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.

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.

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.


The Recipe


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.


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

What a Year!


princess-leiaWelcome to 2017!  2016, as brutal as it was on our cultural icons, was a productive, exciting year for the Early Modern Recipes Online Collective.  Hundreds of pages were transcribed and vetted by students, members, and paleographers; eight classrooms participated in the work of keying and contextualizing.  The second annual EMROC transcribathon successfully triple-keyed a lengthy and fascinating manuscript, and the first transcribathon of the Early Modern Paleography Society (EMPS) transcribed another.  Undergraduate research assistants and graduate student researchers, old and new, enhanced the team throughout the year.  All brought us within a lightsaber length of fulfilling our goal of 10 manuscripts completed by the end of 2017!

Last year, students across the United States and Great Britain engaged the manuscripts of Margaret Baker, Mistress Corlyon, Elizabeth Bulkeley, Constance Hall and others in fulfilling our “connected classrooms” mission.  Margaret Baker’s fascinating mid-seventeenth- century collection has been worked on by undergraduates at the University of Texas–Arlington, University of Colorado–Colorado Springs, and Pennsylvania State University–Abington in parallel with students at the University of Essex under the guidance of their respective professors Amy Tigner, Rebecca Laroche, Marissa Nicosia, and Lisa Smith. In the spring, undergraduates at North Carolina State worked with Maggie Simon on the eclectic text of Constance Hall; the Honors students at Pacific Lutheran University, under the direction of Nancy Simpson-Younger, and undergraduates at Bennington College, working with Carol Pal, engaged the learned text of Mistress Corlyon. Meanwhile, the challenging secretary hand of Elizabeth Bulkeley was tackled by undergraduates at UCCS and graduate students at UTA, and the Early Modern Paleography Society (EMPS) of the University of North Carolina–Charlotte contributed transcriptions across the EMROC projects.

Last year also witnessed the great success of two transcribathons and other transcription initiatives.  In April, EMPS held its first annual transcribathon and conference, in which recipes were explored in their textual and material valences and a transcription of the anonymous eighteenth-century manuscript Folger W.b.653 was completed. castleton-1 In October, the second annual EMROC transcribathon successfully triple-keyed the Castleton manuscript (Folger V.a.600) and a most exciting connection was discovered between this manuscript and the subject of last year’s event, the Winche manuscript (Folger V.B.366). The husbands of both households joined Parliament in the significant year 1661, Lord Castleton joining the House of Lords, Humphrey Winche, the House of Commons. The comparison of the two manuscripts thus introduces unprecedented research opportunities.  Finally, “Thankful Thanksgiving” and “The Twelve Days of EMROC,” highlighted many gastronomical delights and moved the Constance Hall manuscript nearly to completion.

The progress made through the work of individual undergraduate and graduate researchers in 2016 cannot be underestimated.  The continued crucial work of Julia Jaegle at the Max Planck Institute was fortified by the arrival of University of Leeds history graduate student, Giovanni Pozzetti, in August for a month-long residency at the Institute. Mr. Pozzetti provided valuable help in resolving major technical issues, transcribing difficult handwriting, and vetting triple-keyed pages. Also appreciated are the contributions of Monterey Hall in a summer internship at UCCS in which she composed the introduction to the Baker Project and vetted most of the Winche manuscript. And Jessie Foreman at the University of Essex worked on various EMROC projects with Lisa Smith. Beyond this critical work, EMROC members continue to inform the broader academic community of their research and classroom findings, presenting at the MLA, RSA, Shakespeare Association of America, and the Society for the Social History of Medicine this past year, as well as a very specific conference on manuscript cookbooks at New York University in May (see News and Events for details).

In our first in-person meeting in October of 2015, the steering committee articulated a goal of having ten manuscripts database ready by the end of 2017.  In this year’s meeting, it became clear to us that this goal is certainly attainable. A growing number of classrooms are involved in our exciting work. Rob Wakeman’s courses at the University of South Florida and David Goldstein’s at York University are now joining with four other scheduled classes this spring, and Individual students at PSUA, NCSU, and PCU are undertaking independent research. More classrooms than any other semester will be involved, and EMPS has planned their second transcribathon for the end of March.  As a result, the steering committee has made vetting a focus, hoping to enlist various members and advanced students in the work of bringing these transcriptions to their best possible form. For what makes our goals most realizable is the partnership with the Folger Shakespeare Library’s EMMO project, and as I write this, the EMMO beta has been launched!  screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-8-57-51-pm-copyEMROC steering committee members will be presenting in the May conference celebrating the event. And, in the coming year, we will begin to see EMROC’s manuscripts in their vetted searchable form, the realization of our hard work of this past year, the years before, and the years to come.


By Rebecca Laroche
University of Colorado–Colorado Springs





The Transcribathon in Summary

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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

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

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

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


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