We believe that a cookbook is not just a bunch of recipes, but a cultural document. American popular culture is ripe with references to the work of Shakespeare, in fact, about every 20 years, there is some sort of remake of Romeo and Juliet with the era's leading heartthrob.
As much as we know of Shakespeare and his work, the references to food and drink in his work are often lost as many of the recipes of the Elizabethan era are lost to most readers. Francine Segan's Shakespeare 's Kitchen gives the reader of Shakespeare and cookbooks a chance to delve into the foods that would have been common to the Elizabethan audience. Now they are common to today's viewer.
Segan draws upon texts from the late 1500's and 1600's, wading through the creative spellings and unusual customs to present recipes that transcend history. This recipe is a favorite of King James, famous for his Bible. The original recipe comes from Mistress Sarah Longe. Longe collected her recipes into a personal collection around 1610. The book now resides in the Folger Shakespeare Library.
King James Biscuits
7 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons rose water
1 cup sugar
5 cups pastry flour
4 large egg whites
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon aniseeds
1. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg yolks, rose water,and sugar for 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of flour and mix for 2 minutes. Add another cup of flour and mix for 1 minute. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add another cup of flour, and mix for 2 minutes. In a seep rate bowl, whip the egg Whitestone soft peaks. Add another cup of flour, the caraway, aniseed, and the egg whites to the batter and mix for 2 minutes. Add the remaining cup of flour and mix till smooth and elastic. (If the dough is too thick for your mixer, knead in the last addition of flour.)2. Preheat the oven th 350. Drop the dough, 2 tablespoons at a time, onto greased cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes, or until light golden brown
Of course, the "electric" mixer of Shakespeare's day was some kitchen help with a big wooden spoon!
Along with recipes, there are other Shakespearean tidbits. From The Merry Wives of Windsor:
Go fetch me a quart of sacke,
Put a toast in 't.
To soften the blow of bitter drinks, a piece of toast was added to mellow the flavor. This is the origin of the tradition of making a toast. So here is a toast to Shakespeare's Kitchen.