An Anonymous Recipe Book, a blog post by Joe Grayson, Archives Volunteer

It is often easy to undervalue the benefits of living in contemporary society when it comes to looking after the household, with long queues at the Doctor’s Surgery increasingly common and a free parking space outside the shops sometimes impossible to find! Looking back to a 19th Century household account of recipes for various foods and health treatments however, can leave you with a renewed appreciation for modern solutions to feeding the family and treating illness. In celebration of ‘Explore your Archives Week’, I’ve studied one such record held at the West Yorkshire History Centre and selected several pieces to share which follow this year’s themes of #ArchiveScience, #EdibleArchives and #HairyArchives.

The volume includes plenty of tempting food and wine recipes but perhaps more interestingly, some surprising and potentially deadly medical directions. A child suffering with the ‘Hooping Cough’ for instance, could expect to be smeared with a mixture of brandy and turpentine in front of an open fire.

joe_Hooping Cough. Tweet 3_

An intriguing recipe for whooping cough (C1253/2)

Someone having endured ‘the bite of a mad dog’ would likely find themselves consuming several pints of good white wine vinegar, while attempts to ‘recover persons apparently dead by drowning’ included the use of tobacco smoke to stimulate the lungs and bowels. The book also covers a range of other interesting and useful advice such as how to make hair dye from a mixture of lead and ebony shavings and how to produce superior quality writing inks. Viewing the recipe book in its entirety is highly recommended and can provide the wealth of vital knowledge needed in managing any 19th Century household!

For more information about this recipe book please contact the Wakefield office of the West Yorkshire Archive Service and ask for the reference C1253/2.


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