Rhyming Recipes

My poem might not be that good.

I am not trying as hard as I should.

But read this blog and you’ll uncover

Why EATING poems is worth the bother.

A recipe that is also a poem

Do you have trouble remembering recipes? Perhaps you would like a method that your great-grandmother may have used? It is also a method that a cook in Jane Austen’s time might have advocated.

In this blog post I will explain what a rhyming recipe is, show you two examples of rhyming recipes and encourage you to find more.

What is a Rhyming recipe?

It is a way of recalling a recipe that is as poetic as it is beautiful.

Rhyming recipes used to be common in England, they date back to the days when few cooks could read or write.

A good example of a rhyming recipe, that I am sure you know, was written by Shakespeare. It is from his tragedy play Macbeth. Picture the scene, three witches huddle around a cauldron:

Eye of newt and toe of frog, Wool of bat and tongue of dog, Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting, Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing.

Disgusting.

But not all rhyming recipes are imaginary AND revolting.

There are many real and delicious rhyming recipes.

Unfortunately not many have survived. But I do keep coming across them. And as I do I will add them to this post. But for now here are two good examples.

Examples of rhyming recipes

There is a good example of a rhyming recipe in the manuscript cookbook that I own.

If you don’t know manuscript cookbooks are personal collections of (usually) handwritten recipes. The book that I own is more than 200 years old. And in that book I discovered Mother Eve’s pudding.

Mother Eves Pudding, an expert in manuscript cookbooks told me in a hot room in the British Library, has appeared in many different manuscript cookbooks.

Mother Eve’s Pudding

Handwritten recipe for Mother Eve's Pudding

If you have a good pudding pray mind what you’re taught
Take two teeny worth of eggs when they’re twelve for a groat,
Then take of the fruit which Eve once did cozen,
Well pared and well chop’d at least half a dozen,
Six ounces of bread, let your maid eat the crust,
The crumb must be grated as small as the dust
Six ounces of currants from the stones you must sort,
Lest they break all your teeth & spoil all your sport,
Six ounces of sugar won’t make it too sweet,
Some salt, and some nutmeg, the whole will complete
Three hours let it boil without hurry or flutter
And by way of improvement add good melted butter
A little brandy in the composition
Will be deemed a great acquisition
Adam tasted the pudding & said ’twas wondrous nice,
Then begged Mother Eve to cut him another slice.

I have also discovered this one that I would like to share.

Mr Gay’s Receipt to Stew a Knuckle of Veal

It leaves cryptic clues to ingredients.

See if you can guess them.

Underneath the recipe the answers are supplied. This recipe was reproduced in the utterly wonderful book A Taste of London by Theodora Fitzgibbon (1972) and comes originally from the equally wonderful (and frankly bizarre) The Cook’s Oracle by Dr Kitchiner (1817).

Take a knuckle of Veal;
You may buy it, or steal;
In a few pieces cut it,
In a stewing pan put it;
Salt, pepper and mace,
Must season this knuckle;
Then, what’s joined to a place*
With other herbs muckle;
That which kill’d King Will**
And what never stands still;***
Some sprigs of that bed****
Where children are bred,
Which much you will mend, if
Both spinage and endive,
And lettuce and beet,
With marygold meet,
Put no water at all,
For it maketh things small,
Which lest it should happen,
A close cover clap on;
Put this pot of Wood’s metal*****
In a boiling hot kettle;
And there let it be,
(Mark the doctrine I teach)
About, let me see,
Thrice as long as you preach.******
So skimming the fat off,
O! Then with what rapture
Will it fill Dean and Chapter!

*Celery

**Supposed sorrel

***Thyme (time)

****Parsley

*****An alloy of exceptionally low melting point

******Which we suppose to be near four hours.

Hasty Pudding

Final thoughts

These two rhyming recipes are just a few of the rhyming poems out there in the world.

I have given you just two examples from the nineteenth century.

But now YOU are primed to see more of them. I am sure you will discover exciting examples in books or through the internet.

When you do please share them with me.

I would love to read the rhyming poems you discover.