Getting the Ball Rolling: Gardening, Colonial Foodways, and Local Focus

When I initially planned this book, the goal was to write a book that adapted Markham’s soil amendment and other gardening techniques (from across several of his books) to a modern garden. This idea comes with a variety of challenges for an apartment dweller, having to do with the space to experiment in (apartments typically aren’t known for their sprawling gardens) as well as my desire to not incur my landlord’s wrath by digging up her yard. Another potential challenge for this project is the fact that I don’t live in England (or a similar climate), which is where Markham’s intended audience lived.

Then there’s the issue of sunlight, which is something I’m told is important to plants. My ‘garden’ (currently a few potted plants on a porch table) is far from being a sunny spot. My yard is filled with trees and bamboo plants, which makes it beautiful and cool in the summer, but not the greatest for growing lush planters full of fruits and veggies.

So why continue with the book with all these obstacles in the way? First, because a challenge is fun, but mostly because because it lets me explore a new direction for my work that ties in with the gardening theme. We’re in an interesting place as a culture at the moment, where eating locally is an option rather than the only option, and where it is actually cheaper in some instances to eat food produced elsewhere (there are many pieces on the politics of this and on its relationship to income inequality, which I’m sure I’ll explore at some point as a necessary part of writing about local food).

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Getting Started on the New Book

(Image can be found here)

After much (much!) delay, including the completion of my PhD, my move to Atlanta to start my job as Rare Books Curator at Kennesaw State University, and many other adventures, I’m finally finding a free moment to start on the second book in the MM series. One of the approaches I considered in this book was seeing what from Markham’s text could be applied to urban container gardening, and given that I live in an apartment without an in-ground garden space, that looks like the path I’ll be pursuing. One sticking point is the limited amount of sun in my yard, but that’s something Future Julia gets to deal with (lucky her).

For now, I’m starting to research the new book, beginning with a quick revisit to English Housewife, and moving on to Markham’s Farewell to Husbandry, Or, The Enriching of All Sorts of Barren and Sterile Grounds in our Kingdome, To Be as Fruitfull in all Manner of Graine, Pulse, and Grasse (at least we know Markham likes to keep his titles short and to the point). EEBO has put some of their online resources into print, so I’ll be looking at a printed reproduction of this book (unlike Best’s reprinting of English Housewife, which reprinted the text itself, this book is just the scans of the original text, so has all the printing quirks commonly found in books of this era).

The book is also going to include some recipes made from locally-sourced produce, so I can talk about how some of these English recipes might look in Georgia, and how they do and don’t mesh with farm-to-table approaches to food. Imported food was definitely a component of the early modern English diet, although less so in the country where residents were farther from central markets. Markham encouraged frugality to a greater extent than many of his peers, so he pushed his readers to maintain a kitchen garden and use food scraps for compost and animal feed. Part of the reason he could encourage this was because he targeted country gentry rather than city dwellers like myself, who have to be a bit more creative with where and how they grow their own food. If you’re very lucky (or I’m feeling very adventurous), I might play around with comparing some recipes and gardening approaches from other contemporary authors with Markham. Or maybe that will wait until book number 3!

Finally, I’m hoping to acquire (through purchasing or donations) books to build up our collection of English cookery manuals at the Bentley, particularly since English books are one of our focus areas. I’m also hoping to collaborate with culinary programs and other food-focused folks to do work around historic foodways, so some of that may be appearing on the blog too. It feels good to be back!

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This Year in the Life of your Absentee Blogger

Hi everyone!
I’ve been entirely absent from all of my blogs (and most of my social media in general) this year, so in the interest of keeping everyone up to date, I’m posting this on all my various blogs. It’s just an update, so don’t worry, I’m still working on my PhD (and excited about LIS!), planning another book, and cooking and preserving lots of food. I just haven’t actually started the book or blogged about any of that stuff (yet), but hopefully that will change soon!

This year has been really significant on a number of levels. On one level, it is the year I turned 30, a year I’ve always held in high esteem and been excited about ever since I was little (related: 30 is my “golden birthday.”) I think in some ways I expected I would finally have my sense of self figured out and in some ways I do, but I also love that one of the hardest years has also given me a chance to rediscover myself, what I love, and how much more I have to learn and see and do. Why such a hard year, you ask? Well…

The main reason this year has been significant is all the things that have happened in it. It’s been a time of major growth and reconnection with many very special and important people in my life, but also unfortunately a time of distancing from others who were not a part of that process in ways that I needed. Between the end of January and the end of October, three of my grandparents died. Every conference I’ve been to this year has been immediately followed or preceded by a funeral, so if you saw me at a conference and I wasn’t my chipper self, it probably wasn’t you! 

The last of my grandparents to pass did so three days after a dear friend, and one of the most amazing human beings I’ve ever met, was killed in a car crash while I was at a rare live performance of one of my favorite bands. That performance will always be in my heart for its beauty and for the joy I got to share with some other wonderful friends who I watched it with, but also because I can’t imagine a more fitting way for me to have spent Emily’s last moments besides being exactly where she probably would have loved to be. 
I also had mentioned on all my blogs an impending New York move: That was cancelled at the tail end of January after returning from funeral/conference set number one and hearing from my partner at the time that he was not interested in continuing that partnership. That was good in some ways because I still get to be friends with the person, and I get to move and plan my studies around my own schedule, but at the time there was a decent amount of hurt that went with the experience. By the time my second grandparent died, I felt like I had learned a lot, but still had a lot of learning and processing to do, but I also had a better sense of what to expect.

For all the challenges of the year though, there have been plenty of good things. I got to see both sides of my family in the same year, which is a rare treat, spend much-needed and much-desired time with all of them, and hear stories about our family’s past. I got to cook a lot of great meals alongside my friends and family, and share them with people I love. I got a new pet Bearded Dragon and still have three happy and healthy cats.  I got to tell a lot of people that I love them. I took my preliminary exam, which ended Monday, and hopefully passed so I can advance to candidacy. I got to offer support to people who needed it, and I learned more about how to be a better support to the people around me.
I got an adjuncting position teaching an amazing class at a school that has some amazing faculty, and I got to teach some incredible undergrads in my first ever face-to-face TA assignment. I got to meet new people, develop new relationships, and strengthen the relationships I have too. But I also got a chance to learn when it’s time to create distance between myself and a project or myself and a person when I feel like I’m overwhelmed or need support that I’m not finding there, and that’s huge too. And I got to re-shift some priorities, and make more time to allow myself to heal.

There’s not really an ultimate “point” to the post; no major life lesson or anything that I feel an urgent need to share, but I feel like it’s important to put this stuff out there. Many of the people I’m connected to on social media are people who I feel kinship with on some level, and I’m happy you’re all a part of my little corner of the world. And even though this year was crappy, and hurt, and I wasn’t always convinced there would be a light at the end of the tunnel, I’m glad I can take a lot of lessons away from it. I won’t ever stop missing everyone I lost this year, but I also will be better about telling everyone who’s still around how much they mean to me. 

 

 

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MM Reading this Sunday at Black Dog Cafe

Hey everyone! I’m doing a reading at Black Dog Cafe in Tallahassee this Sunday at 7:30. I’ll be talking about the book, reading a bit from it, and will stick around after to chat with readers. I’ll also have copies for sale for those of you who haven’t picked one up yet!

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Announcing the Topic of my Next Book!

A little while ago, I asked you all to vote on the topic of my second book. Since my other blog’s next post will be post #100, I thought it was a good opportunity to go ahead and announce the topic. So…based on the votes I received, the next topic will be:

Gardening!

This is excellent news, because it gives me some time to research Markham’s gardening recommendations over the summer, so I can start planting things using his methods during the next planting season. That’s especially good since our summers here in Florida aren’t like the summers in England at all, so the Autumn/Winter will be a bit closer!
Thanks to everyone who voted–I’m looking forward to the project!

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Help me pick the topic of my next book!

As promised, I’m going to begin work in the next few months on book number two. I only have one problem: I’m torn between two different topics and can’t decide which to do first. This is where you come in–you all get to vote on which topic you prefer, and that’s the one I’ll write about!

Gardening
For this, I would pull in different books Markham wrote (along with a little bit from English Housewife) to learn about 17th century gardening practices. Since I’ll be in an apartment in Florida (and possibly an apartment in New York City as well) over the next few years, this book would be a chance to adapt the gardening strategies he uses (what/when to plant, soil amendment, etc.) to small-scale plots and container gardens, and adapt them to different climates as well.

Desserts
For this option, I would go through and make desserts from English Housewife, and compile what I find (along with some historical information, of course) into a book. Ideally, I’d like to recreate every recipe, although time will tell how well that will work (if my fruit paste experiment of a few years ago is any indication, I may not be able to do all of them!) Unlike Markham, I would plan on dividing the desserts up into at least a few sections so people could find what they want more easily.

So there you go! Both ideas are still in the early stages, but I think both topics sound like a lot of fun, and I might add things (like illustrations) as I go through them too. So, go vote and tell me what you think!

 

 

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MM Book Now Available!

There has been a bit of radio silence on the blog for a few months, but with very good reason: I’ve just published Modernizing Markham as a book! All the recipes are there, along with the historical discussions and some additional goodies that aren’t on the blog. As an added bonus, I’m donating a portion of my profits to the Center for the Book, which gave me tons of support and guidance as I worked on the project.

To order a copy, you can share the ISBN (available on the Candle Light Press website) with your favorite local bookseller, or you can order it online from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  I’m also having a release party on December 14th at the Spaceport Bar (in the back of Waterworks), so if you’re in the Tallahassee area, stop by and get your copy signed if you would like!

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New article on Modernizing Markham

After my interview in the Indiana Food Review, I decided I would write a short article talking a bit about what I learned while doing this project. It was just published, and you can find it here. While the blog has been at a standstill, things have been happening with my Markham work, so keep your eyes peeled for an update/announcement that will be coming soon!

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It’s Been a While

Hello MM readers! So I haven’t posted anything in about 6 months, and in that time I’ve moved from Iowa to Florida and started in my new PhD program. Hooray! The MM project that I was doing for the Center for the Book has wrapped up, but fear not–I’m keeping this blog up so people can still read the recipes and learn more about Markham and early modern cooking. And I’ll still be around to answer questions about the project and read your comments, so don’t be afraid to drop me a line! Even though this project is “officially” over, I still do a lot of cooking. In fact, I just started a new food blog last week to share the recipes I create and share links to other recipes that inspire me. It isn’t as specific as this project (more of a hodgepodge of all sorts of foods) but Markham has been such an inspiration that I bet he’ll pop up on there quite a bit!

I also have been meaning to share photos of our Center for the Book final project show, so here they are! These are photos of the bound book and the calligraphy I designed for the book arts portion of the project, and these are pictures of the show itself. It was so much fun, and I love that I got to showcase my work alongside some very talented and creative folks.

So even though this blog won’t be updated much anymore, I hope you still look at the recipes and the history posts for inspiration, and visit my other blog to see the wide world of food I’m exploring. Thanks again to everyone for reading and commenting on one of the most fun and exciting projects I’ve gotten to engage in, and keep in touch!

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Final Project Book and Show

I wanted to share with my readers the link to photos of the tangible parts of my final project, which I completed earlier today. I made the limp vellum pamphlet, and calligraphed the pages with shortened versions of the recipes I’ve shared on this blog (big thanks to the Center for the Book for providing a materials stipend that covered the supplies!) For the binding, I used vellum, and the pages are paper made at UICB that replicates that created around Markham’s time. I used walnut ink to write the calligraphy.

For the hand I wrote in, I was unable to find a good ductus (or diagram of the strokes needed to make letterforms) that represented secretary hand, which was largely used around Markham’s time. To fix this, I went through a number of Elizabethan-era documents and wrote down commonalities between letters and spacing/layout. From this, I was able to create a representative alphabet (or at least representative of about a dozen documents) that I could both use in my own work and share with others. For those who do calligraphy, you will find the ductus at the link above and I encourage you to give it a try!

I also want to invite all readers to see the items in person at our Final Projects Show this Saturday, May 7 from 4:30-6:30. It will be at the Times Club in Iowa City (upstairs in Prairie Lights bookstore) and will feature musical entertainment and refreshments. I hope to see you there!

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