Tag Archives: food history

Want More Markham? Other Published Resources

I have found quite a few good articles on Markham’s The English Housewife so far, and have discovered that since his own writing spanned so many disciplines, he invites study and criticism from a number of modern disciplines including history, medicine, and literary criticism. For those looking for a few extra resources, or to approach the text from different perspectives, these are a great place to start. It should be noted that most of these articles do not focus exclusively on Markham, but instead situate his work within a larger discussion along with other writings.

Knoppers, Laura Lunger. “Opening the Queen’s Closet: Henrietta Maria, Elizabeth Cromwell, and the Politics of Cookery.” Renaissance Quarterly 60 (2007): 464-499. (This article talks about the portrayal of powerful women in cookery manuals that were produced after Markham’s. What struck me the most was the author’s discussion of the Cromwells as the focal point of The Court & Kitchin of Elizabeth. The author notes that, while early manuals like Markham’s applauded frugality and country living, this later book marks those behaviors as a mockery (pg 487). )

Leong, Elaine. “Making Medicines in the Early Modern Household.” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 82, vol. 1 (2008) 145-168. (While Markham is mentioned only in the briefest of terms, the subject matter of this article reminds us of a very important part of The English Housewife that is not being explored in my project. That is the matter of healthcare, which was a major part of the housewife’s duties. Markham spends a lot of time talking about how to create and use treatments for a staggering array of ailments, many of which involve herbal compounds that are consumed or placed on the flesh. There is also a part for surgery, as the housewife may have needed to perform a procedure to help with injury or disease. )

Martin, Meredith. “Interiors and Interiority in the Ornamental Dairy Tradition.” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 20, vol. 3, (2008): 357-384. (This article deals with Markham’s writing on dairies, a part of The English Housewife, in great depth. Martin uses Markham’s work as a way of discussing women in the English dairy. She also relates the attributes Markham encourages in the housewife of purity, patience, gentleness, delicacy, and charity to later conduct books’ classification of ‘good’ women. (pgs 358-359). She also reminds us of the role of servants: while Markham’s work was directed toward literate middling and upper-class women, this dairy work would have been done largely by female servants, with the housewife herself performing more of a supervisory function (pg 359). )

Wall, Wendy. “Why Does Puck Sweep?: Fairylore, Merry Wives, and Social Struggle.” Shakespeare Quarterly 52, vol. 1 (2001), 67-106. (Wall provides an insightful look into gender in early modern England, and while I recommend reading the whole article, there are a couple notes from it that are particularly relevant to this project. First is her note on page 77, where she notes that the first English cookbook was addressed to elite male readers, but that subsequent books, including Markham’s, moved toward addressing women. Her footnotes also provide great references for tracking down other contemporary cookery book authors, whom I will be mentioning in the ‘about’ section).

Mylander, Jennifer. “Early Modern ‘How-To’ Books: Impractical Manuals and the Construction of Englishness in the Atlantic World.” The Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies 9, vol. 1 (2009) 123-146. (Mylander deals with Markham’s writings in great depth as she discusses how they circulated across the Atlantic to find their way into Colonial American homes. Both Markham and Nicholas Culpeper, who wrote somewhat later, promoted self-sufficiency, and both of their books were amongst those that were shipped to the Americas (and which the Mylander says were considered indispensable to colonists of all classes, on page 124). While Mylander does discuss the English Housewife, it is in the context of his larger body of work, particularly in showing how that work promoted ‘English-ness,’ but also how the agricultural practices in his other books did not fit with the new world).

While not relevant to this project, per se, Markham wrote a sizable number of other texts on horsemanship, soldiery, hunting, and agriculture; he even wrote some fiction earlier in his life. Those texts are referenced in a number of scholarly articles that may be of interest, including:

McMullin, B.J. “Early ‘Secular’ Press Figures.” The Library: The Transactions of the Bibliographical Society 10, vol. 1, (2009): 57-65.  (Mentions ‘A Way to Get Wealth’ and ‘Cheap and Good Husbandry’).

Golz, David. “Diamonds, Maidens, Widow Dido, and Cock-a-diddle-dow.” Comparative Drama 43, vol. 2, (2009): 167-196. (Mentions ‘The Dumb Knight,’ a work of fiction by Markham. There are many other articles out there that talk about his fictional writing within the context of contemporary literature).

Kelly, Ann Cline. “Gulliver as Pet and Pet Owner: Conversations with Animals in Book 4.” ELH 74, vol. 2 (2007): 323-349.   Landry, Donna. “The Bloody Shouldered Arabian and Early Modern English Culture.” Criticism 46, vol. 1 (2004): 41-69.    (These talk a bit about Markham’s horsemanship manuals, of which he had many).

Benson, Sean. “‘If I do prove her haggard’: Shakespeare’s Application of Hawking Tropes to Marriage.” Studies in Philology 103, vol. 2 (2006): 186-207. (This text mentions Markham’s book, Country Contentments, especially its advice for falconers.)

Mullett, Charles F. “Gervase Markham: Scientific Amateur.” Isis 35, vol. 2 (1944) 106-118. (While this article is significantly older than the others, I like it because it gives an overview of Markham’s different writings and their subject matter).

Wall, Wendy. “Renaissance National Husbandry: Gervase Markham and the Publication of England.” The Sixteenth Century Journal 27, vol. 3 (1996) 767-785. (This article talks about Markham’s writing as a whole, and particularly focuses on his definitions of English agriculture as being unique from that of other countries. This is a very useful article, and I’m sure I’ll cite bits of it later on. Even if the scope is a bit different from that of this project, I definitely recommend it as a go-to source for Markham researchers).

I’m sure there are a ton more articles that talk about Markham, and that I didn’t mention here. Obviously there’s Michael Best’s edited version of The English Housewife, but because I have spent quite a bit of time with it already I don’t want to list it as a ‘new resource!’ If there is a citation that I failed to include, please put it in the comments! It would be great to give readers as many resources as possible for learning more about Markham.

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Getting the Ball Rolling

So this project has been evolving for a while, but now it’s finally starting to pick up steam to a point where I can start posting more often! Since I’ve originally crafted this idea, it’s grown quite a bit. I am still going to be testing recipes from Gervase Markham’s book, The English Housewife (first published in 1615), and I will still be sharing what I learn with you on this blog.

I’m also very excited about the tangible portion of the project, which has evolved into a fun little side project in and of itself. As you might remember from the ‘about’ section, I’m going to be calligraphing and binding a small pamphlet-style book that will include the recipes I write about on here. After talking with my Center for the Book committee, we’ve expanded this even further! Now, it’s going to include the recipes and illustrations (think an old-timey Mollie Katzen cookbook), along with a print-on-demand version including information from the blog and extracts from the original Markham text. I am also looking into making an e-book version, and I hope to make that accessible across as many platforms as possible (I just published my research blog on the Kindle store, and I’m hoping to do that with this blog too!)

I would love to hear feedback from blog readers on this: what could I do to make this type of project more interesting from the reader’s perspective? Are there other new (or old) media you think this type of project would be a good fit for? How do you think using digital media assists in our understanding of these older texts?

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fruit conserve

I’ve decided to start out this project with one of the simpler recipes from the book. The English Housewife is full of recipes for preserving food, so it is likely that I will be doing a lot of it in the coming months. Preservation would have obviously been important for storing food without refrigeration, but this method also would have been viewed as healthful, because the fruit was cooked prior to being consumed (raw fruits and vegetables were seen as non-nutritous at best and poisonous at worst). I mentioned that Markham’s book is filled with recipes for preserves, and I think part of that might be due to his focus on frugality. While preserved foods are found in contemporary cookery manuals, I have yet to see one with as large a section on the subject as The English Housewife. Many books stress the importance of impressing guests and using fashionable food preparations (which Markham does too, but perhaps to a lesser extent). Markham instead chooses to place emphasis on cultivating frugality, and this point is reiterated (again and again!) in his section on the character traits a good housewife should embody (frugality, modesty, deference to the husband, etc). Growing food in a kitchen garden is encouraged as a way to save money, and what better way to stretch that money farther than by preserving the excess produce?

Today, I am using the recipe entitled “to make any conserve,” found on page 116 of the work edited by Michael Best:

“To make conserve of any fruit you please, you shall take the fruit you intend to make conserve of; and if it be stone fruit you shall take out the stones; if other fruit, take away the paring and core, and then boil them in fair running water to a reasonable height; then drain them from thence, and put them into a fresh vessel with claret wine, or white wine, according to the colour of the fruit: and so boil them to a thick pap all to mashing, breaking, and stirring them together; then to every pound of pap put to a pound of sugar, and so stir them all well together, and, being very hot, strain them through fair strainers, and so pot it up.”

This recipe is a slight departure from my normal method of jam production, in that it includes wine, which I typically don’t add. I chose this particular recipe because it works for “any fruit you please,” and strawberries happened to be on sale at the grocery store. I used red wine in order to stay true to Markham’s recommendation for red fruit with red wine. We have some tasty wines that are made here in Iowa, so I picked up a Cabernet Sauvignon from Cedar Ridge Vineyards.

I tend to make jams that are boiled and reduced down to the finished product, rather than jams that are strained. I’ve looked at several different jams from Markham’s time period, and the method described in the recipe above seems fairly typical.

While modern strawberry hybrids come from species native to the Americas, strawberries would have been available in Europe at this time too. The species was called ‘fraises de bois’ (literally ‘strawberries of wood’ or wild strawberries), and was found around Europe. For centuries, the only ones available in Europe were wild varieties growing in the edges of wooded areas, and were known by a variety of names in countries all over western Europe. The term ‘strawberry’ came from the English practice of placing straw under the fruits to keep the off the damp soil. They were not cultivated until the 15th century, in part because of the amount of room they took up and the fact that they drained the soil of nutrients so had to be moved occasionally (Toussaint-Samat, 652). Thanks to Ken Albala for telling me about this variety

Dr. Albala also mentioned that more tart fruits are usually used for jams, and that is definitely true of Markham’s book. Quinces were very popular (see Best, pg 112, for ‘Marmalade of quinces red’) but so are oranges. Markham also has a recipe (on Best, pg 117) for a ‘conserve of flowers,’ which is not a cooked jam in the way fruit jam is, but would be very interesting to try.

This recipe and the others of its time are not written using the measurements we use today (cups, tablespoons, teaspoons, etc.) Cookery manuals of the time were more of a guide rather than a specific set of instructions, so many of the recipes use weights (if they provide any specific measure at all) and guide you by how the food looks or feels during cooking rather than using times and temperatures (cooking temperatures were not as exact as a thermometer in a modern oven, so time and temp aren’t as useful for someone using this technique).

I’ve been in the process of moving, so I had packed my kitchen scale and thus could not measure out equal weights of sugar and fruit pulp. I had initially considered doing a 1:1 ratio, but worried that would make it too sweet. I planned on adding sugar in ¼ cup increments, but ended up not needing any more than one addition. Markham doesn’t specify what ratio of wine to other ingredients one should use, so I had to guess on that as well. ¼ cup seemed like the magic number in this recipe!

After straining the jam one last time, I finally got to taste the finished product. I had been worried that all that boiling and straining might result in a bland jam, but that was not the case at all. The wine added a more complex, deeper flavor to the jam, and the limited amount of sugar I added made the jam tasty (but not overly sweet). I bought some Delice de Borgogne cheese, and I think dinner tonight will consist of cheese and baguette topped by this jam, accompanied by the rest of that bottle of wine.

The recipe:

4 c strawberries, sliced

¼ c Cabernet Sauvignon

¼ c sugar

-In a medium saucepan, place the strawberries in the bottom and add enough water to cover them. Bring to boil, and cook until very soft (about 20 minutes).

-Using a fine strainer, strain the liquid from the strawberries and add to a high-sided skillet. Add the wine, and bring to a boil.

-While the mixture is boiling, use a potato masher to mash the fruit into a pulp.

-Turn off the heat and add the sugar, stir until dissolved.

-Using a fine strainer, strain excess liquid from the mixture and place into a heat-proof container.

 

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