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Collection Snapshot: Diet and Digestion Advice from the Late 1600s

January 5th, 2015

It’s that time of year when you may hear your friends and family vowing to eat better for 2015.  But who needs trendy “paleo” diets or post-indulgence rounds of pepto-bismol when you can consult a seventeenth-century manuscript instead?  Among the Spencer Research Library’s collections is a volume labelled “Elizabeth Dyke her Booke of Recaits 1668,” which contains approximately 725 medicinal and culinary recipes (or “receipts”).  There you’ll find these two succinct lists of things “good” and “ille” for the stomach:

List of "Things good" and "ille" for "the stomack" from a seventeenth century book of receipts.

Parsley and sage advice?: Dyke, Elizabeth. “Things good for the Stomack” and “Things Ille for the Stomack.”
Booke of Recaits [Receipts]. Great Britain, circa 1668. Call Number: MS D157. Click image to enlarge.

According to the manuscript, calamint, sage, and standing after eating meat are all beneficial, while “all sweet things,” “fryed meats,” eating “meat upon meat” (pace Dr. Atkins), and eating “to[o] many dishes at one time” can lead to digestive disorder.

Of course, some of the volume’s recipes are acquired tastes (see the instructions for black sheep’s pudding below), so you may want to take its advice with a grain of salt!

Opening in the Booke of Recaits featuring a recipe for Black Sheep's Pudding

“To make black sheeps pudings.” Book of Recaits [Receipts]. Great Britain, circa 1668. MS D157. Click image to enlarge.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian