The handwritten compendium of recipes, which traverses the years 1690 to 1830, was re-discovered by Judith Finnamore
The handwritten compendium of recipes, which traverses the years 1690 to 1830, was re-discovered by Judith Finnamore

Cookbook of Unknown Ladies: Historian discovers 300-year-old recipe collection - now, roast sheep’s head, anyone?

 

Samuel Muston
Monday 15 July 2013 18:31
Comments

If the maxim “know us through our food” still holds water, then not many would care to be on nodding terms with the authors of the Cookbook of Unknown Ladies, given that it’s long on recipes using sheep heads and cow heel and short on things like summer salads or posh burgers. But, then again, we ought to make exceptions, it being 300 years old and all.

The handwritten compendium of recipes, which traverses the years 1690 to 1830, was re-discovered by Judith Finnamore, local studies librarian at Westminster Council’s Archives Centre, who believes she was the first to open it in over a century.

Along with volunteers and food historian Annie Gray, Finnamore is now recreating the recipes – and blogging about it as she goes. Although a fine and interesting way to explore culinary history, it isn’t without its problems, says Finnamore. “Eggs are a problem. Some of the recipes call for 30 to be used. But obviously eggs are much bigger today, so Annie has had to help adapt what’s written.

“Some of the recipes are ‘challenging’ for our palates – I mean the sheep’s head dish won’t be for everyone.” Other surprises include “mince pies” with calves tongue in them.

There is also a vast 3lb cake, whose inclusion is puzzling given Finnamore doesn’t think this was used by a cook at some great country pile, but rather that it came from a “place like the Bennett house in Pride and Prejudice”. Which leads us to the question: would Mr Darcy have ever overcome his pride if Elizabeth had been snacking on 3lb cake and calf-tongue mince pies? Hmmm.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in