‘Take the moles alive...’ – blood­cur­dling recipes for health

The Cen­tre for Buck­ing­shamshire Stud­ies

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - PEOPLE AND LACES -

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’.


In­trigu­ing recipe books from the Lown­des fam­ily of Che­sham County Hall Walton Street Ayles­bury, HP20 1UU 01296 382587

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