All posts by fglover

If Looks Could Kill

There is so much focus on beauty in modern media. Ideas of what constitutes as beautiful or ugly are constantly thrown at us, through regular advertisements of cosmetics and adoration of “beautiful” celebrities. The perfect beauty regime is much sought after and, today, the beauty industry is worth billions. Recently there has been much discussion of what is beautiful and I personally find it exhausting trying to adhere to what society says is beautiful, after all beauty is supposed to be in the eye of the beholder, right?

This focus on attractiveness is not a modern phenomenon, even the Romans stressed importance on beauty. Roman author, Pliney the Elder (23AD-79AD) wrote that women desired to achieve beauty through colouring their eyelashes, and even warned women against “sexual excess” as this would make their eyelashes fall out![1]

Early modern contemporaries similarly enjoyed their beauty regimes. There any many examples of recipes from this time for home-made cosmetics. In A Supplement to the Queen-like closet (1670), Hannah Woolley includes numerous recipes for maintaining beauty, for example, “to make salve for the lips” which melts together “white Bees-wax”, “pure fallad Oyl” and “white sugar candy.” The use of bees-wax in lip salve is still a popular notion today as it has many benefits, especially its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anti-oxidant qualities.[2]

Woolley does include a rather bizarre instruction to wash the face. She advises that there is “no better thing to wash the face with, to keep it smooth and to scour it clean, than to wash it every night with Brandy.”[3] Not sure about any other modern day minds but I would rather keep to drinking my brandy.

Margaret Baker is another lady who had a keen interest in beauty and cosmetics. In her recipe book  she wrote many instructions for early modern cosmetics, for example how to make powder for the face. Karen Bowman recently researched this topic, please click this link which will take you to our class website where her work is published.

The most interesting recipe book I have come across in research for this post is a book by Lola Montez titled The Arts of Beauty; Or Secrets of a Lady’s Toilet (1858). I still class this as a recipe book because over the course of this year I have learnt that a recipe book is an umbrella term which includes how to guides, medical prescriptions and, most obviously, food recipes. Montez, originally born in Ireland, became a famous Spanish dancer and travelled most of Europe. From her book, it is evident that she was well travelled as she recounts beauty hints and tips that she found whilst abroad, particularly in Italy and France thus portraying how internationally widespread the pursuit for feminine beauty was.

I recognised some of Montez’s beauty tips as they are still recommended today. She warns against poor diets as this is “most destructive to beauty.”[4]This idea is still very much advised today as we are told that the foods you eat have a profound effect on your skin.

Montez also places much importance on female beauty, similarly to modern media. She states that “it is a women’s duty to use all the means in her power to beauty and preserve her complexion.”[5] This is echoed in modern media as we are constantly told that women should do all they can to keep themselves beautiful, by keeping up to date with new beauty products and not to let themselves go.

Like Woolley, Montez does include some strange recipes for beauty. She writes that she “knew many fashionable ladies in Paris who used to bind their faces, every night on going to bed, with thin slices of raw beef, which is said to keep the skin from wrinkles, while it gives a youthful freshness and brilliancy to the complexion.”[6] Upon first reading this, I thought using raw foods on your face abhorrent and an extreme measure in the quest to stay beautiful. However, when I then remembered the cliché tip of using cucumber to rejuvenate they eye areas the use of food didn’t seem all that unusual. Nonetheless, I think I’ll still steer away from putting raw beef on my face.

Montez also highlights the importance of a pale complexion and explains the extreme lengths that some women went to in trying to achieve this. She saw “ladies flock to arsenic springs and drink the waters, which gave their skins a transparent whiteness; but there is a terrible penalty attached to this folly; for when once they habituate themselves to the practice, they are obliged to keep it up the rest of their days, or death would speedily follow.”[7] This shows even more extreme lengths that women would go to in the attempt to fulfil society’s idea of beauty. Today there are still concerns over the dangers of some beauty products, for example the scare over high levels of lead in lipstick.[8]

The changing ideals of beauty prove just how crafted “beauty” is. Recipe books from history illustrate this to us, whilst showing that beauty has always been of interest to many women. Such books are interesting to help parallel similarities and differences in the beauty world today.

 

[1] Pliney the Elder, Natural History Book X p.529 online version https://www.loebclassics.com/view/pliny_elder-natural_history/1938/pb_LCL353.529.xml

[2] Lola Montez, The Arts of Beauty; or, Secrets of a Lady’s Toilet (New York, 1858) p.9.

[3] Ibid.p.9.

[4] Ibid.p.29.

[5] Ibid.p.38.

[6] Ibid.p.40.

[7] Ibid.p.41.

[8] https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/16/is-there-danger-lurking-in-your-lipstick/?_r=1 [accessed 10 May 2017]

Bibliography

Montez Lola, The Arts of Beauty; or, Secrets of a Lady’s Toilet (New York, 1858).

Pliney the Elder, Natural History Book X p.529 online version https://www.loebclassics.com/view/pliny_elder-natural_history/1938/pb_LCL353.529.xml

https://morenature.com/blogs/nature-news/36137220-the-benefits-of-beeswax-lip-balm [accessed 10 May 2017]

http://luna.folger.edu/luna/servlet/view/search;JSESSIONID=71f7bcdc-df76-49dd-9c06-3442a951abb6?search=SUBMIT&q=margaret+baker&sort=call_number%2Cmpsortorder1%2Ccd_title%2Cimprint&QuickSearchA=QuickSearchA [accessed 10 May 2017]

https://sites.google.com/view/uoebakerproject/beauty [accessed 10 May 2017]

https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/16/is-there-danger-lurking-in-your-lipstick/?_r=1 [accessed 10 May 2017]

 

The Great British Food Blog

Warning: Do not read when hungry.

British cuisine is utterly delicious. I mean who can deny a full English breakfast or a scone with Cornish clotted cream and strawberry jam with your afternoon tea? Or maybe you’d prefer a traditional Sunday dinner with all the trimmings covered in gravy followed by a banofee pie (yum!)

Unsurprisingly, it turns out that some of our British cuisine is actually not all that British as our recipes have been affected by food imports from around the world. In Eating the Empire: Intersections of Food, cookery and Imperialism in Eighteenth Century Britain Troy Bickham askes ‘when a woman in Edinburgh drank a cup of tea, or a family in Bath sat down to a meal of Indian curry, did they consider the cultures they might be mimicking or how these products reached Britain?’[1] This is still true as so much of our foods are imported and most people don’t know, or care, where they are actually from.

Being a foodie myself, I absolutely love all kinds of food and love to try new dishes. However, during my year studying abroad in Hawaii I began to really miss the tastes of home! It was interesting trying to describe ‘British’ foods to the American’s I met, who couldn’t grasp the concept of a sausage roll or a Yorkshire pudding. They seemed particularly interested to learn that traditionally fish and chips are served in a newspaper! I wanted to tell them the history as there is nothing more British than fish, chips and mushy peas. So I’ve researched the famous dish to tell you all about how it came about. Can you believe that the combination of fish and chips had not been thought of before the 1860s?! And it is all thanks to Joseph Malin who opened the first fish and chip shop in 1860.[2]

Malin’s Fish and Chip Shop

 

Prior to the marriage of battered fish and chips, fish consumption in Britain can be dated back to the first century. However, thanks to the discovery of the New World, British people were encouraged to eat more fish as there was a ready supply of cheap cod from the North Atlantic.[3] Fish consumption is evident in recipes such as those in The Compleat Cook, a recipe book from 1694, which includes instructions for frying fish or boiling fish but there is no recipe for battered fish as we know it.

Battered fish has origins from the Jewish community in Britain. Hannah Gasse in the Art of Cookery, first published in 1747, includes a recipe to preserve fish ‘the Jews’ way’ which resulted in a dish similar to battered fish, despite the aim being only to preserve the fish. Joseph Malin, as mentioned above as being credited with opening the first fish and chip shop in Britain, was also a Jewish immigrant.

Preserving Fish the Jews’ Way.

 

Despite the early mentions of fish in recipe books, the spread of fried fish did not come till later, possibly due to technologically advancements. There are numerous references to fried fish in the nineteenth century, for example by Henry Mayhew, who observed and documented the working class in London, who counted between ‘250 and 350 purveyors of fried fish and claimed that this product had become available over many years.’[4]

Yet the revolution came when fried fish was combined with chips. As popularity of fried fish grew, the sale of potatoes was also developing. Fish and chip shops spread quickly across Britain. It has been estimated that by 1906 London had as many as 1,200 fish and chip shops![5]

Fish and chips increasingly became labelled as the British national dish. In 1929 a letter to the editor of the Hull Daily Mail insisted that ‘fired fish and chips are a national institution. What would thousands of people of in Hull for supper if it was not for fried fish shops?’[6] Philip Harben, one of the first TV cooks, recognised fish and chips as the national dish of Britain in his cookbook Traditional Dishes of Britain[7]publically associating food with nationality.

I was proud to tell my friends abroad about my national dish. Being away from home made me realise just how many foods are associated only with Britain. Whilst most people knew about traditional fish and chips they were completely baffled by banofee pie! But I’ll save that for another blog post.

[1] Troy Bickham, ‘Eating the Empire: Intersections of Food, Cookery and Imperialism in Eighteenth-Century Britain’, Past and Present 198 (2008): p.72.

[2]Panikos Panayi, Fish and Chips: A History, (London, 2014), p. 15.

[3] ibid. p.18.

[4] ibid. p.28.

[5] ibid. p.37.

[6] Hull Daily Mail, 20 December 1929

[7] Phillip Harben, Traditional Dishes of Britain (London, 1953), p.115.

A Recipe for Love

The modern world is obsessed with love. Dating, relationships, marriage and sex, are all topics of discussion and advice. Love is all over the media, from relationship advice columns to the latest romantic comedy in the cinema. As it turns out, contemporaries from the early modern period were obsessed with love too. Through their advice manuals it is interesting to see the continuities and changes in the advice given on love from early modern period to today.

In many advice manuals from this period, sex and relationships is a hot topic. Aristotle’s masterpiece, which was not actually written by Aristotle, provides ‘a word of advice to both sexes; being several directions respecting the act of copulation’[1] which can be comical to the modern audience. It is of course, in the seventeenth century, assumed that this natural act will occur between a married man and woman in order to make babies, and only to make babies, because what other reason could there be?!

The author agrees that the way to a man’s heart (or his penis) is through his stomach as explanation by the importance of food in helping along with copulation (see below). This idea is still a popular cliché. It is also advised that both sexes have passion and enthusiasm to fulfil ‘what nature requires’ but even the author is no expert in this area as this can only be taught through love not by him.

aristotle
Aristotle’s Masterpiece p.93

The mysteries of conjugal love were revealed to the curious men and women by Nicholas de Venette in 1707. These mysteries seem to be more about sex than relationships or love, yet, like the masterpiece, it is amusing at parts especially the description of ‘what constitution a woman must be of to be very loving’ which brings to question if women not of this constitution are not very loving or are they just less loving? Unfortunately if you, like me, do not have black hair and your breasts aren’t large or hard you are not of the right constitution to be very loving, according to Venette anyway.

Attractiveness continues to be of concern today. Images and descriptions of what constitutes as ‘beauty’ have changed over the years but advice is still given on how to be more attractive, for instance Cosmopolitans articles Beauty Tips and The Secret to Getting Any Guy. Images in the media portray popular ideals of beauty which does not apply to everybody, but this is not to say that if you don’t fit the criteria that you are not beautiful. Today, such articles are likely to be taken with a pinch of salt and I wonder how advice from Venette’s work was really received and if it was taken seriously but that’s a question for a different blog.

Advice on love and sex has certainly evolved since the early modern period although some aspects are similar. Scientific knowledge has undoubtedly played a part in this change yet it is important that such advice has remained a hot topic for advice. Manuals exist throughout history on such advice, dating all the way back to before the first century with Kama Sutra which has even been reproduced today! Slightly more recently, the USO Senior Hostess provided a guideline of how women should interact with men in war time. Even more recently, the famous Men are from Mars Women are from Venus gives advice on having a happy relationship. This is important because it shows that it means that there has always been an interest in such advice.

Looking into these manuals has made me question if they are a way of controlling society by enforcing the idea that sexual relations should take place only within marriage between a man and woman. However, with today’s more liberated view towards sexuality, perhaps todays advice is more varied to reflect a more diverse view on ‘love.’

Please see Aristotle’s Master-Piece Completed, in Two Parts – The Unexpected, a great blog on this advice manual.

1. Aristotle’s Master-piece Completed, in Two Parts (London, 1697),p.91.

2. Venette, N. The Mysteries of Conjugal Love Reveal’d (London, 1707), p. 123.

A Recipe To Life

By Faye Glover

Before The Digital Recipe Books Project I had always considered a recipe as just a set of instructions to make a food dish. How naïve! I have now realised how recipes are invaluable primary sources to studying the domestic sphere in the early modern period. Whilst food recipes from the period give historians more specific information, for instance which ingredients were favoured, for which I am sure culinary historians are grateful. Most recipe books from the early modern period include instructions for beauty regimes, medical prescriptions and household management. So besides telling us all the weird and wonderful foods contemporaries liked to make it give us a real insight in to their world.

The Johnson family recipe book is a great example of an early modern working recipe book. It contains an abundance of recipes, added between the years of 1694 and 1831. The Johnson family record numerous recipes for different foods, wines, medical prescriptions and also instructions for good housekeeping. The large volume of recipes alone tells us immediately that the Johnson family have a keen interest in note taking and passing on knowledge on such topics.

It is clear that this recipe book is a working book from the indications in the margins on most pages. Most recipes were tried and tested and this marked in the margins with either ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ or in some cases crossing out the recipe all together.

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The Johnson family recipe book incorporates recipes from those they took recommendations from. For example, the some recipes are titled ‘Mrs Gardlands Way,’ showing that they family have taken advice from somebody else, although it is not clear who Mrs Gardland is. In addition, the Johnson family have a recipe titled ‘Lady Herons Plumcake.’ Although it is again unclear if Lady Heron is a friend of the family or if the recipe has even come from the Lady herself, this could indicate to the social status of the Johnson family to have such correspondences.

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The recipes within the Newdigate family records differ from those in the Johnson Family’s recipe book. In class on the 17 November 2016 we looked at Lisa Smith’s transcriptions of the Newdigate family papers from the Warwickshire County Record Office. These papers included family births, deaths and correspondences as well as recipes for the household. From these recipes it would seem that the Newdigate family were not as interested in keeping notes on recipes as much as the Johnson family. There recipes were less as part of a working recipe book and instead noted down for a practical reason.

The Newdigate family records include many recipes for the garden and keeping the home, such as poisoning vermin and foxes, making ink and cementing stone. This may be because Sir Richard Newdigate the younger wrote and kept these, whereas it was a mix of men and women writing the Johnson family recipes. Lisa Smith has an interesting blog titled Tracing Recipes to Kill Vermin which explores recipes from the early modern period which deal with the issue of vermin.

The Newdigate family records do have a few interesting food recipes as well, such as the Essex method of making butter. This recipe highlights key regional differences in the preference of butter making as ‘the famous Epping Butter is all made in this manner and is more esteemed in London than any other.’

To see the extent to which women had to go to in order to prepare and preserve foods is eye opening as today we take it for granted that you can buy food already prepared and cooked. Similarly, to see how women made ointments and creams is interesting as it shows the interest they had, even two hundred years ago, in beauty regimes. The recipes for household management show the huge amount of hard work and thought which went into housekeeping in the early modern period. For this I have a newly found respect for the women keeping these recipe books.

In addition to those written by the everyday woman, some recipe books were published for the masses. Mrs Beaton’s Book of Household Management is probably the most famous example of this. Her book contains advice on almost everything, from assigning duties to domestic servants to recipes for hundreds of food dishes. Likewise Hannah Wooley’s A Supplement to the Queen-like Closet includes instructions for letter writing and for beauty regimes alongside her recipes for food!

Every recipe book tells a story. Whilst today we may think of recipe books as a guide to cooking in the early modern period they offered an extensive guide to the management of the household and professed the importance of good domesticity.