Friday, May 27, 2011

A Lordly Cookbook.

I will be computer-less for the next week, so my stories will come to you via my trusty iPad, upon which, for reasons known only to itself, Blogger will not allow me to format properly. Maybe I will work it out by Monday, but in the meanwhile, please accept my plain version today.

I get a lot of comments and queries by email. I try to respond to all, but sometimes they slip away through cyber-space and I probably appear to be ignoring them - if this is true of something you have sent me, then I apologise. One reader asked about the 'Lord Ruthven" mentioned in the post on Tewhaddidle a week or so ago.

The enquiry piqued my interest, because the work in question - The Ladies Cabinet Enlarged and Opened (first ed. was in 1639) is widely attributed to a seventeenth century Scottish peer. Several different individuals are credited,including "that learned chemist the Lord Ruthven." This reference appears to be to the seventh Lord (with whom the original line and title expired in 1495). He was indeed a chemist with "a Licence to practise the Transmutation of Metals, by his Philosophical Skill." He is not the man - the work is indisputably much later than the second half of the fifteenth century. Looking at the list of Ruthvens, there are no other likely candidates at all.

One likely theory is that the attribution was an early mistake, and that it was an English, not a Scottish peer - Lord Grey de Ruthyn, whose son became the second Lord Ruthven when the title was reinstated. Again, looking at the birth and death dates of the Ruthyns, there are no likely candidates to have published a book on any topic at this time. Unless one includes the women that is. The twelfth title holder was the Baroness Susan (Longueville).

Now it gets interesting. The full title of the book is:

The ladies cabinet enlarged and opened: containing many rare secrets, and rich ornaments of several kindes, and different uses. Comprized under three general heads. Viz. of [brace] 1. Preserving, conserving, candying, &c 2. Physick and chirurgery. 3. Cookery and houswifery. Whereunto is added, sundry experiments, and choice extractions of waters, oyls, &c.

Noblewomen did not cook. They were expected to supervise and instruct the kitchen staff, and therefore needed to be generally knowledgeable about food preparation, but they did not themselves do any cooking. They were however, responsible for the activities of the still-room, where the preserving, candying, and medicinal remedies were prepared. I get the clear impression that men did not participate in the activities of this particular household department.

This book shows the hand of a woman, not a 'chemist'. The middle section of the work has many remedies for everyday disorders, and many for use in midwifery. Noblewomen of the time would have kept their own manuscript receipt books but it would not have been seemly for them to do something as vulgar as publish a book for the general public. Nevertheless, my money is on Lady Susan. The only confounding part of the puzzle is that the preface is signed 'M.B'. A pseudonym to protect her identity? Maybe we will never know.

As the recipe for the day, I give you, from the book:

To Make an Italian Pudding.
Take a Manchet and cut it in square pieces like a die, then put to it half a pound of beefe suet minced small, raisins in the sun, the stones pick'd out, Cloves, Mace, minced Dates, Sugar, Marrow, Rose-waster, Egs and cReam; mingle all these together, and put it into a dish fit for your stuff; in less than an hour it will be baked; then scrape on sugar, and serve.

1 comment:

Foose said...

Could it be the Lord Ruthven who helped assassinate Rizzio, the favorite of Mary Queen of Scots? Some sources indicate he had a reputation as a warlock. Black magic was often related to alchemy (practiced by a "chemist").

I don't recall him being interested in cookery or any sort of helpfulness to females, but the physick (sometimes defined as "learned medicine") edges into alchemists' territory. Some accounts say that Ruthven got up from his deathbed to put on armor and murder Rizzio, and was able to do so through his knowledge of the supernatural arts. Possibly the use of his name might add a certain imprimatur of "authority" to the medicaments, even if they are merely everyday preparations.