Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

Measures in Medieval English Recipes --Culinary vs. Medical

Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

Measures in Medieval English Recipes --Culinary vs. Medical

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Middle English recipes, both culinary and medical, have received attention of many scholars. In these studies recipes have often been analysed from the point of view of a genre and/or a text type. (2) Taavitsainen (2004: 75) defines the former "according to language-external evidence" (i.e., function, audience, and occasion); whilst the latter on the basis of linguistic criteria. Thus, a genre is usually identified by the function it fulfils in society (cf. Swales 1990; Taavitsainen 2012). In this functional view, the recipe is a genre whose main function is to give "instructions on how to prepare medicine, a dish, or some household utility like ink" (3) (Taavitsainen 2001a: 86). As regards the recipe as a text type, it is usually examined according to its formal, linguistic features (4). The typical recipe features include "a set form of a title, imperative forms of verbs, short paratactical sentences following temporal sequence of instructions to be carried out, object deletion, measurement specifications, and formulaic endings" (Taavitsainen 2001b: 142). Gorlach (2004: 124) adds "full sentences or telegram style", "use of possessive pronouns with ingredients and implements", "complexity of sentences", and "marked use of loanwords and of genteel diction".

The present paper deals with Middle English recipes from the 14th and 15th centuries. Two coexisting types of recipes will be analysed and compared, i.e., culinary and medical recipes. The main aim of this paper is to examine the use and distribution of measurement specifications (5) in the analysed texts. In doing so, we will attempt to answer the following questions: (i) what measure units (if any) were used in the recipes? (ii) did the recipes (culinary and medical) coincide in the use of measure terms? (iii) was the use of measure terms conditioned by the type of a recipe? Also, we will propose a classification of measurement specifications used in culinary and medical recipes.

In what follows, the two types of recipes will be briefly characterised, and the major metrical systems used in the British Isles will be illustrated. Next, the measure terminology found in the analysed corpus will be discussed and a comparison between the culinary and medical material will be offered.

1.1. The culinary recipe

Medieval culinary recipes have been categorised as "texts where the instructional function has not been made explicit by the producer. (...) In terms of their language, however, the recipes represent an almost prototypical example of texts employing instructional features" (Tanskanen, Skaffari & Peikola 2009: 7). Their function was to consult rather than to teach, which, following Carroll (2009: 79), could be accounted for by "the amount of common ground that can be assumed to exist between the original author of the recipe and the reader". The recipes were more like lists of ingredients defining the order of adding them and not detailed instructions guiding the cook step by step how to prepare a particular dish. Food historians, such as Hammond (2005) or Scully (1995), claim that the recipes must have functioned as aids for the chief cook rather than for those working in the kitchen, who must have worked by memory and experience. They might have been written down in order to remind the cook of the ingredients needed to prepare a feast, so that when a menu was chosen, the recipes were used to prepare a certain type of a "shopping list". They might also have been of help for the cook in order not to forget about any ingredient or about the order of adding particular ingredients. Following Brears (2008), the cook's memory had to be refreshed, i.e., they remembered the frequently prepared dishes, such as pastries or bread, and most basic processes, such as plain boiling or roasting (6), but details concerning food which was not in everyday use might have been forgotten. On the other hand, Scully (1995) points out that recipes were not written for the cook, who was a professional and knew well enough how to prepare particular dishes, but by the cook (as some archival material). …

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