Undergraduate Recipe Research Wins PSU Abington Prize

By Marissa Nicosia

EMROC member Marissa Nicosia was recognized for her teaching and mentorship of undergraduate researchers with the 2018 Abington College Faculty Senate Outstanding Teaching Award. At the Abington College Undergraduate Research Activities poster session her students were awarded the 2018 Blue Ribbon prize for an Arts and Humanities Project and the library’s Information Literacy Award.

Early in the fall 2016 semester, a student approached me after class to ask if I “had an ACURA” project. In the parlance of my home institution, Penn State Abington, “ACURA” is an acronym for the thriving Abington College Undergraduate Research Activities program. This program fosters student and faculty research collaborations that are a hallmark of our small, undergraduate-focused campus. At first I was stumped: I didn’t have an ACURA project planned and the program seemed to be dominated by science and social science research. But I thought about my research process for Cooking in the Archives, the ongoing transcription work of EMROC and Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO), and my colleagues’ stories about working on recipes with undergraduate students in the classroom and beyond. Why couldn’t I run an independent study about recipes that would be useful for students, for me, and for the community at large? I designed and launched a research project entitled “What’s in a Recipe?” which has become a multi-year collaboration with four students.

Here is a link to the syllabus for the 2017-2018 version that I discuss in what follows. At Penn State Abington, this ACURA project counts for one course credit in the fall and two credits in the spring. Students and faculty meet by appointment and projects take radically different shapes depending on the topic and the discipline. I’m planning to redesign this course next year to include more DH instruction through a collaboration with Heather Froehlich and other colleagues at the library.

The first thing I asked students to read was a Student Collaborators’ Bill of Rights. We talked about the fact that their labor contributed to an international digital humanities project and that they could (and should) utilize the information that they were generating for their own scholarly pursuits. Then we spent the fall semester reading crucial background articles and a recipe manuscript from the Folger Shakespeare Library collections. Over the past two years we have worked on two seventeenth-century manuscripts of medical and culinary receipts owned and compiled by gentlewomen named, respectively, Margaret Baker and Mrs. Corlyon. Although this might seem like a straightforward activity, as EMROC readers likely know, seventeenth-century handwriting is far more difficult to decipher than modern cursive. After accessing online resources on paleography—the study of historical handwriting—students worked with me and with one another to master the handwriting in the manuscript and type up transcriptions of large sections of the book. In addition to participating in the transcription project and learning about recipe books in general, during the spring semester each student also developed a personal research project. The readings for the second half of the course are tailored to what students were curious about at the end of the fall semester. Students have tested recipes for healthful foods and cosmetics, investigated perfumed gloves and humoral theories of sleep, and considered Baker’s self-fashioning as a healer and collector in her manuscript. You can read what they have to say about their experiences here and here.

I’m pleased that ACURA funding supported a trip from Philadelphia to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC each year so that the students could consult the original manuscript that they had been working with, see other recipe books for comparison, and discuss their research topics with curators and scholars at the library. Turning the pages of the manuscript that they had scrutinized and deciphered online was simply electrifying. Students reported that this experience of handling rare materials and engaging with the broader scholarly community was equal parts transformative and informative.

Working with students on this shared project has forced me to ask questions about recipes that I would never have asked if I had simply continued my research alone. Since my research is focused on food – specifically, recipes for dishes that sounds so tasty that I want to recreate them in my kitchen – I often skim over the recipes for plague water, face cream, salves, perfumes, and restorative broths that fill early modern recipe manuscripts. But my students were curious about these recipes, and drawn in by their questions I became more curious, too. I tried one of Margaret Baker’s possets and I’m planning to make some “sweet bags” of potpourri when the weather turns cooler. As I continue to research manuscript recipes, I’m excited to work alongside my students and see where both my interests lead them and their interests lead me.

“How to make a Mortres good to geue to those​ that be weake.”

As an English major with a passion for cooking, who has worked in restaurants for the past five years, studying this topic interested me instantaneously. I quickly joined Dr. Nicosia’s “What’s in a Recipe?” undergraduate research independent study. We transcribed and researched Mrs. Corlyon’s recipe book from the late 17th century. Excited to cook hundreds-of-years old recipes, possessing the perfect job to fulfill that excitement. Upon joining the project, I asked all my coworkers if they would be interested in trying some of the food I made, with a nearly unanimous willingness. I was ready to cook. I transcribed recipes, hunting for pages that interested me, until I stumbled upon “How to make a Mortres good to geue to those​ that be weake.”

How to make a Mortres good to geue to those​

that be weake​

Take the brawne of a colde Capon or Henn, that hath

been rosted, shridd it very smale, all sauinge the Skinne,

then take a quarter of a Pounde of Almondes, beynge blanched,

grinde them in a Morter very smale, wi​th​ a litle Sacke, if

the partyes stomake be colde, or else wi​th​ white wine, so much

as will serue to make them a litle moiste, and no more, then

putt your meate to them, and so grinde them very smale togea=

ther, then putt thereto the yeolkes of two egges, and 3. or 4.

spoonefulles of redd Rose water, and when you haue tempered

them well togeather, drive it throughe a strayner, then sett

it vppon a chafingdishe of coales, and season it wi​th​ Salte,

and if the partyes stomake be coulde, putt thereto a litle

Sinamonde and Ginger, and so much Sugar, as will make

it pleasant, but if the party be hott, putt onlye Sugar

to it, and so boile it, vntill it be come to be as thicke as

Almonde butter, then geue the party thereof, this will keepe

good three dayes.

The first question that arose was about the word “brawne.” After a quick search on Oxford English Dictionary, I found the word to mean “brain,” usually, however, of a human. I soon after warned my coworkers that they may be agreeing to try highly outlandish ingredients, things that most people do not eat, resulting in mixed feelings. Some grew squeamish at the thought of eating a brain, while others, like myself, became excited, willing to “try anything once.” I scoured the area around me for a week, searching for live-kill poultry shops, butcher shops, delis, and the like, but to no avail; at best, some said “Come in later this week, I might have some,” at worst, a man said in disgusted disdain “Chicken what?! I’ve never heard of using that before.” I was losing hope, unable to find a definite chicken-head-supplier for my mortress. I visited my project advisor, Dr. Marissa Nicosia, to ask for some guidance. Her first step was re-checking OED, which yielded the second definition of “brawne,” which I had not noticed: the body, the meat, the bulk of something. After a swift slap to my head, I laughed, both disappointed and relieved, quick to roast a chicken with my job’s rotisserie, and make the recipe I had been stressed about for a week.

The use of humoral theory is highly significant in this recipe and the act of cooking it. Humoral theory allows for two interpretations of the recipe, two different dishes. It shows people’s dependence on the nuances of recipes, not simply for nutrition, but health. The dish made with red wine for the person with a colder stomach had deeper undertones and aromas, and was consistently rated slightly lower by my coworkers, while the white wine dish was simpler and sharper, and rated slightly higher. Once the chicken was mixed with the almonds, it became extremely doughy, dry, and sticky, so I added more a few more tablespoons of rose water, loosening it and allowing it to have softer formations. Both dishes ended up bland and in need of salt, which was available to and used by all coworkers who tried them.

Roast a chicken.

  1. Season raw with salt and pepper
  2. Place covered in a baking pan for 70 minutes in a 350° F oven, or until the bird’s internal temperature is 185° F.
  1. While the chicken cooks, grind ¼ lb. almonds in a mortar and pestle.
    1. Separate the ¼ lb. into halves, making two piles of ⅛ lb. almonds.
    2. Mix one pile with one tbsp. of red wine, the other with one tbsp of white wine.
      1. If this does not make the almonds paste-like, add more wine.
  2. After cooking, shred the chicken finely, discarding of the skin, bones, and cartilage.
  3. Mix half of the shredded chicken with the red wine almonds, and the other half with the white wine almonds until they are the consistency of dough.
  4. Combine one egg yolk to each pile.
  5. Combine two tbsp. rose water to each pile.
  6. Lightly salt both piles
  7. Add cinnamon, chopped ginger, and sugar to the red wine pile, and only sugar to the white wine pile                                                         .
  8. One may make this dough into any shape preferred—ball, patty, specific shapes—and heat in a pan with a little butter or a fryer.
    1. Since it is already cooked, this heating should be done purely for warmth and not for actual cooking.             

Every person scored every dish in looks, smell, taste, texture, and overall from one to five. The averages were all similar, between high three’s and low four’s for most categories, but the cold stomach’s dish consistently scored lower by less than a full point in every category other than looks, which were equal. When Joie, the shift manager of that night, tasted the cold stomach’s dish, she took an unimaginably slow bite, with her nose subsequently scrunched in near-disgust, eyebrows scowling. Let us remember Walkden’s bonny-clabber, and the “hard-wired” “disgust that feels instinctive.” After registering the actual flavors, her eyebrows perked, eyes widened, face brightened, in shock of the tolerable flavors presented to her. Nobody expected this to be edible, let alone enjoyable. A fellow line-cook, Stephen, genuinely enjoyed it, asking if he could take some home so his wife could try some. He offered no negative comments toward the dish, enjoying both the historical and culinary aspects of it. Everyone who tasted was highly interested in trying food from hundreds of years ago, with not a single negative, unfavorable experience on the whole.

Eric Seamans, a student of Marissa Nicosia at Pennsylvania State University, Abington College

Transcribing in Toronto

In just a week’s time the University of Toronto will be hosting EMROC! Rebecca Laroche will be in town, bringing the study of recipes, women’s writing, and paleography to the U of T. Please add these events to your calendar, and consider coming to one or both of them if you are in the area, and transcribing remotely Friday if you are not.

Scene from Toronto Campus

Thursday, March 1, 2pm: Research Talk (UTSG, Jackman Humanities Building (170 St. George St., Toronto), room 616) — Prof. Laroche will give a talk entitled “‘Infinite Variety’: Case Studies in Early Modern Recipes Research.” This talk will think about the methodologies and payoffs of working with early modern recipes books, and highlight some fascinating findings that have emerged out of the EMROC’s project to transcribe large numbers of recipe manuscripts.

The talk will be followed by a Q&A, and then an informal coffee hour with graduates, who will have an opportunity to share their own work and ask questions.

Friday, March 2, 10am-4pm: EMROC Transcribathon (UTM, MiST Theatre (in the CCT building — #1800 on this map: https://www.utm.utoronto.ca/sites/files/default/public/shared/studentaffairs/images/CampusMap_final.jpg )) — All day out at UTM Professor Laroche will lead one of EMROC’s annual transcribathons, where we gather together as a group to transcribe pages from early modern manuscript recipe books. Drop by for an hour, or work with us the whole day! Please bring your own laptop if possible.

The recipe book we will be transcribing is written in seventeenth century hand, which is fairly easy to read; we will have people on hand willing and able to give crash courses in paleography, and to help you learn the ropes of the transcribing program Dromio. No previous experience assumed or necessary! Though if you want to prep you might see any of the three handouts (a list of transcription conventions; a list of Dromio commands; and an “alphabet” documenting letter forms used in the manuscript we will be transcribing). Feel free to stop by for as much or as little of the event as you want. Coffee and food will be provided all day during our transcribing.

We will be transcribing pages from a manuscript owned and compiled by Margaret Turner, Folger MS Wa112, which includes both recipes for the kitchen and “cures for man and beast” (https://tinyurl.com/yde6p4ts)! If you would like to participate in the transcribathon from afar, go to this site http://transcribe.folger.edu/, select EMROC, and click on “TurnerWa112”. We’ll be working 10am-4pmEST.

Margaret Turner, “To Make a good Bisket,” Folger Manuscript W.a.112, fol. 52/66

Please email the local organizer Prof. Liza Blake at liza.blake@utoronto.ca if you’re planning on attending the coffee hour on Thursday, so she can order coffee accordingly. She is also happy to answer any questions over email before the event.

Dr. Burges’s Plague Water

By Jana Jackson

For early modern pious women, the religious obligation to be healers and competent housewives catalyzed the compilation of extensive medical receipt books during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Accordingly, recipes considered to be particularly essential to domestic medical practices were shared over and over. Though the communal nature of recipes certainly allowed for editing and refinement to improve efficacy as the recipes passed from hand to hand, the essential stability of ingredients, amounts, and directions for administration is remarkable even among recipes that were handed down generationally. Dr. Burges’s recipe for plague water, for example, can be found in Mary Granville’s book of recipes (1641), in Lady Katherine Ranelagh’s receipt book (17th century), in Charlotte Johnstone, Dowager Marchioness of Annandale’s receipt book (c.1725), and in Eliza Smith’s published The Compleat Housewife (1741), (41r, 5v, 99r, 237), among others.

From Folger V.a. 430, Granville Family Receipt book

A comparison of this popular recipe in these four texts reveals their similarity in ingredients and amounts, even though the approximate dates of these texts span almost a century.

Granville (1640) Ranelagh (1615-1691) Johnstone (1725) Smith (1741)
3 pints malmsey 3 pints malmsey or muscadine 3 pints malmsey or muscadine 3 pints muscadine
Handful of rue Handful of rue Handful of rue Handful of rue
Handful of sage Handful of sage Handful of sage Handful of sage
1 pennyworth long pepper 1 pennyworth long pepper 1 pennyworth long pepper 2 pennyworth long pepper
½ oz ginger ½ oz ginger ½ oz ginger ½ oz ginger
¼ oz nutmeg ¼ oz nutmeg ¼ oz nutmeg ½ oz nutmeg
4 pennyworth  mithridate —- ¼ oz mithridate
2 pennyworth London treacle 4 pennyworth treacle ¼ oz Venice treacle
¼ pint angelica water ¼ pint angelica water ¼ pint angelica water ¼ pint angelica water
1 oz angelica root
1 oz zedoary root
½ oz Virginia snake-root

Though malmsey as the principal ingredient transitioned to muscadine over the course of a century, most of the herbal ingredients, both by kind and by amount, are consistent: rue, sage, long pepper, ginger, and nutmeg.[i] Smith’s addition of three varieties of root is the most significant variation to the recipe. Interestingly, Eliza Smith claims on the title page that her receipt book is “[a] collection of above Two Hundred Family Receipts of Medicines. . .never before made publick.” By 1741, however, Dr. Burges’s plague water recipe had been making the rounds among household practitioners for at least 100 years. Perhaps this claim compelled her to add the additional ingredients so that the recipe would be considered original. Regardless, the remarkable similarity among the four versions of Dr. Burges’s recipe, in both written and printed texts, attests to domestic medical practitioners’ concern for accuracy even if, as in the case of the bubonic plague, the efficacy of the physic was more of a hope than a reality.

From Wellcome MS 3087 Charlotte Van Lore Johnstone, Dowager Marchioness of Annadale

 

[i] Malmsey wine originated from the Mediterranean (see OED “malmsey”). Muscadine was a “wine made from muscat or similar grapes” that was a product of France and Italy during the seventeenth century (see OED “muscadine”). Both were “sweet wines” and therefore might be used interchangeably in physic during the period (see Rogers, A History of Agriculture and Prices in England, 638).

Works Cited:

Smith, Eliza. The Compleat Housewife, Or, Accomplish’d Gentlewoman’s Companion. London: J. Pemberton, 1741. Google Books Online. Web.

Manuscripts:

BL Sloane MS 1367

Lady Katherine Ranelagh

Lady Rennelagh’s choise receipts (17th century).

Folger V.a. 430

Granville Family

Cookery and medicinal recipes of the Granville family (c.1640).

 

Wellcome MS 3087

Charlotte Van Lore Johnstone, Dowager Marchioness of Annandale

Receipt-book (c. 1725).

 

Jana Jackson is a recent MA from the University of Texas, Arlington

Happy New Year from the Steering Committee

When the Steering Committee last met face-to-face in November 2016, we set the goal of having ten recipe collections completely transcribed, vetted, and entered into the Folger’s DROMIO database by the end of 2017. Today there are seventeen collections thus finished. And so, we start this new year’s message with a huge pat on the back for all of you who helped make this incredible volume of transcriptions possible.

Following tradition, we begin 2018 with a resolution for ourselves as Steering Committee members that we hope you all will take up with us. With the generous help of a grant from the Pine Tree Foundation, the Folger Shakespeare Library has been able to devote concerted time to vetting transcriptions that we have generated in recent years so that they are ready to join the growing body of material in EMMO (Early Modern Manuscripts Online). But the grant funds this work for a limited time. With this in mind, the Steering Committee has resolved individually to transcribe a certain number of pages from Folger MS Wa87 (available in the EMROC folder in Dromio), by late spring to generate as many documents as possible to be placed in the queue for vetting while the funding is still in place.

In the spirit of collaboration that drives EMROC, we invite you to join us in transcribing this book (even if only one page) and to help us maximize this opportunity to create a truly significant and research-changing data-set. If the spirit of collaboration isn’t enough to motivate you, perhaps knowing that this will: in this early 18th century anonymous receipt book you will find the secrets to making quince cakes or “To boyle a Duck ye French way,” or Dr. Dassy’s elixir, or “How to make a Battalia Pie”–and so much more.

Warmest wishes, and Happy New Year,
The EMROC Steering Committee

Rebecca Laroche
Elaine Leong
Jen Munroe
Hillary Nunn
Lisa Smith
Amy Tigner