Tag Archives: recipes

On the bilingual wagon.

Well, I don’t know about you but this recent spell of tropical Welsh-weather (three words I’ve never had to string together before) has left me quite parched, and for once I cannot blame the rare books dust. And as is sometimes the case in sunny climes, thoughts may  turn to a cool beer or cider, so whilst I have been sunning my soul amongst the books I’ll confess, boozy thoughts have also been sloshing around my mind, and not just because of the weather…

For I have been sourcing works for a current venture by the Recipes Project, a digital humanities blog arranged by a group of international scholars dedicated to the study of recipes in all their forms – culinary, domestic, medicinal, veterinary and magical. Currently, the project is holding its first Virtual Conversation where, through a series of online events participants can share images, texts, and collections on various social media platforms and join in the conversation about ‘What is a Recipe?’

Of course, we were keen to get involved and I was already aware of recipe related materials in our stacks, such as W. Edmond’s New and easy way of making wines from herbs, fruits and flowers (London, 1767); William Hughes’ The compleat vineyard (London, 1665); William Turner’s (not the artist) Book of wines (1568), interestingly, the first book on wine written in English, and A. Shore’s Practical treatise on brewing (1804).

The Complete Vineyard

Extract from William Hughes’, The compleat vineyard: or, A most excellent way of planting vines, (London, 1665).

Now, I wouldn’t want you to get the impression that our collection is a bit of a lush, for  the collections yielded a very interesting range of recipe-related materials which included: Rembert Dodoens, A new herbal, or Historie of plants, (London, 1619); Kenelm Digby’s Choice and experimented receipts in physick and chirurgery: as also cordial and distilled waters and spirits, perfumes and other curiosities, (London, 1688); John Eliot, The medical pocket-book, (London, 1784); and John Howells’ The whole art of farriery laid open: containing cures for every disorder… including several excellent original recipes for horned cattle and sheep, (Cowbridge, c. 1820).

These materials touched upon such a variety of themes, from cooking  to farming and veterinary care; gardening, medicine, chemistry and science, which in turn begged the question for me too – what exactly is a recipe?

A recipe can be defined as a set of instructions for preparing a particular dish or meal, including a list of the ingredients. It can also refer to something that is likely to lead to a particular outcome, so for example, all these books on wine making could be a recipe (no pun intended!) for disaster at our next office Christmas party. A recipe is also a medical prescription. Historically, the term was first used as an instruction, derived from the Latin recipere, meaning to accept or take. This is why you may notice the symbol Rx on any prescriptions, since doctors usually begin theirs with this abbreviation, and why culinary recipes often begin their instructions with ‘take…’, a style first evinced in De re Coquinaria, a collection of 4th or 5th century Roman recipes where each one begins with the Latin command ‘recipe’.

One of the oldest English works on recipes is The Forme of Cury, cury from the Middle French cuire, cook, (just in case you were thinking about a curry too). Written on a vellum scroll around 1390, it is signed by ‘the chief master cooks of King Richard II’. However, it wasn’t until the advent of printing that books on household management and the preparation of food became increasingly popular, no more so than during the 19th century with the Victorian emphasis on domesticity and respectability.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise then, that we have several examples of household instructors and recipe books within our collections, in English and Welsh.

Cook books

Thomas Thomas, Llyfr coginio a chadw ty (A cooking and housekeeping manual), (Wrexham, 1880); S. Mathews, Y Ty, a’r Teulu (The House, and Family), (Denbigh, 1891).

 

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Biscuit recipes from I. Roberts’ The Young Cook’s Guide; with Practical Observations, (London, 1836).

What did strike me as interesting though, was the linguistic element to some of these works. John Pryse’s Welsh Interpreter, for example, is at first glance a basic Welsh dictionary; on second glance a Welsh phrasebook or guidebook of sorts for those travelling to Wales, yet on closer inspection also serves as a recipe book!

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Recipe section of John Pryse’s, Welsh Interpreter: containing an easy introduction to the Welsh language, (Llanidloes, 185?).

Sandwiched between the ‘useful phrases’ and ‘familiar parables’ is a selection of ‘Useful Receipts – Cyfarwyddiadau Buddiol’, with wines at the top of the list no less, as well as ‘Instructions to make bread’.  What’s going on? Is travel writing the new ingredient in recipe literature? What’s even more intriguing is that this section was ‘extracted’ from what Pryse calls a ‘useful Duoglott Receipt Book’, which incidentally we also have in our collection.

Written by the Independent minister, Evan Evans Nant-y-Glo, the book is actually called A Duoglott Guide for Making Temperance Drinks, Barm &c &c, so not quite as intoxicating as some of our earlier recipe books, but there’s enough there to sozzle our interest nonetheless. Drunkeness was seen as a growing problem during the 19th century, especially in the rapidly expanding industrial areas where factors like industrialisation, Nonconformity and social improvement led to a growing resistance against the consumption of alcohol.

Initially an anti-spirits movement, The British and Foreign Temperance Society was founded in London in 1831, and the first temperance society in Wales was established at Holywell in 1832. Others soon followed, and by 1835, the movement had taken a total abstinence or teetotal stance. With the impetus of Nonconformity and religious revivalism, teetotalism made significant progress in Wales during the 1830s, a fact reflected in our collections. Moreover, Evan’s Guide was published in 1838, bilingually so as to broaden its appeal amongst the increasing numbers of non-Welsh industrial workers and the temperance movement generally.

It includes interesting techniques for making ginger beer, pop, lemonade, raspberry vinegar, artificial and spruce ale, as well as jellies and wines and cordials to name but a few. There is a segment on yeast and bread, plus a more curative inspired section for ‘The Weak and the Sick – I’r Gwan a’r Claf’. Here, recipes are noted for their medicinal and comforting properties, such as Flour Caudle which requires simply ‘one desert spoon of fine flour’ mixed with water, milk and sugar to be boiled over the fire. It is, apparently, a ‘very nourishing and gentle astringent food. Excellent for babies that have weak bowels’. But before you check your flour stock, other recipes include China Orange Juice, a very ‘useful thing to mix with water in fevers’, French milk porridge, ‘much ordered with toast, for breakfast, to weak persons’, and a simple ‘very agreeable drink’.

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Curative recipes in English and Welsh from Evan Evans’ A Duoglott Guide for Making Temperance Drinks, Barm &c, (Pontfaen, 1838).

Not such a dry read after all! Indeed, Evan’s temperance recipes serve to highlight just how intricate the study of recipes can be, spreading across subjects and relative themes like history, science, medicine, religion, travel,  even the study of literacy and linguistics.  The debate about recipes is timely indeed, and to quote the Recipes Project, whether you’re a recipes scholar or enthusiast, or indeed a wine or ginger beer lover, there is a place for you in this conversation. And so the moral of this blog post is: off the literary wagon or on it, there’s a recipe that fits. Iechyd da (cheers) everyone!

Christmas and Lemon

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As I sit here opposite our softly lit Christmas tree and roaring fire (*disclaimer: of course, we have no fire, I’ve just written that for atmospheric purposes), it has occurred to me that despite the plethora of materials that we have here in Special Collections, I have been unable to locate any (on) mulled-wine. This has rather stifled the jingle in my book-bells, for what can I bring to the blog besides a turkey at this time of year?

I could follow tradition. Of peace, and earth, we have many a volume, and no doubt you will find something on the nature of good-will and all manner of ‘recipes’ – medical, cosmetic, culinary, even vegetable dyes, though none so far as I can see, on how to make your own Irish-cream. The bilingual guide for making temperance drinks failed to impress! Something more… festive is needed.

My thoughts turn to the Plygain, the traditional Welsh Christmas service where ‘carolau plygain’ are sung, traditionally by men, in church in the very early hours of Christmas morning. In rural areas, this custom involved gathering in a local farmhouse to make a ‘Cyflaith’ – a treacle toffee, while decorating the house with mistletoe and holly, accompanied by singing and dancing to the harp until dawn.

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Singing and dancing to the harp, Peter Roberts, The Cambrian popular antiquities, (London, 1815).

But isn’t it nice to break with tradition sometimes? No sooner had this thought crossed my mind, down the chimney comes Helen, our multi-skilled Welsh Librarian and Cataloguer, with some ‘gifts’ for our collection. I notice a thick volume entitled ‘The Welsh at Home’. But all is not what it seems. As I open the book it’s as if the ghost of Christmas past is blowing the pages so that I may take a different view. This caught my eye:

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William Johnstone, The Welsh at Home, (Cardiff, 1904).

Behold my festive muse! Christmas Evans was one of Wales’s most charismatic preachers, his early life however, is just as remarkable. Born on Christmas day, 1766, His father, Samuel Evans, was a shoe-maker and his mother, Joanna, was related the respectable Lewis family who were freeholders in the parish of Llandysul, Cardiganshire. The Evans’s were poor, nonetheless, a situation exacerbated by the death of Christmas’s father when he was a young child. His uncle, James Lewis, took Christmas to live with him on his farm, but was a drunk, and cruel man. Christmas would say of him years later, ‘it would be difficult to find a more unconscionable man… in the whole course of a wicked world’.

Consequently, he had very little education and by seventeen was unable to read. Around this time, in the throes of religious awakening generally, Christmas started attending the local Presbyterian meetings where he learnt to read the Bible in Welsh. Some of his Lewis relatives also lent him ‘many good books’ which introduced him to the works of English authors. He also studied Latin under the Rev. David Davies, but it was largely through his own drive that Christmas became a proficient reader in several languages, including a little Greek and Hebrew.

His youth was also extremely hazardous and it is a miracle that he survived it at all. ‘When I was around nine years old’ he recalls, ‘I climbed up a rather tall tree, with a knife in my hand’. The bough gave way under him, and he fell to the ground, knife in hand. ‘There I lay unconscious until some people happened to see me later in the afternoon’. He almost drowned after a banking gave way besides a flooded pool, and on another occasion a horse he mounted galloped off ‘until the earth was trembling underneath’. The horse turned into its stables ‘but instead of knocking my brains out on the lintel, fate intervened on my part’, he says.

And not for the first time, for Christmas was also stabbed in the chest by another farm labourer, and his most telling injury occurred some years later, as he was contemplating giving up his spiritual calling. He was set upon by five or six men who beat him so badly, one with a stick, that he lost his eye instantly. As he lay dying, Christmas describes a dream he had of the final judgement, and how when he awoke, he became determined to follow his spiritual calling. Soon after, he was baptised and began his illustrious preaching ministry.

On a cold and snowy Christmas day in 1792, he and his wife Catherine set off for Anglesey on his faithful white mare, Lemon, to take charge of the Anglesey Baptists at Llangefni. It was the first of many journeys that Christmas and Lemon would make from North to South Wales to raise money for his chapels. He would preach every day, three times on a Sunday, and always mindful of his chapel debts, paid no heed to his thread-bare clothes. However, on one occasion Catherine, noticing the shabby condition of his hat, managed to get him a new one. When Christmas returned home from another long and arduous journey on his trusty mare, Catherine was mortified to see his new hat in a worse condition than the old! It just so happened that on the way home the old mare was thirsty, and on approaching a stream where there was no trough or house, or inn, Christmas filled his hat so that Lemon could drink! A mark of his sincerity that served all his ministries, for he left Anglesey in 1826 and served at Caerphilly from 1826-28, and then Cardiff from 1828-32, raising hundreds of pounds for his chapels in the course of his travels on the sturdy back of the lovely Lemon.

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Portrait of Christmas Evans, G. W. Morgan, Cofiant neu Hanes Bywyd y diweddar Barch. Christmas Evans, (Wrexham, 1883).

Christmas Evans was one of the greatest preachers that Wales has ever produced, and the volume of sermons and allegories that he has left behind reflect his intelligence and imagination. Yet it is the feats of his younger self, as well as his topical name, which inspired me to break with Christmas tradition and pay attention to this impressive figure.  And so the moral of this blog post is, even if you’ve got just one eye for books, you’re vision will be infinite.  Let’s hope for some interesting paperbacks stuffed in our stockings this year. Merry Christmas Evans and Lemon from all of us here at Special Collections and Archives, and a Happy New Year to you!