture today, and it maps class, gender, politics, and power. The characteristic features of carving, its persistence over several centuries in Europe and the Americas, and the extensive, though practically unknown, print tradition associated with it, make it a benchmark for charting the development and spread of cultural practice over the longue durée as well as the political dimensions of everyday social custom. Despite the scope of the topic, scholarship to date has adopted an essentially antiquarian approach, that describes carving as a feature of late Renaissance elite banquets, while ignoring its development in other contexts and omitting a searching interrogation of print and archival sources.

Attempting to build upon but also to move beyond this stance, my paper will offer rhetorical and visual analysis but also an interdisciplinary investigation of key early modern European treatments of carving, from Matthias Giegher’s Il Trinciante (1621) to the discussions of carving in the many editions of Menon’s Cuisinière bourgeoise (1746, first edition). I shall consider the evolution of carving treatments as a genre, focusing on the social implications of the transformation from a highly derivative but autonomous form (the carving manual or treatise), to a discourse that came to be contained within recipe books merely as a topic or sub-section. I shall then establish ways in which the custom shaped, and was in turn shaped by, spheres of activity and print sources far removed from culinary and gastronomic, notably the university anatomy theatre and printed anatomies. In providing a new history of carving and its representations, the talk contributes to a fuller accounting for today’s socio-gastronomic order and for gastronomic historiography.

Francisco Alonso-Almeida (University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria) : Genre Changes in Recipes from 1500-1700: A Corpus-Based Study

My presention deals with generic convention changes in recipes from 1500 to 1700. The texts for analysis are taken from Las Palmas Corpus of Early English Recipes (CoER), a project currently underway in the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria with more than two million words being presently gathered. For my study I will concentrate on a hundred recipes of different length and topics from each one of the centuries covered in the survey. The methodology considers early works on genre studies, such as Taavitsainen (2001a & 2001b) and Carroll (1999). The conclusion should offer clear ideas and generalisations regarding the recipe as a genre, and the changes pertaining to the variables of culture. One aspect of special interest is the relationship between genre and topic, since there is disagreement as for the external or internal nature of this feature in genre studies (EAGLES, Biber 1988, Görlach).

Amanda E. Herbert (The Johns Hopkins University) : ‘I wish Mrs. Wolley would put forth some new experiments’: Printed Recipe Books and the Authoritative Female Voice, 1640-1714

In the seventeenth century, Hannah Wolley was a prolific female author in a publishing community dominated by men. Her recipe books were so admired that, over the course of her twenty-year career, Wolley’s name became synonymous with domestic advice and household receipts, yet many of the works published in her name were false attributions. In her book Virtue of Necessity, Elaine Hobby posits that several self-help guides claiming to be written by the industrious and popular Wolley were not, in fact, written by Wolley herself. Identifying inconsistencies in authorial voice, style and tone, Hobby argues convincingly that Wolley’s name was used illegally in the publication of several works, and relates Wolley’s apparent fury that, “her style had been tampered with.”< /p>

This paper explores what sort of written “style” female authors of printed receipt books possessed, and how or why their identities and voices were appropriated by male publishers. Wolley complained of counterfeit books which plagiarized passages from her original compositions, but her larger concern was over the new content inserted by those male publishers who hoped to appeal to a wider female purchasing audience. This new material largely departed from her traditional style and recipe format, focusing instead on issues of female morality and comportment. Traditionally, prescriptive literature which dealt with matters of female behavior adopted a masculine and patronizingly avuncular male voice, such as Halifax’s popular Lady’s New-years Gift. But the pseudonymous Wolley editions altered that genre, switching back and forth – sometimes clumsily – between instructions for receipts and mandates on decorum. Examining recipe publication alongside the circulation of moral treatises on female behavior, I will investigate the publishing world’s gradual combination of these genres and ask why, instead of relying upon the authoritative male perspective typically employed in printed behavior guides, male publishers set Wolley as the false author of their books and persisted in utilizing her female voice.