Goode for All Infermitys

Accounting for tastes in a collection of 17th-century recipes and remedies

The curious manuscript texts transcribed and annotated in Preserving on Paper: Seventeenth-Century Englishwomen’s Receipt Books by the Edmonton-based scholar Kristine Kowalchuk are bound to raise a lot of questions for the 21st-century reader. For example: What are “musarunes,” which one may pickle and “put oyl upon them if you think fit”? (Mushrooms, the glossary helpfully informs us.) How effective was taking “young Ravens when they are redy to ffly,” baking them “with Browne Bread tell they are Powder,” and mixing the powder with honey as a cure for “the falling Sickness”? Wouldn’t the extremely complex, spicy, floral “Palsie Water”—which is meant to be served “in Crumbs of Bread & Sugar” as a treatment for tremors and muscle ailments—be good mixed with gin? And isn’t it reassuring to know how richly one could subsist on a diet of cakes, pies, and puddings (with the occasional “Surrup of...