Breakfast for Thought

On a standard weekday morning, I pull myself out of bed at 8:45 AM and drive to my local coffee shop: The Daily Grind. I wait in line, swipe my credit card, and receive my grandee vanilla almond milk latte with one pump of vanilla and an everything bagel with vegan cream cheese. Unlike a breakfast in the mid 1600’s, my modern breakfast is quick and easy to obtain, and I take every notion of its simplicity for granted. Today, breakfast is mainstream, easily procured, sourced from around the world and shared with people of all cultures and traditions. Globalization of products, social media and other mediums of communication have allowed for Japanese, Dutch, English, French, Italian, South American, and numerous other breakfast styles to coexist and create a fusion of elements within countries that would’ve never seen such breakfast diversity otherwise.

I began a project last fall concerning a seventeenth century recipe book kept by a woman named Margarett Baker. Through transcription of her book, I discovered numerous social and economic implications behind the practice of recipe keeping and the recipes themselves. After investigation into the scholarship surrounding the significance of early modern recipe books, my collaborator, Marissa Nicosia, and I put together a paper focusing on medicinal recipes in Baker’s book. However, the methods of analysis of these medicinal recipes are easily translatable to culinary recipes. So, my question is, what does an early modern breakfast recipe say? Let’s take a step back to the seventeenth century version of breakfast creation and globalization – a time when trade was thriving, wealth in England was accumulating, and women were beginning to find their purpose and independence through recipe creating and keeping.

The West Indies sugar trade distributed and maintained by the Dutch East India Trade Company and innumerable other raw goods increased commerce, which allowed for the rise in wealth of the middle and upper classes – this afforded leniency in the use of ingredients that were at first exclusively for the taste of the super elite. In Eating Right in the Renaissance, Ken Albala notes that “diet became one of the most powerful delineators of class” (185). People’s culinary tastes indicated the complexities of their social standing. It is interesting that for us, breakfast is a delicious meal that allows us to communicate and express our aesthetics and tastes with a wide audience via Instagram pictures and blog posts – for the seventeenth century Englishman (or rather more applicably, Englishwoman), it was a curated and intricate portrait of one’s affluence and relevance. The seventeenth century was a time of great “social mobility”, which made the desire to create some sort of order and stratification exponentially stronger; this order was largely imparted by food.

By the seventeenth century, breakfast foods consisted of mostly savory items, save the largely popular fruit preserve trend, thanks to the West Indies sugar. Luckily, we still get to enjoy the various modern offspring of the original jams and marmalades. Fresh meats were exclusively for the wealthy, who did not need to conserve money and salt or cure their meats to increase shelf life. The criteria for what foods were suitable for the privileged were quite strange: as Albala writes, “salted beef, ham, and ‘resty bacon’ are best left to rustical stomachs” and “plants [vegetables] were often assigned social meaning according to their morphology and proximity to earth” (194). Those plants that did not see enough of the sun or grew too close to the ground were deemed suitable for peasants, while fruits and grains that grew far above the soil were fit for the crème de la crème.

Women gained their footing in this period by keeping recipe books; as women were largely told their place was in the house, and most importantly, the kitchen, they took their place and held it well. The increase in the social importance of food allowed the early modern woman to dictate her place in the house via her culinary and medicinal skills (the early modern kitchen is often referred to as the first laboratory). Women perfected their breakfast, and general culinary skills, in the kitchen, and presented their dishes with pride and grace that allowed them to obtain male-like importance and credibility. Women as scientists in the kitchen fforded their connection to strictly male professions of chemistry and science. As breakfast became more socially important, women were able to not only make this food for their families and guests, but gift fine culinary creations to their other female friends. This luxury good gifting paved the way for strong female bonds and gave women a significant purpose and place in the seventeenth century household.

Breakfast for early modern Englishmen and women was so much more than an emblem of wealth; women were using recipe keeping as a method of progressing social feminism. They were simultaneously affirming their class status while staking out their role in a domestic environment. Women like Margarett Baker were bolstering the free market through the use of certain ingredients as well as exercising personal creativity and claiming a professional role in the kitchen   As trends changed and global influences entered, affluent women created a fusion of contemporary culinary practices, female independence, and great recipe innovation. The experiences of these early modern women and their breakfast recipes has led us to the beautiful world of global breakfast we have today. So next time you grab your early morning bagel, mid-morning Japanese breakfast tofu, or leisurely morning full English breakfast, think about the hard and revolutionary work women were doing in the early modern kitchen that came, globally, full circle to give you the next trendy post for your Instagram feed – and hopefully, you’ll be able to greater appreciate the feminist commentary from the most important meal of the day.

 

Rachael Shulman with Marissa Nicosia, Penn State University

 

 

 

What is a Recipe? DH@Guelph Summer Workshop 2017

Workshop Participants from the DH@Guelph Summer Workshop 2017: Making Manuscripts Digital are taking part of the Recipe Projects 2-month long online conversation/conference about “What is a Recipe.”

Madeline Bassnett who teaches at U. Western Onario wrote:

What a recipe is depends on how you interact with it. In my “Early Modern Food from Shakespeare to Milton” grad class, we approach recipes as texts and as things to be made, discovering in the process how our understanding of recipes depends in part on whether we teach, read, or cook them. As a teacher, I’m often concerned with helping students approach the printed or manuscript book as a whole. One of the first questions I ask my students is “what are your reading strategies for these multidimensional texts”? We think about recipe organization and genre (cookery, medicinal, household, distillation, etc.), about juxtapositions between recipes, about paratextual components such as prefaces, marginalia, and frontispieces. The sense of the whole leads us into a contemplation of parts: we hone in on one or two recipes for a close reading experience. Here, we engage in a more philosophical discussion, considering such topics as violence in the kitchen, the relationship between bodily care and the social body, the concepts of judgement, skill, and knowledge. But while these literary musings are theoretically fruitful, it’s the cooking of recipes that brings theory together with practice, and gets students to think about the recipe less as a textual artefact and more as a vital and often perplexing communication. I assess the cooking assignment through a reflection paper rather than through the success or failure of the student’s dish, and students invariably comment on the struggle to find ingredients, interpret measurements, and imagine results. Because cooking gives us a hands-on relationship with the past, it’s at this stage that students comprehend not only the otherness of the early modern period, but also the way that a recipe is a performance, allowing the past to speak to and act in the present.

Whitney Thompson and Hillary Nunn, meanwhile, decided to test the manuscript’s strange adjustments to egg numbers. Several recipes showed significant changes in the egg count, and that inspired their cooking experiment with Orange Pudding, chronicled on Twitter.

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They decided to cook the recipe both ways, with Hillary making the 6-egg version and Whitney committing to the 24.

Both versions worked, but they made drastically different products:

These drastic differences made us ask not just “What is a Recipe?” but also “What is a pudding?” and, most of all, “What is an egg?” As our Twitter conversation (viewable via Storify at https://storify.com/nunnhill/eggperiments-in-orange-pudding ) made clear, eggs have grown in the centuries since this book was abandoned. But did they shrink during the time it was in use? Why so many more eggs in the revised version? Did something in the supply change, suggesting the book’s owner moved? We’re still not sure, but we know that our modern overconfidence about egg size has much to do with our discomfort.

Kathryn Harvey of the University of Guelph Library wrote:

For the past 6 or so years, my job has primarily involved administration, so I found it a real luxury recently to delve unapologetically for a week into the world of manuscript receipt books during a digital humanities workshop at my university on “Making Manuscripts Digital: The Transcribathon Approach.” Led by Hillary Nunn (U of Akron) and Amy Tigner (U of Texas Arlington), workshop participants raised many questions as we worked our way through pages of recipes from a handwritten manuscript dating from the 1750s. How many authors did it have given all the different hands? Why were some recipes amended—some by the same hand and others by different hands, suggesting perhaps changes made by other cooks after trying the recipe?

How does a manuscript evolve when passed from hand to hand or down through the generations?

It is this latter question which made me recall a manuscript receipt book donated a few years back to the University of Guelph’s Archival and Special Collections. Begun in Glasgow in 1822 and added to until the 1920s. Although begun in Scotland, it migrated to Canada with the family, and it is the evolution of this book that interests me most. One owner of the book in the early 1900s clearly had an interest in wedding cakes—pictures as well as recipes—evidenced by all the newspaper clippings pasted on top of beautifully scripted recipes.

Why paste them over the recipes when there were so many blank pages that could have been used? Then later, in the 1920s The manuscript also gives evidence of a wide range of interpretations of what a recipe is. Visible early entries tend to provide both ingredient lists as well as some type of instruction, as in the recipe for Albert Cakes; however, later recipes apparently added in the 1920s provide only lists of ingredients and possibly some commentary (e.g., “all right” as seen in this last image, a recipe for Vanilla Bars). A paleological “excavation” of this intriguing manuscript using multi-spectral imaging would no doubt peel back the various layers and raise even more questions about what is a recipe?

 

What constitutes a diet drink?

Written by Solveig Roervik

While transcribing the Ann Fanshawe manuscript, I came upon a drink called a diet drink. Because of the way the ingredients were suspended in liquid, the recipe resembled a modern herb tea, but in two other manuscripts I transcribed, other “diet drinks” had differing methods of creation, from brewing, suspending and boiling to a combination of these. Although the OED defines “diet drink” as “a drink prescribed and prepared for medicinal purposes” (1a), the styles of preparation involved seem in practice to be vastly different. These varying approaches made me question why they were all called diet drinks, what connected them, and if the method of creation had something to say about its medicinal effects on the humoral body. Did the recipes have any ingredients in common? And how are these ingredients activated or tempered by the method of its creation? After addressing these questions, I propose that diet drinks can be said to help alleviate the conditions caused by an excess of coldness and/or dryness, and the recipes’ methods maximise the warmth and moisture of the ingredients.

The diet drinks that I found address four conditions — kidney stone, scurvy, rickets, and dropsy — by attempting to rebalance the amount of moisture and heat in the body. John Gerard explains these conditions in The herball, or, Generall historie of plantes, connecting the conditions to a possible imbalance of moisture. The stone is a hard mineral concretion, “the stone of the kidneies” (238), which Thomas Cogan recommends treating with warm and moist ingredients, like asparagus (45). Gerard goes on to describe scurvy as “that plague and hurtful disease of the teeth, gums, and sinewes, … being a depriuation of all good bloud and moisture” (401). While the dropsie seems like an outlier because it’s a condition where the body retains too much moisture, the blockage causing the extra liquid retention can be broken up by hot and dry ingredients like saxifrage, which according to Gerard causes “one to pisse freely,” releasing the extra liquid (1048). (Even though saxifrage is hot and dry, it can be used in a wet medium to release the water retention.) Humorally, conditions from kidney stone to dropsy could be balanced out with warmth and moistness, which can explain the usage of medicinal liquids in curing these conditions.

Since these conditions are linked humorally, how do the methods used affect the medicinal properties of the drinks? In the Receipt book of Margaret Baker, the “Diet drinke for the Scuruie” is boiled, increasing the level of heat of the ingredients and liquids (front endleaf 3, V.a.619).[1] Cold water itself could disrupt the balance of heat in a vulnerable body, like a body that has just exercised; Cogan instead recommends a drink with warm properties, because it’s less disrupting for the temperatures (236-237). In addition, the recipe uses wormwood, which can help with “open[ing] the liver and spleene: which vertues are chiefe, for the preservation of health” (Cogan 61). Both wormwood and boiling increase heat in the drink, and give a relief to the aching mouth caused by scurvy.

In the “Diett Drinke” recipe in the Ann Fanshawe manuscript, the ingredients were not boiled, but rather suspended (7, MS7113). The herbal tea is a delivery mechanism for hot and dry ingredients to clear the blockage causing the dropsie. Gerard says the herb Galingale, which is included in the recipe, “help[s] the dropsie”, where Galingale “[is] of an heating and drying qualitie” (31). This diet drink is the only one I came across that doesn’t require any sort of alcoholic beverage, like ale or wine, which is interesting as wine is said by Cogan to be “hot in the second degree… and it is dry according to the proportion of heat” (238). Why would water be used, with its coldness, instead of using wine which has the hot and dry qualities needed to cure a dropsie? Here, humorally hot ingredients are delivered by a cold vector, implying a mixture of cold and hot ingredients can also be curative for this condition.

 

The second diet drink found in the Fanshawe MSS, “A Receipt of a Diet Drink for the Stone” (78, MS7113) contains fewer herbs compared to the previous recipes: only ashen keys, parsley, saxifrage roots, and malt (which is helpful as the recipe goes through a brewing process). Saxifrage is explained by John Gerard as “hot and dry in the third degree”, helping it “break… the stone in the bladder and kidnies” (1048). Like saxifrage, the process of brewing itself increases heat and dryness, showing the doubling effect of ingredients and method, which relates to the condition it was to alleviate. And there is still more doubling in the recipe’s methods, as the drink is first boiled, then brewed in the sun — building methodological heat upon heat from the ingredients, which is opposite to the previous diet drink.

The most complicated recipe of the group is a brewed “diett Drinke for the Ricketts” found in the Receipt book of Rebeckah Winche (74, V.b.366). This recipe has an interesting addition of large raisins, “reasons of the sunne”, which according to Cogan are hot and moist, channeling the heat of the sun into the ingredients themselves (109). It is a rather complicated process to make this drink: first it is boiled, then brewed, some of it is then consumed, before being bottled and brewed a second time. As it is consumed at different stages of fermentation, the drink experiences variations in alcohol content. Cogan explains how levels of hotness and moistness vary with age, as wine is usually hot and dry in the second degree, but “if it bee very old, it is hot in the third degree, and must, or new wine is hot in the first” (238). Both ingredients, like raisins, and the methods, like brewing, build upon themselves to increase the heat in the drink.

Based on these recipes, I propose that diet drinks can help alleviate the conditions caused by an excess of coldness and/or dryness, where the recipes’ methods maximise the warmth and moisture of the ingredients. While one of the recipes uses hot ingredients in a cold medium, the other recipes build the heat and/or wetness in the ingredients upon the heat produced in the methods. Although the definition of diet drink is focused on its medicinal purposes, I would argue that diet drinks are also focused on correcting the imbalance of heat and/or moistness in the body.

Works Cited

Baker, Margaret. “Receipt book of Margaret Baker.” LUNA: Folger Digital Image Collection. Ca. 1675. Web. 04 Apr. 2017.

Cogan, Thomas. The Haven of Health. Fourth Edition. London: Anne Griffin for Roger Ball, 1636.

“ˈdiet-drink, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2017. Web. 4 April 2017.

Fanshawe, Lady Ann. “Recipe book of Lady Ann Fanshawe.” Wellcome library. Ca. 1651-1707. Web. 04 Apr. 2017.

Gerard, John, et al. The herball or Generall historie of plantes. London: Printed by Adam Islip Joice Norton and Richard Whitakers, 1636.

Winche, Rebeckah. “Receipt book of Rebeckah Winche.” LUNA: Folger Digital Image Collection. Ca. 1666. Web. 04 Apr. 2017.

[1] Instead of cold water, Cogan recommends alcohol or drinks with warm properties like a “hot posset” as “they use in Lancashire” (236-237). Cogan also talks about the boiling of whey, and how clarifying milk affect its properties (255). Boiling could also at the period be a way to check the purity of a liquid, like water, where clean water had “little skim or froth in boyling” (237).

Solveig Roervik is a student of Dr. Nancy Simpson-Younger at Pacific Lutheran University.

EMROC News from the Renaissance Society of America Conference

By Hillary Nunn

The Renaissance Society of American conference this spring showcased a fantastic series of presentations involving EMROC members and their research. Recipes were a real presence during the Chicago meeting, as were digital projects involving domestic texts.

First thing on April 1, The Society for the Study of Early Modern Women sponsored “Mobile Knowledge in Early Modern English Recipes.” Edith Snook (University of New Brunswick) detailed Lady Grace Mildmay’s access to plants – and cures – from the Americas, while and Madeline Bassnett (University of Western Ontario) traced Ann Fanshawe’s collection of Spanish recipes during her years as a diplomat’s wife. Lyn Bennett (Dalhousie University) offered a preview of her book Rhetoric, Medicine, and the Woman Writer, 1600-1700 (forthcoming from Cambridge later this year), detailing the ways that recipes helped women like the Countess of Exeter establish authority within a patriarchal world.

So, in short:

In the session that followed,
“Glimpsing Women’s Experience through Early Modern Recipe Manuscripts,”
Marissa Nicosia (Penn State Abington) helped audiences understand the complexity and appeal of a recipe for Portugal Eggs. After my own discussion of water in EMROC texts, Katie Walker from the University of North Carolina addressed recipe books as satire, concentrating on Cromwell’s allegedly overly homely wife as depicted in a recipe book attributed to – but most likely completely separate from – her household.

Later in the day, Maggie Simon (North Carolina State) offered a fantastic discussion of recipe transcription with the Dromio interface in The Phenomenality of Digital Transcription. In her panels, part of a series entitled New Technologies and Renaissance Studies, Maggie outlined her students’ experiences working with EMROC texts, highlighting the ways that transcription helped her students feel more at home with early modern texts.

Hillary Nunn is Professor of English at the University of Akron.

God in the Recipe

Written by Jana Jackson

The diverse uses of an early modern woman’s private space in the home, often termed her “closet,” are reflected in the writing she produced. A good Protestant woman, for example, was encouraged to take notes in her Bible and to also keep a commonplace book containing personal religious musings: “[Readers] were also trained to compile their own collections [of religious thoughts] on bound or loose-leaf pages, either following the subject headings of a trusted authority or devising a scheme that met their particular needs” (Sherman 75). These commonplace place books also contained recipes, both culinary and medicinal. In addition, women compiled “receipt books,” to prove their competency in domestic responsibilities. In keeping with the non-bifurcation of religion from quotidian life in the early modern period, some of these receipt books contain references to God, Bible verses, and other religious marginalia in addition to recipes.

Many extant receipt books, of course, contain no sermon notes or other spiritual prose. However, it is not uncommon for God to be included within the medical receipts even in these texts. Frances Catchmay’s manuscript is an excellent example of the frequent occurrence of God within a receipt as an essential ingredient for achieving the promised efficacy. In a receipt to cure the plague, for example, she instructs the reader to drink a “draught”of malmosey & treacle till he leave casting. . .and after give the patient adrawght of bournt malmsey without treacle, & so cast him into asweate, & let him be after kept very warme, & by the grace of god [italics mine] he shall have helpe (22r). Likewise, Mary Granville’s rendition of “Doctor Burges” plague water includes the phrase “under God trusting” to support her assertion that “this never did faile either man woman or child” (41r).

Cookery and medicinal recipes of the Granville family, MS V.a.430 Folger Shakespeare Library

Certainly, the desperate crisis of the descent of bubonic plague on a town makes exhortations to God, even among the non-religious, in the physics of plague waters understandable. Kevin Killeen, in fact, asserts that it was not uncommon for doctors to flee from infestations of the plague, leaving behind less wealthy citizens and, presumably, female domestic practitioners anxiously dispensing their homemade physic (194). Additionally, the plague was often viewed by early modern Protestants as a curse from God in punishment of sin, thus reinforcing the view that healing the disease cures both the body and soul (194). But “God as ingredient” occurs in receipts for less catastrophic (or contagious) diseases as well. For example, Margaret Baker’s receipt titled “For the fallinge downe of the mother” concludes with a claim that “it will help by the grace of god” (57r). These early modern Protestant women frequently acknowledge that without God’s help, physics treating a variety of diseases will fail.

The Receipt Book of Margaret Baker, MS V.a.419. Folger Shakespeare Library

God was, therefore, often thought to be a highly efficacious “ingredient” in early modern physic. A woman was extolled as truly pious if she demonstrated her faith in every aspect of her life, including, of course, the imitation of Christ achieved through healing the sick. Additionally, it contributed to the credibility of the value of the receipt itself. Arguably, male physicians were more likely to incorporate domestic physic into their own medical practices if the contributor was a pious woman who understood her place within the cultural/religious patriarchy.[1] Therefore, “God in the recipe” accomplished two important functions for an early modern Protestant woman: It “proved” her piety, and it lent authority in the male-dominated medical profession to her domestic medical practice.

 

Jana Jackson is a graduate student at the University of Texas, Arlington

Works Cited

Baker, Margaret. Receipt book of Margaret Baker. MS V.a.619. Folger Shakespeare Library, 1675(?). Web.

Catchmay, Lady Frances. A booke of medicens. MS184A. Wellcome Library, 1625(?). Web.

Grenville Family. Cookery and medicinal recipes of the Granville family. MS V.a.430. Folger Shakespeare Library, c.a. 1640. Web.

Killeen, Kevin. “Powder for Padlocks: The Rhetoric of Thanksgiving and the Politics of Flight in Caroline Plague.” Literature and Popular Culture in Early Modern England. Eds. Matthew Dimmock and Andrew Hadfield. Great Britain: MPG Books Group, 2009. 193-207. Print.

Sherman, William H. Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England. Philadelphia, PA: U of Pennsylvania P, 2008. MLA International Bibliography. Print.

[1] See, for example, Richard Banister’s encomium of Lady Grace Mildmay in his “Letter to the Reader” in A Treatise of One Hundred and Thirteen Diseases of the Eyes by Jacques Guillemeau.

To Make a Selebub

Written by Marissa Nicosia

Reposted from Cooking in the Archives

The day after Christmas I opened my laptop and started transcribing a page of Constance Hall’s recipe book, Folger Shakespeare Library MS V.a.20. I did this every day for twelve days as part of an Early Modern Recipes Online (EMROC) holiday Transcribathon. I transcribed sitting next to my sister-in-law, in the early morning hours before a pre-semester faculty meeting, after yoga, and at the end of a long day of preparation for the Modern Language Association conference. It was nice to pause amidst the festivity, work, and routine to transcribe a few pages of Constance Hall’s book. It’s not that I never complete transcriptions anymore – I transcribe lots of recipes for this site and other related projects – it’s just that I usually skim physical or digital recipe books looking for recipes I’m excited to cook, rather than transcribing everything on a page, fussing over abbreviations, musing about alternate spellings, and puzzling through tricky lines. Transcribing daily reconnected me to my research for this project in a new way, honed my skills, and, of course, added many recipes to my long “to cook” list.

hall-cropped
The EMROC blog has a wonderful post with background information about Constance Hall and her manuscript.

Hall’s lovely, calligraphic title page is dated 1672. I decided to try this recipe for “selebub,” or syllabub first because syllabubs were all the rage in the last decades of the seventeenth century when Hall compiled her manuscript. Alyssa’s “Solid Sillibib” post offers an excellent account of this syllabub craze and she includes many transcribed recipes from other manuscripts as examples of the trend. I’m also tipping my hat to Gina Patnaik and Lili Loofbourow whose epic quest to make a birch whisk to stir their syllabub over at The Awl still leaves me in awe.

marissa-2marissa-3

The Recipe

syllabub-cropped-4

To make selebubbe
Take 2 quarts of cream and sweet[en]
it and put it in to a bason and squise
in to lemons in to it and on of the p[eel]
put in a quarter of a pint of sack and
put in one drop of oring flower water
take out the lemon whip it with a cl[ean]
whiske and put it in your glasses halfe
this will fill seauen

Our Recipe

Since the recipe notes that it will fill seven syllabub glasses half full (serving seven), I quartered the recipe. These proportions produced a quart of syllabub. I also guessed on the sugar and used sherry for the sack.

2 c cream (1 pint)
1/3 c sugar
half a lemon: peel cut into long strips, then juiced
2 T sherry (for the sack)
1/4 t orange blossom water
Optional: extra grated zest (orange and/or lemon) to serve

Stir together the cream, sugar, lemon juice, sherry, and orange blossom water. Add the lemon peel. Let sit for 1 hour.

Remove the lemon peel. Whisk until a stiff foam forms using a standing mixer, a handheld mixer, or a whisk. Serve in small glasses or bowls.

marissa-5marissa-6

The Results

The most decadent whipped cream I’ve ever tasted: This is my best effort at describing the syllabub. It’s sweet, but not too sweet. It’s slightly boozy, but grounded by the acidity of the lemon and the unavoidable creaminess of the, well, cream.

I want to spoon it over chocolate ice cream. I want to spread it on dense, rich cake. I want to serve it with poached or roasted fruit. Basically, I want to eat it in the least seventeenth-century way possible. I’m not especially interested in sipping or spooning it from a glass. I’m curious to see what happens with the rest of the batch over the weekend.

marissa-7 marissa-8marissa-9

Marissa Nicosia is an Assistant Professor of Renaissance Literature at Penn State University, Abington

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.

This is How My Grandmother Cooks: Manuscript Recipes in the Composition Classroom

By Samantha Snivley

This past summer, the relationship between early modern recipes and teaching undergraduates was on everyone’s mind at the “Teaching Early Modern Recipes in the Digital Age” workshop at Attending to Early Modern Women. How could we bring manuscript receipt collections into our classrooms, and what could students learn from them?

Manuscript recipes raise questions of form, genre, and purpose, and these questions are key to undergraduate writers’ development of academic writing skills. Most of the ideas proposed in June were intended for literature or history courses, but as a graduate student teaching a standardized composition syllabus, I wanted to know: What could manuscript recipes teach an introductory composition course about writing?

I ran the experiment this winter in my UWP001: Expository Writing class, and it turns out that manuscript recipes are perfect texts to think with in a composition classroom. I incorporated selected manuscript recipes into a unit on rhetorical analysis, and a day on “Genre” seemed most germane for my class to discuss the ways that manuscript recipes intricately combine genre and form with audience concerns. I wanted my students to realize that formal, generic, and linguistic choices are vital to constructing rhetorical messages.

I used two recipes from the Wellcome Library’s digital collections: a recipe for “biskett bread” from the 1686 recipe book of Elizabeth Godfrey & others (MS 2535, folio 14) and a recipe for “ginger bread cake” from the 1699 manuscript of Edward & Katharine Kidder (MS3107, folios 19 and 20). I paired this with a recipe for “French Bread” from Hannah Woolley’s 1672 The Exact Cook (142).

Slide05Slide07

However, it would be cruel to make a group of undergrads read 17th-century handwriting, so I transcribed the manuscripts for our discussion. I then asked my students: Based on these texts, what are the formal conventions of a recipe? How does the genre change over time, or among rhetorical situations? And what do these genre conventions suggest about audience expectations and expertise?

My students were bemused by the diction, phrasing, and imprecision of the 17th-century recipes, but quickly inferred audience expectations from the genre conventions they observed. They noted that the form of a manuscript recipe required a variety of literacies in its audiences, and from there were argued that manuscript recipes also assumed a body of experiential knowledge acquired prior to reading the recipe.[1] We then discussed the reciprocity of this relationship: if you can infer qualities about the audience from a text, how might a writer use genre conventions to interact with their audience?

At first, my students had some difficulty articulating the complex way that recipes both required and contributed to a shared culture of experiential knowledge. They found the injunction in Woolley’s recipe to “let not your Oven be too hot,” odd in a text intended to teach its audience a new skill. However, they were able to navigate this question by retracing these ideas through their own experiences interacting with recipes. A number of students noted that “this sounds like the way my grandmother describes her recipes/makes her food,” and we discussed the way that genres function as a contract between writer and reader.

Using recipes to think about the ways an audience for a piece of rhetoric is partially determined by form was a productive exercise for my composition students. Not only were they able to watch a genre develop and change over time—thereby realizing the social nature of written genres—they were also able to think about their own abilities to control and work with genre conventions to further their own rhetorical message.

Samantha Snively, Graduate Student, University of California, Davis

Works Cited

[1] Wendy Wall describes this as “kitchen literacy” in “Literacy and the Domestic Arts.” Huntington Library Quarterly 73.3 (2010): 383-412.

Medicine in the Granville Family Manuscript (Folger Va 340)

By Amanda Torres

With a receipt titled, “A Receipt to take away the red spots out of the Face after the small pox are gone,” one has to wonder the intention behind offering such a promise. Was this particular disease proliferated by festering spots left untreated, or was the receipt’s intent driven by cosmetic ritual, simply to rid the face of unsightly blemishes and ghastly disfigurement. First we must identify what these incremental ingredients signify or stand in for. “Tansey water” was likely derived from the tansy plant, an invasive and flowering sort. Regarding tansy, the Oxford English Dictionary states that “all parts of the plant have a strong aromatic scent and bitter taste”; therefore the plant would be better suited for medicinal application rather than ingestion.

“Sulphur vivum” means “native or virgin sulphur,” an active, bacteria-killing ingredient typically used for the treatment of skin conditions in the form of topical ointments. “Leamons” or lemons are also employed for their cleansing properties. Recurring in the Granville and Winche receipt books is the mention of “camphire,” or camphor, which The OED defines as a “whitish translucent crystalline volatile substance, belonging chemically to the vegetable oils, and having a bitter aromatic taste and a strong characteristic smell.” The OED also states it was formerly regarded as an “antaphrodisiac” and therefore used to combat venereal disease. Modern science endorses camphor for its soothing and decongestant properties.

All of these units combine to absolve a patient from the aftereffects of a horribly painful disease. Billed between a receipt for “possett” and a “plaister for the spleene,” alleviating “smallpox spots” reinforces the critical anxieties of the early modern period, as disease and plague indiscriminately conquered countless lives. The recipe’s main goal seeks not to cure the disease itself, but to create a solution for the “pustules,” or blistering pus-filled sores that covered a victim’s face and body. Sores would often leaving scarring and permanent damage, so the Granville entry remains a hopeful fix. Also important to note is the category of ingredients called for, as lemon, sulfur, and camphor are still in use today for their antibiotic properties. The use of proven antibacterial ingredients suggests a scientific understanding of how these ingredients worked, a knowledge that if not formally acquired, was established through trial and error.

My uncertainty still lies with “Cemitary water,” which seems to suggest a contaminated product, marred by disease or death. Despite these connotations relating to the nature of smallpox, I’m unsure of how this ingredient fits in with fighting against the disease. Following my primary receipt of study is “Another Receipt” which suggests a variance on treating smallpox sores. The key difference in this receipt happens with the use of “milke.” On the next page we see “An ointment to take the spotts out of the Face after the small Pox” and “A very good ointment for a tetter or any Itching.” The physical appearance of disease is aggressively targeted specifically in this set of receipts. The topicality of these receipts parallels the humoral notions of early modern health we’ve discussed, as internal strategy plays a significant role in guiding food and medicine across this period.

Amanda Torres is an MA student at the University of Texas, Arlington and a member of Professor Amy Tigner’s “Culinary Shakespeare” class.

The Snail’s Touch: Prescribing Mollusks in Early Modern Receipt Books

By Vincent Sosko

When perusing through the pages of an historical receipt book, a transcriber will encounter many perplexing headings to the various recipes for food and medicine. Those recipe titles that inevitably make the transcriber stop scrolling and their jaws drop in a simultaneous expression of repulsion and intrigue are the ones that stir up the most discussion and research (typically resulting in many odd Google searches for herbs we are not familiar with or things we never thought could be ingredients). On page 8 of Rebeckah Winche’s receipt book, the simple heading “Snail Water” is the cause for one such instance of repulsion, intrigue, and rapid Google searching.

The recipe gets off to a foreboding start when it calls for “a peck of garden snails” that the preparer will “wash in a great bowle of beere” so that they may be cooked in “charcole … till thay be dead.” This seventeenth century barbeque only becomes more entertaining when we add in “a quart of earth wormes” that will be stamped together with the beer-cleansed snails. And with the title of this recipe only stating the end product and not describing any sort of usage or purpose, a reader of this might think this beverage to be just a common spirit of another age. Of course, if the transcriber were to look on the opposing page and see the heading of a recipe saying, “A Drinke for the Plague when it first seses any one,” they might come to the understanding that they are not in the section of the receipt book covering libations.

Winche’s “Snail Water” recipe never actually gives an ailment that this remedy could be attempting to cure though. Historians have identified the use of snails in a number of medical therapies, mostly antiquated, but still some having modern relevancy. One use has been for dermatological treatment of wounds or warts, and this use is still seeing some interest in contemporary medicine (see Steve Thomas’s vivid study using slugs and snails to treat skin lesions). Another broad category of conditions that snails have been linked to treating deals with brain malfunctions and blood-related diseases. Today, neuroscientists are exploring the possibilities of snail venom in decreasing the brain’s reception to addictive drugs. What this broad category ultimately relates to is a disease that this Winche recipe may possibly be aiming to remedy – consumption, or as we call it today, tuberculosis.

From that original combination of garden snails and earthworms, the recipe instructs the preparer to create a base mixture in a “great bras pot” upon which the snail-worm blend will lay. This mixture brings together many handfuls of various plants (“rosemary flowers,” “bearsfoot,” “wood bittony,” etc.) that are present in many other recipes in the Winche collection, and that all hold curative powers. All of these ingredients are met with “3 gallons of the strongest Ale” before they receive some additional herbs and are distilled overnight. The potential use for this “Snail Water” hinges on a couple of interpretations, with the most equivocal issue coming the morning after distillation.

Once the concoction produced has stood in a “limbeck,” or alembic (a stilling vessel) overnight, the preparer should “put fier under it & receve the water.” When a transcriber takes on the task of vetting this recipe, they are faced with the choice of tagging the word “receve” as either a production method, where the water is drained from a boiling process and could be an ointment, or as an administration statement, where one is instructed to drink the water as is. If this instruction is a production method, then we could see this as a medicine for skin lesions and other wounds. But if it is indeed an administration statement, then drinking the water directly after it has been boiled will lend this recipe to being an internal treatment for consumption. The fact that the heading atop this recipe simply describes it as water would lead many to side with the latter therapy. A further examination of the listed ingredients could help ‘clear the waters’.

 

Vincent Sosko is a PhD student at the University of Texas, Arlington and a member of Professor Amy Tigner’s “Culinary Shakespeare” class.

Works Cited

The following sources provided the supplemental medical information contained in this commentary. The recipe discussed comes the scanned image “page 8 || page 9” from the “Receipt book of Rebeckah Winche” in the EMROC collection.

 

Archivistkira. “Snail Water? Did I read that right?” What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections?!.

University Libraries, Virginia Tech, September 30, 2011. Web. 25 October 2015. https://whatscookinvt.wordpress.com/2011/09/30/snail-water-did-i-read-that-right/

Bonnemain, Bruno. “Helix and Drugs: Snails for Western Health Care From Antiquity to the Present.” PubMed Central. National Center for Biotechnology Information, January 28, 2005. Web. 26 October 2015.

Thomas, Steve. “Medicinal use of terrestrial molluscs (slugs and snails) with particular reference to their role in the treatment of wounds and other skin lesions.” World Wide Wounds. Medetec Medical Device Consultancy Cardiff, July 2013. Web. 26 October 2015.

Wrathall, Janet. “Snail-Water Information Sheet: A modern analysis of Snail Water.” The Garret. Web. 25 October 2015.

Yuhas, Daisy. “Healing the Brain with Snail Venom.” Scientific American. Nature America, Inc., December 19, 2012. Web. 25 October 2015.

 

 

Rebeckah Winche and The King’s Evil

By Jordan Ivie

Rebeckah Winche’s receipt book (Folger Vb 366) includes three recipes on page 62 that relate to the King’s Evil, one that detects the malady and two that cure it. These recipes consist of many ingredients that seem strange to the modern reader, including the leg of a live toad, turpentine, and worms; the oddest ingredient, however, was “the urine of a man childe he being not aboue 3 years old.” The recipe instructs that 3 spoonfulls of this urine be added to beeswax, turpentine, sheep’s suet, and barley flower, and then the whole concoction is boiled and formed into a plaster to lay on the patient’s sore. Putting aside any consideration of the efficacy of using urine in a remedy, the fact that it is included in a recipe for the King’s Evil says a great deal about early modern conceptions of the masculine body’s healing powers.

A remedy for the King’s Evil is already a recipe that speaks to the period’s faith in masculine curative powers. The King’s Evil, or scrofula, was commonly thought to be curable by the touch of the king (OED); therefore this malady is already charged with preconceptions related to both gender and class: the male ruler is a healer, spreading wellness to the common people. The belief interacts with the notion of using the urine of a man-child, specifically of a child younger than three years old. The ingredient is not related to class or authority, as is the general concept of the King’s Evil, but to age and gender, and perhaps the age restriction relates to purity or cleanliness. Nevertheless the common factor between the King’s touch and the man-child’s urine is gender. Rebekah Winche’s receipt book manifests the time’s preoccupation with gender and healthcare not only in this King’s Evil recipe but also in the one that follows it, which calls for a leg cut from a live frog and tied around the sufferer’s neck. Interestingly, “if it be a boy or man that is greeued then woman must kill the toade but if a girle or woman be ill then a man must kill it.” This recipe, unlike the preceding one, ascribes a degree of healing power to both men and women and highlights the idea that gender is as essential as the ingredients themselves; further, male bodies must aid in the healing of female bodies and female bodies are necessary to heal male bodies.

The presence of three separate recipes on this page show the prevalent fear and perhaps the common occurrence of the King’s Evil in the early modern period, and, while one recipe does give both men and women roles in the healing process, the use of the King’s touch and the urine of a man child as remedies suggest that early moderns put a great deal of faith in the male body’s ability to heal both sexes; somehow, health and vitality are not only inherent in maleness but also transferrable, able to overcome even the most dreaded and debilitating diseases.

Jordan Ivie, Master’s Student at the University of Texas, Arlington and student in Professor Amy Tigner’s graduate class, “Culinary Shakespeare”

 

Observations about EMROC’s 2015 Transcribathon

By Erin Adwell

EMROC’s interactive Humanities Transcribathon project proved highly engaging and illuminating both sociologically and literarily. During the event, I transcribed three pages of recipes from Rebeckah Winche’s receipt book, while sitting with a group of fellow graduate students at the University of Texas, Arlington. Because most ingredients were familiar, the transcription was relatively straight-forward. The ease by which I transcribed these recipes can be attributed to practicing receipt transcription through Cambridge University’s English Handwriting 1500-1700: An online course. By transcribing alone and in small groups then reviewing the work with classmates, I gained valuable experience with problematic letters, such as Hs and Ws, which helped during the Transcribathon.

While transcribing Winche’s recipes I was finally able to move beyond the letters to begin constructing meaning for the first time. I began paying attention to the content and processes described in the recipes. Although, the ingredients on the pages I transcribed were familiar and consisted primarily flowers like Rosemary, several of my classmates encountered strange ingredients. For example, one classmate transcribed a recipe that included the “urin of a man chile,” which was intended to cure the “King’s Evil.” A simple Google search of “King’s Evil” produced images of large, scabby boils on the skin, so I can understand how desperate people would have been to cure the condition. These recipes help elucidate the harsh reality of life during the seventeenth century.

King's Evil Scrofula

The most memorable of the recipes that I transcribed from Winche’s receipt book was for Agua Mirabilis. Agua Mirabilis is not listed in the OED; however, Merriam-Webster explains that it is a distilled cordial of old pharmacy made of spirits, sage, betony, balm, and other aromatic ingredients. An interesting note precedes the recipe, saying that Richard Marns “makes a water which helps children from Convultions and sends directions with it.” This information provided context for the recipe’s origin and aroused my interest in Winche’s life. I looked up Richard Marns’s name in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, but the search wielded no results, which was disappointing. Following the Transcribathon, my knowledge of Winche’s personal life remains limited to my own inferences. I look forward to reading her fully transcribed recipe book to learn more about her world.

Erin Adwell, Graduate Student, University of Texas, Arlington

 

Transcribathon: Recaptured, Reflected, and Envisioned

By Vincent Sosko

The group transcribing work done in our conference room several weeks ago was the first such experience for all eight graduate students from the University of Texas, Arlington. Group work was no stranger to us, but never before had we taken part in a textual archeological dig within such an immense group effort. This ‘dig’ is better termed paleography, and our work with this study so far this semester prepared us for the transcribing we would do that day. Over a month or so of transcribing practice has introduced me to another element of scholarly work, given me exposure to new ingredients for cooking and new conventions of writing, and ultimately allowed me to hone my transcription skills into my own personal style of transcribing, albeit the style of a fledgling. It was not until the day of the Transcribathon that I had considered or realized that my peers were developing their own personal transcribing styles as well.

While uncovering the pages of the receipt book of Rebeckah Winche, we did so on an individual basis where each person selected their own pages and set about the act of transcribing. What our work became was anything but individual, as we held an open line of conversation about the unique remedies to bizarre maladies. Jason, Jordan, and Erin offered up the most intriguing recipes, leading Jayson to dub them the “lucky ones” for encountering those grotesque recipes we all love to read (i.e. a remedy calling for “Bearsfoot” and “pigs blader”). We also openly discussed the troubling words, flourishes, and conventions that others may have had a better sense of understanding. The debates that these struggles led to and the suggestions that came from them was where I clearly saw the very personal ways that we see the handwriting and thus the differing styles of transcribing emerged. Where one transcriber was able to see the dual application of the u/v convention that aided another transcriber who might have been flummoxed when encountering this (such as seeing “couer” and misreading cover as cower and therefore being contextually confused), there was a transcriber who had developed a routine to interpret ‘thorns’ that lent itself to others. These differing transcription styles came together to vivify paleography for me, and what we were creating was much more than an in depth collection of transcribed recipes.

This bonding we had over our work on the pages, supported by the bonding over the large variety of snacks available, provided me with a new sense of scholarly work that I have not had much exposure to yet; one in which we receive more joy and intellectual reward in the journey than in the destination. To think that the work we did within our four walls was connected to a worldwide network of the same journey helps me realize now just how the Transcribathon emulated the potential of scholarship for those who continue in academia.

Vincent Sosko, PhD student, University of Texas, Arlington

Vetting Rewards

By Joul Smith

Vetting rewards. It may not be the sexiest part of transcribing, but scrutinizing the products of the Winche (Folger V.b. 366) transcribathon has improved my technical skills as a transcriber and re-oriented the value I place on my work with recipes. And as a graduate student whose work and study revolves around early modern English, I’m developing “skill” and “purpose” for my future profession by vetting.

At first, vetting sounds grueling and intrusive. Here’s the process: I collate the various transcriptions, determine which versions are the best, reformat them into one text that can be correctly interfaced with Dromio (the Folger Shakespeare Library’s transcription tool), edit them (by re-transcribing if necessary), then pain-stakingly tag every word that matches a specific category (And for recipes, it’s almost every other word.). In my graduate classes, this is usually the work of transcription trolls. They would sneak in after you spent hours hashing out the general spine of a difficult hand and use your hard work to finish a transcription that was only possible because of your initial dedication to the text. Then they would brag about their skills as a transcriber (Yeah. I’m still getting over it.). In the case of the Winche manuscript, for instance, a recipe for “A Drink for the Sciaticae” has a crossed out “bru,” which three highly accomplished transcribers labeled three different ways: “bri,” “bro,” and “be.” Close examination shows that the “u” matches the hand’s “u” and the line “bru one ounce of licorish brused,” seems to demonstrate an editorial thought-process—worthwhile, but now I’m the troll.

Screenshot 2015-11-02 12.14.35

Yet in the end, vetting stretches my capabilities and makes me a better student of early modern English, paleography, and the digital humanities. For example, I want a researcher to authentically experience “two pailefuls of pumps water” in Winche’s “How to dry Meats Tongues,” but the “pailefuls” is spelled strangely and the hand hardly helps. Furthermore, the “s” in “pumps” could be an “e,” but it’s unclear. I firmly believe it’s an “s” because it matches what seems like the speech pattern indicated in the heading: “Meats tongues.” Put it all together, and we have a unique measurement, “pailefuls” and an intriguing kind of ingredient “pump’s water” that all needs to be tagged through overlapping features that preserves the original text. At junctures like “pumps,” vetting isn’t a straight-forward, objective activity, despite our solid principles and rigorous criteria. For you worriers, I put on my graduate-level-expertise hat and marked it as an unclear “s” which responsibly renders an accurate and authentic version of Winche’s recipes for future researchers.

As you can see, there is fruit in this exercise (sometimes literally), and it isn’t just the result of correcting transcription. Sure, it sharpens my paleographic eye, increases my early modern recipe lexicon, and improves my ever-expanding digital skill. But when I correct a milestone overlap in TEI syntax, I’m not just fixing XML, I’m transferring the knowledge of the Winche manuscript to those who want and need it but can’t access it easily or at all.

Joul Smith, Graduate Student, University of Texas, Arlington