You are here:

In the 16th and 17th centuries, printed recipe books were a best-selling genre in Europe. They were a miscellaneous genre composed of culinary, alchemical, and medical recipes. 'Secrets of women', recipes about the female body and reproduction, were abundant in these collections. Most of these books urged readers to follow the recipes to the letter for the best results, as the formulas had already been 'perfected' by their authors (the mostly male 'professors of secrets'). Paratexts delineated the ideal and expected readerships the books would have, but these readers were in sharp contrast to the real men and women who consumed printed recipe books. This paper analyses how medical recipes were received: how readers annotated these books and copied passages into their personal notebooks. These practices modified and 'corrected' recipes, making us reconsider 'authorship' and scientific/medical authority in this period. By focusing on gender, I argue that women were a considerable part of these books' readership, and their 'appropriation' of recipes about the body can give us an insight into their medical practice and 'kitchen physic'.


All welcome- this seminar is free to attend but booking in advance is required.