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Hannah Woolley's Chaculate

The Ladies Delight 1672

By the mid-seventeenth century the wisdom of cookery, of which Lady Ann Fanshawe provides an excellent example, had also become part of a wider discourse on household management. Like home recipes, it too was managed and written by women. Hannah Woolley has been called the early-modern Martha Stewart--I might say Julia Child, cooking made simple--and hailed as the first to publish guides to domestic success for women. In fact, her purview extended far beyond the home to advice about everyday living in the public sphere, as well.

Her titles include The Cook's Guide (1664), with "rare recipes" such as Pig that eats like lamb and Haggis Pudding; The Queen-like Closet (1670), an extended manual on cookery for "ingenious persons of the female sex"; The gentlewoman's companion, or a Guide to the Female Sex (1673), a conduct book with advice for for ladies and also for their maids on all manner of interpersonal relationships; and a compilation, The Accomplished Woman's Delight, on Preserving, Physick, Beautifying, and Cookery (1675), wherein women find more than 200 recipes, simple surgical procedures such as bleeding, beauty tips of which at least 5 demonstrate how to lighten the skin, tips on angling, and a guide to carving "Fish, Foul, and Flesh" (369). Her dedicated readers would be accomplished indeed.

The Ladies Directory in Choice Experiments and Curiosities (1662) her earliest cookbook, includes recipes drawn from "the ablest physicians" with chocolate among them. In 1662, England Alphabetized under “S” for Spanish in Woolley's directory, the drink still would have best been known by its relationship to the Iberian culture that took it from Mesoamerica and introduced it to Europe. In fact, judging from Lady Ann Fanshawe's careful detailing of its preparation (see last week's post), we can also assume that in 1662, the drink was not yet common as a home brew in England.

“To Make Spanish Chaculate,” is recipe #100. It follows “Custard for Consumption” and precedes “To Preserve Gooseberries to look like Hops.” Just this short range of recipes 99 to 101 demonstrates the reach of seventeenth-century cookery and leaves open the question of exactly what sort of recipe chocolate was construed to be: pharmaceutical? Dietary? Culinary? Very likely all of the above.

Woolley's recipe instructs the cook to

Boile some water in an earthen Pipkin a quarter of an hour; then sweeten it with Sugar; then scrape your Chaculate very fine, and put it in, boil it half an hour; then put in the Yolks of Eggs well beaten, and stir it over a slow fire till it be thick.

Her suggestion to add an egg may be the result of adaptations developed in England rather than knowledge learned in Spain. There do not appear to be any recipes from the Aztec or early settlers in Mexico that feature eggs. Yet, eggs appear in a number of British publications after 1662, from Henry Stubbe and Bollicosgo Armuthaz to William Hughes, and Lady Ann Fanshawe did not encounter that ingredient in Mardrid during her stay in 1665. Readers of this blog will note too that frothing seems to have fallen out of the preparation with egg. Indeed, egg acts as a binding agent that thickens the drink to a hearty consistency, not unlike the way a molinillo would have been used to draw out the thickening cacao butter. The fact that Woolley calls the recipe Spanish may say more about how chocolate was publicized in Britain in the 1660s than about how the Spanish drank it.


For further reading

Woolley Hannah. The ladies directory in choice experiments & curiosities of preserving in jellies, and candying both fruits & flowers : Also, an excellent way of making cakes, comfits, and rich court-perfumes. With rarities of many precious waters; among which, are Doctor Stephens's water, Dr. Matthias's palsie-water; and an excellent water against the plague: with severall consumption drinks, approved by the ablest physicians. London : Printed by T. Milbourn for Peter Dring, 1662.

---. Reissued as The Ladies Delight, or a rich closet of choice experiments and curiosities. Printed by T. Milbourn for B. Crouch, 1672.

Tigner, Amy. "Preserving Nature in Hannah Woolley’s The Queen-Like Closet; or Rich Cabinet," Ecofeminist Approaches to Early Modernity, eds. Jennifer Munroe and Rebecca Laroche, 129-149 (Springer, 2011).

---. "Chocolate in Seventeenth-Century England, Part I," The Recipes Project, 1 Sept. 2013. (excerpt of the above)

Nicosia, Maria. "Chacolet from Rebeckah Winche’s Receipt Book [1666] at the Folger Shakespeare Library," Updating Early Modern Recipes (1600-1800) in a Modern Kitchen. 28 Jan 2016.

Gode Cookery, 17th-Century English Recipes.

On Woolley's use of "chaculata" see Julian Walker, Discovering Words in the Kitchen. Oxford Shire Publications, 2010.

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