(Cook)Book Review: Cooking with Shakespeare

Final Grade: 

B-

“You know Leah, it appears these ‘academic’ cookbooks are not so rigorous as our faithful Canadian Living test kitchen.”

Words from my mother, who is saying them so I don’t have to. The number of times I raised my eyebrows, askance that something was left unclarified -or GASP, forgotten entirely – were too numerous for me to reasonably believe that any of the recipes that we created were tested as rigorously as modern kitchens have come to expect. While I may rejoice in the almost encyclopedic collection of Elizabethan recipes this cookbook provides, it does not make up for sloppy recipe adaptation or composition.

Recipes:
Buttered Beere
A Fine Paste
Warden Pie

Being the inaugural CookBook review, I couldn’t resist adding tidbits of commentary on how I created the rubric for cookbook reviews. (You know how much I like to deliberate…and contemplate… and critique my own standards of quality…and question the very fabric of the universe…) To illustrate my finished format, I will review a familiar book on this site.Read More »

“A compound sallet”

Check out the stratigraphic deposits in this recipe! (Click or refresh to see the animation again.) I treated participants in my recent Conference talk with this compound salad from London, 1615. You can read more about this recipe on the post Baking with the Bard: Where’s my Sparknotes? Look forward to a reflection on the conference […]

How 20th c. Canadian Cookbooks Both Wrote & Erased History

Selected Recipes:
Tomato Soup Cake w Cream Cheese Frosting
Cheddar Shorties
Manoomin

The 20th century saw many periods of change (flavoured with surprisingly persistent continuity). One of the biggest catalysts for change was of course, the wartime period. Looking at repositories of wartime recipes is a fascinating glimpse of how Canadian Cookery and home life changed. However, I also learned that while cookbooks are a unique method to illuminate history, they can also actively erase important histories as well. Read More »

When Your Biscuits Are Like Rocks: Including Imperfection in Historical Interpretation

Canada Part 2: 19th c. Ontario Cooking featuring Immigrants from the Isles

Selected Recipes
New Cock-a-Leekie Soup
“Excellent Hot Tea Cakes”
“Cranberry Pie”

If you’ve ever watched “Chopped: Canada”, you can sympathize with me when I say that I would be first on the chopping block. Do I cook with enthusiasm? Heck yes! Bravery? You betcha! Skill? Eh….in time, I tell myself, in time.Many times over this Historic Kitchen project I have looked askance at my final product….doubting that I have made it correctly. I would bet good money that my attempt at Patina of Pears would make even the dour Cato the Elder roll over laughing. The difficulty with creating recipes of unfamiliar dishes is that you have no ideaif you are wrong, or how you are wrong. Just that unpleasant niggling sensation that something must be different….since “there is no way this thing should be so jiggly/…neon…/crunchy/[insert questionable adjective here]!”Read More »

A Fine Mess: 18th c. Upper Canada

Selected Recipes:
Chocolate Cream
Shrewsbury Cakes

Canada Part 1: 18th c. Upper Canada

This term I shall explore Canadian Cuisine, in three parts.

Firstly, I would like to say that yes! Such a thing as Canadian Cuisine does exist. This country has a huge variety of regionally uniquebeloved, and sometimes iconically controversial food items. Unfortunately, Canada has long fought against bad stereotypes or a disbelief in good cuisine. Colonel Sanders famously loathed Canadian food, calling it “plumb tasteless!” This series shall feature Canadian recipes of the late 18th and early 19th centuries in this post, and followed by posts exploring the 19th and 20th centuries.Read More »

Maestro of the 15th c. Milanese Kitchen: Myth of Martino’s Libro de Arte Coquinaria

Selected Recipes:
Mushrooms
Rashers
Cherry Pie

While perusing the shelves in Gerstein Library (yes, the Medical Sciences Library of UofT, not the first place I expected to find such a concentration of historic cookbooks either), looking for the recipe books I used over the summer to bring to the recent Musings themed iTea, I discovered this little gem:

Ballerini, L. (Ed.). (2005). The art of cooking: The first modern cookery book (J. Parzen, Trans. S. Barzini, Contr.). Berkeley: University of California Press. Read More »

Baking with the Bard: Where’s My Sparknotes?

Selected Shakespearean Recipes:
Mynst Pies
A Fine Paste
A Compound Sallat

You  know when you read Shakespeare, and there are those convenient footnotes explaining all the contextual references to contemporary Elizabethan popculture? If you’ve ever tried reading Shakespeare without looking at these handy explanations, you sort of feel like you are only getting half the picture. Lines have very shallow meaning, but you don’t know what it is you don’t know. Shakespearean works, like historical recipes, are best understood when read with a full grasp of the common knowledge of their time, these things that are so common sense, that contemporary writers don’t bother explaining them. They assume their audience knows all about it. Well. Maybe back then they did! Now, much of that ‘common knowledge’ is lost. And unfortunately, there is no handy sparknotes for historical cookbooks!Read More »

Taste, The Final Frontier: Can Museums Recreate the Flavours of History?

Selected Classical Recipes
Athenian Cabbage – The Classical Cookbook
Parthian Chicken – The Classical Cookbook
Lentils with Chestnuts – A Taste of History

GrecoRoman Pt 5.

Museums today are exploring different methods of display that incorporate senses other than sight and allow visitors to experience knowledge in new ways. It is not uncommon to see exhibits featuring soundscapes and opportunities for touch. Though growing as an interpretive tool, smell is still fairly rare.

But what about taste?Read More »

Trial by Spice: Testing the Stomachs (and Noses) of Brave Food Historians

Selected Classical Recipes
Butter Beans in Herb Sauce- Roman Cookery
Lentil and Barley Soup – Roman Cookery
Vitellian Peas- The Classical Cookbook
Spiced Wine – The Classical Cookbook

GrecoRoman Pt 3.

Roman food historians perform a brave and perilous duty testing out ancient recipes. Without ingredient quantities, dishes have to be prepared countless times until they are ‘gotten right’. Of course, at this point we still don’t know (and barring the invention of a time machine, never will) if we have it correct, at the very least we can now eat it! However, to any who wish to pursue Roman cuisine, a cautionary word is found in Plautus:Read More »