The Culinary Recipe from the XIIth to the XVIIth centuries (Europe, Islam, Far East) - online

The online symposium “The Culinary Recipe from the XIIth to the XVIIth centuries (Europe, Islam, Far East)” will be held from 17th to 29th May 2021. This is both the conclusive conference of the international research program CoReMA (Cookery Recipes of the Middle Ages: Corpus, analysis, visualisation) and the first act of the Micrologus Conference supported by UAI and POLEN laboratory “Between workshop and court: The recipe from the XIIth to the XVIIth centuries (Europe, Islam, Far East)”. The second act of the Micrologus conference will be held in 2022. 

Between the XIIth and XVIIth centuries​, the recipe was probably ​one of the most usual ways to spread scientific and technical knowledge in Western Europe as in Islamic and Eastern countries. These recipes are common to such different knowledges as medicine and cookery, alchemy and magic, dyeing, metallurgy and cosmetics. ​A large number of recipe books are still preserved in libraries all around the world: for the only western medieval cookery, we can estimate the existing recipes at more than 15 000.

It is sometimes difficult to find and often to interpret old recipes, which are always at the intersection of norms and practices. That is the reason why they need ​multidisciplinary approaches​, which are the only ones that can allow us to understand their structure and their content. Research in all fields must be supported by digital humanities methods and findings need to be published open access to foster the reuse of knowledge. Their study must combine codicology and philology, textualization and implementation, and, as such, belongs to the history of techniques and culture, to the material or the sensory history. 

Scholars must ​specify the status and establish the typologies of the recipe text​: is it an organized collection or a simple compilation? Are the recipes isolated or embedded in a work with a completely different nature and goal? Also, special attention must be paid to the textual and material support: manuscript or printed book on parchment or paper, complete volume or scattered quires, or even simple fragments: all these configurations let suppose multiple and diverse uses.

Writing the recipe includes the choice of an idiom – Latin or vernacular – which aims for different audiences and receptions. Complexity – or not – of the writing, eventual quantification of formulas, use of a specialized lexicon, construction of sentences that follows the technical process are to be taken in account. It is the case, also, for the relationships between the writing traditions of some recipe and the oral and gestural traditions that predated it and continue to surround it, probably creating some gap in the changing and perception of knowledge that these different traditions are supposed to transmit.

The border sometimes is fine between the “authors” who created the recipe as a written formula and the readers who enriched and adapted it to their own needs or simply commented and indexed it. Both can be professionals or amateurs. Thanks to recipe collections that have been bequeathed, sold or simply read, we can recount ​the spreading and circulation of recipes all around Europe or even between very distant worlds, such as Latin Europe, Islam and Far East. Intertextuality is realized by translations that must be examined carefully.

The link between recipe and practice ​is essential. It can be reached by multiple ways and sources, in which accounts, inventories and other lists are primordial. Thanks to a better scientific framework, now we can carefully combine text analysis and experimental archeology. The restitution or the reenactment allows to define the effects of the recipe, to study the way it was put into practice.
Iconography has not to be neglected in this kind of approach. The technical illustration of the text (images ​in the recipe) can be interesting, as well as the representation of technical processes in action (images ​of​ the recipe). The result of the recipes is a set of colors, smells, flavors and textures, which can be specific to a period, a civilization or an area. Studying ​the influences and exchanges between European and non-European recipes ​is an essential point.

Fields of Interest

  • cooking recipes and cooking recipe collections
  • recipes and recipe collections in various languages
  • contexts of production and dissemination
  • authors and readers
  • cultural exchange through the recipe
  • cooking recipe vs. cooking practice
  • iconography and the cooking recipe
  • editing the cooking recipe
  • digital methods for researching the cooking recipe (encoding, data curation, …)
  • knowledge dissemination (linked open data, semantic web, …)

(from the conference announcement)

Further information

Replay on YouTube channel

Time & Place
Monday, 17 May 2021 (All day) to Saturday, 29 May 2021 (All day)
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