Category Archives: Non classé

Response to The Mystery of the Elf Hoof

So, we’ve come to the end of our university project. Our website is finished, and we are almost ready to graduate – scary stuff. If you haven’t seen the website yet, you really should, it’s awesome (no bias here at all). My section was dealing with the weird and wonderful that can be found in Baker’s recipes, and talking about whether she meant what we thought, whether she was actually trying these recipes and if people were using supernatural style ingredients in their cooking.

On the initial draft I got a bit carried away, and ended up being far too specific about an individual ingredient. It was largely a response to Lisa Smith’s post, discussing whether or not Baker was using elves feet in her recipes.

On page 102 recto of Baker’s book she provides a recipe to help convulsive fits in children, which featured the ingredients a dead mans skull and elves feet. Specifically the hoof of an elf that lives in the mountains, preferably with ten claws on one of his feet.

While not completely impossible, it is unfortunately unlikely that Baker’s recipe originally called for actual elves hooves. Historian Lisa Smith wrote a blog post about what she thinks Baker may have been eluding to with this mysterious ingredient. Her theory concludes that Baker was referring to a type of herb – suggesting that elecampane or mandrake are the most likely culprits.

Courtesy of Wellcome Images

Elecampane can also go by the name of elf dock, or elf wort, which already suggests a connection between the plant and elves hooves. The plant was used for a lot of medical recipes, and there is even a variety that grows specifically in the mountains. The roots even (supposedly) look a little like claws. The problem with this is that elecampane is generally used for whooping cough, and to soothe colds rather than being associated with epilepsy or convulsions. In Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician (originally published in 1653) he describes the uses of elecampane as:

“The fresh roots of Elcampane preserved with sugar, or made into a syrup or conserve, are very effectual to warm a cold windy stomach, or the pricking therein, and stitches in the sides caused by the spleen; and to help the cough, shortness of breath, and weezing in the lungs. The dried root made into powder and mixed with sugar, and taken, serves to the same purpose, and is also profitable for those who have their urine stopped, or the stopping of women’s courses, the pains of the mother, and the stone in the reins, kidneys, or bladder; it resists poison, and stays the spreading of the venom of serpents, as also putrid and pestilential fevers, and the plague itself.”

Well the uses are certainly varied, however do not mention being useful for seizures or the falling sickness. Judging by Baker’s many recipes for convulsive fits we can guess that it was quite prominent at the time, so if elecampane was being used to help seizures it likely would be mentioned here. Baker’s recipes are generally fairly typical for the time so it is unlikely that she would be using this herb in a way no one else was. So what about mandrakes?

Mandrakes have a long history of being associated with magic, even today they appear in the Harry Potter franchise. Sorry, J.K. Rowling did not come up with the idea that mandrakes scream when they are pulled from the soil, the idea of the mandrakes curse has existed for hundreds of years. Because of their human-like shape people believed that when they were pulled from the ground mandrakes would scream and kill whoever was near. There were some ways around this, strangely featuring hungry dogs.

Credit: Wellcome Library

Mandrakes were used in herbal remedies, including to help epilepsy so it already seems more convincing than elecampane. However mandrakes tend to grow in swampy areas with rich soils, rather than in mountains as instructed by Bakers recipe. They were also viewed as dangerous, and gave quite powerful hallucinations. Bearing in mind that this is a recipe intended for children would a mother be inclined to use a root that is known to be dangerous even in the 17th century? While people were known to use opium to calm children at this time, the dangerous effects of this were not as widely known.

One of the problems with assuming that Baker was referring to a herb is that way the instructions are phrased it makes it sound like some sort of animal. The main reason for this is because it refers to the ‘elves’ living in the mountain – not growing. While this may seem pedantic, when you are trying to work out what exactly someone who lived 400 years ago is thinking sometimes pedantry is necessary. When referring to where you can find plants elsewhere in the book Baker always seems to say grow, so why the sudden change to lives? Lives suggests some kind of animal rather than a plant.

For me was what pushed me to eliminate elcampane from the possibilities. But why does it not completely eliminate mandrakes as a possibility? Well, this is because of the myths surrounding the mandrakes. As stated earlier, mandrakes bear resemblance to human figures, and because people believed that they screamed when pulled up it is likely they thought mandrakes were living creatures rather than plants. Looking at old images and diagrams of mandrakes seemed to confirm this, as they are generally drawn as human with extra planty bits. This could explain why it is described as having lived on a mountain, rather than grown. The claws would be parts of the root.

But if mandrakes are meant to be humanoid, then that fits in with the foote and perhaps the clawes, but what makes less sense if the houfe. One comment on Lisa’s blog posts points to the fact that elks were often used to help seizures.

In A Compleat History of Druggs, on the section on elks it reads:

“he is very subject to the Falling-Sickness; and as soon as he is attack’d with this disease, he fails not to put his left foot to his left Ear, to cure himself thereof; which has given Occasion to the antients to believe that the Elk’s claw, or the Horn upon the left Foot, was a specific for the Epilepsy.”

Now we have a living creature, with hooves and claws which were used as medicine to help cure epilepsy. While Elks generally live in woods and forests they are found on mountains, which again fits in with the description given by Baker. The only thing that gives cause for concern is that she states the best kind have ten claws, and even if you count split hooves as two claws it still doesn’t quite match the description. There were also no Elks found in Britain at this time, and the Eurasian variety tended to live in forest areas rather than in the mountains.

However, because elks have such a strong association with curing epilepsy and they are sometimes described as having claws it seems most likely to me that this is what the recipe originally called for. I think she was given this recipe by someone who had connections to the continent, and unfortunately mistranslated one word.

It needs that extra ‘something’

When working on 17th century manuscripts you occasionally come across strange and unusual ingredients. There are often things you have not come across, especially if like me your culinary knowledge stems mainly from watching Jamie Oliver or MasterChef. These can be interesting and helpful, especially in expanding your knowledge of botany, for instance hart’s-tongue, which while it sounds disturbing is actually a type of fern. Sometimes, however, you come across an ingredient that makes you feel a little bit ill.

harts-tongue-fern-c-ray-w
Hart’s tongue – a lot less disturbing than it sounds

This was my experience when recently transcribing one of Bakers recipes. The previous page had the type of ingredients I have learnt to expect from her medical recipes, namely a variety of plants and spices – though a lack of honey which seems to be in an awful lot of her instructions. Cheerfully typing away I started on the next page, a “precious medisen for aches” – seems standard enough. The first line of the recipe however disturbed me (animal lovers look away now), as it called for a “whelpe”.  That’s right ladies and gentleman; all you need to do to get rid of that ache after a hard day’s work is kill a puppy. “the fatter the better” Baker suggests.

puppy
I’m not kidding, here it is.

I love animals, I always have. My boyfriend’s dogs are basically now mine (much to his objection) and I just can’t imagine deciding to drown a puppy to get rid of an ache. It was a stark reminder that while recipes can transcend time periods, the ideals with those recipes are always changing.

Don’t worry, puppies aren’t the only morbid ingredient Baker recommends in her recipes. For instance if your child is having convulsive fits one ingredient you need to acquire is the powder of a dead mans head.

Did the medical recipes within early modern recipe books represent early modern medicine and medical understanding?

Having just completed my online exhibition text on the use of medicinal recipes within the receipt book of Margaret Baker, I was researching how the medical recipes within Baker’s book compared with medicinal understanding in the time period. This involved studying the medical recipes in Baker’s book and determining whether the ingredients used in her medical recipes were the same ingredients that would have been recommended by physicians of the time in order to treat a particular disease or ailment. The result of this examination was that Baker’s medical recipes were heavily comparable to the recipes of early modern physicians.

As a result of this research, I began to wonder whether the medical recipes present in other early modern recipe books would tie in as closely with early modern medical knowledge. Therefore, the goal of this blog post will be to examine the medical recipes from a different early modern recipe book, one written by a Mrs. Elizabeth Hirst and dated 1684. From this research, I will hopefully gain a better understanding as to whether Margaret Baker’s medical knowledge was an exception to the norm, or whether it was common for women of the household to possess extensive medical knowledge in early modern England.

An example of one of the recipe’s in Hirst’s recipe book

The first recipe from Hirst’s book is a recipe entitled “To stop Rhewme in the eye” (Hirst 31). Rhewme (or rheum) is a watery thin mucus that discharges from the eyes and crusts together.  The recipe instructs the user to make a plaster from several herbs, as well as frankincense and the white of an egg, and apply it to the temple of the patient. In JohnGerard’s Herball, he explains that the user can make a remedy to “keepeth backe the watering of the eies” using rofeleaves, frankincense and the white of an egge (Gerard 1211). Hirst’s recipe is clearly very similar to Gerard’s, although she substitutes the rofeleaves for several other herbs. Nonetheless, her recipe conforms to the medical knowledge of the time, and Culpeper’s Pharmacopoeia seems to suggest that the herbs are not really necessary at all. Culpeper says that “Frankincense… being applied to the temples, stops the rheum that flows to the eyes” (Culpeper 74). This demonstrates the Frankincense was the key ingredient that Hirst needed to include in her recipe, and her inclusion of this demonstrates her knowledge of early modern medicinal practice.

The second recipe that I will be examining is a much simpler recipe that is designed “to cure a feaver” (Hirst 37). The recipe simply instructs the user to infuse rhubarb in white wine, and make the patient drink it in the morning. Hirst explains that this will allow the passing of stool and help trapped wind to escape. In Pharmacopoeia, Culpeper states that rhubarb “sleeped all night in white wine” will “purgeth but gently” (Culpeper 11). This purging is reffering to the passing of bile in the stool. Once again, this demonstrates that Hirst appeared to possess extensive medical knowledge, and this particular recipe shows that she is not only aware of the recipe but also how the remedy works.

A final recipe that I will explore is a recipe “to take away pimpl’s or redniss in ye face”(Hirst 39). Hirst informs the reader to take a small piece of brimstone and mix it with white wine to form a cream, which should then be applied to the skin of the patient. Once again, we can find a very similar recipe in Gerard’s Herball, Gerard’s version uses white wine vinegar as opposed to white wine, and adds in the root of an iris as well as the brimstone. Gerard states that the recipe “taketh away sun burning, freckles/spots, the morphew, with all deformities of the face”(Gerard 1341). However, Brimstone appears to be the ingredient that actively heals the skin, as Culpeper states that “brimstone… takes away leprotics, scabs and lech” (Culpeper 42), all three of which are skin issues. Once again, Hirst demonstrates that she has an excellent understanding of medicine, and that the recipe she has used conformed to the medical theories of her contemporaries.

Although a rather small sample size, all three of the recipes that I selected from Hirst’s recipe book were recipes that were thought to be scientifically accurate in the early modern period. This demonstrates that Hirst appeared to have an excellent knowledge of medicine for a woman of her time. Whether the recipes are her own or not, she was clearly very well read and likely studied the medical field of her own volition. This evidence, supported by the study I have already conducted on the recipes in Margaret Baker’s book, appears to demonstrate that early modern women (or at least the ones who published recipe books) were quite knowledgeable when it came to medicinal practise and theory. It appears that Baker’s aptitude for medical recipes was not an exception to the norm, but rather, at least in the case of Hirst, her peers possessed an equal or perhaps even greater understanding of medicine than Baker did.

By Felix Wills

Bibliography

Culpeper, Edward, Pharmacopoeia Londinensis, or the London Dispensatory  (Royal College of Physicians) London, 1720

Gerard, John , The Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes (Sidney Thomson Fisher) London, 1636

Hirst, Elizabeth , Receipt Book (Wellcome Library MS-2840) London, 1684

 

The Use of Medical Recipes by Women Outside of the Household

When one examines the recipe books of Early Modern Europe, it is not a challenge to find a plethora of recipes designed to cure certain ailments and heal the human body. This makes it clear that a large number of housewives had an interest in medicine and its practice, and inside the home a number of women probably actively engaged in the practice of medicine. However, outside of the household the story was rather contrasting. It was not that women did not want practice medicine outside of the household, but rather that many men disapproved of it. Male physicians and apothecaries actively sought to limit, and later even ban, the women who wanted to practice medicine. An example of this was the Paris Surgeon’s Guild, who after 1484 would only accept the widows of former Master Surgeons as members of the guild, and later in 1694 women were outright barred from membership. One could assume that this systematic persecution of women in the medical field resulted in the non-presence of female medical practitioners outside of the home, but this would not be true. There were still women who chose to practice medicine outside of the home, and this blog post will examine two sources that demonstrate the vital role that some women played in Early Modern medicine and healing.

Saint Elizabeth cares for a patient in a hospital in Marlburg, Germany (1598)

The  first source that will be examined is a letter written by Lady Mary Wortley Mortagu to a woman named Sarah Chiswell (a friend in England). The letter was written in April 1717, and concerns Montagu’s observation of the process that was used in Turkey to treat Smallpox. Montagu was living in Turkey as she was the wife of the British ambassador to Turkey. As Montagu is writing to a friend, I see little reason as to why she would lie about the events that she describes in her letter, and therefore they are most likely factually accurate.

Montagu starts of her letter by saying that “the Small Pox so fatal and so general amongst us is here entirely harmless by the invention of engrafting“. The Turkish, through a process that was known to Montagu as ‘engrafting’, but was more commonly known at the time as variolation have managed to totally eradicate the harmful effects of the disease. Montagu explains that there is a set of old women whom “make it their business” to carry out the procedure. Although it is not clear whether this means this women pursued this venture for profit or simply for the good of the people, it is clear that these elderly women carried out the treatment. Montagu then describes the process of ‘engrafting’ in great detail, frequently referring to the old woman throughout. For example, “the old woman comes with a nutshell full of the matter of the best sort of small-pox and asks what veins you please to have open’d“. This implies that the old woman has a good understanding of the anatomy of the human body, further emphasising her knowledge and involvement in the practice of medicine. Montagu also makes it clear that these women do not perform medicine just within their household, but rather that “every year thousands undergo this operation“. Obviously there are not thousands of people within these women’s households, and so it seems they were treating the community at large. Towards the end of the letter Montagu mentions that she wants to have the process carried out on her son, demonstrating the trust she has in the medical knowledge that these women possess.

The second source is another letter, this time written by a man named J. Hare to the famous Early Modern physician Hans Sloane. Hare was a vicar for the Parish of Cardington in Bedfordshire, England. The letter describes a man who falls ill and is subsequently treated by a local woman. Hare assures Sloane of the accuracy of his claims, saying “I affirm and in Testimony have subscribed my name” at the end of the letter. As Hare is a man of God, a testimony from him almost guarantees the authenticity of his statement.

The letter starts out by describing that a man within a household where Hare was staying had had an ear pain for two or three days, and upon a female servant searching the man’s ear she noticed small maggot like creatures within the ear cavity. Hare then says that a woman from the neighbourhood was sent for. According to Hare, the woman “applyd to it ye steam of warm milk“. The woman was sent for from the local area, and so was most likely already known within the area as a healer and practitioner of medicine. The woman applies the treatment to the patient, and a little later Hare manages to pick 24 maggots out of the man’s ear, although some still remain that were too far into the ear to reach. Hare then says he “left him for about an hour… & then returning to him, I could at first perceive nothing but a think bloody matter but by degrees they worked outward and I pickd out nine more“. Hare states the next day, the man was better and complained of no more pain. It seems the treatment the village woman had applied was likely responsible for the  uptake in the man’s condition, as he had complained for several days of pain and suddenly no longer felt any. This exhibits the medical knowledge that this woman possessed, and gives us further evidence that women practiced medicine outside of their own homes. Interestingly enough, steam and is still known today to be an effective treatment for ear pain. Steam helps to clear the ear drum of pus and wax, which was most likely the bloody substance that Hare describes, and this seemed to push the maggots out of the patient’s ear.

Both these sources demonstrate that in the  Early Modern period, some women were not only demonstrating exceeding medical knowledge, but they were also actively practicing outside of their home environment. Women were likely responsible for healing a large number of people from within their local communities, and even though they often were not allowed to become licensed medical practitioners, this did not stop them from trying to make a difference.

The Early Modern Household and Public Health

For the past few weeks, my classmates and I worked extension on the UoE Baker project, which explores different aspects such as Beauty, Supernatural and Medicine and so on in Margaret Baker’s recipe book. I must say, I am quite proud of our final product and I found the research of how people such as Baker, constructed their recipes to be very enlightening. Exploring Margaret Baker’s medicinal recipes made me think of how the general health care system in early modern England was at the time as opposed to the medical help and recipes offered by domestic family household recipes.

General hospitals in the early modern Europe were inherited from the medieval system which was designed to care and cure. However, the treatment received in these hospitals ranged from non-existent to quite substantial and only catered to the curable poor and not sufferers of contagious diseases.[1] It was only after hospitals began to become medicalised over the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, that it expanded its medical services.

One question that popped into my head was, why did the common household contribute to public health and care? Well, the answer was religion. The origins the hospital was rooted in early Christianity which advocated a mission to save people’s souls. Jane Crawshaw attempted to illustrate how the contribution from families to the public health uncovers a system and variation of medical practices.

“Domestic expertise, alongside bonds of kinship and a sense of obligation and charitable care within the parish, has, therefore, been shown to have influenced women’s work” [2 ]

Most places, especially the countryside were not able to receive extensive care until the eighteenth century. [3] Luckily, people practised medicine in rural areas. Public health was considered a collective effort and everyone should do their part to help the poor. Hannah Woolley noted a noble woman, who she belonged to, had a ‘Charitable temper to do good amongst her poor neighbours’. [2] Clearly, this would’ve been a great support network for medical care.

Hannah Woolley, A supplement to the Queen -like closet.

Through this, we can understand the motives behind the making of these medical recipes by people of a noble background or from certain neighbourhoods. In Hannah Woolley’s recipe book, she endlessly lists the different types of wounds and illnesses she treated in her neighbourhood. Apparently, her skills were ‘often exercised’ amongst her fellow neighbours in Newport Bond, Essex. She claimed she was trusted to treat

” Agues, Feavers, Small-pox, Consumptions, and many other diseases; in all which, unless they were desperately ill, their parents trusted me without the help of any Physician or Chirurgion: likewise the neighbours in eight or ten miles round came to me for cure.” [4]

( An Early modern neighbourhood)

With epidemics such as the cattle plagues, particularly in rural areas, spreading at an alarming rate, the government hired physicians, practitioners and midwives to montior health in the local area and provide care which used as a warning system.[5] I guess one way to look at it is they were unofficial GPs (general practices) for local health care before it could be legitimised. This definitely helped me contextualise the link between women, the early modern household and domestic/medical recipes.

The idea of neighbourhoods having that one person they could go to and trust when access to general health care provided by the state was not accessible or available, deepens the understanding of a sense of community that seemed to be clearly embraced in the early modern period. Its quite nice to think that medical recipes were not just inherited or constructed and made out of sheer interest in medicine but was for the purpose of providing healing and care for their own local community and those who couldn’t even afford it.

Bibliography:

[1] Lindemann, M., Disease, and Medicine in ed. Scott, Hamish M.,  The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern European History: 1350-1750, Volume 1, Oxford, 2015) p.109

[2]  Woolley, H. A Supplement to the Queen-Like Closet… (London, 1674) p.10

[3]  Lindemann, M., Disease, and Medicine in ed. Scott, Hamish M., The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern European History: 1350-1750, Volume 1, Oxford, 2015) p. 113

[4] Woolley, H. A Supplement to the Queen-Like Closet… (London, 1674) p.12

[5] Lindemann M., The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern European History: 1350-1750, Volume 1, Oxford, 2015) p.113

Baker’s many Agues

By Abbie Burnett

As a class we have been drawing to the end of our recipe books project. Our website exhibition on Margaret Baker’s seventeenth century manuscript has launched, and I am certainly proud of how far we have come and how much we have learnt about the digital world of early modern recipes.

Baker’s manuscript has offered us many topics to research and explore, and it was after a last leaf through of its pages on the Folger website that I realised a recipe title reoccurred numerous times: “For An Ague”.  I personally have transcribed pages in which an ague recipe is featured, however I did not realise then that variants of this recipe were not just included once or twice, but eleven times throughout the manuscript. 

Receipt Book of Margaret Baker folio 38r, ca. 1675, MS V.a.619. Folger Shakespeare Library

So, what is an ague? It is not a word in which I was familiar with, at first I thought it may have been a miss spelling of the word ache, but this seemed unlikely as Baker includes recipes for aches within her book and so she is obviously aware of its spelling. So I searched for the term ague in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to discover that an ague was a form of feverish sickness, most likely to be malaria. According to this article, the term ague remained in common usage in England until the nineteenth century. My curiosity about these recipes was truly ignited; Malaria- in England?!

This then begs the question, why would Margaret Baker, who we know to have lived in the midlands of the UK, require so many recipes to treat Malaria? Today malaria is common in warmer environments close to the Earth’s equator. The Centres of the Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  sites locations for highest transmission of the disease in Africa south of the Sahara and in parts of Oceania. You wouldn’t contract it in England- one benefit o
f living on such a rainy island.

This map shows an approximation of the parts of the world where malaria transmission occurs in the 21st-century.

For Baker living in seventeenth-century England, this does not seem to be the case. The inclusion of eleven recipes to treat an ague suggest that the disease was frequently affecting her or someone within her social circle. Baker even includes a recipe to treat a pregnant woman with an ague.

Receipt Book of Margaret Baker Folio 81r, ca. 1675, MS V.a.619. Folger Shakespeare Library

Looking into the history of this disease I discovered an article on the British Medical Journal website titled Malaria in the UK: past, present, and futureFrom it I learnt that the disease was once indigenous to the UK, (and may once again be due to global warming but that’s an issue for another blog post…). It was only in the late nineteenth century, when the use of antimalarial drugs and improvements in the standard of living, that transmission of Malaria declined and eventually disappeared in England. Other evidence of agues prior to the nineteenth century can by found by looking to the famous William Shakespeare. Shakespeare lived from 1564 to 1616 and included agues in 8 of his plays! In the Tempest, one character diagnoses another with an ague and attempts to treat him with alcohol:

“. . . (he) hath got, as I take it, an ague . . . he’s in his fit now and does not talk after the wisest. He shall taste of my bottle: if he have never drunk wine afore it will go near to remove his fit . . . Open your mouth: this will shake your shaking . . . if all the wine in my bottle will recover him, I will help his ague.”[1]

Alcohol and opiates were commonly used to suppress the shaking fevers of malaria. Interestingly, the recipes that Baker includes to treat an ague differ quite a lot. Some recipes include alcohol as their main ingredient, like this one on (f.66v) made of simply the ‘white of 2 new leade eggs… and putt to it a spounefull of aqua vite’ to be mixed well and drunk before the ‘fite douth come’. While others include more varied ingredients such as this one on (f.75r) with a mix of herbs, plants and medicinal waters, and then created by a more complicated methodology- distilling.  However there are some common ingredients in baker’s ague recipes. These include; liquor/ ‘aquavitie’, ‘reddest sage’, ‘eall’, and ‘ealder buds’.  A couple of Baker’s recipes are specifically for ‘quarten’ agues, the OED defines this as a fever  that reoccurs every fourth day. This was surely a very unpleasant form of Malaria, which Baker would have been keen to heal.

Receipt Book of Margaret Baker Folio 105v, ca. 1675, MS V.a.619. Folger Shakespeare Library

The fact that Baker had eleven recipes to deal with the problem of agues suggests that not one individual recipe was particularly effective in curing malaria. It is possible that once the patient stopped taking their medicine their symptoms returned. Alternatively, Baker’s family may have been especially susceptible to agues or many different strains of the disease may have plagued them. This would have been common knowledge to Baker’s friends and neighbours, and may explain why a recipe was contributed by John Reedman “for an ague all though thay have had it longe”.

Receipt Book of Margaret Baker Folio 126r, ca. 1675, MS V.a.619. Folger Shakespeare Library

The inclusion of ague recipes in Baker’s manuscript have helped reveal another aspect of the seventeenth-century world in which she existed. I am glad to have had that last leaf through of its pages. I’m sure whoever next takes up the task of continuing our work on Baker will continue to expose parts of her world this way. They will discover as I have, that her recipe book is much more revealing than it at first appears.  

[1]Paul Reiter, ‘From Shakespeare to Defoe: Malaria in England in the Little Ice Age’ Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal 6 (2006). 

The Digital Recipe Project – A Finale!

When i decided to choose The Digital Recipe Project back in the summer when i was deciding what third year modules to take on for this year, I did not think that I was going to grow such a bond with Margaret Baker, a seventeenth-century English housewife. Initially, I was very excited to be working with an entire recipe book written by a woman over 300 years ago and to have the chance to transcribe it into a digital format, like a professional historian! However, as the module progressed, Baker’s life and the society of which she lived in was becoming even more intriguing to me and I couldn’t help but want to find out more!

Initially, the idea of this module having such a vast digital component was exciting to me, being a 21st century young adult, the internet is at the centre of everything, and I thought I would have easily got the grasp of blog-writing and website-making. However, the reality was not as straight-forward, and trying to write an informal blog post after two and a half years of formal historical essay-writing, was a lot more difficult than I initially thought. Despite this, (and despite the 9am starts) this module was a lot more intimate than any of my other third year modules – with such a small class, it was nice to get to know Lisa a lot better than we usually would with any other seminar leader, and it made us all feel a lot more relaxed in conversation and debate within our seminar. Not only this, but every seminar really was a conjoined effort, and each week was a different topic and theme to investigate.

It is amazing how much you take for granted being brought up in the 21st century, where medicines and treatments are constantly developed, and recipes are shared by foodies more and more on social media such as on Instagram and Facebook. Sometimes the recipe book is disregarded, and the recipe for any dish can be with you in 10 seconds with the help of Google. It was not this easy in seventeenth-century England, these recipes for both food and medicine were circulated around the country normally through word of mouth, or through migration. It is interesting now, especially, how disregarded medicinal recipes have become, and that is something that I myself was guilty of, in our first seminar: ‘What is a recipe?’. Maybe I was ignorant in just thinking that a recipe book was just that.. a book for food recipes. However, recipes had a much broader meaning, nowadays you would immediately link a ‘recipe’ with food, however, I do not think the seventeenth-century English believed in such structural organisation and conformity. A recipe book did not mean simply food, like a prayer book did not necessarily mean it only included prayers (which i mention in my last blog).

Sitting opposite my own bookcase which is full almost solely of recipe books, from Nigella, to Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein to Delia Smith, there is not really any other recipe book other than for anything other than just food dishes. From witnessing the use of alchemy widely in Margaret Bakers seventeenth-century recipe book, I was beyond excited when I found a book on my shelf with ‘Alchemy’ written in big writing on the spine of the book.. however, looking more closely ‘Alchemy in a Glass, The essential guide to Handcrafted Cocktails’ was not what I had expected to come across. Its interesting however, this book is actually giving you instructions of how to make cocktails, so its as much a ‘guide’ as it is a recipe book! Wow, this module really has got me thinking more about the definition of a ‘recipe book’!

Yet, this even got me thinking further, how such meanings and emphasis become placed differently throughout the years, although we speak the same language, we don’t necessarily speak the same meaning – and this is something I especially had to take into consideration when I first begun transcribing Baker’s book.

To close this final blog post, which is more of a reflection, or a transcription of my own train of thought, I wanted to mention a book that my grandmother recently let me borrow named ‘Natural Wonderfoods’. Although it is not a recipe book, it lists nearly every fruit, vegetable and meat product, and explains on a double page spread the importance of these different types of within healing, immune-boosting and for fitness-enhancing.

The introduction of the book itself, gives acknowledgements to our ancestors, and it is amazing that I open the book onto the introduction page (that i never look at) to such mention of the fact that knowledge of these healing foods were known centuries ago (Maybe its Baker herself that made me open it, saying: ‘See! I was right about all these healing foods in my recipe book!).

Looking at ‘A medycine for the eies’ (14.v. 15.r.) sage leaves, fennel leaves, honey and egg were used. Looking in this glorious book, all the completely natural foods are written: sage, fennel and eggs (which can be used as face masks to help dry skin!) I will leave you all with the pages and explanations of both sage and fennel to show you just how knowledgeable and clever these seventeenth-century women were! Thank you Margaret Baker et al!

 

 

 

 

 

By Florence Hearn.

Bibliography

Bartimeus, Paula, Haigh, Charlotte, Merson, Sarah, Owen, Sarah, Wright, Janet, Natural Wonderfoods, (London 2011)

‘& thise will helpe you by the grace of god’ – God in the recipe?

It was not until I spotted multiple mentions of God through Baker’s book, that i began to consider Religion to Baker and her seventeenth-century English society. Multiple questions began to run through my mind that i was itching to find the answers to: Was Margaret Baker very religious? What was her relationship with God? Why has God been so widely mentioned in a book full of recipes for food and medicines?

The recipe ‘to putt a waye a heate; burninge; or ague’  is closed by Baker stating that ‘thise will helpe you by ye grace of god’. (V.a. 619, 65.v.) [1]

Margaret Baker’s recipe book, V.a.619

Immediately I was intrigued as to why Baker specifically included God and his grace at the end of the recipe for the medicine, and with this, i turned to the books to investigate. With the help of Lisa, I came across a chapter titled ‘Providence’ in Keith Thomas’ book: ‘Religion and the Decline of Magic’, which actually gave me insight and a lot of answers as to why Baker mentions God in such a way. Thomas not only mentions that all post-reformation theologists taught that nothing could happen in the world without God’s permission, but that the actions of their lives were actually the “working-out of Gods purpose”[2]. Baker was mentioning God at the end of her recipes not because she was simply saying ‘God will help you’ but because she understood that she needed God’s own permission, or ‘grace’ in order for the medicine to successfully work.

Baker does not only use this sentence of the grace of God a couple times within her recipe book. She actually uses it almost twenty times in regards to various healing medicines and remedies, which can underline that she did understand and believe in the workings of God.

 

Various mentions of God’s grace in Margaret Baker’s recipe book, V.a.619

So why does Baker rely on God to heal the patient, when she has already conjured up an entire treatment to treat them herself? The idea of Providence can be used to answer this. The definition of Providence in the Oxford English Dictionary is ‘The foreknowing and protective care of God (or nature, etc.); divine direction, control or guidance'[3],it was as if she was pleading for God’s blessing, not just over the ill, but over the ingredients used to make their treatment. It could be understood that God was an important ingredient in her recipe; it is all well and good producing a medicine, but what is the point if God does not provide his own care and guidance?

There is a disregard of any idea or belief in chance, that if the medicine worked, it was solely because God wanted it to work, not because of the great quality of the ingredients. It would have been their faith in God and his divine right to control the effect of the medicine, and ultimately, the life of the ill – whether he deserved to survive, or deserved to die.

This was an idea that many Protestant believed, that there was no natural explanation for the epidemics or disasters that struck them, for example: the plague, floods and fires [4] were direct punishments from God, attacking them for their poor morality. For example, in this pamphlet published in the time of the Great Plague, we see the Londoners pleading God to ‘have mercy’ over them and the ‘mortality of pestilence’ of which the ‘Almighty God.. raigned upon them’. This underlines the idea that these people sincerely did believe that God controlled everything, pleading Him to lessen the severity of the mortal plague. The seventeenth-century people placed explanation in the hands of God. Your house caught on fire? God was punishing you. The plague came to your city? The Heavenly Father was punishing you – and only the most pious, dedicated Christian who pleaded for God’s grace would receive protection and cure.

If one recognised Gods grace, if one was a good, religious person, God would supply his care and would forsee the healing of illness and/or disease.

Initially, I found it intriguing that God was included even within recipes to heal, however, the mixture of recipes and faith were not uncommon, and women even wrote sermons or hymns within them (Although Baker does not). Seventeenth-century recipe books seem to have had the flexibility to be a type of personal prayer book – one page could note a prayer, song or sermon, and the next could be a recipe for a meal. This is something we see in Martha Hodges book, and in between pages of ‘Psalm 126’ and  ‘A Preparation to Prayer’ lay a simple recipe of how ‘to make a Cakesfoot Pie’.

‘Psalm 126’ – p. 50 of Martha Hodges book. MS2844                      ‘How to make cakesfoot pie’ p.  52 of Martha Hodges book. MS2844

‘A Preparation to Prayer’ p. 53 of Martha Hodges book. (Wellcome Library, MS2844)

This explains that it was not actually so strange to mention God within recipe books, whether it is a sentence, or three pages long, and in fact, Bakers book was extremely mild in comparison to other recipe books like Martha Hodges. This does not however, mean that Baker was not a religious woman, as she could have held other religious pages on loose leaf pages [5].

My own curiosities of religion within Bakers book led me to understand that this was not out of the ordinary – that recipes and religion could combine into one, whether its within the same notebook, or within the same recipe. The grace of God was important to each individual, in every part of their life, even down to medicine and food. Piety amongst women and within recipe books were actually common, and who are we to question the religious expressions of a seventeenth-century woman?

By Florence Hearn.

 

[1]  Baker, Margaret. Receipt Book of Margaret Baker, ca. 1675, (MS V.a.619. Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C.)

[2]Thomas, Keith, Religion and the Decline of Magic, (London, 2012), p. 90.

[3] www.oed.com/view/entry/153450?rskey=26WBTp&result=1#eid

[4] Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, p. 97.

[5]Sherman, William, Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England, (Philadelphia, 2010), p. 75.

Bibliography

Baker, Margaret. Receipt Book of Margaret Baker, ca. 1675, (MS V.a.619. Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C.)

Hodges, Martha. Reciept Book of Martha Hodges, ca. 1675, (MS2844. Wellcome Library, London, United Kingdom)

Thomas, Keith, Religion and the Decline of Magic, (London, 2012)

Sherman, William, Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England, (Philadelphia, 2010)

www.oed.com/view/entry/153450?rskey=26WBTp&result=1#eid

If Looks Could Kill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

[3] Ibid.p.9.

[4] Ibid.p.29.

[5] Ibid.p.38.

[6] Ibid.p.40.

[7] Ibid.p.41.

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

Bibliography

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Circulation of Knowledge and Recipes

In class we discussed the circulation of knowledge and whether the way in which people, in early modern England, exchanged recipes should be considered a patronage or currency. We tried to understand how and why knowledge and recipes, particularly medicinal ones, was being circulated. Medicine and cures were becoming very important and were a popular field of study for people such as Jesuits in Spanish America during this time. The main questions that I pondered over were: how did knowledge and recipes circulate between different people and groups? Was it used commercially or socially? How was its reliability ensured?

There was a brief debate as to whether the system of exchanging knowledge should be considered patronage or a currency. As Alex noted, if one was to go to a doctor with a medical problem, they would pay for the doctor to inform them of the ‘recipe’ on how to get better and get the prescribed medicine. Leong and Patrell agreed that there was a medical marketplace. However, it began filled with ‘smart consumers’ who became informed on which remedies they could make themselves rather than racking up a pricey bill and being exploited by doctors. Therefore it could also depend on the spheres in which information and recipes are being shared. There is an obvious commercial value, but there is also a social aspect in people offering advice to one another, in other words, patronage. Its certainly another valid way of describing how people traded and exchanged knowledge and recipes of domestic medicine socially and used them as gifts or advice for relatives and social acquaintances.

Leong and Pennell agree that most recipes collected were traded between friends or family on social visits. For instance,

“[a] total of 12 recipes, from a number of occasions were collected at [Archdale] Palmer’s own residence in Wanlip. Some of the donors were labelled as ‘cousins’, while William D’Anvers of Swithland, the father of Palmer’s daughter-in-law, is typical of the extended family who exchanged recipes with him during social visits.”[1]

It was also not unusual for recipes that were exchanged to be presented as part of a dowry or wedding gift in Italy. [2] This made me realise that recipes were considered very valuable and important which is why recipes were also inherited by family members.

Additionally, Leong and Pennell observed that one third of the 6554 recipes they analysed came with the name of the donor or ‘author’.[3] This reminded me of the whole idea that in society, the esteemed reputations of things such as movies gain more attention and popularity through word of mouth. Clearly, factors such as who someone was able to treat would be influential in this process. For instance, Sir Theodore de Vaux, a fellow of the Royal Society, was physician to King Charles II and the dowager Queen Katherine. By important figures such as them communicating with important and influential people in parliament and aristocratic circles , his effective recipes would have spread amongst them and add to the reliability of his medicinal recipes. However, we agreed that this would only go so far as it would’ve been local and not an effective way to circulate knowledge on a mass scale compared to writing letters and keeping collections. In addition,

“[r]ealising the value of that information – that is, converting it into medical knowledge – was not simply about knowing how to construct and operate a still, but about knowing what and who was trustworthy in provision of the raw data of recipes.”[4]

Physicians such as Sir Théodore Turquet de Mayern successfully championed the effort to produce the first official pharmacopoeia and was one of many who were considered trustworthy. The fact that cures and different recipes were tried and approved by other respected fellows of the Royal Society ensured that they were more reliable. For instance, ‘philosophical transactions’ were made between physicians and fellows of the Royal Society. In ‘An Account of the Diseases of Doggs, and Several Receipts for the Cure of their Madness’, Theodore de Mayern, T. and Theodore de Vaux offer four different approved cures for the bite of a Mad Dog. Clearly, knowledge was circulated in a support system amongst professionals.

 

Mayern, T. and T. de Vaux, ‘An Account of the Diseases of Doggs, and Several Receipts for the Cure of their Madness…’ Phil.Trans. 16 (1686) pp.408-409

Personally, I think the circulation of medicinal knowledge was and is more like a currency that is part of a wider support system. As people in early modern society believed cures and recipes for various purposes was special and worthy enough to be exchanged as gifts or should be inherited shows us how valuable it was to them. It also shows how people supported each other as it added to each other’s care and health. Therefore, early modern medicinal knowledge and recipes were used socially more than commercially.

References:

Leong, E. and S. Pennell, ‘Recipe Collections and the Currency of Medical Knowledge in the Early Modern “Medical Marketplace”’, pp. 133-152 in M. S. R. Jenner and P. Wallis, eds. Medicine and the Market in England and Its Colonies, c. 1450-1850 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)

[1] E. Leong,  and S. Pennell, ‘Recipe Collections and the Currency of Medical Knowledge in the Early Modern “Medical Marketplace” (Basingstoke, 2007) p.139

[2] Ibid p.141

[3] Ibid p.138

[4] Ibid p.149

The Creation of the Kitchen

By Tracey Cornish

The reading for this week’s seminar was a topic that I had not thought much about before.  Just as I had never really thought about recipes and their meaning in the early modern period before I began studying this module.  The topic in question is kitchens.  I suppose I had thought that kitchens had always existed in the way in which we think of kitchens now.  When you visit castles or stately homes there is always a kitchen where the hustle and bustle of daily life took place.  The kitchen in Hampton Court is indeed huge.  It was built in 1530 and was designed to feed at least 600 members of the court, entitled to eat at the palace, twice a day.

The kitchens had master cooks each with a team working for them.  Annually the Tudor Court cooked 1240 oxen, 8,200 sheep, 2,330 deer, 760 calves, 1,870 pigs and 53 wild boar.  That is without mentioning the chickens, peacocks, pheasant and vegetables which were also on the menu.[1]

Hampton Court Kitchen plan

Interestingly, Hampton Court Palace also has a chocolate kitchen.  The royal chocolate making kitchen which once catered for three Kings: William III, George I and George II is the only surviving royal chocolate kitchen in the country. Recent research has uncovered the precise location of the royal chocolate kitchen in the Baroque Palace’s Fountain Court. Having been used as a storeroom for many years, it is remarkably well preserved with many of the original fittings, including the stove, equipment and furniture still intact.[2]

 

Chocolate Kitchen in Hampton Court Palace

The only original 17th century kitchen to be preserved is at Ham House. In the basement  there are several small rooms comprising of the kitchen, the scullery, the servants hall, a laundry, several pantries, a wet larder, a still house, a wash house and a dairy room. All these rooms would have had servants working in them and would have made the workings of the kitchen easier as it would have provided room to prepare and cook food.[3]

Original 17th Century kitchen

Of course, this is an example of a palace so what about everyday houses?  Peasants in the middle ages lived in one room which served as a room for cooking, general living and eating.  It consisted of a hearth stone, a fire with a pot of the top.  Sara Pennell suggests in The Birth of the English Kitchen 1600-1850 that kitchens in the early 1600’s were ‘unfixed and at times contested’[4] and that it wasn’t until the mid-nineteenth century that kitchens were ‘distinctive yet integrated spaces in the majority of households.’[5] Food could be prepared in any room with a table and could be cooked in any room with a fire.  However it was the need to provide space for the works of the kitchen and other ‘food’ rooms such as pantries, larders and sculleries which reallocated eating to its own distinctive space.[6] Pennell argues that histories of the domestic interior and its evolving design neglected the kitchen and yet arguably the kitchen is and was an important room in a household. [7]

Margaret Baker never mentions in her recipes as to where the production of the recipes should take place, one just imagines that she is in her kitchen trying out the recipes (the ones which she did try) and writing them down.  Of course, the fact that her kitchen would have been nothing like our kitchens today should also be taken into account if a reproduction of one of her recipes takes place.  As Florence mentions in her  blog,  Replicate, Authenticate and Reconstruct Baker uses ‘learned knowledge’ in her recipe book.  There would have been no modern oven to set to a certain temperature as they would have used a fire.

17th Century Kitchen

Evolution of the kitchen was linked to the invention of the cooking range or stove and the supply of running water.  The living room began to serve as an area for social functions and became a showcase for the owners to show off their wealth.  In the upper classes cooking and the kitchen were the domain of servants and the kitchen was therefore set away from the living rooms.

The kitchens of elite households were not originally in the basement.  In fact basement level kitchens were almost unheard of in England before 1666.  Yet by 1750 kitchens were found in the basement.  One could argue this was to keep the kitchen staff out of sight of the main household and to ensure that the kitchen smells did not overwhelm the main living accommodation.

A 17th Century Distiller

So what about the medical and scientific recipes?  Many kitchens or basements formed laboratories for people to experiment and write down their medical recipes.  It was popular for higher class women to have stills and alembics in their kitchens for making essences. .  Even the lower classes would gather herbs together and make remedies in their kitchens.

Experiments took place in many places such as coffee houses, laboratories and universities but the private residence was a popular place to experiment.  Many renowned scientists used their kitchens as a ‘laboratory’ including Frederick Clod who was a physician and a ‘mystical chemist’ who used his father in law’s kitchen to experiment. [8]

It could be argued that the design of kitchens have come full circle with many people preferring to have open plan living areas which include the kitchen with people enjoying socialising whilst cooking and enjoying all those cooking smells.

References:

[1] http://www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/visit-us/top-things-to-see-and-do/henry-viiis-kitchens/#gs.R6K2E18 accessed 20th March 2017.

[2] http://www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/visit-us/top-things-to-see-and-do/chocolate-kitchens/#gs.tJhj8mM accessed 20th March 2017.

[3] https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ham-house-and-garden accessed 20th March 2017.

[4] Sara Pennell, The Birth of the English Kitchen, 1600-1850, (London, 2016) p.37.

[5] Ibid p.37.

[6] Ibid p.39.

[7] Ibid p.38.

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Clod accessed 21st March 2017.

Images:

Hampton Court Kitchen plan – http://www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/visit-us/top-things-to-see-and-do/henry-viiis-kitchens/#gs.R6K2E18 accessed 20th March 2017.

Chocolate Kitchen in Hampton Court Palace –  http://www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/visit-us/top-things-to-see-and-do/chocolate-kitchens/#gs.tJhj8mM accessed 21st March 2017.

Original 17th Century kitchen –  https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ham-house-and-garden accessed 20th March 2017.

17th Century Kitchen –  http://www.homethingspast.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/cotohele-kitchen.jpg accessed 20th March 2017.

A 17th Century Distiller – https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/f1/6f/b0/f16fb0f555b48fd576bf6dc1621a041d.jpg accessed 21st March 2017.

 

Currying Favour with the Empire… in the ERO

It was a revelation to me to find that curry was part of eighteenth century cuisine. I had not seen it in Baker and, my curiosity aroused I looked to the Essex Record Office to see if this phenomena of east meets west was something I could see locally. I wasn’t disappointed. With access to digital images on the their SEAX website I found Mrs Elizabeth Slany’s recipe book.

The Fly Leaf of Slany’s recipe book dated 1715 – ERO D/DRZ1

The ERO has a blog featuring an overview of Slany’s recipes which also points to an article in  Essex Countryside magazine dated February 1966 written by Daphne E Smith who judges Elizabeth to  be ‘a most efficient housewife who nurtured her family with care.’ Smith also assumes that the recipe book was started in preparation for her forthcoming marriage. However the 1715 date on the fly leaf is a full eight years before Elizabeth married  Benjamin LeHook in 1723 so if true it was quite a lengthy  engagement.

With Benjamin a London agent it is probable Elizabeth did not reside in Essex . However, her eldest daughter did, marrying into the Wegge family of  Colchester. As the ‘hand’ within the book changes halfway through it can be assumed it was she who entered the ‘currey’ recipe, giving me the local Essex location I was looking for.

I admit, realising the recipe was probably the daughters not her mothers did dilute my first ecstatic light-bulb moment of ‘I’ve discovered curry in England as early as 1715 !’ into ‘stop jumping to conclusions and analyse, you’re a historian!’  However, on reflection it was just as exciting to realise young Elizabeth’s ‘currey’ was realistically contemporary with Hannah Glasse’s inclusion of this hot and spicy dish in her book The Art of Cooking Made Plain and Easy  1747.

Madhur Jaffrey, in the introduction to her book Curry Nation dismisses Glasse’s recipe  as little more than a spicy gravy, consisting of pepper and Coriander seeds which were to be ‘browned over the fire in a clean shovel’ before being beaten to a powder. At this point the rice was added during cooking. Nevertheless,  it gave the women who cooked these exotic dishes a connection to Britains growing empire. It also gave the recipients of such meals a way to ‘virtually tour’ the wider world. Though such recipes were effectively Anglicised claims that they were ‘true’ Indian dishes seems not to have been questioned.

The Art of Cookery by Hannah Glasse. 1758

 

Inevitably the  taste and composition of the dish gradually changed, as seen in subsequent editions of  Glasse’s book plus by the end of the century a commercial curry powder blend had became available.  Bickham, in his study of C.18 culinary imperialism, Eating the Empire  tells us how curry recipes were included in mass produced affordable cookery books. Aimed at a lower to middling sorts these women  would have used curry powder for convenience buying it from grocers shops who in turn sourced it directly from spice wholesalers or from larger shops.

Elizabeth LeHook’s receipt book lists two curry recipes and the first does appear to be a glorified stew consisting of 2-3 Lbs of mutton and onions. She then recommends it be thickened with ‘the curry stuff’ plus to add the juice of two lemons,  some salt and cayenne pepper, adding a note at the end,

NB. 2 large spoonfuls is be sufficient for a curry of two pounds and so in proportion – add to the curry powder about a fifth of turmeric.

A Lady at the Hearth. Pehr Hilleström.

Her second recipe calls for chicken , lamb, or duck to be prepared in the same fashion, stewing the meat in enough water to see it become tender. Shallots or onion are added. Then the gravy is strained off, thickened with a tablespoon of ‘the powder’  and returned to the pan so everything stews together for a further half an hour or,

‘until it is of a proper thickness to be sent to the table’.

Rice was then to be served up as usual.

Elizabeth Slany’s connection to the empire is still visible over the page. Here she  tells us how to make a Turkish pilau. Interestingly as featured in my previous post Methods of Measurement and Delight , Elizabeth uses money as a visual aid stating the pound of mutton required should be cut up small about the size of a crown piece.

On the opposite page are instructions  as to the Chinese way of boiling rice. This reflects on the importance eighteenth century housewife’s placed on authenticity or at least the pretence of it, in connection with their perceived social status. The process was simple,   the rice being washed in cold water then boiled in hot until soft. It was then left in a clean vessel to blanch until snow white and as hard as crust. By then it had apparently become an excellent substitute for bread!

To find the exotic in Essex was gratifying and I was fortunate to have found what I was looking for in one of the few recipe books in the ERO to have been digitalised. It was not a  groundbreaking discovery; after all I hadn’t found curry in 1715 had I ?  But, I had found local evidence of what we, as HR650 students had been seeing in recipe books far grander than Elizabeth Slany’s.  If nothing else its a testament to shared domestic knowledge and the proof of domestic involvement in what was then a new and expanding British empire.

 

 

Methods of Measurement and Delight.

As a student of Early Modern Recipes the process of discovering Margaret Baker and her contemporaries has been an unexpected delight on so many levels. Should we ladies ever meet , I’m sure we would connect; if not in the detail of our lives, then at least in the shared experience of being wives, mothers and caregivers. Early modern cruelty to animals, where ‘whelps are drowned’ and chickens plucked alive (Tracey’s post) would, of course repulse my  twenty first century sensibilities, but then the speed at which we live today, our secular lifestyles and modern individualism would perhaps appear quite alien to her.

Frontispiece The queen-like closet Hannah Woolley, 1670
Frontispiece
The queen-like closet Hannah Woolley, 1670

Baker’s world was one of extended social networks emanating, not from a mobile phone, but from her home and family.  Cooperation and collaboration by women within the domestic sphere strengthened familial bonds as well as alliences between mitresses and servants and made for the smooth running of a household. Collaboration and connection are also inherent within recipes, the following remark in the recipe book of Philip Stanhope, ‘my daughter-in-law taught it me/ Mrs Phillips taught it her’, an example of the  transmission of knowledge, and sociability.

Yet recipes themselves remain inanimate if not accompanied by instructions for their use.  Returning to the concept of meeting Baker I suspect this would be something we would have talked about. Possibly, we would also have reflected upon the importance of  both measurement and precision in the preparation and execution of our recipes.

Today, ‘precision’ is something we take for granted, regulated by micro measurements, global positioning instruments, and digital apparatus. Unfortunately, it is not something we automatically attribute to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in a domestic context. Instead, we see an England as yet untouched by the Industrial Revolution and so still tied into agrarian rhythms.

Harvest, Pieter Bruegel.
Harvest, Pieter Bruegel.

This became evident when Baker herself recommended a tonic  to be taken in Spring and the ‘fall’, and, although I knew otherwise, the phrasing of her instruction led me to reimagine her as a colonial American. I double-checked. Biographical information on ‘EMROC – The Baker Project’ confirmed her as English, and the Oxford Dictionary Online explained that ‘fall’ derived from the old English, ‘at leafs fall’, a centuries old phrase denoting the third quarter of the year. Latterly it was simply referred to as ‘fall’ and so in common usage , was then taken to the new world by puritan migrants. In England, as urban societies grew and ties with the countryside diminished the less rustic sounding  ‘autumn’ was adopted to describe the season.

Precision, we must accept was no less accurate in the past if we do not judge the concept by modern standards. Then, accuracy, at least enough for people to rely upon, was achieved by constancy: by using the same instruments, weights and measurement whatever they were.

Seventeenth-Century English Recipe Books: Cooking, Physic and Chirurgery in the Works of Elizabeth Talbot Grey and Aletheia Talbot Howard: Library of Essential Works by Elizabeth Spiller (Editor)
The Works of Elizabeth Talbot Grey and Aletheia Talbot Howard: by Elizabeth Spiller .

Today recipes will sometimes make use of phrases such as a ‘cup’ of rice but usually it is 30 grammes of this or 450 grammes of that. Very precise. By contrast early modern  methods of quantifying  items appear strange to us, almost  haphazard? Consequently, we can easily dismiss women like Baker, Elizabeth Talbot Grey and Aletheia Talbot Howard as having inadequate tools with which to standardise amounts. Not so. In the absence of digital scales their constants were ‘handfuls’, ‘pennies’, ‘pecks’, and nuts.

 Nutmeg. http://wellcomeimages.o
Nutmeg.
http://wellcomeimages.

Take, for example Grey’s, ointment to break a sore. She takes a handful of gentian, stamps it, straines it and puts it to half a pint of may butter, and as much virgin wax as a walnut’. 1 Nutmegs as a unit of measurement also feature regularly in her recipes, e.g, ‘Take the quantitie of one nutmeg out of your tin pot’, alternatively, ‘take the bigness of a nutmeg. 2 In one script she uses a combination of measuring methods all at once,

‘A handful of red sage, a quantitie of rustie bacon as big as a walnut, bay salt 2 ounces, sowr leaven as much as an egg…’3 

Amazingly, coins frequently appear,  both as a unit of weight and of measurement, a pennyworth of saffron suggesting a particular and standardised  quantitie. 5 Interestingly women also used ‘a penny weight, the latter being easily multiplied to achieve the desired outcome. For example, ‘the weight of five pence’, 6  ‘the weight of two shillings,’ 7 or ‘a  4 penny weight of spikenard.’  A pennyworth may also have been a liquid measurement as per this instruction for a plaister for ‘the collick’, in so much as it may refer to a small round amount of oil only as big as a penny.

screen-shot-2017-02-03-at-11-06-38

Returning to the possibility of ever meeting up with either, Howard, Grey or Baker, amidst the myriad of topics we would explore and engage in, I would of course, have to share with them my utter delight in their early modern methods of measurement.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Spiller, Elizabeth, (ed) Seventeenth-Century English Recipe Books: Cooking, Physic and Chirurgery in the Works of Elizabeth Talbot Grey and Aletheia Talbot Howard: Library of Essential Works. Routledge. 2008

[1] pg 81

[2] pg 151

[3] pg 34

[4] pg 209.

[5] pg 31

[6] pg 122

[7] pg 362

[8] pg 173

Baker’s use of animals in recipes

By Tracey Cornish

The Baker Project consists of three recipe books, two of which are owned by the British Library (MS Sloane 2485 and 2486) and one of which is owned by the Folger Shakespeare Library (Va619).  Whilst transcribing Margaret Baker’s recipes it has come to my notice that she uses different animals in her recipes to eat, cure or use in some way or another. Animals were an important part of 17th century life and many people lived in close proximity of their animals such as chickens and pigs.  Baker assumes this in her recipes as in her recipe entitled ‘To make Cocke Water, A Cordial’, Baker writes ‘’take an ould cocke from the barne doore the Redder the better plucke his feathers from him alive, then kill him and quarter him; and with clean clothes wipe away from the fleshe all ye blood’. (Va619, 46r) One does have to wonder if she plucks the poor cockerel alive as she wanted the blood to be warm to use for her cordial.

 

To make Cocke Water, A Cordial (Va619, 46r)
To make Cocke Water, A Cordial (Va619, 46r)

Cruelty on cats and dogs was common, they were tortured regularly, and sometimes even skinned for their fur.  However, this behaviour was seen as normal, domestic and wild animals existed for the use of humans.  Animals were used for their meat, fur and also for entertainment such as animal baiting and fighting.

Margaret Baker does come across as savage when it comes to the treatment and use of animals in her recipes.  As a medicine for aches Baker suggests in her recipe to ‘take a whelpe that sucketh ye fatter the better and drowne him in water till he be deade’.  (Va619, 68r) Of course in the 21st Century if someone had thought that you had drowned a puppy to cure aches and pains you would be locked up but in the 17th century it must have been believed that this would work.  Just carrying out the drowning would be bad enough.  There is also a recipe included in her books for

Recipe using a knocked out dog
Recipe using a knocked out dog (55r)

‘to make a pupy growe noe more.’ (43r) This recipe included many herbs, the poor dog being whipped and fed only once a day for a month.  It is unclear from this recipe why one would want a puppy to stop growing and why whipping him would help. In another recipe Baker writes that one should ‘take a doge and knock him one the head’.(Va619, 55r)

From Baker’s recipes it would appear that it was not just meat that animals were used for.  Horse and pig dung was used as ingredients in recipes as was their fat and grease. Even using barrow hog dung to help stop nose bleeds, if it did not stop a nose bleed it would certainly leave a nasty smell up one’s nose.  For a recipe for ‘Asprayne’ Baker writes ‘Take a pennyworth of barrowe hoggs grease & your owne urine; and boyle it in a pipkin with a piece of scarlett cloth; and soe binde ye cloth about ye place as hot as you can suffer itt.’ (Va619, 40v) A barrow hog was a pig that had been castrated before sexual maturity.  Margaret Baker also used creatures such as earth worms as a medicine for any ache.  ‘Take greate garden worms and slitt them and stripe of the filth that is with them, chop them smale and frye them.’ (Va619, 58v)

It is unknown if Margaret Baker actually used or even tried out these recipes and where they originally came from.  Some of her recipes do have name beside

Recipe with a cross showing it may have been tried
Recipe with a cross showing it may have been tried

them which is probably whom the recipe came from.  Other recipes have a mark which probably means that she has tried them out but we should not assume that those without a name or mark have not been tried out.

 

 

In a recipe for ulceration of the liver and lungs it is clear that Baker has tried the recipe and did in fact use it on goats first to see if it worked.  She writes ‘for this I have proued in goats troubled with a cartayne infirmitie called Bissole of the goate.’  She claims that she ‘made it into pouder and gave it to the goats with salt and for the most part they weare helpe and that I cured a number of men and women of that desease’. (Va619, 18v). This ponders the question, why did Baker feel that if the medication could cure goats of a disease it could also cure humans with an ulcerated liver and lungs.  However, according to Baker it did cure both.

Although some of these recipes make Baker look like she was cruel to animals there are some recipes which actually strive to cure animal illnesses.  Not only the recipe for the goat but also there is a medicine for ‘a mangy horse or doge’.  Of course it would be in the owner’s best interest not to have a horse or dog with the mange but one could argue that death may have been an option giving how they treated animals in the 17th century.

A response to “Women and Chymistry in Early Modern England”

By Felix Wills

During this weeks seminar, a particular source that caught my attention was Jayne Archer’s analysis of the Recipe Book of Sarah Wigges. I found Archer’s analysis of Wigges book, and more specifically what it could tell us about women and their involvement in Chymistry in Early Modern England, particularly intriguing. Thus, I believe that there would be no better topic for my first blog post than an analysis and critique of Archer’s findings.

A photograph of the inside leaf of Sarah Wigges' recipe book
A photograph of the inside leaf of Sarah Wigges’ recipe book

To begin, an introduction to the book that Archer has analysed, the ‘Manuscript Receipt Book of Sarah Wigges’. Wigges’ book was written circa 1616 in England. Like the vast majority of women who compiled recipe books during this time period, Wigges was a housewife. Also, much the same as many other recipe books of the period,  it did not just feature recipes for edible treats, but also recipes for medicines to cure particular ailments, instructions to make washing powder, instructions to help women compile a set of household accounts, as well as many other useful instructions for keeping an orderly household. However, where this book differs so heavily from other texts of the same type is that it contains some recipes that would be far more typical of a Chymistry book than of a recipe book. It contains a recipe that purports to allow the reader to manufacture the Philosopher’s Stone. Archer points out some rather amusing juxtapositions of everyday recipes situated immediately next to those that are rather more fantastical in their nature. Archer gives the example of the final leaf of the book, which contains a recipe to produce puff pastry and a recipe to manufacture diamonds. The last page sums up the overall theme of the book very well, the rather benign combined with the mystical.

Archer’s aim within the article is to establish whether women had a genuine interest in and actively practised Chymistry. Archer draws on two primary sources, one by Richard Allestree (written in 1673) and another by Thomas Vaughn (written in 1650). These two sources offer two very conflicting view about women and their success within Chymistry. For Allestree, women are too wasteful to be good chemists, they have a propensity to spend the money of the household rather than produce goods that will add value to it. As for Vaughan, he believes rather the opposite, that women have some sort of natural intuition that allows them to be better Chymists than men. Vaughan’s viewpoint is not surprising, as Archer discovers, given that his wife Rebecca is credited in helping Vaughan write his own Chymistry book. He has seen first hand that women can be successful within the field. A third primary source presents a balance between the two viewpoints, written by Margaret Cavendish. She suggests that women would labour over a fire just as much as a man, but that women are more likely to spend gold than produce it, and therefore do not make good Chymists. Archer also notes that there are multiple examples of women being involved in Chymistry in Early Modern England, the most notable of whom being Queen Elizabeth I, who had a Chymistry lab that she used regularly.

margaret-cavendish
A portrait of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, and a well renowned natural philosopher

In the next part of the article, Archer focuses on the evidence that Wigges’ book in particular provides us in order to establish what role women played within Chymistry in the Early Modern period. Wigges describes many chemical procedures within her book, such as the distillation of water and alcohol, which would have been an extremely useful skill at the time. Archer believes that this supports the notion that women actively practised Chymistry and it had its place within their household duties. However, Archer discovers that an unusually large amount of the Chemical recipes in the book had been taken (un-cited) from other books such as John Gerard’s Herball and Andreas Libavius’ Alchymia to name just two. Although this shows that Wigges’ was unusually well read for a non-aristocratic woman of her time, it calls into question her true abilities when it comes to Chymistry. In addition to this, there a number of other cited sources of chemical recipes. A large portion of the centre of the book is written in a different handwriting style to those used at the beginning and end of the book, and contains copied passages from such novels as The Book of Sir Dunstan, which the author this time cites as the source. At the very end of the book, there is situated a number of recipes for producing precious stones, and these return to the same scrawling, messy handwriting used in the central section of the book mentioned previously. All this evidence would seem to suggest that the Chymistry parts of the recipe book were either written by another person or plagiarised from different texts.

The one criticism of have of the otherwise well written and interesting article Archer has produced is that in her evaluation of Wigges’ book. She acknowledges that it is very tempting to assume that Sarah Wigges herself was not the author of most of the chemical recipes within the book. She then goes on to say that it is most likely that Wigges did not even practise most of the rituals and chemical recipes used in her book, but that she was probably interested in these topics because of the use of chemistry in everyday household tasks such as distillation. To me, an interest in something is not the same as being an active practitioner. I for example, am interested in cricket, but I do not play and probably never will, just the same as Sarah Wigges may well have enjoyed reading and learning about Chymistry, but it is very unlikely she practised it. So when Archer goes on to state in her conclusion that instead of placing women at the fringes of Chymical discourse in Early Modern England, they can perhaps be placed at the centre, this greatly puzzles me, as much of the evidence she has collected from Wigges’ book and her other sources suggests that this was simply not the case. Women, although certainly interested in some aspects of chymistry, were not heavily involved in its practice in Early Modern England.