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Considering Water in Three Recipe Manuscripts

Sat, April 1, 10:30am to 12:00pm, Palmer House Hilton, Floor: Third Floor, Salon 6


Renaissance recipe books in manuscript can contain startlingly exotic ingredients. But, while crabs' eyes, snails, and mummia might catch a readers' attention, the Early Modern Recipes Online Collective's searchable transcriptions of manuscript recipe books provide surprising new views of what is typical in English domestic practice. Newly available electronic texts reveal that the most commonly named item in Renaissance recipes is water — an initially unexpected finding that asks us to look at domestic procedures with new eyes. My paper examines the particular varieties of water called for and produced by the era's recipes, as well as water's key role as a tool in domestic production methods. Examining water's largely unnoticed importance, and making explicit the labor and specialized knowledge associated with it in recipe books, my presentation will show how experimenting with new searchable manuscript texts can change our view of domestic practice and women's work.