‘Take the moles alive...’ – bloodcurdling recipes for health
The Centre for Buckingshamshire Studies
THE manuscripts of the Lowndes family of Chesham include three intriguing recipe books dating from around 1660-1720 and include approximately 200 recipes. Recipes like these would have been used not only to feed the family and their guests but also to cure them; medicinal recipes are as prominent in their pages as culinary ones.
The recipes are brief by today’s standards with precise ingredient quantities and cooking times frequently missing. Many were incredibly time-consuming. The process of drying figs took nine days for instance. Much more of the meat was used than many would be accustomed to today. The recipe for mock turtle therefore instructs the cook to `take a calves [sic] head with the skin on and take the flesh of[f] as clean as you can’.
It is easy to cast doubt on the effectiveness of the medicinal recipes.
One for convulsions uses mole powder and demands that the reader `Take the moles alive, cut their throats making them bleed as much as you can upon a pewter plate ...’. The powder was to be taken the day before, the day of and the day after the new and full moon.
They do at least give a clear idea of some of the ailments from which our ancestors commonly suffered: `For spitting blood,’ `the palsy balsome,’ `To make eye salve,’ `Syrropp of elderberries – good for sore throates or ye stone,’ and `for the rheumatism’.
CHRIS LOW, ARCHIVIST
Intriguing recipe books from the Lowndes family of Chesham County Hall Walton Street Aylesbury, HP20 1UU 01296 382587