Transcribathon Banquet

 

Please join us virtually for our 3rd annual online Transcribathon on Tuesday, November 7, where we will have a number of texts available for transcription.

In the past two Transcribathons, we have worked only on one text, Rebeckah Winche (Folger V.b.366) and then Lady Castleton (Folger V.a.600)—respectively—from start to finish. This year we are going to take a different approach: to complete several texts. Our goal is to have 10 completed texts this year, that is 10 triple-transcribed and vetted early modern recipe books that can be downloaded in a searchable pdf. We currently have a number of texts that are either partially transcribed or fully transcribed but not completely vetted.  So, in working to complete these texts we will be offering a banquet of possibilities for those interested in learning more about early modern recipes and paleography.

In terms of transcription, we will begin with the L. Cromwell recipe book (Folger V.a.8), which is one third done, and then when it is finished we will move onto Margaret Baker manuscript (Folger Va619), which is approximately two thirds transcribed.


To make an Apple pudding. Cromwell Manuscript, Folger V.a.8, F37.

For advanced paleographers interested in learning the art of vetting, we will also be offering a number of texts to be vetted, first then Mary Cruso (Folger X.d.24) then Lady Castleton, and finally the recipe manuscript written by Lettice Pudsey (Folger V.a. 450).  We are, in short, offering a kind of smorgasbord of transcribing—or a “choose your own adventure” in early modern paleography with a mix of 21st century coding.

Please save the date, November 7, and stayed tuned for more information soon.   We hope you will join us.

Amy L. Tigner, University of Texas, Arlington

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

 

 

 

Margaret Baker’s “Goulden Water”

Written by Mikayla Boynton

When looking through multiple recipe books from the 17th and 18th centuries, one will often find similar, if not copied entries across several manuscripts. One very interesting entry is found in Margaret Baker’s 1675 manuscript titled “The goulden water other wise called; the water of life” (fol. 78r).

This recipe calls for walnuts to be collected in the beginning of June, mid-Summer, and 14 days after mid-summer. After each collection of walnuts, one must “breake them in a morter; [and] still them in a stillitory of lead” (fol. 78r), keeping each distillate separately from the others after they are prepared.

“Receipt Book of Margaret Baker,” FSL MS V.a.619, fol. 78r.

Once each of the waters is stilled separately, the final step is to combine a pint of each previously stilled water together in a “stillit tory of glasse & soe keepe it” (fol. 78v). After the recipe itself, Baker immediately explains that this water can “helpe all feuers & palsies” when one drop is added to water, cure the eyes of “all the diseases & paine” when one drop is added to each, and can even “causeth a woman to conceive childe if shee take a spoonefull in wine once a daie” (fol. 78v); furthermore, she mentions that the water can help one sleep when rubbed on one’s temples, and will cure all infirmities in the body if consumed with wine.

“Receipt Book of Margaret Baker,” FSL MS V.a.619, fol. 78v

This recipe is found in at least four additional manuscripts from the 17th century – anonymous manuscripts MS8086 and MS1325 and MS7391 credited to Venetia Digby and MS3712 credited to Elizabeth Okeover and each includes the same specific instructions seen in Baker. All four manuscripts differ from Baker’s version of this recipe in small and various ways, but each share one common difference. The first variable difference appears in two of the four manuscripts: MS7391 and MS3712, or Digby and Okeover’s manuscripts. While Baker only includes that her recipe is also called “the water of life,” these titles further explain that “it is called the water of life for its vertues” (Digby 128).

Venetia Digby, “English Recipe Book, 17th Century,” Wellcome MS 7391, fol. 128.

These two manuscripts, as well as MS8086, present the second variable difference, as they list the cures this water possesses under a separate heading titled “The Vertues” (Digby 129),

Venetia Digby, “English Recipe Book, 17th century,” Wellcome Library, MS7391, fol. 129.

whereas Baker lists them directly after the recipe without this heading. However, all of these recipes differ from Baker’s in that they give it the title, “walnut water” instead of “goulden water.”

Calling this a recipe for “walnut water” makes logical sense given the ingredients, as does including that it is also known as the “water of life,” given the multitude of uses it possesses to prolong one’s life. When one takes into account references to the “water of life” in the Bible, Baker’s decision to change the title of this recipe to “goulden water” begins to make sense as well. In the book of John from the 1699 translation of the Geneva Bible, Jesus asks a woman pulling from a well if she will allow him a drink, and after she refuses, he replies, “If thou knewest that gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me drink, thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee water of life” (4:10). In this verse, the “water of life” refers to the eternal love of God, and Jesus further explains that drinking this water will result in “everlasting life” (John 4:14). Subtitling this recipe the “water of life” refers to more than just its healing abilities when considered in this context, and Baker’s main title, “goulden water,” brings to mind the golden virtues of God. On the other hand, the meat of a walnut is slightly golden in color, so this change in title could also refer to the color of the water after the walnuts are distilled.

When paired with the title “walnut water,” it may not be immediately clear why the recipe is also called the “water of life,” requiring further explanation that it is “for its vertues,” then, requiring a subheading under which the author lists “The Vertues” this water possesses. The title “walnut water” immediately tells the reader the main ingredient of the recipe, but requires additional explanation to reveal the allusion in the subtitle. Thus, Baker’s decision to change the title of this recipe to “goulden water” allows her to omit the additional explanation of the subtitle, and the subheading to create a more accessible, recognizable allusion. Used in this context, the Oxford English Dictionary defines “goulden” as, “Resembling gold in value; most excellent, important, or precious,” illustrating the immense value Baker sees in this recipe. This definition also lends to the idea that the color of this water may resemble gold, while the many cures it provides resemble gold in their excellence. By changing the main title of this recipe, Baker both strengthens the Biblical allusion in the subtitle, and emphasizes the medicinal value of her recipe.

Works Cited

Anonymous. “A booke of usefull receipts for cookery, etc.” Wellcome Library, MS1325            fols.183-185.
Anonymous, “Receipt book, early 17th century.” Wellcome Library, MS8086 fol.112.
Baker, Margaret. “Receipt Book of Margaret Baker, ca. 1675?” Folger Shakespeare Library      MS V.a.619. fols. 78r–78v.
Digby, Venetia. “English Recipe Book, 17th century.” Wellcome Library, MS7391. fols. 128–     129.
“golden,” adj.4. OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2017. Web. 24 April 2017.
Okeover, Elizabeth. “Okeover, Elizabeth (& Others).” Wellcome Library, MS3712. fol.102.

Mikayla Boynton is a student at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, where she conducted this research as an assignment in the course “Digital Research Methods with Historical Recipes,” taught by Rebecca Laroche.

 

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?

 

Foalefoote: Defining Ingredients Contextually

Written by Tristan McGuin

It is frequent when transcribing and analyzing older recipes that we come across a word that we do not readily recognize. Whether it be a word that is no longer used frequently, or a word that we know but appears to be used in a seemingly bizarre sense, it is important that we find a solution to the word in order to better understand the recipes and their historical framework that helped construct them. On top of this, some words have multiple definitions and it takes contextual understanding of a recipe to figure out the appropriate definition for the word. Luckily, with continually developing advances in technology, we have many online databases available to us to begin our journey into learning more about specific ingredients.

Such an instance of confusion appears early on in the transcription of Mistress Corlyon’s “A Syropp for the Coughe of the Lounges.” Corlyon’s syrup calls for many different ingredients stating, “of Scabies, three good handfulles, and halfe so much of Foalefoote, and the like quantity of Sinicle, the like of Pennyroyall” (Corlyon, fol. 169). One’s first thought is likely some variation of the question, ‘what are all of these ingredients exactly?’ We surely do not use scabies, foalefoote, sinicle or pennyroyall in modern recipes. Or do we? Let’s take a look at foalefoote.

The first step we need to take in unfolding the mystery of this ingredient would be to look up the definition of the word since we are not readily familiar with it. Often, a simple Google search is not helpful enough as Google has a tendency to show us search results for current, contemporary versions of the words. This is where we can turn to incredibly detailed databases such as the Oxford English Dictionary online to provide further insight. Running the word ‘foalefoote’ through the OED turns up no specific results. However, ‘foalfoot’—for which foalefoote is an obvious variant spelling—turns up three different definitions. Here is where it becomes incredibly important that the reader has a genuine understanding of the context and other details of the recipe in order to begin narrowing down which definition could be the correct one. To begin, because we know Corlyon’s works were published in the 1600’s, we must look for definitions that fit this timeline before moving any further. The very first definition provided fitting this criteria is “coltsfoot, n.” (foalfoot, n.1.) first used in a1400 and the second is “asarabacca, n.” (foalfoot, n.2.) first used in 1538. Obviously, we must dive even deeper as these words still appear foreign and don’t quite give us the answer we are looking for yet.

Upon clicking the links provided for these definitional words, we find even more definitions. We see that asarabacca is a plant, “sometimes called Hazelwort, used formerly as a purgative and emetic, and still as an ingredient of cephalic snuff.” (asarabacca, n.1.) This is interesting because the definition provided clearly states that this is an ingredient for medicines. However, it is used in medicines that are laxatives or that cause vomiting. We can likely already eliminate this as the contextual definition for Corlyon’s syrups as we should know just from reading her recipe that this is a recipe to aid in respiratory issues and not digestive ones.

Asarabacca (left, also known as Hazelwort) and Coltsfoot (right, also known as Tussilago).

Now to look into ‘coltsfoot’ where we can find three additional definitions. The first matching our criteria states that coltsfoot is “a common weed in waste or clayey ground” (coltsfoot n.1.) with leaves and yellow flowers. The second definition tells us that it is “Applied to other plants allied to the preceding, e.g. fragrant coltsfoot n.,  sweet coltsfoot Nardosmia (Petasites) fragrans and palmata. or resembling it in leaf, etc.” (coltsfoot, n.2.). It appears we have hit a dead end in our search. But we have actually failed to look into coltsfoot enough.

Under the first definition of coltsfoot we can find two subdefinitions of n.1. that state the leaves can be smoked or infused as a cure for asthma. Knowing that asthma is a respiratory issue, we can piece together that this is likely what Corlyon used for her respiratory medicine. Eureka! We have found what we are looking for! With this definition, we can return to other general search engines to find further contemporary details on this plant, leading us to a final and deeper understanding of foalfoot as an ingredient in Corlyon’s syrups.

Sources

“asarabacca, n.1.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2016. Web. 22 April 2017.
“coltsfoot, n.1.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2016. Web. 22 April 2017.
“coltsfoot, n.2.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2016. Web. 22 April 2017.
Corlyon, Mrs. “A booke of such medicines as have been approved by the speciall practize”         of Mrs. Corlyon [manuscript]. Ca. 1660. Folger MS V.a.388.
“foalfoot, n.1.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2016. Web. 22 April 2017.
“foalfoot, n.2.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2016. Web. 22 April 2017.
Photo 1: N.d. Wikimedia Commons. Web. 10 May 2017        <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Asarum_europaeum#/media/File:Asarum_Michels1.jpg>.
Photo 2: N.d. Wikimedia Commons. Web. 10 May 2017.<https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Tussilago_farfara#/media/File:Huflattich_2008-2-23.JPG>

Tristan McGuin is a student at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, where she conducted this research as an assignment in the course “Digital Research Methods with Historical Recipes,” taught by Rebecca Laroche.