Courtesy Derbyshire Record Office.
These days it seems the notion of your evening meal consisting merely of meat, vegetables and a mug of beer have been swept aside in a blizzard of Parma ham, rocket and cracked black pepper. Jamie, Delia and even Gordon have turned us all into aspiring chefs, but it appears that your average citizen as gastronomic whizz is no modern phenomenon.
A recipe book dating back to 1743 and containing such lip-smacking delights as squichanary pye (it's got us stumped too), stewed whole calf’s head and crud loaves has been given to the Derbyshire County Council Record Office.
It was written by one Mary Swanwick and contains more than 100 handwritten recipes for poultry, red meat, vegetables, puddings, drinks, preserves and savouries.
"It’s not just a list of recipes," Margaret O’Sullivan, county and diocesan archivist, told the 24 Hour Museum. According to Margaret the recipes are complete with comments. In one place Mary Swanwick has added, "this makes a handsome plate."
How about some beef role? Courtesy Derbyshire Record Office.
The small book measures just 8 cm (3 inches) by 10 cm and its title page declares that it was written on January 26 1743. It was given to the record office by a family from Stockport who have had it for around the last 250 years.
"Because it is so old, they realised that it was just deteriorating,"explained Margaret. "They gave it to us so that it would be preserved properly and we could do the research into the person that wrote it." That way, she added, "it will have educational interest."
The recipes have been handwritten and annotated by the author. Courtesy Derbyshire Record Office.
The manuscript was handed to the record office wrapped in what appears to be some sort of cardboard, but no connected material that might suggest its origins came with it. It seems all staff have to go on at the moment is a name and a year.
Yet there are some clues in the references Swanwick makes to the sources of her recipes.
She provides instructions to make ‘Westphalia hams Lady Temples Way’. Record Office staff are looking into the possibility that Lady Temple might be connected to the Temple family of Stowe who, at the time, owned property in the Derbyshire town of Crich.
However, what’s currently capturing imaginations, and indeed stomachs, are the recipes themselves. They have clear links to medieval cookery through heavy use of almonds - almond cheesecake, almond tart, almond butter, almond pudding, almond biscakes (biscuits) – as well as how to make mead.
"We’ve actually tried the recipes," said Margaret, who explained that a plate of biscuits, tellingly, "disappeared" from her desk.
For Margaret that’s "testimony to how good the recipes are."
Researchers can consult a digital copy of the manuscript at Derbyshire Record Office, but anyone keen to throw a 17th century style dinner party will have to wait a while. Plans are in place to publish in early 2006.