I am in the first year of my PhD in the German section in Cultures, Languages and Area Studies at Liverpool. My thesis studies the production of German cookery book manuscripts from the late eighteenth century to the early nineteenth century.
At the moment I am editing three of these manuscripts, which are known as ‘women’s cookery books’. After editing these books, I will then provide a historical, social and cultural analysis of the cookery book. As my thesis will show, cookery is a multi-faceted research topic; it sheds light on the the cultural and the economic context in which it is practised.
The (ambiguous, but commonly accepted) term ‘woman’s cookery book’ refers to cookery books that were written by women or for women, although the writers were often male. At the time, it was fashionable to own these books; they were usually made for special occasions such as weddings, and often remained with a family for at least several decades. They were usually written by one author, but afterwards extended with additions such as colour or medical recipes.
I am currently converting the manuscripts to XML, a markup language that allows me to add annotations to the texts. They will then be analysed in terms of their linguistic peculiarities, such as their use of terminology and the origin of the recipes. Because many of the terms that occur in the books are obsolete or forgotten nowadays, the creation of a glossary will also be indispensable. Furthermore, it will be very interesting to find out how many of the recipes were new creations or copied from printed sources. Equally the analysis of the changes – either to the ingredients or different stages within the recipe – that have been made to either ‘imported’ recipes or traditional dishes will be very illuminating. As I will show, the types of dishes and ingredients that were consumed depended a large degree on the sociocultural context in which their consumers were situated. Hunger, indeed, is not the only spice.