TO MAKE ALMOND PUDDINGS
TAKE HALF A POUND OF YE BEST ALMONDS, AND BLANCH THEM, THEN BEAT ‘EM IN A STONE MORTER WITH A LITTLE ROSE WATER, THEN TAKE A QUART OF CREAM AND 2 PENNY LOAVES, GRATED VERY SMALL, WITH A LITTLE NUTTMEG, GINGER, AND A LITTLE CYNAMON, WITH AS MUCH SUGAR AS WILL SWEETEN IT, AND A LITTLE LEMMON PILL CUTT VERY SMALL, WITH THE YOLKES OF 6 EGGS, BUT 3 OF YE WHITES WITH A POUND OF SWEET BUTTER AND LITTLE MARRON.
This is the transcript of the very first recipe in the 18th century manuscript cookery book that we are proud to have in our collection. The recipe book is in calf leather covers, has paper pages and index with an ownership inscription for Ann Dawson, dated 1724.
The covers have tooled decoration including horizontal lines on the spine, lines around the edge and swirled foliate details in each corner of the front and back covers. The ink inscription is on the reverse of the first page. This is followed by a five-page index titled ‘Alphabett’, and a list of recipes organised alphabetically with corresponding page numbers. There are several blank pages after the index, and then the recipes begin. Each recipe has a title with instructions underneath. The recipes are separated by ruled lines, and each page has a number in the top outer corner. Some recipes have been added at the end non-alphabetically, presumably at a later date. Page 89 is the last page with writing, and the rest are blank.
The book includes recipes for meats, puddings, cakes, pastries, bread, sauces, syrups and wines. It shows lack of interest in vegetables. Herbs and imported spices season almost every dish. Some imported herbs could have been grown in English gardens. The English author of a printed cookbook wrote in 1727 “we have now Ginger, growing in pots, almost in every garden”. There are also a number of remedies for medical ailments in the book, including sore breasts, consumption, colds, deafness, sore eyes, hysterical fits, the ‘King’s Evil’ (scrofula), facial swelling, scurvy, sore throat and itching. Eighteenth-century medicine, with no antibiotics and no anaesthetic, was not very effective. Recipe books commonly included medical remedies, which may have been as helpful as anything prescribed by a physician.
The recipes at the end of the book appear to be in different handwriting, but whether they were simply added by the same author at a later date, or whether they were written by a different person is unclear.
What I wanted to know while I was reading the book was: Who was Ann Dawson, where did she write her recipes, what did her hands look like, were they soft or rough, how did her house smell while she was preparing her meals, did she have a garden and pots with the herbs she used, who did she cook for? What did their pots, plates and cutlery look like, and the cooking spoon she had in her hand while preparing a meal? Soon we’ll explore those kinds of items from our collection. It is sure that I adore the hands that wrote the book and remember my mum’s hands and my mum’s similar notebook.
I was inspired to look into the cookery books in the museum’s collection, after speaking with my friend Helena who thought a workshop where you prepare cookies from old recipes would be a great idea.
Now you can have a go at making Ann’s almond pudding and let us know if you enjoy it.
Tijana, Volunteer Programme Digital Communication Assistant