If you want to design a menu for a dinner party, you might start by consulting your recipe books, to see what to cook. But what if you have the dinner menu, and need to work backwards to try to find out what people were eating, and what flavours they were actually consuming? For our research, we started by digitizing the menus of two households—those of George III and his son the Prince Regent. Now, we are using their shopping lists, and menus in contemporary published cookery books, to try to determine what ingredients went in to making the royal diet at the end of the long eighteenth century. In this talk, I will be discussing the kinds of assumed knowledge contained in menu ledgers, and some of the things we have learned so far, by linking the ledgers together with other sources, in particular about the presence of imported techniques and ingredients, which suggest that the diet we think of as quintessentially British was only possible thanks to cultural ties with Europe, and the brutal exploitation of overseas colonies.
Possibly undeciphered for over 300 years until now, the shorthand Mary Hawker penned in parts of her recipe book is an intriguing material aspect of the manuscript. Here is a rare example of early shorthand being used for something other than sermon taking, diary keeping, or legal reporting. My talk provides an overview of this writing, considering it in relation to some wider contexts of seventeenth-century stenography – as well as revealing what it says.
This talk reads English turkey recipes, including those in the collection belonging to Mary Hawker (d. 1691) through the lens of Indigenous critics of colonialism, particularly those that explore Indigenous food sovereignty and the way that colonialism damaged Indigenous food cultures across the Americas. Present in England because of colonial violence, turkeys became firmly rooted in English culture, not just in cookery, but at feasts and in agriculture; they were even referenced in art and literature. Although turkeys are not the only Indigenous foods to make their way into English food culture, as creatures turkeys seem especially to illustrate some ways in which the violent history of colonialism shadows food culture in the early modern Atlantic world.
Please come to this Q&A session armed with your questions or comments if you have any. You will be able to post questions in the chat. Alternatively you can use this slido: https://app.sli.do/event/rgDvTY9VRsat6V6vLvN3ai