Twelve Days of EMROC

Come join us for 12 celebratory days of transcriptions! From Boxing Day (Dec. 26) to Epiphany (Jan. 6), EMROC is hosting a transcription event in which we invite you to participate by transcribing Constance Hall Her Book of Receipts Anno Domini 1672, Folger V.a. 20. For those of you who are goal oriented, why not make a commitment to transcribe a page a day for 12 days? Or if you have more limited time, come and transcribe for a day or two or three. However much time you have to transcribe, we would love to have you join us and help complete the triple transcription of this fascinating recipe book.

Primarily consisting of culinary rather than medicinal recipes, this manuscript begins with a beautiful inscription on the title page that indicates that Constance Hall cared about her calligraphy. The book, however, has a variety of hands, so you can try your hand at transcribing several different styles of writing. constance-hall-title-page

Once you have transcribed a recipe, you might even want to make some of the dishes to try on your friends and relatives. How about trying “To make a cheesecake” (page 22):to-make-a-cheesecake-constance-hall-p-22

or “To make a lemon pudding” (page 50).

to-make-lemon-pudding-constance-hall-p-50

Or maybe you want really to go from the bones up and make early modern Jello with “To make calfes foot gelley” (page 57) flavored with lemon and cinnamon and sweetened with sugar

.calves-foot-gelly-constance-hall-p-57

If you prefer something savory, try “To pickle mushrooms” (page 25).

to-pickle-mushrooms-constance-hall-p-25

We would love to have you post pictures of your early modern creations.

What you need to know to get started transcribing:

TOOLS:

We’ll be using the Folger’s transcription interface, at: http://transcribe.folger.edu. The interface is called Dromio and associated with Early Modern Manuscripts Online. When asked to sign in, just enter your first and last names, and an account will be created for you (please be sure enter your name as you’d like it to appear in the database). Then, click “EMROC.” Our manuscript will be listed as “MS7113” (Fanshawe’s receipt book).

While transcribing, you’ll probably also want a window open to the Oxford English Dictionary.

PROCEDURES:

  1. Go to Dromio and select a page.
  1. Keep the spelling as you see it. Use any of the encoding buttons you feel comfortable with; they’re explained at http://emroc.hypotheses.org/transcribathons/transcribathon-instructions-glossaries-and-more/glossary-of-xml-buttons .
  1. Click “SAVE” as you go, and “Done” when you’ve finished the entire page.

If make a dish, take a picture of it, and post it here: https://www.facebook.com/EarlyModernRecipeOnlineCollective/

Happy Transcribing and Happy Holidays from all of us at EMROC!

 

 

 

Thankful Thanksgiving: Transcribe, Cook, and Post

For this Thanksgiving, why not try cooking from a seventeenth-century recipe?

EMROC is hosting a transcribe, cook, and post of FB party as its “Thankful Thanksgiving,” and we invite you to join us.

We would like you to transcribe a recipe from the mid-17th-century cookbook, “Mrs Fanshawes Booke of Physickes, Salues, Waters, Cordialls, Preserues and Cookery”(MS7113), which is housed at the Wellcome Library and available digitally.[1] You might want to try this recipe, “To Stew Oysters,” which bakes the oysters in their own “liquour” and flavors them with nutmeg, onion, and pepper (Dromio page 102), or maybe “To Frye Hartichokes,” that is, artichokes that are fried in butter and dressed with parsley (Dromio page 101).

to-stew-oysters

Or perhaps you would like to bring a new-old dessert drink to the family table: a “Whipt Sillibub” a frothy spiked drink (Dromio page 91), or a “Gooseberry Foole,” made of gooseberries, wine, and eggs  (Dromio page 183).

whipt-sillibub-fanshawe-215

 

You probably wouldn’t trust your turkey to an early modern recipe, but you might be interested to know that it was a very popular dish in England. As early as the 1520s, turkeys made their appearance in England, coming from the new world via seafarers and explorers. By 1555, the London market had a legally fixed price for turkeys, and English farmers began raising them for market by the 1570s.[2] In the early seventeenth-century, the turkey shows up on the weekly menus of large estates, such as Penshurst (which was the poet Philip Sidney’s childhood home).[3] By mid-century, large numbers of large numbers of turkeys were brought into London from the countryside for sale, and they were common fixtures on Christmas tables. Ann Fanshawe’s table included turkey, as she lists it as a meat that is best roasted, but unfortunately she did not leave a recipe for it. However, in Constance Hall’s cookbook from the 1670s is the recipe, “To Season a Turkey Pye,” and an anonymous recipe book from 1720 (Folger W.b. 653) contains three recipes for Turkey.[4]

to-season-a-turkey-pye

So are you ready to choose your recipe and transcribe?

Here are a few that you might want to try:

To Make Cheesecakes (Dromio page 128)

To make Lemon Cakes (Dromio page 128

To make Spanish Creame (Dromio page 99)

To make Rice Pan Cakes (Dromio page 98)

Mrs Gadfords Cake (a cake with currants) (Dromio page 93)

To bake a Hare (if you are adventurous) (Dromio page 99)

To make Jumballs–these are a kind of cookie (Dromio pages 291-292)

Have fun and now here are the nuts and bolts to help you with the project:

 TOOLS:

We’ll be using the Folger’s transcription interface, at: http://transcribe.folger.edu. The interface is called Dromio and associated with Early Modern Manuscripts Online. When asked to sign in, just enter your first and last names, and an account will be created for you (please be sure enter your name as you’d like it to appear in the database). Then, click “EMROC.” Our manuscript will be listed as “MS7113” (Fanshawe’s receipt book).

While transcribing, you’ll probably also want a window open to the Oxford English Dictionary.

PROCEDURES:

  1. Go to Dromio and select a page.
  1. Keep the spelling as you see it. Use any of the encoding buttons you feel comfortable with; they’re explained at http://emroc.hypotheses.org/transcribathons/transcribathon-instructions-glossaries-and-more/glossary-of-xml-buttons .
  1. Click “SAVE” as you go, and “Done” when you’ve finished the entire page.

Then make your dish, take a picture of it, and post it here: https://www.facebook.com/EarlyModernRecipeOnlineCollective/

From all of us at EMROC: Have a Happy and Thankful Thanksgiving.

Amy L. Tigner,  Elaine Leong, and Lisa Smith

 

[1] Lady Ann Fanshawe, “Mrs. Fanshawe’s Book of Receipts ” (Wellcome Library, 1651-1680), MS 7113.

[2]Joan Thirsk, Food in Early Modern England. Phases, Fads and Fashions 1500-1760 (London and New York: Hambledon Continuum, 2007), 254 and C. Anne Wilson, Food and Drink in Britain. From the Stone Age to Recent Times (London: Constable and Company, 1973), 128-31.

[3] The Sidney family documents are housed in the Kent History and Library Centre; the menus are in De Lisle MSS U1475 A60.

[4] Constance Hall, “Her Book of Receipts,” (Folger Shakespeare Library, 1672), V.a.20; Anonymous, “Receipt Book,” (Folger Shakespeare Library, 1720), W.b.653.

The Transcribathon in Summary

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

I am happy to report that our (more than) triple-keyed transcription of Lady Castleton’s book is complete.

The transcribathon lasted twelve hours, included 128 participants, and covered three continents and six countries (England, France, United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia).

The top three transcribers in terms of pages completed were Kim Connor (42), Jennifer McNabb (28) and Kelsey Helvesten (28). The winners of the two transcription sprints were Monterey Hall and Breanne Weber.

Thank you to everyone who joined us throughout the day! You are a wonderful and amazing bunch.

Contributors

Abbie Burnett
Alice LeCorvec
Allie Hoback
Amanda Duncan
Amrita Dhar
Amy Powis
Amy Tigner
Ann Marie Kolbl
Anthony Lyman-Dixon
Ashley Morrison
Benjamin Woodring
Ben Lauer
Beth Kreitzer
Brandilynn Aines
Breanne Weber
Brooke Pincince
Caitlin Etherton
Carly Krug
Carole Sargent
Casey Kuhajda
Catherine Koehl
Connor Jensen
Cristopher Shell
Daiana Zavate
Debapriya Sarkar
Derek Dunne
Dianne Mitchell
Eileen Jakeway
Elaine Leong
Elizabeth Ball
Elizabeth Crachiolo
Elizabeth Hall
Elizabeth Yale
Eluned Smith
Emily Fields
Emily Jones
Emily Rendek
Erin McCarthy
Erin Spinney
Gabriella Santiago
Georgianna Ziegler
Heather Wolfe
Helen Kemp
Hillary Nunn
Holly Pickett
Jacob Tootalian
Jana Jackson
Jane Cunio
Jeanette M. Fregulia
Jennifer McNabb
Jennifer Munroe
Jessie Foreman
Joshua Eckhardt
Julian Neuhauser
Julie Drew
Julie Nguyen
Karen Reeds
Katharine Locke
Katherine Sexton
Kathryn Stephan
Katie Kadue
Kayla Hardy-Butler
Kaylor Montgomery
Kelsey Helveston
Kerry Hackett
Kim Connor
L. Jerleen Justus
LaVonne Evans
Leah Astbury
Liliana Rodriguez
Lisa Vargo
Luca Tifone
Lucy Pyner
Macarena Placentino
Marianne Wilson
Mary Learner
Meaghan Brown
Megan Heffernan
Meghan Kern
Melissa Geil
Melissa Schultheis
Monterey Hall
Nadia Clifton
Najwa Alsulob
Nancy Simpson-Younger
Nathan King
Nathan Neal
Nicholas Peterman
Nichols de Courville
Nicole Weibert
Nicole Winard
Pamela Lovett
Paul Dingman
Philip Allfrey
Pricilla Padaratz
Priya Pal
Quincy McMorries
Rachael Shulman
Rauslynn Boyd
Rebecca Laroche
Rob Wakeman
Ron Carter
Ruth Selman
Samuel Fatzinger
Sandra Sine
Sapphire Hornyak
Sarah Clayburn
Sarah Curtis
Sarah Linwick
Sarah Powell
Scott Rogers
Shannon Gardzelewski
Shaylee Walsh
Shelby LeClair
Sian Mathias
Taryn Dollings
Taylor Parrish
Theresa O’Byrne
Thomas Mocarski
Tiffanie Marine
Tom Jaine
Tracey Cornish
Victoria Rendt
Vince Sosko
Will Parker
Wyatt Prohaske
Zachary Maguire
Zoe Orcutt

The Folger Report

Woman distilling. From The accomplished ladies rich closet of rarities, 1691. Image Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Woman distilling. From The accomplished ladies rich closet of rarities, 1691. Image
Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

We’ve had a great day at the Folger. It’s been amazingly productive. We’ve learned a lot about early modern chips, aqua vitae, efficacy marks, Lady Castleton’s erratic spelling, and so much more.

Transcribers from around the world–England, New Zealand, Canada, and the U.S.–have participated. Even my mum came. And we’re so glad that you’ve joined us.

A lot of work has been done on the first half of the book, but there is plenty to be done with the second half (which includes many cookery recipes). Please do take a look at those!

The virtual transcribathon continues until 9 p.m. EST, with Erin Spinney at the Twitter helm from 5 p.m.

Lunch Time Tips from our Transcribathon

By Elaine Leong and Lisa Smith
The Folger transcribers.

The Folger transcribers.

 

Good morning and Welcome. First, a big shout-out to all participants of the second

annual EMROC transcribathon – Thank you for joining us today. At the Folger, the EMROC team (consisting of both EMROC members, Folger staff members and an enthusiastic group of students from University of North Carolina Charlotte, University ofTexas, Arlington and University of Colorado, Colorado Springs) have been typing away furiously for nearly three hours. We’re also joined by an active group of transcribers from all over the world–our latest statistics indicate that nearly 100 people have already logged-on to help create a transcription of the Castleton recipe book. Many hands make light work. We’re making wonderful progress!
Our big discoveries for the day so far include a thumbprint and layered efficacy marks (a circle with a cross and dots). More on that soon…
But there are a few tips for encoding that you should probably know about.
  1. Don’t forget to include page numbers.
  2. Mark recipe titles as headers (hd).
  3. Mark the layered efficacy marks as ‘cross in circle’ and ‘dot’ using the metamark (mrk).
  4. Remember to save — a lot!
If you’re just joining us, please focus on pages that have had no or only one or two transcribers. See our earlier post from today for tips on finding easy pages or culinary or
medical recipes.
And do tweet us, or post on our Facebook page, if you find anything exciting, or have any questions.

Tips for Transcribing Castleton Today

From Lady Castleton's book, Folger Shakespeare Library, V.a.600.

From Lady Castleton’s book, Folger Shakespeare Library, V.a.600.

We’re so pleased that you’ve decided to join us today. Here are some top tips for transcribing today.

Just go log on at transcribe.folger.edu with whatever user name you want to use. The Castleton manuscript has its own folder, so it will appear on the first screen. Just click on Castleton and you’ll be in!

Trying to figure out where to start? Begin with pages that have 0 people in the “started” columns, then move to those with 1 or 2 if there are none with zeros.

Do you want to focus on food or medicine? The beginning pages have a high concentration of medicinal recipes; the ones toward the back are culinary.

Are you beginner, intermediate, or expert? If you’re a beginner, the first part and last part of the manuscript are in a nice, easy hand. The following pages, however, are more difficult and dense, if you are looking for a challenge: 91-92, 107-108, 109-110, 111-112, 171-172, 173-174 and 175-76.

Pages to avoid? Page images 179-228 are blank; no need to go to them. The following will be specially reserved for Sprint events: please do them only if you are participating in that event: 132, 40-41 at 11am and 1pm ET respectively.

What if you find an upside down page…? If you get a page that appears upside down, Dromio has a Rotate button, near Zoom, at the top left hand corner.

We’ll be tweeting more tips and answering questions throughout the day at @EMRecipesOnline, using Twitter hashtag  #Transcribathon and posting on our Facebook page.

Sneak Preview: “My Lady Grace Castleton’s Booke of Receipts”

By Elaine Leong and Hillary Nunn

In case you missed the news, on Wednesday, EMROC will be hosting our annual transcribathon at the Folger Shakespeare Library. At EMROC headquarters, we’re all super excited and looking forward to the big day. This year, the recipe book at the centre of our flurry of activity is a small leather-bound book created by Lady Grace Castleton (1635-1667). But who was Lady Castleton and what’s so interesting about her recipe collection? For answers to those questions, simply read on!

From what we can tell of her short life, Lady Grace Castleton embodied early modern principles of domestic virtue. The daughter of a wealthy and politically active landowner, she gave birth to at least six children during her eleven-year marriage. She makes few appearances in typical historical records, but the substantial recipe book she left behind after her death at age 32 offers us some valuable glimpses into her household concerns.

Lady Castleton was born Grace Bellasis, or Belasyse, in Coxwold, to a family on the rise. Her grandfather Thomas Bellasis was 1st Viscount Fauconberg, and her father Henry bought the title of baronet and served five times as an MP, representing his local borough of Thirsk. He married Grace Barton, who gave birth to the future Lady Castleton in 1635. She married George Saunderson, 5th Viscount Castleton, in 1657. When Saunderson began serving in Parliament in 1661, Grace apparently followed him in his travels to London. She died there suddenly, in 1667. A funeral elegy dedicated to her and attributed to one “Jo. Sh.” declared that “Able she was with Learned men to reason, / Nimbly confuting Heresy and Treason,” that she “many ways helpt such as stood in need,” and, most notably, that she was so modest that no one “Need question whether she was man or woman.”

castleton-signatureLike many others, Grace Balasye started her recipe collection as a young woman. She inscribed her name on the inside cover of the book and began to enter recipes from both ends of the notebook – medical recipes in the front and recipes for ‘good cookery’ in the back. Upon her marriage to George Saunderson, the recipe book accompanied Grace to her new home and to mark her change in status, she crossed out the original inscription and, confidently, wrote underneath it “The Lady Grace Castleton’s Booke of receipts”.

After her death, the book remained in the possession of the Saunderson family and other family members, including Saunderson’s second wife Sarah, continued to add to the book well into the eighteenth century.

castleton-1Sarah was the widow of Lord Thomas Fanshawe, 2nd Viscount Fanshawe, whose aunt was the notable cookbook keeper Anne Fanshawe.

 The Castleton’s recipe collection was written into a small leather-bound notebook decorated with a coat of arms and closed with metal clasps. The notebook contains just over 200 recipes offering instructions to make a wide range of medicines and foodstuffs. Now we don’t want to give away too many spoilers – after all, half the fun of transcribing is discovering new ways to make chocolate cream or to dry apricots – but we will say this: there are number of recipes which will come in handy for Thanksgiving dinner and other feasts. And, for those of you suffering from the perennial start-of-academic-year colds and flus, we’ve got plenty of home cures in store for you. So, mark your calendars – next Wednesday, 9-5 EST, online or at the Folger – the second annual EMROC Transcribathon. Don’t suffer from FLMO, just join us!

More details available here. If you’d like to join us onsite at the Folger, please email Lisa Smith @ lisa.smith@essex.ac.uk.

Constance Hall’s ‘Carrott Pudding:’ A Rendition

A note about this post from Lisa Smith.

The following post is by an undergraduate student, Jessie Foreman, who worked with me on a research placement this summer, as part of the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Programme at the University of Essex. What I appreciate most about her following post–besides its honesty about failure–is the way in which she highlights the assumed knowledge behind cooking, now as well as then. This post originally appeared at The Recipes Project.


By Jessie Foreman

From the Cookbook of Constance Hall, 1672, Folger Shakespeare Library, V.a.20.

From the Cookbook of Constance Hall, 1672, Folger Shakespeare Library, V.a.20.

A carrot pudding, how hard could it be?

Being a total beginner to early modern recipes, it was only logical that I should find a very simple recipe–not necessarily all that easy to do… I finally found a recipe that wasn’t cut off at the sides, used sixteen eggs and could feed the whole street… or require any ingredients that I couldn’t get from the local Co-op. In fact, I thought I was one step ahead of the recipe, since I had a fan-assisted oven and an actual Early Modern Assistant (thanks Nan!). How naïve I was!

As instructed in the recipe, we started by boiling three large carrots in a saucepan to fulfil the order of ‘4 spoonfulls of Carrotts.’ My Nan did start to scrape them before they were boiled, noting that it would be easier to do while they were still raw and not boiling hot, but we stuck to the recipe and scraped them after they were boiled. Beating the carrots in a mortar also proved to be very ineffective when it came to taking the pudding out of the oven, as you could see that they hadn’t distributed very well. I’m not trying to give baking advice to Constance Hall, but maybe she should think of grating in a few more things for a more even flavour.

Next were the eggs. I should’ve known that with ten eggs (two of which had the yolks removed) and a pint of cream, that I’d have needed something else substantial so it doesn’t come out as a runny mess. We whisked them up, but only to a normal whisked egg consistency – ‘beat them well’ leaves a lot to the imagination.

Image Credit: Jessie Foreman.

Image Credit: Jessie Foreman.

After that we added a generous amount of Aldi’s Own Brandy (in place of sac)k and softened butter, along with cream, salt and nutmeg. We used a spring whisk in lieu of not being able to use an electric mixer, and came out with a butter lump mix and cramp in one hand. It was hard to get rid of the lumps of butter in the mix, which had started clumping together and kept getting harder to remove. With the help of a spoon we did manage to squish all of them, but I wonder if the smaller remaining lumps can be blamed for the wobble on top of the pudding when it was in the oven. At ten minute intervals while the pudding was in the oven, I had to drain a growing lake of butter from the top of the pudding.

Grating the breadcrumbs was a nightmare: I’d bought fresh bread that morning, so it was very fresh and doughy. We should’ve used day-old bread, but by the time my Nan flagged that up, the carrots were already boiling, and the batter, already made. The recipe did not specify how much bread we should put in, only just enough to make it into a batter. As the mix was already sort of looking like a batter, we added in enough so that the grated bread was distributed evenly and went all the way through.

This was one of the main challenges we encountered while trying to follow this recipe: in any recipes, both old and new, there is a substantial amount of implied knowledge in the recipes. Given that fewer people would have read Hall’s manuscript recipe than modern printed recipe collections, there is even more implied knowledge; her audience was much more selective to begin with.

Image Credit: Jessie Foreman.

Image Credit: Jessie Foreman.

This wasn’t to last, though, as when we were pouring it into the baking tin, all of the mashed carrot and bread immediately sunk to the bottom. It was at this point that I started to think that the pudding might not quite turn out as planned… but there was nothing to do about it now, so I put it in the preheated oven for half an hour, draining Lake Butter every ten minutes. When the timer started beeping, I stuck in a knife to see if it was baked through. The knife was covered in grease, so we turned up the oven a little and left it again for ten minutes.

By the time the timer rang again, the top of the pudding was very brown, so there was no way that it could last any longer in the oven without getting burned. Whatever was inside of the tin now – whether cooked or sludge – was the finished product. I left it on the side to cool for about twenty minutes before turning it out onto a plate. The good: it solidified and kept its shape! The bad: just as predicted, everything had sunk to the bottom, so there was a very uneven distribution.

Image Credit: Jessie Foreman.

Image Credit: Jessie Foreman.

The pudding had mixed reactions from the official taste testers. My Mum said that the top of it, where there were no breadcrumbs, tasted like an egg custard. She quite enjoyed it. My Dad? He spat his into the bin.

Trying out this recipe wasn’t exactly a resounding success, but I thoroughly enjoyed a somewhat blind cooking experience and it felt like I was doing Constance Hall’s version of the technical challenge on The Great British Bake Off. If you’re not sure what this is, you should definitely check it out, where you’ll see baking disasters even worse than mine!

A Summer Project

By Lisa Smith

This summer, I had the pleasure of hosting Jessie Foreman as an Undergraduate Research Opportunity Programme student at the University of Essex. Over the summer, she worked on transcriptions for several manuscripts, tweeted occasionally about her findings, developed an instructional video, and tested a recipe… It was a busy summer!

She’s kindly taken a few minutes out of her busy start of term to answer a few questions about her placement.


From the Cookbook of Mary and Timothy Cruso, Folger Shakespeare Library, X.d.24, fol. 20r.

From the Cookbook of Mary and Timothy Cruso, Folger Shakespeare Library, X.d.24, fol. 20r.

How many manuscripts did you work on, and which was your favourite?

I worked on four: L. Cromwell, Mary and Timothy Cruso, Mrs. Carlyon and Constance Hall. I think I liked Cromwell the most, as the hand changed so often and it really kept me on my toes. But Cruso had some very intriguing political verses.

What was your favourite recipe?

My favourite recipe has got to be Hall’s Carrot Pudding because it’s the one I actually tried out, even though it didn’t go so well.

What did you like best about transcribing?

I liked the real connection I got with history when I was transcribing, and that my typing skills got much faster.

What did you find most interesting about early modern recipes?

The most interesting part to me was seeing how big the portions in the books were and how long the recipes took to make. Not exactly fast food.

Any summer highlights?

My highlight was definitely my attempt at making an actual recipe.


There you go: transcribing… an immersive connection with the past that also provides you with real world skills in cooking and typing! Sounds like a summer well spent.

Announcing… Our 2nd Annual Transcribathon!

Folger Shakespeare Library, V.a.600.

Folger Shakespeare Library, V.a.600.

Calling all transcribers!

Last October, we hosted our first ever transcribathon. It was so much fun and such a success that we’ve decided to do it all again. We’d like to invite you to join us.

  • Date? 9 November 2016
  • Time? Any time! (But EMROC will be working from 9:00-17:00 EST.)
  • Place? Anywhere! You can join in virtually from anywhere in the world at any time.
  • What to bring? Interest–and an internet connection.
  • Experience? None is necessary! We have instructions and will post a video nearer the time.

This year we’ll be working on the recipe book of Lady Grace Castleton, which contains directions for making everything from medicine to desserts to wine. You’ll get to learn about early modern cooking and health care – and catch glimpses of the era’s shopping and gardening habits – as you make searchable text for others to use.

We will have transcription groups working at the Folger Shakespeare Library, the University of Essex, the University of Akron, the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and the University of Texas, Arlington, with individuals coming and going virtually throughout the day.

Along the way, you will virtually meet scholars from around the world, have the opportunity to participate in a series of transcription sprints, and emerge from the day with a line for your CV—all from your own home, classroom, or office!

And remember, there is NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY – we’ll walk you through the coding and offer pointers on the handwriting.

If you’d like to join, either as an individual or a group, please contact me as the main point person for the virtual transcribathon.

  • Twitter @historybeagle
  • Email lisa.smith@essex.ac.uk

And even if you don’t want to transcribe, you can still join the fun in other ways: follow us on Twitter @EMRecipesOnline and #transcribathon or read blog posts from on this site.

How Not to Teach Recipe Transcription

By Robin Kello, PhD Student, UCLA (formerly, MA Student and co-founder of EMPS, UNC Charlotte)

 

Ahem. These manuscript books are portraits of the past. The past is another country, in which we discover the oddities and continuities of our own cultures and customs.”

Eyes glaze over in my “Food and Social Justice” course. A young man pulls the brim of his baseball cap lower over his eyes. Their phones suddenly become even more attractive to their restless attentions. The temperature rises. I am doing it again—trying to impart wisdom.

Much to the dismay of their future teachers, I encourage students to ask that most difficult of questions—Why do it?—about any intellectual endeavor. How might Calculus, Film History, Business, or indeed recipe transcription, add to one’s life? I emphasize values that transcend the economic, visions that emerge out of new labors, how the recipes on these centuries-old pages articulate relations between the human and nonhuman worlds. Perhaps that energy is at times infectious, but a monologue, no matter how ecstatic, remains a monologue.

The transcribathon provides another model—more immediate than trying to convince—of exposing undergraduate students, who may be drawn to digital literacies and the use of the internet to broaden the realm of knowledge, to the work of recipe transcription. It replaces description with discussion. In place of explanation of discovery, there is discovery itself: the deciphering of a troubling letter, a slanted secretary-handed word, a thoroughly weird recipe. Wait, does that say “Sheepeshead Pudden?”

On April 8, 2016, the Early Modern Paleography Society of UNC-Charlotte (full disclosure: I serve as their note-scribbler, the secretary who is vexed and awed by secretary hand) hosted a transcribathon. During the course of the day, novices and old-hands alike worked their way through an anonymous 1720 manuscript of recipes and remedies. EMPS even provided a sample of candied Angelica, cooked according to the specifications of the manuscript. If you have ever longed to cross celery and licorice, I recommend get your hands on this recipe.

The transcribathon itinerary included a panel discussion with students, professors, and a representative from the botanical gardens of UNC-Charlotte, who conversed on their relationship to this sort of work from perspectives that bridged Environmental Sciences and the Humanities, and touched on the political and ethical aspects of reflecting on human/nonhuman relations by way of seventeenth and eighteenth-century manuscripts. Their points of view provided a constellation of entry points into the study of early modern texts—spanning from Shakespeare to the North Carolina soil, from the leaf of the page to the leaf of the branch. A student interested in literature, history, new instructional technologies, or collective learning—each had a window into a way of conceptualizing this labor, before engaging in the labor itself, and they continued to ask questions about the panel participants long after the day was over.

But on the day, we got back to work, eyes on screens and fingers on keys, not just watching and interpreting but creating. I would like to think that what may have seemed esoteric to my students became immediate and concrete at the transcribathon, that I helped them cross theory and action, the warp and weft of all valuable labor. At the end of the term, I asked my students what the most interesting aspect of the course was, and a few said the transcribathon.

Manus Christi Height

By Monterey Hall

Wellcome Manuscript 169, fol. 25r

As indicated by Katrina Rutz to the introduction to the Bulkeley Project, Elizabeth Bulkeley’s A boke of hearbes and receipts contains a section that tells the reader how to recognize five different sugar “heights” or boiling temperatures, a section common to many pre-nineteenth-century recipe books (Hess 225). The third height, known as manus christi height, is a bit of an enigma in the culinary history world. “Manus christi”—or “hands of Christ” in Latin—refers not only to a stage in the candy-making process, but also to an expensive medicinal hard candy that first appears in medieval recipe books and continues on until its abrupt disappearance in the early nineteenth century (Davidson 493). However, despite their shared name, manus christi the candy and manus christi the candy-making height seem to be entirely at odds with one another (493).

The vast majority of authoritative sources on pre-nineteenth-century candy-making, including The Oxford Companion to Food, refer to culinary historian Karen Hess when discussing manus christi height. In Hess’s book, Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery, she states that manus christi height refers to the point at which boiling sugar has reached 215°F (Hess 227). This temperature is a little bit cooler than the stage of candy-making now known as the thread stage; sugar at this temperature is used to make syrups and is characterized by the appearance of loose, non-balling threads when the sugar solution is dropped into cold water (“The Cold Water Candy Test”). It is likely the current moniker “thread stage” that led Hess to believe that manus christi height refers to this boiling temperature: the instructions for manus christi height in Washington’s cookbook read “When your sugar is at manis Christi height, it will draw betwixt your fingers like a small thrid, and before it comes to that height, it will not draw. & soe use it as you have occasion” (Hess 226). Bulkeley’s instructions read similarly to Washington’s: “When your suger is in a full sirrup let it boile till it doth drawe betwixt your fingers like athred and then it is a manuus Chrie height” (Digital Image 169/41). These along with other books describing manus christi height almost always contain a reference to it “drawing between the fingers like a thread.”

The presence of the word “thread” in most of the instructions for manus christi height probably led scholars to believe that it is the equivalent of the thread stage in today’s candy-making terminology. This would put manus christi the height at odds with manus christi the candy: hard candy requires a much hotter temperature to form, and so Hess and other scholars have postulated that manus christi candy and manus christi height are unrelated. However, Hess might have been incorrect in her original statement, and thus this postulation might also be incorrect.

Wellcome Manuscript 169, fol. 26r

Wellcome Manuscript 169, fol. 26r

The assumption that manus christi height is the same as today’s thread stage ignores the fact that instructions for manus christi height specifically state that “it doth drawe betwixt your fingers like athred” (Digital Image 169/41, emphasis added). Sugar in today’s thread stage will not draw between your fingers. It will create threads in a bowl of cold water, but those threads will not maintain their structural integrity outside of water (“The Cold Water Candy Test”). The stage in which sugar will draw like a thread in one’s hands in today’s candy-making lexicon is the hard ball stage, which falls between 250°F and 265°F (“The Cold Water Candy Test”). In this stage, “the syrup will form thick, ‘ropy’ threads as it drips from the spoon” (“The Cold Water Candy Test”), threads which would be strong enough to maintain their integrity if drawn between the fingers.

Probably the most convincing evidence that manus christi height refers to today’s hard ball rather than today’s thread stage is its position within the sugar section. Manus christi height falls in the middle of the candy-making section, just like today’s hard-ball stage falls in the middle of current candy-making tutorials. The next step to figuring out the exact temperature of manus christi height is to further explore the other stages of candy-making. If we can find recipes that refer to specific heights in the candy-making process, we will get a better idea of what these heights looked like, and consequently we will be able to more accurately correlate them with our own current candy-making stages.

Works Cited

Bulkeley, Elizabeth. A boke of hearbes and receipts. 1627. Wellcome Library MS 169.    Web. 11 April 2016.

“The Cold Water Candy Test.” The Accidental Scientist: Science of Cooking. National Science Foundation Exploratorium, 2016. Web. 20 April 2016.

Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food. Ed. Tom Jaine. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. Print.

Hess, Karen. Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery: And Booke of Sweetmeats. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995. Print.

Hopkins, Kate. Sweet Tooth: The Bittersweet History of Candy. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2012. Print.

____________________________

Monterey Hall is a student at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. She worked with the Bulkeley manuscript during a course on Digital Research Methods in Historical Recipes with Professor Rebecca Laroche.

Health as Goodness, Not Wellness

By Jonathan Powers

While contemporary discussion of “health” revolves around one’s dietary and physical habits, recipe-writers of the 16th and 17th centuries held a much more serious understanding of health and its preservation. To be “healthy” was not a physical matter, but a spiritual one: to have “health” often meant aligning oneself with God and abdicating sin. The word “health” was also used analogously with a Christianized notion of salvation, which stipulates that belief in Jesus Christ’s divinity and message yields entry into heaven. This analysis explores how receipt-writers discussed the concept of health, which will provide a better sense of what the authors originally meant to convey when they wrote about sustaining one’s health during this time period. Maintaining health was exceedingly more important to these writers than our current standards of preserving health – doing so was a matter not just of wellness or sickness, but of salvation or damnation of the soul itself.

Although health is currently understood as “Soundness of body; that condition in which its functions are duly and efficiently discharged,” (“health, n.1”) the meaning of health for writers of the 16th and 17th centuries referred more to “Spiritual, moral, or mental soundness or well-being; salvation” (“health, n.4”). Here, the OED demonstrates that our modern understanding of health is that which is constricted to the body, to the “soundness” of the body; but the archaic definition of the word illustrates a transcendence of the corporeal to the spiritual, in such a high degree that having “health” means having salvation – a spiritual, Christian sense of salvation. One example of the importance of health in this context derives from Anne Wheathill’s A Handful of Wholesome (Though Homely) Herbs, in which she prays that “Wherefore in thée my hart shall be joifull, and in thy saving health, which is thy sonne Christ our Saviour and redéemer” (Wheathill sig. B5r). The phrase “saving health” occurs three times in this text, while the word “salvation” or words referring to God often appear alongside the word “health.” This treatment of “health” indicates a heavily spiritual connotation drawn from the word. In this passage, “thy saving health” is equated directly to Christ and his status as savior.

Wellcome MS 169, fol. 23r, Digital Image 38.

Wellcome MS 169, fol. 23r, Digital Image 38.

Health not only constitutes salvation, though, but also represents a spiritual notion that one must strive for, to retain a connection with God. In her A Booke of Hearbes and Receipts, Elizabeth Bulkeley includes a recipe titled “A Speciall meanes to preserve health.” This recipe provides metaphorical directions that exemplify how one can develop a better connection with God. In the format of a recipe, the text instructs readers to undergo a variety of spiritual experiences to become more Christ-like, so that they can:

rise from syn willinglie, take vp Christes Crosse
boudlie, stand to gut mornfullie, bere it pacient,,
lie & rest thankefully & then shalt thou lyve ever,,
lastinglie & come to heaven safelie vnto whiche
place hasten vs lord speedilie Amen / (MS Digital Image 169/38).

Preserving health, here, illustrates an end goal of acquiring salvation and entry into heaven. Throughout this recipe, readers are called to commit themselves to various acts of worship in order to relinquish worldly desire and vice for the end goal of attaining redemption. These acts are represented as if they were ingredients in a recipe, with materials such as a “quart of Repentance of Ninyvie” or a “spoon of faithfull prayers,” and the recipe not only confirms a spiritual understanding of the word “health,” but also serves as a creative way of instilling guidance for those who want to preserve their spiritual salvation (MS 169/38).

It is also important to contextualize this analysis with the fact that many recipes of this time, including recipes in Bulkeley’s manuscript, were meant to stave off the plague. Due to a limited understanding of the plague at the time, people were often led to believe that this disease was the result of God exacting punishment upon sinners of the world. In having this belief, the relationship between one’s moral purity and one’s physical health becomes much clearer and more intimately intertwined. By preserving one’s moral sanctity, one would be alleviated from a divinely inspired punishment against humanity and would thus be able to survive during the plague. By indulging in sin, though, one risked being struck down with the life-threatening Black Death.

While these texts provide compelling evidence for the spiritual connotation derived from the word “health,” the word was still fairly versatile and retained its current definition in other usage. In her analysis of Caterina Sforza’s Experimenti, Meredith Ray points out that “[a]t the turn of the sixteenth century, Caterina recorded over four hundred recipes for beauty and health,” and further discusses how Sforza’s manuscript focuses on the physicality of beauty and health (Ray). Thus, health retained its current definition in other usage during this time, while the largely spiritual dimension of the word has greatly dissipated as the centuries have progressed. Despite the evolved nature of this word and its multifaceted use, the important takeaway is that many authors of the 16th and 17th centuries utilized the word “health” in a far different way, equating the word to salvation. Understanding the contextual cues of this word in reading literature of this time period will enable individuals to better distinguish if the text is discussing matters of the body, of the soul, or both.

Works Cited

Bulkeley, Elizabeth. A Booke of Hearbes and Receipts. 1627. Wellcome Library MS 169.   22  Apr. 2016.

“health, n.1.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2016. Web. 22 April 2016.

“health, n.4.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2016. Web. 22 April 2016.

Ray, Meredith K. “‘The Alchemist’s Desire’: Recipes for Health and Beauty from Caterina         Sforza.” The Recipes Project. 03 Mar. 2015. Web. 22 Apr. 2016.

Wheathill, Anne. A Handful of Wholesome (Though Homely) Herbs. London, 1584. Women  Writers Online. Women Writers Project, Northeastern University. 22 Apr. 2016.

Jonathan Powers just received his B.A. in English from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. He worked with Professor Rebecca Laroche in a course on Digital Research Methods in Historical Recipes.

The 1st Annual EMPS Transcribathon

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 1.30.15 PM

The officers of the Early Modern Paleography Society at UNC Charlotte have been (very) busily preparing for our first annual EMPS Transcribathon!

The Transcribathon will take place on Friday, April 8th, 2016 from 10 am – 3 pm EDT. Our main headquarters will be on the campus of UNC Charlotte, in the Student Union rooms 340C&F, but if you can’t make it to Charlotte, we’d love for you to participate remotely! As of right now, we have transcribers planning to participate both nationally and internationally – from Colorado Springs to Berlin!

Our main goal is to completely transcribe an anonymous 18th century manuscript recipe book that the Folger has set aside for us. We’ll need all the help we can get, so we welcome all participation, whether it’s for the entire day or just half an hour.

We also have various activities planned throughout the day to attract potential new transcribers: there will be games, transcription sprints, and prizes, as well as a panel discussion about the importance of transcription, early modern recipes, and what it’s like to grow ingredients and cook from the recipes we transcribe (among other topics) with panelists from UNC Charlotte, UC Colorado Springs, and UNC Chapel Hill. We’ll also have plenty of coffee and snacks throughout the day and will be meeting afterwards for a wine social at the Wine Vault across the street from campus.

In preparation for the event, our university greenhouse grew angelica, seen below in its abundance:

Angelica

And we got together to candy the angelica for the event, so if you come, you’ll be able to taste:

AngelicaCooking

Angelica2Cooking

If you have any questions or would like to circulate our flyer to your contacts who might like to participate, feel free to send me an email: bward30@uncc.edu.

You can also stay up-to-date on the happenings by “liking” our page on Facebook (facebook.com/empsociety) and following us on Twitter (@empsociety)! Or, for the event, you can use #empstranscribathon2016.

“A medicine to Clarifye the Eyesighte.”

By Monterey Hall

In my previous post, I discussed Mistress Vernam and her contribution to Lady Frances Catchmay’s Booke of Medicins (https://f.hypotheses.org/879).  I had run across a single possible match for Mistress Vernam in the genealogical database Ancestry.com: the search pointed to Jess Cox, a woman who was married to John Vernam in Hardwicke, Gloucestershire in 1613 (Ancestry.com).  Despite this find, however, I was hardly closer to discovering her connection to either Lady Catchmay or seventeenth-century medical practice.

I used the result from Ancestry.com to try and locate Mistress Vernam in other contemporaneous medical books.  Unfortunately, her lack of genealogical records makes Jess Vernam’s possible medical connections difficult to pinpoint.  There are quite a few references to various doctors named “Cox” in several early modern databases; but without a record of Jess’s birth, there is no way to know if these doctors were related to her.  Rather than continuing to search for Mistress Vernam by her name, I decided to look for her through her recipes.

At the present moment, searching for recipes across texts is a messy and imperfect process due in part to the fact that we as a scholarly community are still in the earlier stages of transcribing and coding these early modern books.  As this process comes closer to completion, it will be much easier to search through them in a thorough and efficient manner.  What the Wellcome Library has transcribed into their database thus far, however, is absolutely invaluable: I was able to look for Mistress Vernam’s recipes via their titles by breaking each title into its keywords and searching for their variant spellings.

My search revealed a link between the penultimate recipe within Mistress Vernam’s medicines and a recipe in MS 373.  Mistress Vernam’s “A medicine to Clarifye the Eyesighte” instructs to “Take the gaules of swine, of an eele, & of a cocke, temper them well together with honney & fayre water & keape it in a cleane glasse, for your vsse: when you haue neade annoynte the eyes therwith” (MS184a/34)

Wellcome MS 184A/34.

Wellcome MS 184A/34.

MS 373/121 contains a nearly identical recipe called “To Clarifie the Sight”:

Wellcome MS 373/121.

Wellcome MS 373/121.

MS 373 belonged to and was written by Jane Jackson in 1642 (MS 373), meaning that it was compiled almost twenty years after Lady Catchmay’s Booke of Medicins.  Unfortunately Jackson does not give any attribution for this recipe, nor does the book contain any of Mistress Vernam’s other medicines.  Still, this find suggests one possible connection between Mistress Vernam and the wider medical community.  With this new insight, the next step would be to find out who Jane Jackson was and whether or not she was connected to Lady Catchmay and Mistress Vernam.  And if she was not, then what might Jackson and Vernam’s common source have been?

This line of inquiry is outside the scope of this post, although it is certainly one that should be pursued at some point in the future.  For now, I will leave you with this: it is likely that I missed several matches for Mistress Vernam’s recipes and thus I likely also missed several connections.  Although I only found two iterations of the above recipe in my own searches, it is quite possible that versions of “A medicine to Clarifye the Eyesighte” appear in other manuscripts beyond the two mentioned here.  I encourage my fellow scholars to look for this recipe elsewhere so that we can discover more connections between Mistress Vernam and the medical community.

As evidenced by the two recipes above, titles can vary between sister recipes both in terms of spelling and phrasing; it is simply not possible for a single person to account for every variation.  A much more detailed method of search would look not only for titles, but also for ingredients.  Searching for uncommon ingredients would help scholars to find connections between medical texts, their authors, and their contributors.  This type of search will not be possible for several years yet.  When it is possible, it will be a powerful tool for piecing together an accurate picture of the vast early modern medical community.  Searching for recipes in addition to names will allow us to see connections and relationships within the medical community that might not have been apparent otherwise.  And it will hopefully some day allow us to find out the true identity of the mysterious Mistress Vernam.

Monterey Hall, is an undergraduate at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and is a student of Rebecca Laroche.

Works Cited

Ancestry.com. Ancestry, 2015. Web. 10 Dec 2015.

Catchmay, Lady Frances. A Booke of Medicins, preserues and Cookerye. 1625. Wellcome Library MS 184a. Web. 2 Nov 2015

Jackson, Jane. Booke of Medical Receipts. 1642. Wellcome Library MS 373. Web. 16 Dec 2015.

Monterey Hall is a student at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. She worked with Professor Rebecca Laroche in an independent study on the Catchmay Manuscript in Fall 2015.