Edinburgh’s History Brought to Life Through Cookery in New Digital Series

As part of Auld Reekie Retold, the three-year project connecting artefacts from the City’s collection, Museums & Galleries Edinburgh has launched a new digital series called Cooking up the Past that  brings the city’s history to life through cookery.

Featuring videos of staff members cooking up historic recipes at home that have been sourced from digital copies of historic recipe books discovered in the city’s collection, the project will aim to help lift lockdown boredom for those who may have baked one too many banana loaves.

Available via the Museums & Galleries YouTube channel, the first episode shows Curator Vicky Garrington and Collections Assistant Oliver Taylor each having a go at a 1932 recipe for soda scones in their respective kitchens. The recipe was in the Edinburgh College of Domestic Science book, Plain Cookery Recipes, whose linen cover on the edition used was embroidered with strawberries by one of the College  students.

Edinburgh College of Domestic Science began life as the Edinburgh School of Cookery and Domestic Economy in 1875. Its founders, Christian Guthrie Wright and Louisa Stevenson, were heavily involved in furthering the education of women. In founding the College, they had two aims: to improve women’s access to higher education and to improve the diets of working-class families. They began to hold lectures at the Royal Museum (now the National Museum of Scotland), as well as arranging lectures and demonstrations across the country. In 1891, the School moved to Atholl Crescent in Edinburgh’s West End, where its main campus remained until 1970. With the development of a broader curriculum, the institution eventually became Queen Margaret’s University.

Vicky Garrington said “With our venues closed and staff working from home, the Auld Reekie Retold team have been looking for new ways to share our amazing collections with the public. When I suggested the idea of filming a recipe to Oliver, he was up for the challenge, and hopefully the film we’ve made will inspire people to explore more of our collections online, and to revisit some old family recipes.”

The recipes may sound strange to modern ears and horrific to vegetarians and vegans, but are indicative of how much diets and attitudes to food have changed over the years.  They include how to make dishes such as dressed sheep’s heid; raw beef tea to fortify invalids; boiled tongue and ‘Poor Man’s Goose’ that included sheep’s liver and heart.

The Auld Reekie Retold team have plans for more cookery adventures as part of the series including a recipe from the domestic notebooks belonging to Edinburgh suffragist Nannie (Agnes Henderson) Brown and a World War 2 rationing recipe.

History and cookery lessons in one.  What’s not to like?

Irene Brown

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