e who prepared food devoured by the fellow people of Shakespeare is illustrated most clearly in the volume ‘receipt books’ (Caton 1999, 6) they produced. This work presents recipes for “stew[ing] a calves head”, “pease pottage”, “a staple of the average person’s diet”, or cooking a “gooseberry foole” (Caton 1999, 6), documented by men and women who prepared these provisions five centuries ago.
In 1610, Sarah Longe assembled her Receipt Booke. According to Heidi Brayman Hackel, Longe was “one of the respectable middling sort, the wife perhaps of a successful tradesman or a member of the lesser gentry” (Brown 2009, 30). She documented a procedure for wafers that were relished by King James and his Queen; however, it is a different wafer recipe in her work that shows the considerable dissimilarities between her kitchen and present-day kitchens (Brown 2009). She starts on, “Take halfe a pound of sugar, as much flower” (Schoonover 1998, 111). Then, when a few servings of rosewater and eleven eggs have been added: “Beate it 2 hours...; bake it an hour...; then you must dry it againe in the Sun or Oven” (Glasse 1983, 116). A different procedure for baking a cake starts on, “Take halfe a bushel of fflower, 8 pound of Currence, and 5 pounds of butter...” (Caton 1999, 100). Entertaining visitors and providing for her family were challenging duties for Longe. Receipt Booke is one of various such works in the Folger compendium that shows the assortment to be seen in the food culture of early modern England (Caton 1999).
This essay will discuss the food culture of early modern England, specifically sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. Food preparation and consumption will be discussed in a wide-ranging perspective, from its roots in usual and substitute crops through innovation in agriculture, market transportation, and household delivery to its presentation on the table in traditional and modern foods and drinks.