Category Archives: Non classé

A Remedy to Cure all Ill’s

A Remedy to Cure all Ills

If there is one thing in life people can agree on it is the magical medicinal properties of chicken soup. From sniffles to full blown flu this simple recipe is credited for helping alleviate many symptoms and is thought of as the ultimate cure – alongside more modern cold and flu tablets that it is.

Chicken soup has a long history, its recipe changing through the centuries with different family versions claiming to be the best. The humble cure all started in the form of a broth or jelly in the 18th century and later moved to using the broth to make the soup we all know today. These recipes are not always indicated as ‘medicinal’ in cook books – however there is evidence that they were used to cure ills.

Taken from an 18th Century cook book this recipe for ‘Cock Broath’ uses ivory shavings believed to have medicinal properties. It is an ingredient we would not see in modern recipes, due to the lack of proof of its medicinal properties – despite still being used in many Chinese medicines.

The phrase ‘ivory shavings’ gives a modern audience the image of thin sliced curls of stiff ivory – inedible and surely adding a crunch to the broth. However, this was not the case. Ivory was expensive and every part of it was valuable, including the dust produced from carving it into fine sculptures. This dust had multiple uses, and its popularity in Europe came from its uses in stiffing straw hats. It might be presumptive to state a link here, but it is also plausible as to why the dust was more common in cooking then we might think, given ivory’s price.

In Chinese culture, ivory is said to help sore throats and consumptive fevers, and is even said to change colour when it touches poisoned food, and more – all of which are myths. That’s not to say that they were originally, a myth today may have been truth in the 18th century and the medicinal properties of ivory easily accepted. Medicine was still based on humoral theory, and aliments were treated as single symptoms. With further digging we could find out whether ivory was attributed to a certain humour – but for now, most information on ivory is that it’s trade is currently banned.

Ivory aside, jellies were often used as medicinal cures. One used by Henry Baker was a ‘black current’ jelly for a sore throat that he had been given by a vicar. Baker praised the effects until he noticed that it had stopped working so well, and complained to his friends of it. They told him that it he shouldn’t use an old batch and needed a fresh one for it to have an effect again – and lo and behold, upon making it fresh he once again praised its effectiveness.

Now granted, black current jelly isn’t the same as chicken soup, but what we are seeing in Barkers story is the faith people had in medicinal jellies. Not only has Baker recommended the jelly, which we see in cook books with marks or ticks by ‘proven’ recipes, he has also identified that medicinal potency is linked to the age of the jelly. We see this today in the (maybe) famous line from films – ‘eat it while it’s still fresh’.

We wouldn’t think of eating a chicken jelly today to cure a cold, as we often associate jelly as being cold whereas chicken soup is ‘hot and hearty’. A black current jelly on the other hand would still be normal to eat for a sore throat. It’s not that jellies have lost their place as cold foods – more that our taste buds have changed since cold meat jelly.
But what’s all this got to do with chicken soup though I hear you ask? The answer: chicken soup didn’t start off as chicken soup – first we see it as broths and jellies.

Moving into the 19th century, we see a chicken broth tailored to ‘invalids’ in Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management that uses a fowl “unsuitable for eating”. Previously, cook books had been mixed with food and medicine recopies, Mrs Beeton’s book split the medical food recipes from everyday in her section for ‘invalids’. This split indicates the acknowledgement of the need to tailor recipes, and we see chicken broth clearly associated with the sick, and not just as a recipe used for a multitude of dishes.

Although not specifically chicken, Mrs Beeton also discusses the need for beef tea and jellies to be readily available for the sick. She does not know the full nutritional value of using beef tea and jellies but is using advice given by Florence Nightingale to support their effectiveness.

Just like today, the magical healing powers of chicken soup are endorsed by one well-known name, and backed up by word of mouth. The origin of the success of chicken soups is unclear – however it is clear that it has been a cure for a long time. Despite the headlines associated with chicken soup as a ‘cure all’ there isn’t medicinal evidence to fully support this. There are many health pages advocating its benefits and easily a few thousand plus will attest that it can cure a cold.

In reality, chicken soup is the personification of home and health. From its beginning as broths and jellies to the soup made from these original bases, chicken soup has been present in the household for several hundred years. Its association with comfort helps build the image of a home cure that people claim has worked for them time and again. As we are yet to find a better medicinal cure I believe it is safe to say chicken soup will continue to be the remedy to cure all ills.

 

Bibliography

Baker, Henry ‘Some Observations concerning the Virtue of the Jelly of Black Currents, in curing Inflammations of the Throat. By Henry Baker, F. R. S., Philosophical Transactions, Vol. 41 (1739-1741), pp. 655-60

Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, electronic <http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/10136/pg10136-images.html> [accessed 24th January 2020]

Chaiklin, Martha, ‘Ivory in World History- Early Modern Trade in Context’, History Compass, Vol. 8, no. 6 (2010), pp.531-32

 

Wei, Clarissa, ‘The Myths of Medicinal Ivory’, KECT, < https://www.kcet.org/food/the-myths-of-medicinal-ivory > [accessed 24th January 2020]

Another Trip into Early Modern Medicine

Now, I didn’t literally trip over but I did hurt my leg. Perhaps I’m not very good at taking care of myself. Anyway, it turns out that tendon knots don’t go away if you ignore them. In fact they kind of get worse. Whoops!

                How does my injured leg and apparent incapacity to go to the doctors have anything to do with an early modern recipe book? I hear you ask. Well, from the amount of medicines contained in these recipe books and as there was little distinction between professional practice and lay treatments,¹ I think it’s reasonable to assume that the families this type of book belonged to didn’t have regular access to a doctor therefore making these books a necessary alternative. Now don’t get me wrong, I have access to a doctor, just not the inclination to go, so it got me wondering how a person without access to a doctor would deal with my injury and there it is… the recipe book.

                To find anything relating to leg, or more accurately knee, pain, I had to flip through a great deal of this woman’s recipe book (V.b.400 of the Transcribathon project) and, while I mentioned my suspicion of her organisational skills in my last post, this gave me a new appreciation for how well she categorises her recipes. She deals so comprehensively with each element of a possible ailment before moving onto the next, showing how well acquainted she was with potential health problems and if not well-read in them then certainly well connected to be able to build such a collection. Such extensive medical reading by women is demonstrated by Elaine Leong in her examination of two other women’s medical recipes. In this study she reveals just how dedicated these women were to reading about medicine and how they would then apply their own thinking and organisational needs to what they had read. One of these she describes as being written with the purpose of being a standalone book because the author did not have regular access to this medical knowledge, therefore necessitating her own usable collection.² This book has a similar feel to it.

                Anyway, before I go onto dealing with leg pain I ought to give you a bit of a set up about humoural theory, how treatments were intended to restore balance and maybe something a little peculiar.

                When a person is sick nowadays it usually is quite helpful for them to rest and sleeping is particularly good as it allows your body to devote the entirety of its energy to fighting off whatever infection is causing it. However, the Galenic theory of medicine, which survived for quite a long time (with blood-letting still being practiced much later than I would care to admit), prescribes a theory of opposites that was intended to restore a person’s humours, or fluids that controlled everything about a person, and so if a person is feverish and tired, you cool them down (helpful) and you make them do exercise (not so helpful).

Recipe from p.133 of Receipt Book V.b.400 (EMROC)

In the section spanning from pages 133-6, she deals mostly with how to combat a fever BUT intermixed with these medicines are also those to help a person sleep. The inclusion of recipes to induce sleep amongst those for fever suggests that she had linked the two in treatment, going against this theory of opposites. Without further research into how prevalent it was to recommend sleep when someone was ill, I can’t say if this is peculiar or not; I can say however that I found it interesting to see that this woman had made this link between two different factors, fever and fatigue, so clearly that she combined recipes that are completely unrelated in a way that goes against a prevailing medical theory. This combination is particularly significant, as we will now see, because she adheres to humoural theory in her other recipes.

                So, finally I came to something relating to my injury in 2 pages from 148-9. The recipes over these pages often refer to either an ache (spelt acke), pain, or more specifically a rheumatic (spelt rhumatick) pain which could be taken to imply more of an inflammation of a joint, muscle or tendon rather than just pain.

                Page 148 begins with an overarching recipe of how to ‘Draw the Rumatick oyle of Rosses’. Now, in beginning the section with this recipe without stating specifically where to use it, it’s clear that this oil is essential in treating any of the following aches and pains, hence why it is given prominence as it needs to be done before anything else.

Recipe from p.148 of Receipt Book V.b.400 (EMROC)

If we were to consult Nicholas Culpeper, a doctor and author of Herbals, then we can see the reason why. In his descriptions of the value of roses, he recommends the use of rose oil against aches, or more specifically, ‘against heat and inflammation’ as the rose oil will cool and heal it.³ (Do you see the humoural theory of opposites that I mentioned before? Treat a hot inflammation with a cool oil in order to restore balance.) The author of this recipe book echoes this theory in her method for making her oil of roses, insisting that it should be kept somewhere cool, seeing that the pot that contains the mixture is placed in the cellar or buried somewhere cool. The significance of this theory is visible again when it is on a ‘knee very hott’ (inflamed) that the restorative ointment is applied.

                The similarities between the two texts in their reference to using opposing temperatures to cure an inflammation, especially as both are writing specifically about roses, is clear evidence that these recipe books were based on medical theory and well-researched so that they can be used in the absence of a learned medical professional. The deviation above is perhaps an example of her relying on her own observation instead and supporting the idea that as well as relying on professional medicine, some lay people managed to create treatments that were better.⁴

I might stick to using Voltarol and muscle exercises though; I think my landlord may take issue with me burying a pot of pressed roses in the garden for 3 months.

Voltarol – my preferred joint pain relief
(picture taken by me)

Notes:

¹Nagy, D., Popular Medicine in Seventeenth Century England (Ohio, 1988), p.43.

²Leong, E., ‘ ‘Herbals she persueth’: reading medicine in early modern England’, in Renaissance Studies, 28, 4 (2014), pp.556-78.

³Nicholas Culpeper, Culpeper’s Complete Herbal (London, 1653), p.301

⁴Nagy, Popular Medicine in Seventeenth Century England, p.48.

Palaeography

            Transcribing an Early Modern Household Recipe!

Reading someone else’s handwriting can be a daunting task in any occasion, however, when coupled with old italic handwriting and phonetic spelling the text in front of you may even appear as completely unreadable at first glance. trust me, we’ve all been there! luckily for you I have put togethere some of the most important rules to follow when reading old handwriting. so whether you’ve got an essay due or you simply enjoy looking at old recipes then look no further.

First of all, it is important to look at the text as a whole, this is due to the phonetic spelling which was followed by most people. There was also no standardised spelling of the English language until the 18th century so noting the date of the text can help with identifying specific words. Try to identify the different letters which may sometimes occur in random order. it is also helpful to find out where the text was written as regional accents affected the spelling of words. Sounding out the word in the accent of the author can both fun and helpful so don’t be shy. Identifying the type of text you are looking at can also help to predict which phrases or words are likely to appear. However, if you struggle to identify the word straight away, you can label it as a question mark and come back to it later.

Once you’ve had an initial look at your chosen document you may have identified some emerging patterns between the letters, here are some things to look out for: The writing of ‘Y’ and ‘I’, ‘I’ and ‘J’, ‘U’ and ‘V’, ‘S’ and ‘F’. In the example below you can see what looks like a long ‘f’ in the writing style of ‘please’ and ‘of’. Although these letters look awfully similar they represent ‘S’ and ‘F’ where appropriate so its important to be careful.

Cookery and medicinal recipes [manuscript], ca. 1675-ca. 1750.: folio 27 verso || folio 28 recto

Another important thing to know is the meaning of superscript letters which is represented with a single letter followed by a raised smaller one such as this ‘Wt‘. these are just a shorter way of writing a word with ‘Wt‘ meaning ‘with’, ‘Wth‘ meaning ‘which’, and ‘Mr’ meaning ‘master’. The example below shows how the word ‘which’ may appear in the text.

Cookery and medicinal recipes [manuscript], ca. 1675-ca. 1750.: folio 27 verso || folio 28 recto

Thorn is also important to look out for which is represented by letters such as ‘Y’ which stands for ‘TH’, ‘Ye‘ which stands for ‘THE’ and ‘Yt‘ which stands for ‘THAT’. The example below shows how the word ‘THE’ could be represented in your chosen document. However, it may not be clear straight away which thorn is being used, therefore, it is important to keep coming back to the text with a fresh perspective for further analysis.

Cookery and medicinal recipes [manuscript], ca. 1675-ca. 1750.: folio 27 verso || folio 28 recto

In sources such as recipes, account records, town registers etc numbers can be represented in Roman numerals as the standard ‘I’=’1’, ‘II’=’2’. However, when written in English documents these numbers may look more like ‘j’=’1’, ‘ij’=’2’ etc. This will depend on your particular document. If you’re looking at a will or a similar type of document then understanding the money calculations which were used is a useful tool to have. A Pound is marked by ‘li’/’£’ and is equivalent to 20 Shillings. A Shilling is marked by an ‘S’ and is equivalent to 12 Pennies. A Penny is marked by a ‘d’ and is equivalent to 2 Halfpennies.

Cookery and medicinal recipes [manuscript], ca. 1675-ca. 1750.: folio 27 verso || folio 28 recto

The above example however, shows that there wasn’t a standardised way of writing anything, so to fully understand a text you will have to play around with it, maybe even ask your friend to look over it too, just to make sure you didn’t miss anything. However you choose to tackle this task, make sure to take your time and don’t give up! Happy transcribing.

  1. https://transcribe.folger.edu/transcription.php?id=Transcribathons/EMROC/Va429/Va429.xml&srcid=Va429&sfcid=RF-127340&wid=agne stradomskyte&dir=Transcribathons/EMROC/Va429
  2. https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography/where_to_start.htm
  3. https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography/quick_reference.htm

Aqua Mirabilis

On page five of the V.b.400 “receipt manuscript” a recipe for “Aqua Mirabilis” appears. Aqua Mirabilis can be translated from latin in two ways: the ‘miracle water’ or ‘the wonderful water’. Either way, the name promises something spectacular. To get this miracle water you will first need to take “gallingale cloves cubebes ginger melitele grains cardinomum mace nutmegs of each one graine, the juce of celendac half a pint”. Cloves, ginger, cardamom, mace, and nutmeg are all relatively common spices used in modern cooking but not medicine. “Gallingale” is spelt “galangal” nowadays and is “The aromatic rhizome of certain Asian plants… of the ginger family, used in cookery and herbal medicine”. “Cubebes” are just “cubebs” and are “The berry of a climbing shrub Piper Cubeba or Cubeba officinalis, a native of Java and the adjacent islands; it resembles a grain of pepper, and has a pungent spicy flavour, and is used in medicine and cookery.” “melitele” is “melilot” which is “Any of the genus Melilotus the dried flowers of which were formerly much used in making plasters, poultices” and “celendac” with a little respelling is “celandine”: “Its thick yellow juice was formerly supposed to be a powerful remedy for weak sight.”

Aqua Mirabilis title from vb400

So together these spices and juices, with three pints of water and white wine, make a remedy? Well first you have to distil the ingredients for 24 hours, or more if possible. Then you separate the water from the leftover herbs and you burn that leftover matter into ashes. Then you add rainwater to those ashes, let it sit for two days, drain the water and keep it, add more rainwater to the ashes and let sit again. Finally you drain the water away, throw away the ashes, mix the reserved waters and let them sit over a fire until the water evaporates until you have salt leftover. Mix these crystals with the first water reserve and that is your spirit. Your aqua mirabilis.

According to the book “The virtews are these”:This water can “disolveth the swelling in the lunggs”, “tongues [that] be wounded or perished it mightily composeth them”, “he that useth thy water shall not need to be lett blood”, “it expelleth the Rhum and filleth the stomack, it conserveth a good colour and youth in his estate, it also preserveth the memory, it destroyeth the palsie of the tongue and limbs” and even better “ if one spoonfull be given to one att the point of Death… it retrieveth them” What an incredible miracle cure! Of course, if it did do these things we’d still be using it nowadays and it has sadly become obsolete. I was however interested to find a recipe that I had never heard of for something supposedly so incredible, and was curious to see if anyone else wrote about this concoction or it was a one-book recipe. Surely someone else would have been using this? Both the OED and British History websites list account for Aqua Mirabilis with use going back as far as 1673. In both of those descriptions the same less complex recipe is followed from Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary. This 1755 dictionary that lists Aqua Mirabilis as “The wonderful water, prepared of cloves, galangals, cubebs, mace, cardomums, nutmegs, ginger, and spirit of wine, digested twenty-four hours, then distilled. It is a good and agreeable cordial.” The benefits are not touted as much as in the recipe book but the inclusion in a dictionary means that it was a popular enough remedy around that time to make its mark and have the approval of the author.

Definition from Samuel Johnson’s 1755 dictionary

Aqua Mirabilis also appears in the 1677 Pharmacopoeia translated by William Salmon, still claiming to cure a great many ills, John Locke kept a recipe in his notes that is likely he got from the Pharmacopoeia, and The Lady Sedley’s Receipt Book from 1686 includes a recipe for aqua mirabilis that is “very close to the original prescription”. More interestingly,The Countess of Kent’s Choice Manual of rare and select secrets of physick and chirurgery has two different recipes for aqua mirabilis. The first recipe calls for “Take three pints of White wine, one pint of Aqua vitae, one pint of juice of Salandine, one drachm of Cardamer, a drachm of Mellilot flours, a drachm of Cubebs, a drachm of Galingal, Nutmegs, Mace, Ginger and Cloves, of each a drachm, mingle all these together over night, the next morning set them a stilling in a glass Limbeck.” The second recipe goes as such; “Take Galingall, Cloves, Quibs, Gin∣ger, Mellilip, Cardamonie, Mace, Nutmegs, of each a drachm, and of the juyce of Salledine half a pint, adding the juyce Mints and Balm, of each half a pint more, and mingle all the said Spices be∣ing beaten into pouder with the juyce, and with a pint of good Aqua vitae, and three pints of good White wine, and put all these together into a pot, and let it stand all night being close stopt, and in the morning still it with a soft sire as can be, the still being close pasted, and a cold still.”

Recipe from Elizabeth Gray’s manual

These two recipes are pretty similar to the manuscript one, but most importantly both recipes contain sections of the “virtues” of aqua mirabilis and the Countess of Kent’s list of virtues is almost identical to v.b.400. “This Water dissolveth swelling of the Lungs, and being perished doth help and comfort them, it suffereth not the bloud to putrifie, he shall not need to be let bloud that useth this water, it suffereth not the heart burning, nor Melancholy or Flegm to have dominion, it expelleth urine, and profiteth the stomack, it preser∣veth a good colour, the visage, memorie, and youth, it destroyeth the Palsie. Take some three spoonfuls of it once or twice a week, or oftner, morning and evening, first and last.” Is it possible that both of these receipt books copied down the recipe from the same or similar sources? How interesting that two recipes can have almost identical wording from two seemingly unrelated sources.

So there you have it, aqua mirabilis, the wonderful water, the miracle tonic, guaranteed to save you from death! Willing to give it a try?

Bibliography:

Kent, Elizabeth Grey, Countess of, “A choice manual of rare and select secrets in physick and chyrurgery collected and practised by the Right Honorable, the Countesse of Kent, late deceased ; as also most exquisite ways of preserving, conserving, candying, &c. ; published by W.I., Gent.”, Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership, 2011, <https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A47264.0001.001/1:11?rgn=div1;view=fulltext>, sections 5, 6, 7, [accessed 24/01/2020]

Brockbank, William, “SOVEREIGN REMEDIES: A CRITICAL DEPRECIATION OF THE 17th-CENTURY LONDON PHARMACOPOEIA,” Medical History, 8 (1964), 1–14 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0025727300029057>

“Page View, Page 152.” A Dictionary of the English Language: A Digital Edition of the 1755 Classic by Samuel Johnson. Edited by Brandi Besalke. Last modified: December 6, 2012. https://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/page-view/&i=152.

Nancy Cox and Karin Dannehl. “Aqua – Aqua mirabilis,” in Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820, (Wolverhampton: University of Wolverhampton, 2007), British History Online, accessed January 23, 2020, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/traded-goods-dictionary/1550-1820/aqua-aqua-mirabilis.

“aqua mirabilis, n.”. OED Online. December 2019. Oxford University Press. https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/10011? (accessed January 26, 2020).

“celandine, n.”. OED Online. December 2019. Oxford University Press. https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/29399?redirectedFrom=celandine (accessed January 26, 2020).

“melilot, n.”. OED Online. December 2019. Oxford University Press. https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/116109?redirectedFrom=melilot (accessed January 26, 2020).

“cubeb, n.”. OED Online. December 2019. Oxford University Press. https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/45455?redirectedFrom=cubebs (accessed January 26, 2020).

“galangal, n.”. OED Online. December 2019. Oxford University Press. https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/76220?redirectedFrom=galangals (accessed January 26, 2020).

There is no Distinction Between Cooking or Medicine in Early Modern Cookbooks – Why?

A Doctor, a Herbalist, and a Chef – the early modern ’cookbooks’ have a common theme in that there is very little distinction or separation between the recipes; a recipe for making a Sweetmeat cake would be next to a solution for heat in the face, followed by how to whiten cloth using methods found at home[1]. Similar to how a husbandman was expected to be proficient in many different roles in Graham Markham’s book, the wife of a family was expected to be more than just someone who cooked or was simply the mother of the family as is the case for some modern thinkers. However although this is an impressive collection found in almost all of the early modern cookbooks for women, what it actually shows is that early modern women did not really make the special differences that modern society puts between medicines and cooking; instead they saw it all together as one area of knowledge. How far this was the case and why are some important questions that may help to give insight on the values and mind set of early modern housewives.

[1] ‘Cookery and medicinal recipes [manuscript]’, (ca. 1675-ca. 1750), <https://transcribe.folger.edu/index.php?dir=Transcribathons/EMROC/Va429>. P. 15-17

‘To Whiten Cloth’ – a recipe for whitening cloth using household materials. ‘Cookery and medicinal recipes [manuscript]’, (ca. 1675-ca. 1750),<https://transcribe.folger.edu/index.php?dir=Transcribathons/EMROC/Va429>, P. 17

An early modern wife, as according to Gervase Markham again, was expected to be proficient in main areas of work and expected to be a part time doctor and be able to draw out bones, be able to create medicines ‘for any consumption, and, as some attitudes sometimes never, still be expected to cook ‘puddings of all kinds’.[1] Similar to Markham’s book on what it took to be a good husband, this is a daunting list of things that one woman was supposed to know how to do but again, there are similar considerations to Markham’s other book. Firstly, it is quite unlikely that whoever owned the book would be expected to remember all of it and never touch the book again; rather it is meant to be used as a reference book that can be used when needed and that the reader would only needed a passing knowledge rather than having the detailed understanding that an actual expert would have. Also, it is unlikely that the average housewife would have access to a book like this and that it would be read by middle class petty landowners wives instead. One of the largest things to consider is the literacy rates of women of the time that were almost always lower than similar classed men, often around 90% of illiteracy in most areas.[2] As such the book would have had to have been read to the wives by either their educated husbands or local educated men, and then most likely read to the poorer women that worked for the wife, and by extension her household. All together what these considerations mean is that Marham’s attempt at creating a ‘cookbook’ similar to others at the time did not draw a line between medicine and foods as described earlier; he instead packaged it all together in a way that can provide a refence guide for middle class housewives of the time rather than creating separate books for cooking, herbal remedies etc.

[1]Gervase Markham, The English hous-wife containing the inward and outward vertues which ought to be in a compleat woman … a work generally approved, and now the fifth time much augmented, purged, and made most profitable and necessary for all men and the general good of this nation, (1653), pp. 4-5

[2] David Cressy, ‘Literacy in Seventeenth-Century England: More Evidence’,The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 8, No. 1, (Summer, 1977), p.148

The wife of the house is explaining what needs to be done to a servant near the back of the image. Frontispiece from William Augustus Henderson, The Housekeeper’s Instructor, 6th edition, c.1800.

With the plainer and more common household cookbook, this lack of separation between cooking and medicines is more noticeable and organic. Household cookbooks tended to be things that were passed down through families, with each generation adding new recipes they have found or editing older ones. But across these generations there is still no distinction between cooking for eating and cooking for medicinal or household purposes. Its not until 1853 with Modern Cookery for Private Families by Eliza Acton that the idea of what a modern cookbook is set down, the idea of a reference book that is solely just for foodstuffs with measures and detailed instructions. Before this the majority of cookbooks were still collections of all types of recipes that were vaguely worded.  Even going into the more ‘rational’ minded eighteenth century where there was a greater interest in the professionalisation of areas of study such as medicine cookbooks were still including medicinal recipes.[1] This shows that even though there is definitely a shift towards having a book that is solely about cookery there is still some aspect of the earlier mindset of not separating the cookbooks, only keeping all types of work in the kitchen together.

[1]Hannah Glasse The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy, (1747), p.328

An explanation for this lack of separation however could be one of convenience. Households passing down these cookbooks were simply writing down what they knew worked and what they assumed their families would need to know. They were unlikely to want to leave behind a large number of books all written on separate subjects; they are likely to have preferred to keep it all together for cost, time, and accessibility reasons. Cost wise, it was far cheaper to get one big book of blank pages that could be added to over time rather than a large number of separate books. Time wise it took significantly less time to write short recipes in one book rather than separating them. As for accessibility the issue of illiteracy rates in women shows up again, as it would be easier to get somebody to read out a small section of one cookbook that was needed at the time rather than reading out verses from various books. Despite this however, the fact that even though printing and literacy rates went up which made it far easier to produce these cookbooks, mass produced and handwritten cookbooks continued to make no distinction between cooking food and creating medicines.

Literacy rates of all women in Norwich showing that 89% were illiterate, this was common across England at the time. David Cressy, ‘Literacy in Seventeenth-Century England: More Evidence’,The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 8, No. 1, (Summer, 1977), p.1448

Overall one of the most common elements of early modern cookbooks that could be found in the homes of middle-class housewives was that they were a jack of all trades book. In it would be recipes for food, medicines, and basic first aid. This shows that for the most part there was no real distinction between the preparation of food and the preparation of medicines; they were essentially the same business and it was expected for women to be able to do both. While there are some explanations that this was more due to practicality rather than cultural reasons, the fact that it endured for so long suggests that this is not the case for all cookbooks.

 

 

What Makes a Good Husband: An Early Modern Take

What makes a good modern husband? Most people take the classical view; a husband is supposed to be the breadwinner, the one who works the 9-5 job and supports the family. Occasionally they might do the odd job around the house, but more conservative people will say the sole realm of the husband is the workplace. A more modern take is that while a husband is still expected to work they are also supposed to take an active role in the household – playing an equal role with the housewife in a less rigid men and wife family system.

The early modern husband was encouraged to be far more. Part geologist, meteorologist, chef and carpenter, the early ideal early modern husband should be at least familiar with all of those on top of their farming duties. The ‘English husbandman drawne into two bookes, and each booke into two parts.’ by Gervase Markham, written in 1613, attempted to show the contemporary readers what the ideal husband should strive to be. With advice on ‘how he shall judge and foreknow all kinde of weathers and other Seasons of the yeare’[1] and ‘of several parts and members of the ordinary Plough, and of the joyning of them together’[2] Markham’s book is full of practical advice that while it may not make the average farmer an expert it would at least help to familiarise themselves  with the necessary basics of these areas.

[1] Gervase Markham, English husbandman drawne into two bookes, and each booke into two parts. , (1613), p 4

[2] Ibid p.5

 ‘Farmers harvesting crops’ , Wikimedia Commons/Library of Congress. 1486

It is important to note however that most of the population at the time were illiterate[1] – the average peasant farmer would not be able to read or perhaps even own such a book. Markham himself states that ‘this title of Husbandman is not tyed onely to the to the ordinarie Tillers of the earth’[2]. Only small landowners were expected be true Husbandmen and could become this idealised version of the term. Ordinary workers were not expected to reach such lofty heights. The term Husbandmen is applied to the master of the house rather than the modern meaning of a married man[3], but it is very unlikely that a literate man who independently owned his own land would be a bachelor. As such Markham’s book still serves as a guide for the ideal husband regardless of what term is used. The agricultural elements and the actual educational portions of the books might have been shared with the workers on the farm who could not access the book due to either poverty or illiteracy, but is very unlikely they would be interested or perhaps even shown the sections on etiquette or the ‘election of friends’[4], as it was not necessary for the common peasant.

[1]David Cressy, ‘Literacy in Seventeenth-Century England: More Evidence’,The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 8, No. 1, (Summer, 1977), p.144

[2] Markham, English husbandman, p. 10

[3] C. S. Partridge, ‘Tabular lists from Mr. Redstone’s Calendar of Bury Wills.’, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and Natural History, Vol 13, (1907)

[4] Markham, English husbandman, p.4

David Cressy, ‘Literacy in Seventeenth-Century England: More Evidence’,The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 8, No. 1, (Summer, 1977), p.1448

What all this points to is that the 17th century English society was, naturally, deeply focused on agricultural matters. There is a short section in Markham’s book explaining ‘The Duties and Vertues appertayning to the Husbandman’[1], but only two pages are devoted to what kind of personality and relationships the ideal husbandman should have. The rest of the book is entirely devoted to agricultural matters, primarily related to farming crops and other food sources but in the second portion of the book there are instructions on ‘Of the Adornation and Beautifying of the Garden for Pleasure’[2] which shows that although there was this large focus on production of food there was a growing part of the English higher class that were interested in growing the show gardens that became popular across the 18th and 19th century. Markham’s book can thus be seen as almost an example of the public interests of the time alongside what the society thought of as the ideal husbandman.

[1] Markham, English husbandman,p.4

[2] Ibid p.8

Example of an English pleasure garden
‘ The Grand Walk’, Giovanni Antonio Canal, 1751

A later chapter of the book would help the ideal husbandman to ‘make Grapes grow as big, full, and as naturally, and to ripen in as due season, and be as long lasting as either in France or Spain.’[1] The rather obvious attempts to invoke a sense of patriotism about growing grapes that can rival continental ones is an interesting chapter in the book. Although this is a nice example of the classic anti-foreign mindset that was well established in English society at the time[2], it is rather strange to see it in the context of growing grapes; and in the guide for how to be a good husbandman at that. What this can show is how deeply this element of wanting to be equal or better than the European powers was held by the high educated society. Markham was a member of the nobility rather than being a member of the lower social classes[3] and as such would have been aware of this mood. By extension, this guide to be the ideal husbandman again can act as a guide for not only how to be a good early modern husbandman but also as a way to see the opinions of society at the time.

[1] Markham, English husbandman, p.8

[2] Robert Winder, Bloody Foreigners: The Story of Immigration to Britain, (2013)

[3] Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). “Markham, Gervase”. Encyclopædia Britannica. 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 73

‘Evil May-Day’ riots against foreign communities in London in 1517 London Apprentice, 1852

It’s hard to say what the expectation is approaching a book like this. Most people would not expect there to be such a diverse amount of knowledge, all of it being needed if someone wanted to be the ideal early modern husbandman. On reflection it shouldn’t be a surprise however. The modern idea of a good husband still applies somewhat; that they are the breadwinner and the man of the house who works their 9-5. Early modern England took it a bit more literally and expected the early modern husbandman to be the one making the bread himself, and Markham’s book would be there to help establish what the ideal husbandman to be.

Bibliography

Chisholm, Hugh, ‘Markham, Gervase’. Encyclopædia Britannica. 17 (11th ed.), (1911, Cambridge University Press.)

Cressy, David, ‘Literacy in Seventeenth-Century England: More Evidence’,The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 8, No. 1, (Summer, 1977)

Markham, Gervase, English husbandman drawne into two bookes, and each booke into two parts, (1613)

Partridge, C. S., ‘Tabular lists from Mr. Redstone’s Calendar of Bury Wills.’, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and Natural History, Vol 13, (1907)

Winder, Robert, Bloody Foreigners: The Story of Immigration to Britain, (2013)

Venison or Chocolate

Gifting food in Early Modern England vs Present day

Missed an anniversary? No idea what to get someone for Christmas? Need to make up with a friend? What to do? Simple answer- food! Giving food as a gift has long been a tradition for any occasion. It is either a gift from the heart or can be quick easy option to make someone happy in a rush to find a gift. The meaning behind gifting food has come to hold a far different meaning than it did in the early modern period. This leaves us with the question of has the meaning of gifting changed diachronically? By looking at the importance of gifting food in the Early Modern period, we can compare whether our meanings behind gifting food is still as significant to our society.

Try to cast your minds back to the 16th and 17th century. Life is far different from our own and food is, in some households, meticulously recorded in Account books. In these account books, gift giving appears to be centered around seasons, particularly during New Year, where a rise of gifts are recorded.[1]

This is not unlike our own society at Christmas, but intentions behind the food are not the same. Today we gift and receive to families and friends, in the Early Modern period the biggest group of gift givers are marked as unidentified and must be, according to Felicity Heal, assumed to be tenants.[2] A large number of gifts from the ‘unidentified’ are recorded as capons and peahens items that would be gifted as part of the custom of providing ‘boon’ hens, used to show they expected entertainment in return.[3] Today, we do not give gifts with the expectation of receiving something in return, rather to show our gratitude, which we are grateful for if reciprocated.

Figure 1- Fruit Basket

Throughout the year there are entries of other food types ranging from meats of high-status members of society to fruits from poorer tenants.[4] The differing in food groups is due to societal labelling and seasonality, two things we do not see in a modern society. Two main labels that gifts were separated in to were ‘dietary’ and ‘hierarchy’.

Figure 2- Deer Meat Cuts

Taking venison and capons as the example, we can look at how they are broken down due to an emphasis on what was acceptable to eat in accordance to one’s status and humour.[5] Capons were a common gift from tenants to higher status land-owners and were an example of one of the more nutritional birds, whilst venison, also one of the healthier examples of meat, was gifted from one higher status member to another. [6] Both foods meet the dietary requirements; it is the accessibility of the meats separates them by class.

In comparison, chocolate is a highly gifted item in a modern society that is seen to go against health recommendations and can be gifted across all classes. Whilst certainly less defined than in the early modern period, for the purposes of comparison we will assume that there is still somewhat a visible class system determined by wealth. Gifting chocolate does not reinforce a hierarchy as it is accessible to all, whilst venison does as only members of higher status in the hierarchy can obtain and gift it to those of equal status. In gifting chocolate within a modern society we see a focus on convenience rather than the symbolic intention of gifting in the early modern period.

Origins of gifting come from the hunter gatherer society, where the animal would have distributed; the highest quality section of meat would go to the hunter then as more is given out on a first come first serve basis the portions decrease in quality.[7] By the early modern period and definitely by today there is no longer a hunter gatherer society there is instead a consumer society. It is the growth of the consumer society today that has led to the removal of seasonality in the modern period. Better methods of preservation at the end of the 17th century allowed for easier commercialisation of food items but it did not affect the seasonality of when it was possible to gift them.[8]

Fruits, like berries, would only have been available in the summer months, whereas now they are available year-round. Removing seasonality also removes the foods significance as there is no anticipation to receive it. You can still gift a readily available food item but it holds less meaning. Why? Because without seasonality fruits lose their excitement that was built up waiting for them to be in season. The same can be said for sugars and spices which were originally was only available to high classes is now available to all. There is no longer seasonality of food thanks to both consumerism and shops holding items all year round, in contrast you would have to wait for certain foods in the early modern period. Consumerism today has taken away some significance of gifting certain foods.

Figure 3- Chocolate

Gift giving has changed a lot since the 1500’s evolving alongside society with tastes in gifts changing with trends and availability of new technology. The one staple gift is food even though this has also changed to fit society its basis is still the same. Food is universal and essential to life, it can be used as a last-minute gift or one carefully thought about and lovingly homemade for someone. Some of the meaning behind gifting food has changed, as does everything in society, but I do not think you can say the significance has. Whether it’s a thought through gift or mass-produced item the sentiment behind it and in receiving it stays the same. Today you may prefer to receive chocolate over venison and chocolate is easier to come by then going hunting but both items held the same significance in their own time period. It is safe to say that although the meaning behind gifting food has altered there is no alteration in the importance of receiving it or motives of giving.

Bibliography

Berking, Helmuth, Sociology of giving, (Nottingham Trent, 1999), trans. by Patrick Camiller

Heal, Felicity, ‘Food Gifts, the Household and the politics of Exchange in Early Modern England’, Past and Present, No. 199, (May, 2008)

Heal, Felicity, The Power of Gifts, Gift-Exchange in Early Modern England, (New York, 2004)

Thirsk, Joan, Food in Early Modern England, Phases, Fads, Fashions 1500-1760, (Kings Lynn, 2007)

Figures

Figure 1- https://www.fromyouflowers.com/products/deluxe_fruit_basket.htm

Figure 2- https://www.chartfarm.com/venison/

Figure 3- https://www.friars.co.uk/chocolate-c1/chocolate-bars-c5/lindt-gold-milk-chocolate-bar-p504


[1] Felicity Heal, ‘Food Gifts, the Household and the politics of Exchange in Early Modern England’, Past and Present, No. 199, (May, 2008), p. 49

[2] Ibid p. 49

[3] Ibid p. 50

[4] Felicity Heal, The Power of Gifts, Gift-Exchange in Early Modern England, (New York, 2004), p. 36

[5] Felicity Heal, ‘Food Gifts, the Household and the politics of Exchange in Early Modern England’, Past and Present, No. 199, (May, 2008), p. 57

[6] Ibid p. 57

[7] Helmuth Berking, Sociology of giving, (Nottingham Trent, 1999), trans. by Patrick Camiller, p. 65

[8] Joan Thirsk, Food in Early Modern England, Phases, Fads, Fashions 1500-1760, (Kings Lynn, 2007), p. 133

Le Strange ways of living: An analysis of Jane Whittle and Elizabeth Griffiths work.

When exploring the literature produced by Jane Whittle and Elizabeth Griffiths, one can sense the imagery that these two prominent historians in their field present about Seventeenth-Century life as an upper-class citizen. Following the activities of Lady Alice Le Strange, the two authors break down the household management that Le Strange exhibits into differing sub-sections. During this blog post, I will emulate this structure and give insight and analysis to the literature. Before we break down this text, one thing that is important to know is who exactly wrote this text, and what are their values hold approaching their research. 

Figure 1: A portrait of Alice Le Strange, found on the Eastern Daily Press website

Griffiths admits on her page from the University of Exeter that the Le Strange family, especially Alice had been of interest to her since 1981 when she was researching projects for her Ph.D. With her research, Elizabeth acknowledges, not being complete yet, we as readers of her work can see the passion and dedication to the project that she has spent 38 years on. Therefore, one can assume that with such dedication to one specific area of study, Griffiths factually will be very accurate and knowledgeable about the source.

Professor Jane Whittle on the other hand, also teaching at the University of Exeter, specializes in economic development, work, and gender. This is definitely something to keep in mind whilst reading her contributions to this chapter as the economics of the household and the roles of each of its members are the central theme of this literature

Books and Accounts

Figure 2: A ‘good’ housewife, A 17th Century pamphlet, taken from Martine Van Elk

Immediately when reading this section of the chapter, Whittle and Griffiths commend Alice’s ability to take accounts, even tipping her superiority of management over her husband, tokening her as systematic. This is something that many historians in the field wouldn’t hasten to agree to, with some historians such as Tim Lambert implying that such ‘Gentlewomen’ having multiple roles in comparison to the traditional view of a housewife, even running the household over a steward when the husband was away on business. Although Alice would take on many roles within the household, the main reason for her heavy involvement in estate management is suggested to be her interest in it. But during the chapter, our historians suggest that Alice’s service in the books didn’t necessarily mean she had the power within the estate, due to some women being forced into accountancy by their patriarchal husbands as the marriage was an essential mechanism for survival in this period. With the pair working together in harmony, this brings us onto our next sub-heading.

Servants.

Although Alice’s books are a vital part of the Estate Management of Hunstanton manor, the roles of running the household and estate expand further than the books that she kept. Being a smaller estate than what would be typical of people of the Le Strange’s income. Alice and her husband Harmon were able to manage the entire estate without the cost of ‘high-income servants’ such as stewards. They also didn’t have many servants, making sure their live-in servants had multiple roles such as the coachman also brewing beer. Many servants found themselves as a close member of the family as they would tend to their family all hours of the waking day, Olivia Harris suggests in her literature that 27% of servants were ‘Collateral Kin’. Showing that although there were vast differences in their social status and class, servants were valuable to upper-class families and they held a lot of knowledge about each of the family members. Something that can prove this is by watching Downton Abbey, the relationship that this show indicates between the Master and Servant is one that can grow to be personal and intimate.

Marriage.

Figure 3: A Godly Form of Household Government, by John Dod and Robert Cleaver. Found on Worthpoint

In this sub-section of the chapter, our authors focus on Alice’s marriage with Harmon and how they would seek literature to form a stable and ‘ideal’ marriage. John Dod and Robert Cleaver’s ‘A Godly forme of Household government’ is suggested to be found within their personal collection. The importance that strikes me with this book is that Dod and Cleaver’s material suggests distinct roles within the ‘Micro-government’ of the family. It also commanded the views of marriage for this period, implying that patriarchy was the ideal form of sustaining a healthy marriage. This is interesting to look at from a historians perspective as the whole chapter, Whittle and Griffiths commend Alice Le Strange on her integral role within the estate management, but with the mention of Dod and Cleaver, a learned historian would realize that although she undertook such important roles, the free will was not her own and it was not her decision to take control. Alice was granted these roles from Harmon, she didn’t adopt them. This is further proven by Whittle and Griffiths using the wording of ‘Delegation’ to imply the hierarchy within this household.

Final Thoughts.

I want to finalize this blog post with a thought, with what we have explored within this chapter, how much control did Alice really have? Sure, she controlled many aspects of the estate, for example, keeping the books and accounts, therefore overseeing control of the finance of the estate. But was this not all her own merit? Due to the puritan devotion to patriarchal hierarchy, can we really say that Alice was in complete control? Whittle and Griffiths convey the message that Alice was happy with her many duties but continuously chose to use the words ‘earnt’ and ‘delegated’. So, is the life of Lady Alice Le Strange one of a pioneering woman taking control of the estate and having power, or was her power bestowed upon her by a ‘higher being’?

• Downton Abbey, Robert cheats on Cora, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exNK4l6D9zw>/ , [accessed 12:15, 08/11/2019]
• Exeter University, Elizabeth Griffiths, <https://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/history/staff/griffiths/>, [accessed 11:42, 08/11/2019]
• Exeter University, Jane Whittle, <https://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/history/staff/whittle/>, [accessed 11:50, 08/11/2019]
• Gardiner, Jean, Encyclopedia of Political Economy, (1999), Vol. 2, p843
• Harris, Olivia, Households and Their Boundaries, History Workshop, No. 13 (Spring, 1982), p148
• Hepburn, Louise, New book chronicles the work of a very organised Norfolk woman, <https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/new-book-chronicles-the-work-of-a-very-organised-norfolk-woman-1-4263665>, [accessed 16:29, 08/11/2019]
• Lambert, Tim, Life for Women in the 1600s, <http://www.localhistories.org/17thcenturywomen.html>/, [accessed 12:03, 08/11/2019]
• University of Worchester, John Dod and Robert Cleaver, A Godly Form of Household Government (1598), <https://staffweb.worc.ac.uk/beelzebub/1/dod-and-cleaver%2c-godly-form.html> , [accessed 12:40, 08/11/2019]
• Van Elk, Martine, Discover ideas about Moreton Hall, <https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/295619163014300430>/, [accessed 15:55, 08/11/2019]
• Whittle, Jane and Griffiths, Elizabeth, Consumption and Gender in the Early Seventeenth-Century Household: The World of Alice Le Strange, (Oxford University Press, 2012), pp.26-48
• Worthpoint Editor, RARE 1630 PURITAN JOHN DODD & ROBERT CLEAVER A GODLY FORME HOUSEHOLD GOVERNMENT, <https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/1630-puritan-john-dodd-robert-cleaver-537331774> , [accessed 15:50, 08/11/2019]
• Wrightson, Keith, We are never far from where we were, <https://brewminate.com/early-modern-households-in-england-structures-priorities-strategies-roles>/, [accessed 13:20, 08/11/2019]

Treating a cough … Early Modern style!

Recently I came down with a cough. I know, that sounds so interesting, but I left it untreated, hoping it would go away only now it has shifted onto my chest and is causing my sides to ache from all the coughing so perhaps that wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had.

So I thought I’d take this opportunity to look at some early modern remedies for coughs because who needs modern medicine? Intrigue has to come from somewhere, right? So why not from my own ailments? Let’s look at Receipt Book V.b.400, together.

Looking first at some remedies for a sore throat, the ingredient allum was often repeated.

Recipe from p.111 of Receipt Book V.b.400 (EMROC)

A quick search on the Oxford English Dictionary website told me that allum was an old term for salt. This was reassuring at least. Even now, if you’ve got a throat infection, gargling with warm saltwater still comes highly recommended by the nhs as salt can help fight bacteria and reduce swelling while the warm fluid helps to loosen the mucus. It’s unlikely though that this specific connection between salt and bacteria, was made by early modern recipe writers. Instead recipes were often the result of trial and error, evident in the continued testing and alteration of recipes by younger generations, some are even crossed out entirely if it’s found that they don’t work.¹ If something worked, it was repeated. The use of salt, or rather “allum”, clearly worked with sore throats.

Side note – the prevalence of this ingredient in old recipes could be seen as the basis for the label of ‘gargling saltwater’ as an “old wives tale” in that it literally was just that.

With this discovery in mind and a mental note to double check ingredient names, I continued to look through the book.

The next 3 pages, pp.112-14 are left blank, potentially intended for later additions relating to the mouth and throat issues on the preceding pages. These empty pages tell us something though as they show a desire for organisation. Medicines were not simply written in as and when the author came across them, they were organised in relation to what they treated. Such an organised recipe book would be much easier to use if a family member fell sick as they could flip to the right section and choose from the most appropriate recipes without having to leaf through pages and pages to find something. From these blank pages alone, we can already see a great deal of forethought. Who knew 3 blank pages could say so much?

The next 9 pages are more relevant, pp.115-23, as these include recipes that I could choose from to treat my cough. From the number of recipes available, we can see that a cough was clearly a common ailment leading to the collation of various recipes with the hope that one might just work for the type of cough that was being suffered with. The different variations in coughs also lead to there being many different medicines to treat them all. This variation is visible in the titles of the recipes.

p.116 of Receipt Book V.b.400 (EMROC)

From a focus on stopping phlegm, to a cough felt in the lungs as opposed to the throat to even more specifically phlegm in the lungs when there is pain felt in the sides, there’s one for when it’s accompanied by wheezing, or shortness of breath (I’ll admit I didn’t realise there was a difference) and even a dry cough.

p.118 of Receipt Book V.b.400 (EMROC)

A couple of these titles (above and below) have something else worthy of note in them. Notice the inclusion of the word “wonderfully” in the top one, or “excellent” in the bottom one. These recipes were considered as certain to work then, likely to have been tested by either the author or someone she knew before being given this credit in the title.

p.120 of Receipt Book V.b.400 (EMROC)

A similar implication can be see in the use of the word “approved” in the title on p.120. Approval suggests testing by someone other than herself; it may not say who but they were clearly enough in her esteem to be believed on the efficiency of this medicine before she wrote the recipe down.

I’ll end the suspense and choose a medicine for my cough.

I considered looking at a recipe focused around phlegm as it seemed most appropriate to my current condition but perhaps this is too much information about my cough so instead I settled on one entitled “For the Cough of the Lungs” on p.119. However I also found a recipe 2 pages later entitled “Against the Cough of the Lungs” on p.121. A quick comparison of the two reveals the use of very similar ingredients. Both use rasins, annyseed, sugar and maidenhair (which according to Culpeper, is a plant similar to a fern – ALWAYS double check ingredients because this one confused me – he says that it is good for coughs but should always be used alongside other ingredients as its effects are ‘weak’),² boiled in running water. This mixture is then strained and two spoonfulls are taken in the mornings. The only differences I could find was that the first on p.119 included liquorice whereas the second on p.121 used figs. A couple of questions spring to mind. Why include 2 recipes that are so similar? Did she perhaps forget that she had already written the first? Did she find that figs were a better substitute for liquorice but not enough to discount the first recipe? I turned back to Culpeper, he was so helpful on the topic of maidenhair after all. Liquorice is once again suggested for use when suffering with a cough, but he recommends the use of liquorice, maidenhair and figs together in a drink rather than separately.³ Therefore these recipes may have been put together based on pre-existing knowledge of the benefits of what we might considered were the active ingredients. Perhaps her own testing was what led to their separation between two recipes. It should be noted that the second recipe is more detailed, including a suggestion to clean the raisins, strain the medicine through a linen cloth, and that the user “shall find present remedy probatum oft”. These added details imply she had more faith in second one than in the first as it comes across as more tested.

Either way, I’m not a massive fan of liquorice or figs so I might just stick to my honey and lemon drink.

Notes:

¹Leong, E., ‘Collecting Knowledge for the Family: Recipes, Gender and Practical Knowledge in the Early Modern English Household’, Centaurus, 55, 2 (2013), p. 91.

²Nicholas Culpeper, Culpeper’s Complete Herbal (London, 1653) p.221

³Ibid, p.216

The Importance of food in people’s lives throughout history

Food has always had a way of bringing people together, it means something different to each individual. Throughout history many things have changed or grown however food seems to have stayed the same, gifting food seems is evidently popular in the early modern period, and somewhat this is still apparent in today’s society too, time spent in the kitchen cooking or baking with or for loved ones is still the very much the same. In the early modern period a mother and her children may make her special recipe, and today a mother cooks dinner for her children and families cook together from recipes handed down. Food also has an interesting way of bringing cultures together.
For me personally, food played a very crucial role this summer in terms of bringing together various different cultures. Summer of 2019 I took part in the cultural exchange programme Camp America, whilst working at an American summer camp in Jackson, Michigan for 3 months I was immersed in American culture and I learnt a lot about their food habits as well as learning about traditional foods of other countries like Turkey, Brazil and Poland. We were given 3 meals every day, including dessert at dinner time and it was the meal times where I learnt many things about my new American friends. For starters, the Americans I met put ranch dressing on everything, from salad to sandwiches and pizza, I learnt to love ranch dressing almost as much as they did by the end of the summer! The last week of summer camp, the theme was ‘international week’ in which we celebrated the cultures of the counsellors and children from other countries, and each meal that week was something from one of the many cultures we had, so we had Polish Pierogi and German sausage in hot dogs for lunch one day, and Brazilian style chicken curry for dinner and even their take on a traditional English Breakfast one day. Despite the food they cooked not being the same as we would have at home, it meant a lot to us that they tried to bring a piece of our home country to America, and we got to share our culture through food with our American friends, the same way that they had done with us that summer. This summer showed me how important food to people was and how it is possible to learn about different cultures through food alone.

This got me thinking about food throughout history and what it has meant to different groups of people in the early modern period. Felicity Heal’s article Food Gifts, the Household and the Politics of Exchange in Early Modern England expresses how the food was symbolically used in gifting in Early Modern England. One example of this is Shakespeare’s play Richard III, where strawberries are used as a symbolic gift that Richard had seen in the garden. From around 1480 until the end of the Civil War, food was the most basic form of offering as it symbolised the balance of giving and receiving. Giving food as a gift was seen as one of the highest offerings, especially if the giver had taken the time to grow and harvest the food themselves to give to the receiver. In many cultures food allows relationships to flourish, as Heal’s article says, giving food as a present would have been seen as a token of affection, love and friendship. However, there were also negative connotations with food gifts, sometimes it could be seen as affectionate and neighbourly however it also ended up as a witchcraft accusation for some women, especially if the receiver was suspicious of the gift or felt an ‘evil’ presence surrounding it.
Food in early modern Europe was important, especially to the families who kept recipe books. Elaine Leong’s article Recipes, Gender and Practical Knowledge in the Early Modern English Household discusses how most families had a designated notebook in which they would record the different recipes and note down anything important about it. There is currently a vast historiography of recipe books online meaning that the families shared it with not only each other but with the next generation, and the fact that it was handed down highlights how important it was that they feel they had to share with their descendants. It seems that not much has changed over the years, with recipe books still in existence just in a different format and baking together as a family is still evident in today’s society, I know personally that me and my sister bake brownies cookies and cakes together whenever we can and many other families still have their own recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation, very similar to Early Modern England.
Food also evolved across Early Modern Europe when the kitchen was architecturally designed in houses. Before the kitchen emerged in households, food was cooked in various different rooms, by the seventeenth century, the word ‘kitchen’ meant the specialised word in which food was prepared and cooking took place, where servants worked and all utensils were held (Pennell S, the birth of the English Kitchen 1600-1805 (Locating the Kitchen) pp. 37-57). Food being prepared in one specialised room instead of a multi-purpose room meant that cooking became more domestic and allowed food to be so special to people in the way I have spoken about in this blog.

To conclude this blog, the main theme that I believe is important to note is that throughout history food has not changed in terms of its meanings in different people’s lives. Ultimately, food brings people together, whether it is by giving a friend a food gift, or even different cultures coming together by sharing their food, or families coming together by sharing their recipes and recipe books that have been in the family for many generations. Food has and always will find a way to bring people together.

Stereotypes about the early modern household and the reality

When people think about the early modern household, most think of the stereotypes regarding to gender roles. Even though I took modules on early modern topics before, taking HR650 allowed me to realise some of my thoughts on the early modern household were not necessarily correct. This blog post will look at the stereotypes about gender roles, the spaces/rooms in the household and their purpose, and household hierarchy. I will try to give an example for certain cases which proves the stereotypes slightly or fully incorrect.

  1. Household hierarchy

The household was seen as the husband’s castle, but the household was not organized “towards a rigorous spatial segregation of the sexes”.[1] Instead the lines between household work was blurred, the tasks overlapped between the spheres. [2] The wife did not have as much power as the husband, but her power within the household was still significant. Mistresses had to overtake as the head of the household when their husbands were away, which meant their authority was respected within the household. In addition as Amanda Flather suggests in Gender and space in Early Modern England, most of the time women had the keys for the house/rooms, which gave them the freedom and power to go wherever and whenever they wanted within the house.[3]

Family picture from early modern England
Picture taken from: https://www.elizabethi.org/contents/essays/marriage.htm


After the husband and wife, their children were next in the household hierarchy. Even though they did not have much power, they were still above the servants. After the children in the hierarchy, the male servants (if there were any) were next and lastly the female servants. Female servants had the least power. (Plus they could be assaulted by their masters too) Servants did not have any privacy as they did not own the keys for their own rooms, which meant their master and mistress could walk into their room if they wanted to.

  1. Gender roles

 The stereotypes of early modern gender roles are usually about how women belonged in the kitchen, mostly working within the household, and not having any power in their marital relationship. Some primary sources suggest the opposite however. As the example of Alice Le Strange’s household records show us, wives could handle money, even sort out some businesses. She noted their financial situation; how much money they earned, what did they spend that money on, basically about the movement of money within their household. She wrote about everything related to the household.[4]

Pages from Alice Le Strange’s record book
Image taken from: https://norfolkwomeninhistory.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/lest-bk15.jpg

Furthermore it was not only Alice Le Strange dealing with the financial situation of the household, since women had the keys, they most likely knew where the money of the household was stored. Women also payed bills and rent, (even sold goods,) which means they did not only do the domestic tasks.[5] This proves the theory of how a marriage in the early modern times was more an economic partnership rather than a love based relationship.
In addition Alice Clark’s research suggests that in the pre-industrial economy when many businesses where operated in the household, women had a chance to take part of the agricultural work and trade.[6] The borderlines between men’s and women’s jobs were blurred, everybody was part of most tasks.

  1. Rooms/spaces of the household

The size and the numbers of the room within a household depended on where the house was located. Houses in towns and on the countryside looked significantly different, especially their layout. Based on the drawing found in The English Husbandman, the kitchen and other food preparation rooms (either for their own consuming or to sell products) were one third of the whole household. These rooms were clearly not open to visitors. But surprisingly not only women and servants went into these rooms, children and husbands went into them as well. From the dining parlor (marked B on the picture below) there was a room for the mistresses’ use (marked D on the picture below). The reason why I am pointing that out is because according to Gender and space in Early Modern England all sexes could enter all rooms.[7] Even though some room names included their owner, it might have been used by everyone living there.

The ideal house plan by Gervase Markham, The English Husbandman (1613)
  1. Spaces within the household and their purpose

As mentioned before there were no gender specific rooms in the household, the lines were blurred. For example when we think of a kitchen, we associate the space with women and servants. Even though it was the place where women and servants actually worked together, everybody in the household could come and go. Moreover, some husbands/men actually were interested in cookery. There was a discussion about this topic in one of the seminars which I found very interesting. The discussion was about how not all elite women kept records of the household, sometimes their husband took over. They could add small changes to some recipes as well. Before taking this module I would never have imagined men taking an interest in cookery or recipe noting in this time period.  Some liked to experiment, which means they were welcome in the kitchen and even used it. Interestingly since medicine making and cookery were similar to the processes of practicing chemistry, at this age women were naturally in the “scientific field”. Even though women most likely had more knowledge on the subject, only men could publish their discovery, such as Henry Baker’s observation of the blackcurrant jelly to cure sore throat. This is another example of how women were associated with medicine and healing, but it was still only men being able to publish their discoveries.

In conclusion it can be said that even though husbands/masters were the head of the household, their mistress/wife had more power than the stereotypes let us believe. Spaces within the household were not gender specific, for example men did go about the kitchen too. In addition men actually took part in cookery and recipe books even though the stereotypes suggest those were female task.

Bibliography

Flather, Amanda, Gender and space in Early Modern England (Woodbridge, 2007).

Herbert, Amanda E., Female alliances; gender, identity, and friendship in early modern Britain (New Haven, 2014).

Markham, Gervase, The English Husbandman (1613).

Whittle, Jane and Elizabeth Griffiths, Consumption and gender in the early seventeenth-century household: the world of Alice Le Strange (Oxford, 2012), Chapter 2.

…….

[1] Amanda Flather, Gender and space in Early Modern England (Woodbridge, 2007), p. 40

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid. p. 75

[4] Jane Whittle, Elizabeth Griffiths, Consumption and gender in the early seventeenth-century household: the world of Alice Le Strange (Oxford, 2012), Chapter 2.

[5] Amanda Flather, Gender and space in Early Modern England (Woodbridge, 2007), p. 47

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid. p. 43

A plum cake: (A ‘slight’ modern adaptation to an old classic)

my version of a 1725 plum cake

welcome library Debora Branch’s book recipe by Lady Backs for a plumb cake  https://wellcomelibrary.org/item/b1874350x#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=26&z=0.0591%2C0.468%2C1.0916%2C0.6968

I came across a recipe for ‘A plum cake’ by lady Backs in Debora Branch’s recipe book dating back to 1725 and I felt inspired to recreate it. However, while studying the ingredients list, I have found that it is not as straight forward as it appears to be. This meant that after some considerable research, some minimal adaptations had to be made to the original recipe, but I did follow the methodology as in scripted.

Ingredient list:

  • 2 pound of flour   – 907g
  • Quarter pound of sugar – 113g
  • Half an ounce of mace- 14g
  • Cloves
  • nutmeg
  • 11 eggs- 8 whites
  • Quarter pint orange flower- 142ml
  • Half pint of ale yeast- 284ml
  • Pound and a quarter of butter- 566g
  • 3 quarters of a pint of cream- 426ml
  • 3 pounds of currants – 1.360kg

Firstly I have to address the fact that although this is a plum cake, the ingredients list does not contain any plums. The recipe does however call for 3 pounds of currants, so I took the liberty of looking up the definitions of the two in the oxford dictionary which I have demonstrated below.

‘Plum is the edible fruit of the tree Prunus domestica (family Rosaceae), which is a fleshy drupe of variable size, usually having purple, red, or yellow skin with a dull powdery bloom when ripe, a sweet pulp, and a flattish pointed stone. Of the many varieties, the sweeter and juicier kinds are used as dessert fruit and are dried as prunes, while more astringent types are used in cooking and in making jams and alcoholic drinks.’https://0-www-oed-com.serlib0.essex.ac.uk/view/Entry/146028?rskey=qVeI43&result=1&isAdvanced=false#eid

Currants on the other hand are raisins or dried fruit prepared from a dwarf seedless variety of grape, grown in the Levant; much used in cookery and confectionery. currants can also be a small round berry of certain species of Ribes called Black and Red Currants. Currants were introduced into English cultivation some time before 1578, when they are mentioned by Lyte as the Black and Red ‘Beyond sea Gooseberry’. They were believed at first to be the source of the Levantine currant; Lyte calls them ‘Bastarde Currant’, and both Gerarde and Parkinson protested against the error of calling them ‘Currants’.https://0-www-oed-com.serlib0.essex.ac.uk/view/Entry/46089?redirectedFrom=currant#eid7552580

In this case, as well as with other plum cake recipes of the time ‘Plum cake’ refers to a wide range of cakes made with either dried fruit (such as currants, raisins, or prunes) or with fresh fruit. Plum cakes made with fresh plums came with other migrants from other traditions in which plum cake is prepared using plum as a primary ingredient.https://bakeryinfo.co.uk/news/archivestory.php/aid/1848/18th_Century_plum_cake.html

I also came across another ingredient referred to in the recipe as ‘orange flower’, unsure of what this was I consulted similar recipes for plum cake at the time as found a couple of examples of an ingredient called orange flower water such as the example shown below and is most likely referring to orange ‘blossom’ water. 


The Dudley book of cookery and household recipes 1909

Orange Blossom Water was a very popular flavoring in the 18th and 19th centuries in American and English cookery. It is derived from the distillation of orange flowers from the Seville Orange tree or other varieties of orange trees. The use of orange blossom water in cookery comes to the west from North Africa, The Middle East, and the Mediterranean. The flavour of this distilled water is flowery but not too overpowering.http://atasteofhistorywithjoycewhite.blogspot.com/2014/10/cooking-with-orange-flower-water-orange.html

Because I couldn’t get my hands on orange blossom water I instead opted to use the zest of 3 oranges, although it may not have achieved the same effect, neither of the ingredients is too overpowering so I don’t think it strayed too far from the original outcome.

 

 

 

 

 

Another error that I encountered was that the original recipe calls for ‘ale yeast’ this would be easily accessible in an early modern household because it was common to brew your own beer at home. However, I instead used bakers yeast in my cake because it more readily accessible in supermarkets today. this meant that instead of using half a pint of ale yeast I used 14 grams of bakers yeast as this was the correct quantity per the amount of flower I used and I mixed that into half a pint (284ml) of water to create a similar effect.

lastly, the recipe calls for mace which I did not have and doesn’t specify how much nutmeg and cloves to use so because mace and nutmeg have a very similar flavour, I used 18 grams of nutmeg to make up for the two. Along with 4 grams of cloves which I ground up into a powder.

In the end I mixed all the dry ingredients together and then all the wet ingredients together before throwing everything into one big.. big bowl and combinng it all together. I let it proof twice to let it rise, this was done before and after I added all my mixed dried fruit and I left it to bake on 180c for 45-50 mins before turning the oven down to 110c for an extra 10-15 mins. I took my cake out of the oven and let it cool down completely before serving.

 

 

 

 

All Good Things Must Come to an End – Concluding Blog Post

Over the course of this project, my colleagues and I have used George III’s menus as a lens to assess various aspects of the royal court and life in the late eighteenth century. Our work stemmed from transcribing these menus, and as such has allowed us to shed light on unexplored aspects of life in Georgian England. These menus, which offer a daily display of the court’s food, include people of note such as equerries and named servants, which allows for a deeper investigation into George’s court. In using the menus and further resources then, the project’s themes can be analysed and explored, particularly in how they offer an insight into life in the Georgian court and into George III as a person.

A bust of Dr Willis in Greatford, Lincolnshire. By Joseph Nollekens

Inspired by the royal menus, aspects of the Georgian court, such as those staff that accompanied the king to Kew, and Kew Palace itself, have been well explored. For the court, the menus can allow for an insight into some of the main players in George’s life and their interactions with each other and the king. In this, further reading of the diaries of Fanny Burney and writings on Dr Willis offer insights into the relationships between these two and the rest of the royals. Noting the king’s home, George’s presence in the Kew Palace helps to contextualise the royals in their location and their relationships, particularly as the king was moved to Kew to treat his madness. Together with the staff too, this allows for a glimpse into what the conditions for those in the kitchen were like, particularly as the kitchens in Kew Palace have survived until today! This shows then how valuable the menus are as a way to begin viewing life in George’s court, proving useful to begin interpreting court relationships, such as during the Kings treatment at Kew. Though as an entry to exploring the Georgian court, the menus are not without shortcomings. Without further reading around the menus for instance, little insight can be gained into the king’s time at Kew, with only those attending the royals such as Burney and Willis offering some perspective into life in George’s court.[1] Aside of the personalities in court though, the menus offer a view into George himself, presenting him with a depth of personality rarely seen.

By exploring the king’s hobbies and his favoured culinary habits, the use of George’s menus offers a more human view into a king so often caricatured as a lunatic. In his hobbies, namely gardening and hunting, depictions of George create an image of a more relatable king with a love of agriculture and the kingly sport of hunting. [2] Meanwhile, in his culinary habits, viewing George’s menus can offer an insight into what was available regarding seasonal  foods, though those studied for this project were largely from winter. In this too, readers can also guess what the king’s preferred foods were, should they wish to read through all of the king’s menus such as his fondness for French cuisine. [3]

Vol-au-vents are among the many French dishes that can seen in the George III’s menus

Viewing the king’s medical history can also give an insight into George himself. Retrospective analysis of the king’s illness can offer an insight into what ailed him from a modern medical perspective. Meanwhile, the role of Dr Willis in aiding the king allows for an insight into the treatment George received and what ideas regarding ‘madness’ in the period were. In all of these instances the, the royal menus have allowed for a broad look into George III as a man, while also displaying how he was viewed and treated by others. In his illness too, his treatment helps show how the king fit into medical ideas compared to the rest of his subjects. In all of these occasions though, the issue arises of George only being presented by other people, making this view somewhat impersonal. This is likely due to his constant presence in the limelight, where many would scrutinise the king on a daily basis for his hobbies and his health.

From these examples then, it is clear that using George’s menus for a project was of great value in exploring such a broad area of history. By offering insight into an array of contemporary themes and ideas, the menus grant a personal insight into life in the royal court, even allowing for events to be explored to the day using other literature.[ In this too, the people associated with the menus can be explored too, as such offering a more in depth view into the life of George than could be thought possible by simply looking at what the king ate.

[1] Fanny Burney: The Keeper of the Robes, https://drbp.hypotheses.org/890; Dr Willis: The Cure to the King’s Madness or his Personal Torturer?, https://drbp.hypotheses.org/1016

[2] King George III: Farmer and Hunter, https://drbp.hypotheses.org/868

[3] British Cuisine is too French, https://drbp.hypotheses.org/873

Bibliography:

Burney, Frances, The Diary and Letters of Madame D’Arblay, Vol. 2 (London, 1891)

Burney, Frances, The Diary and Letters of Madame D’Arblay, Vol. 1 (Boston, 1910)

Brooke, John, King George III (Tiptree, 1972)

Historic Royal Palaces, The Royal Kitchens at Kew https://www.hrp.org.uk/kew-palace/history-and-stories/the-royal-kitchens-at-kew/#gs.8cxtda,

Unknown, Farmer George and His Wife (c. 1780s) https://www.rct.uk/collection/630059/farmer-george-his-wife

Rowlandson, Thomas, King George III returning from hunting through Eton (c. 1800) https://www.rct.uk/collection/913717/king-george-iii-returning-from-hunting-through-eton

Scull, Andrew, Madness in Civilisation (London, 2015)

LS9-226_0060, January 31, 1789

Dr Willis: The Cure to the King’s Madness or his Personal Torturer?

Earlier in the year, I transcribed a number of King George III’s menus from February 1789. In each instance, the title of ‘Dr Willis’s servant’ appeared, prompting me to investigate who this Dr Willis was. With this motivation too, I decided to explore Willis’s life and the treatment he conducted on the king, viewing this in the context of late eighteenth-century medicine. This idea of medicine was largely based on older religious and humoral ideas, shortly before the medical revolutions of the nineteenth-century, and as such appears alien compared to more modern treatment. In exploring Dr Willis, his rise as a physician and his appearance in George’s household will be explored, while his treatment of the king will be evaluated regarding contemporary medical ideas. In this too, the damage done to the king by Dr Willis will be recognised, but only insofar as his actions were in-line with the period’s medical practices.


Born to the minister of Lincoln Cathedral in 1718, Francis Willis was raised to be a religious man. He graduated Oxford University with an MA in 1741 and, having returned to study medicine, gained a medical MD in 1759. Between these years, Willis had married and had turned their home into a mental asylum, and would later go on to help found the Lincoln General Hospital in the 1760s. In 1788, aged seventy, Willis was summoned to court to aid the king, under Lady Harcourt’s recommendation, and began his work in December. Willis was well liked by many at court, such as Fanny Burney, for his manner and wit, but was seen as a quack by other royal physicians. By 17 February 1789, the king was seen to have been cured, and Willis’s job was done. He remained in court for a month after, to keep an eye on the king, and would return to Lincolnshire with a sizeable pension. In later life, Willis would help treat the queen of Portugal for her madness, no doubt aided by his reputation for aiding mad monarchs. Having retired from aiding the royal court in 1801, sending his son to help when the king would relapse, Willis would continue to practice medicine until his death in 1807, aged 89.

Dr Willis is noted here in George’s menu from January 1789 during their stay at Kew

In his service to the royals, Dr Willis was seen as a man of experience for his previous medical work in Lincolnshire, and aided the king as such. In this, the contemporary methods Willis used to treat the king were paired with other methods of psychological aid, meaning that the two parted on good terms despite Willis’s treatment. Though this is surprising considering the treatment George received. The King was tortured and abused in the name of ‘curing’ his madness and, while shocking by modern standards, this treatment was common in treating those deemed ‘mad’. Though simply stating that Willis’s methods were torturous is not enough to understand what the king underwent. In looking into the medical ‘aid’ Willis conducted, compared to medical knowledge in the period, an insight into what George endured is clear.

 

 

A portrait of Dr Willis by John Russel from the same year as the menu above

While by no means malicious, Willis’s treatment of the king was definitely harmful to his overall condition, though it was not uncommon for the period. For treatment, the king would regularly be bound in a chair and gagged, while suffering a wealth of mental and emotional abuse in the form of Willis’s ‘lectures’. In other instances, the king’s legs would be blistered to draw out bad humours, and would even be confined to a straightjacket if he were to remove the bandages from the wounds. George would also even be beaten by one of Willis’s assistants, perhaps even the one mentioned in the royal menus! Though compared to other cases of dealing with madness in the period, the king’s treatment was not out of the ordinary.


In madhouses, where the majority of the mentally ill were treated, conditions were as bleak as what the king endured, with cases such as William Belcher’s offering a harrowing example of treatment for the ‘mad’. As such, George received the same treatment, with Willis even stating that he would draw no distinction in treatment between the king or any other patient. In this then, while the king’s treatment may have been torturous, they were not uncommon in the context or done maliciously, as proven by the positive relationship between George and Willis. Despite this though, the treatment was not wholly effective, perhaps even delaying the king’s recovery from illness and damaging him overall. Furthermore, Willis’s treatment had no long-term effectiveness, with the king’s madness returning the next century and being permanent as of 1810.

“bound and tortured in a straight-waistcoat, fettered, crammed with physic with a bullock’s horn, and knocked down, and declared a lunatic by a Jury that never saw me…”

Belcher’s description of his treatment, Andrew Scull, Madness in Civilisation (London, 2015) p. 139


From this therefore, it is clear to modern audiences that Willis’s treatment was indeed harmful to the king by modern standards, though in his own context Willis acted as one would have with the knowledge they had. Indeed, Brooke’s analogy of Willis being no more cruel than a contemporary dentist removing teeth without anaesthetic speaks volumes about ideas of medicine, and of Willis in the eighteenth century.

Bibliography:

Brooke, John, King George III (Tiptree, 1972)
Burney, Frances, The Diary and Letters of Madame D’Arblay, Vol. 2 (London, 1891)
Clarke, John, The Life and Times of George III (London, 1972)
Hibbert, Christopher, George III: A Personal History (London, 1998)
Porter, Roy, “Willis, Francis” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2012)
Scull, Andrew, Madness in Civilisation (London, 2015)
Smith, Leonard, Peters, Timothy, “Introduction to ’Details on the Establishment of Doctor Willis, for the Cure of Lunatics’ (1796)” in History of Psychiatry, Vol 28 (3), (September, 2017)

LS9-226_0060, January 31, 1789

British Cuisine is too French

King George III’s dinner menu, 1789, 9 December

Despite the animosity between the British and the French in the times of King George III, the royal palate became rather fond of French cuisine. Dishes like ‘Des Pomme de Terre en gratin’, ‘Gateau de Mille feuille’, and ‘Cotelets des Poularde glac’ were listed in the royal menus of December 1789, as is the case for many of the wealthy.

Although this fad only really gathered steam in the nineteenth century, it does not come as a surprise that the royal household, with their wealth and proximity to Continental influence, should be trendsetters in their time. There were French eating houses, and French cooks were highly valued and considered a necessary presence in the kitchen of any “respectable Country Gentleman’s household”.[1]

French influence could be observed in both ingredients and methods of food preparation, such as meat that is fricasseed or ragoued, or served with sauces in particular. However, not everyone was as impressed by French cuisine. Hannah Glasse denounced its excessiveness, lamenting “I have heard of a Cook that used six Pounds of Butter to fry twelve Eggs, when every Body knows, that understands cooking, that Half a Pound is full enough, or more than need be used…so much is the bling Folly of this Age, that they would rather be imposed on by a French Booby, than give Encouragement to a good English Cook!”.[2] However, she also included plenty of French, or French-inspired dishes in her own cookbook. This derision of French cuisine was probably not unique to Glasse, for such extravagance could not be afforded by the less-than-wealthy and not to mention, there was a burgeoning sense of nationalist pride to be taken in British cuisine.

Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, 1747

French cuisine was not the only foreign influence to be found in eighteenth century England, where trade, immigration, and imperialism had brought all kinds of marvels.

Tea, coffee, sugar, spices had been introduced to the British diet, not without a keen awareness of their originating countries.[3] With the introduction of these new-fangled ingredients, the meaning of food grew to become representative of their cultures. Recipes for non-British dishes such as German ‘sour-crout’, Indian ‘pellow’ (pilau), and ‘China Chilo’ flourished as more and more Britons developed a taste for the exotic, but at the same time, the rivalry between national dishes grew ever stronger.

British food was exalted for its simplicity and plainness and roast beef became the country’s national dish. As Howes and Lalonde describes it, for some, “to eat British food was to affirm one’s participation in the British nation in a more resolutely self-conscious way than could have been the case previously”.[4] For others, foreign food was simply too costly, and they continued to subsist on ‘traditionally’ English fare which was much more affordable.


[1] Emma Kay, “Britain’s Own French Revolution”, Dining with the Georgians: A Delicious History (Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing Limited, 2014).

[2] Glasse, “To the Reader”, pp. III.

[3] Troy Bickham, “Eating the Empire: Intersections of Food, Cookery and Imperialism in Eighteenth-Century Britain”, Past & Present, no. 198 (2008), pp. 71-109, http://www.jstor.org/stable/25096701.

[4] David Howes and Marc Lalonde, “The History of Sensibilities: Of the Standard of Taste in Mid-Eighteenth Century England and the Circulation of Smells in Post-Revolutionary France”, Dialectical Anthropology 16, no. 2 (1991), pp 125-135, http://www.jstor.org/stable/29790373, pp. 128.