For a significant part of the early modern period, England was the most active site of recipe publication in Europe and the only country in which recipes were explicitly addressed to housewives. Recipes for Thought analyzes, for the first time, the full range of English manuscript and printed recipe collections produced over the course of two centuries.
Recipes reveal much more than the history of puddings and pies: they expose the unexpectedly therapeutic, literate, and experimental culture of the English kitchen. Wendy Wall explores ways that recipe writing—like poetry and artisanal culture—wrestled with the physical and metaphysical puzzles at the center of both traditional humanistic and emerging "scientific" cultures. Drawing on the works of Shakespeare, Spenser, Jonson, and others to interpret a reputedly "unlearned" form of literature, she demonstrates that people from across the social spectrum concocted poetic exercises of wit, experimented with unusual and sometimes edible forms of literacy, and tested theories of knowledge as they wrote about healing and baking. Recipe exchange, we discover, invited early modern housewives to contemplate the complex components of being a Renaissance "maker" and thus to reflect on lofty concepts such as figuration, natural philosophy, national identity, status, mortality, memory, epistemology, truth-telling, and matter itself. Kitchen work, recipes tell us, engaged vital creative and intellectual labors.
Preface. The Appetizer
Introduction. The Order of Serving
Chapter 1. Taste Acts
Chapter 2. Pleasure: Kitchen Conceits in Print
Chapter 3. Literacies: Handwriting and Handiwork
Chapter 4. Temporalities: Preservation, Seasoning, and Memorialization
Chapter 5. Knowledge: Recipes and Experimental Cultures
Wall brilliantly restores an unfamiliar version of early modern domesticity. [Her] achievement . . . is to light up this earlier period, when England was the most dynamic site of recipe publication in Europe. London Review of Books
A nuanced and in many ways fresh account of how Renaissance recipes function as knowledge. . . . The book is a signal accomplishment that will prove as useful in the years to come as the recipes it analyzes proved to an earlier age. Renaissance and Reformation
Crammed with delightful discoveries, Recipes for Thought offers us a vibrant new picture of the early modern housewife as reader, writer, and knowledge producer and the kitchen as an arena of debate, experiment, and invention. Linking the kitchen to the lab and the pharmacy, the recipe to the poem and the play, Wendy Wall rejoins what has since been put asunder to re-create a world we not only lost but forgot about. Frances Dolan, University of California, Davis