Cooking Is Much More Fun With Old Secrets From The Queen’s Pantry

Cooking Is Much More Fun With Old Secrets From The Queen’s Pantry ‘The Queens Closet Opened,’ first published in 1655, shared recipes and support for the deposed monarchy. Here, portrait of Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria, by Anthony van Dyck, 1632. (Arcidiecézní muzeum Kroměříž/Wikimedia)

Today, many people under lockdown have become COVID bakers or #quarantinecooks. Food shopping restrictions and fears of food shortages have contributed to a burst of #pantrycooking recipes that require minimal ingredients.

New kinds of online community cookbooks share comfort foods to get us through lockdown, expanding the shape of thriving food blogger or online recipe sharing communities.

My research into English recipe books, women and food in the 16th and 17th centuries shows that centuries ago, cooking served similar social purposes in difficult times.

When we read recipes closely, we can often get a glimpse of historical conditions and responses to challenges such as food insecurity, war and other types of political and cultural upheaval.

Scarcity cooking

Cooking Is Much More Fun With Old Secrets From The Queen’s Pantry Beechmast or beechnut. (Shutterstock)

London inventor Hugh Plat’s Sundrie new and Artificiall remedies against Famine was published in the midst of a four-year crop failure in the 1590s. His recipes are practical experiments aimed at improving the quality of famine food.

One recipe tells readers how to remove the “ranke and unsavourie tast” of “Beanes, Pease, Beechmast,” (beechnut) as well as “Chestnuttes, Acornes” and “Veches” (vetches), a member of the pea family. After boiling in several changes of water, these ingredients could be ground into powder and used, in desperate circumstances, as grain replacements.


 Get The Latest From InnerSelf


Another more ambitious recipe promises “Sweete and delicate cakes made without spice, or Sugar.” In this case, Plat extends the life of wheat flour by cutting it with parsnips beaten “into a powder.” These “tast very daintily,” he claims, and adds that “carots, turneps, and such like rootes” are other handy substitutes.

Part survival manual, Plat’s book also shows how creativity can give pleasure and comfort. He resists the idea that famine cookery must be unpleasant. And he encourages readers to approach cooking with an eye to experimentation and discovery.

Royalist recipes

A group of recipe books published in the 1650s is especially interesting. In this post-Civil War era, royalists mourned King Charles I, who was beheaded in 1649. Queen Henrietta Maria and her son, the future Charles II, escaped into exile in France.

Supporters of the monarchy soon found subversive ways to communicate their resistance to the new republican rule under the military general Oliver Cromwell — through recipes.

Cooking Is Much More Fun With Old Secrets From The Queen’s Pantry Detail from ‘Portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria,’ painted by Cornelius Johnson and Gerard Houckgeest. (Sally Liddell: Sotherby’s Art at Auction 1988-89/Wikimedia)

Two of the recipe books make direct reference to the former Royals. The Queens Closet Opened, first published in 1655, advertises itself as a collection from “the true Copies of her MAJESTIES own Receipt Books.” It’s a companion of sorts to the 1654 Art of Cookery Refin’d and Augmented, compiled by Joseph Cooper, “chiefe Cook to the Late KING.”

Community and connection

We might think of these books as bringing the Royal couple into the heart of the household: England’s kitchens. The nation was still recovering from the years of conflict, but here, a restored Royal couple promises “infallible delight” and “Incomparable Secrets” to feed and heal a war-weary public.

Cooking Is Much More Fun With Old Secrets From The Queen’s Pantry Title page of ‘The Queens Closet Opened.’ (Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division)

The books also invite readers to join the Royals at the table. Many of the recipes in these books are surprisingly accessible to common as well as elite households.

The Art of Cookery’sAn Oatmeal-Pudding” is a savoury recipe that transcends class distinctions with its simplicity: “Take the biggest Oatmeal, and mince what Herbs you like best, and mixe with it; then season it with Salt and Pepper … when it is boyled butter it.”

Households of varying classes could adapt and use other recipes as well. “How to boyle a Chicken” begins with a readily available meat and a straightforward process (boiling). The distinctions appear in the details, allowing cooks to choose their approach.

More pricey imports such as dates and mace contribute to the flavour of the sauce and introduce a bit of court glamour. But a few herbs from the garden and a bit of butter could easily substitute. Elaborate guidelines for presentation, including placing “on the Chickens yolks of Eggs cut into quarters” and “Sheeps tongues fryed in greene Butter” (butter with herbs) could likewise be adjusted to suit availability and finances.

The Queens Closet Opened had a more exclusive emphasis on delicate preserves and sweets. But it was a small pocket book, which would have kept its price down. Such accessibility allowed literate merchant and artisan families imaginative access to the Queen’s table. And the Queen’s favourite fruits, including pippins, plums, pears and quinces were locally grown and widely available to rural and urban cooks alike.

Cooking Is Much More Fun With Old Secrets From The Queen’s Pantry Quince is in the same family as apples and pears. (Shutterstock)

Shaping the new normal

Recipe books in the Renaissance had the power to bring households together in times of adversity. Food was a way of remembering the good old days, bringing comfort through nostalgia. These recipes gave readers hope, while inspiring long-lasting skills of creativity and experimentation.

Our reaction to COVID-19 is still in the process of being written down. Recipes and food photography will contribute to a political and cultural record of responses to isolation and uncertainty.

These responses can be powerful. Like the recipe books, COVID cooks and bakers bring us back to our roots. They build global communities, crossing national boundaries and reminding us of our collective strength. We can draw on these skills in the future.

Once quarantine orders have loosened, many will be thinking once again about the shared global challenge of climate change. The creative communities generated by cooking won’t solve this challenge, but they’re a good basis for action.The Conversation

About The Author

Madeline Bassnett, Associate Professor of Early Modern English Literature, Western University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Recommended Books:

The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi: 12 Weeks to a Healthy Body, Strong Heart, and Sharp Mind -- by Peter Wayne.

The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi: 12 Weeks to a Healthy Body, Strong Heart, and Sharp Mind -- by Peter Wayne.Cutting-edge research from Harvard Medical School supports the long-standing claims that Tai Chi has a beneficial impact on the health of the heart, bones, nerves and muscles, immune system, and the mind. Dr. Peter M. Wayne, a longtime Tai Chi teacher and a researcher at Harvard Medical School, developed and tested protocols similar to the simplified program he includes in this book, which is suited to people of all ages, and can be done in just a few minutes a day.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.


Browsing Nature's Aisles: A Year of Foraging for Wild Food in the Suburbs
by Wendy and Eric Brown.

Browsing Nature's Aisles: A Year of Foraging for Wild Food in the Suburbs by Wendy and Eric Brown.As part of their commitment to self-reliance and resiliency, Wendy and Eric Brown decided to spend a year incorporating wild foods as a regular part of their diet. With information on collecting, preparing, and preserving easily identifiable wild edibles found in most suburban landscapes, this unique and inspiring guide is a must-read for anyone who wants to enhance their family's food security by availing themselves of the cornucopia on their doorstep.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.


Food Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer-And What You Can Do About It -- edited by Karl Weber.

Food Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer-And What You Can Do About ItWhere has my food come from, and who has processed it? What are the giant agribusinesses and what stake do they have in maintaining the status quo of food production and consumption? How can I feed my family healthy foods affordably? Expanding on the film’s themes, the book Food, Inc. will answer those questions through a series of challenging essays by leading experts and thinkers. This book will encourage those inspired by the film to learn more about the issues, and act to change the world.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.


enafarzh-CNzh-TWnltlfifrdehiiditjakomsnofaptruessvtrvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook-icontwitter-iconrss-icon

 Get The Latest By Email

{emailcloak=off}

FROM THE EDITORS

A Song Can Uplift the Heart and Soul
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf
I have several ways that I use to clear the darkness from my mind when I find it has crept in. One is gardening, or spending time in nature. The other is silence. Another way is reading. And one that…
Why Donald Trump Could Be History's Biggest Loser
by Robert Jennings, InnerSelf.com
This whole coronavirus pandemic is costing a fortune, maybe 2 or 3 or 4 fortunes, all of unknown size. Oh yeah, and, hundreds of thousands, maybe a million, of people will die prematurely as a direct…
Mascot for the Pandemic and Theme Song for Social Distancing and Isolation
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf
I came across a song recently and as I listened to the lyrics, I thought it would be a perfect song as a "theme song" for these times of social isolation. (Lyrics below the video.)
Letting Randy Funnel My Furiousness
by Robert Jennings, InnerSelf.com
(Updated 4-26) I have not been able to right-write a thing I am willing to publish this last month, You see I am furious. I just want to lash out.
Pluto Service Announcement
by Robert Jennings, InnerSelf.com
(updated 4/15/2020) Now that everybody has the time to be creative, there's no telling what you will find to entertain your inner self.