A Recipe and Medicine Book with a Story
Posted On: 01/19/2018 - 12:39pm, Posted By: Christine Engels, Archives Manager, Manuscripts Department
Oftentimes something that appears to be simple and straightforward turns out to have far more layers than expected. An example of this is Mss VF H182 RMV, a volume filled with recipes with the first in 1693 and continuing on to 1700. There’s always a little jolt of excitement when running across something from that era since most of our manuscript collections are from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with a smattering from the eighteenth century. However, with some digging I soon found that this volume told more than one simple story. It’s also is an example of the importance of verifying stories passed down along with a family’s records and artifacts. There’s often a kernel of truth that can get stretched or clouded over time.
This recipe book belonged to Elizabeth Gulliver Meade Hallam and though someone later wrote that she brought it over from England in 1697 I found nothing to either prove or disprove that. It does seems odd when you consider her timeline. Elizabeth Gulliver was born in London in 1675. She was first married to Henry Meade who must have died prior to her marriage to Nicholas Hallam on January 2, 1700 in London. Hallam was a merchant from Barbados who already had three children from his first wife. They eventually settled in New London, Connecticut where Nicholas’s brother John had procured land. Elizabeth and Nicholas had three children, Elizabeth, Mary, and John. It appears unlikely that the book did come to America in 1697 unless Elizabeth traveled to America and then returned to England before coming back again in a few years.
This states that the book was brought to America from England in 1697.
Many of the recipes in the volume are for pies, the majority being sweet though some are more like a shepherd’s pie. Elizabeth obviously had a sweet tooth and included recipes for gumballs, macaroons, and a wide variety of delicacies. Sugar was only just beginning to be a common part of European and American diets at this time. This fact along with many of the rich ingredients Elizabeth listed made me think she must have come from a family of means, something I verified when I read her will written in 1735. In addition to large sums of money, land, and property she also willed her slaves Flora, Judith, and Abraham to her children and grandchildren. (Ancestry.com) It is jarring to see a humans listed among objects in a will but this gives us a much better understanding of Elizabeth’s life. Though few owned enslaved people in Connecticut at that time it is important to acknowledge that slavery did exist there and wasn’t completely abolished there until 1848.
Recipe for gumballs.
Recipe for "mackaroons."
Recipes for preparing various types of meat dishes.
If you flip the book over you find recipes for potions and advice of a medical nature. Nearly any ailment you can imagine is listed, including ones we still struggle with today, like headaches, kidney stones, and stomachaches. Of course there were also things that have mostly been eradicated in the US like scurvy. It also lists other ailments that we would give a proper medical name for now but they described as best as they could, such as “Fits of a Mother and Vapors of the Spleen” or “Pestilence.” Though the handwriting is very similar to that of the food recipes, at the bottom of one page there is a name written out, Henry Meade. Perhaps Elizabeth’s first husband was a physician or perhaps Elizabeth was simply a skillful housewife doing the best she could to maintain her family’s health.
Cure for gout
Scurvy was a common problem when fresh fruits were unavailable.
Is this Henry Meade's signature?
Annie Beckwith, an heir of Elizabeth Hallam bequeathed this volume of recipes to Rev. Frank H. Nelson in 1905. The letter from her lawyer to Nelson in the front of the recipe book noted that they were both heirs of Elizabeth Hallam. Rev. Frank Nelson was born in New London Connecticut and moved to Cincinnati around 1900. He served at Christ Church Cathedral for over forty years. This fascinating volume was donated to us in 1943 by Nelson’s widow. Mary.