Ken Albala: Cooking Early Modern Recipes as Research

Wednesday, October 17, 2018, 6:00 pm
Folger Haskell Center

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Please note: This is a free public event with limited seating. Please reserve a seat only if you plan to attend.

Cookbooks reveal a great deal about the material culture of the kitchen and dining room, the social setting of consumption, and identity formation and performance.  But what did the food actually taste like? What was people’s experience of cooking it?

Join food historian Ken Albala for this free talk entitlted "Embodied Experience: Cooking Early Modern Recipes as Research." Albala is a visiting distinguished scholar with Before ‘Farm to Table’: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures, a Mellon initiative in collaborative research at the Folger Institute.

For the past two decades Ken Albala (Professor of History, University of the Pacific) has been working with early modern cookbooks, partly to get a sense of the aesthetic sensibilities of the past, but also to transmit them in a direct and physical way to modern people. He has reconstructed dining events, much as one might perform music on period instruments or a play with the original pronunciation. He has cooked with students, appeared in films and videos, served grandiose Renaissance banquets in historic settings and has experimented with recipes using original equipment, sources of heat and using techniques that have been long forgotten.

This talk will describe the perils and pitfalls of cooking from historic sources as well as the joys of exploring a long-gone cuisine. He will recount his experiences in dealing with archaic recipe formats, reconstructing techniques that were never recorded, and his most recent work with Renaissance noodles using a series of tools directly out of the 16th century. Like other art forms, the culinary arts deserve direct and applied academic study as an expression of the values and preoccupations of the past. 

There will be a wine and cheese reception after the talk. The event will begin at 6:00pm.

Please contact Before ‘Farm to Table’ project coordinator Jonathan MacDonald ( with any questions.

Please note:  We’re hard at work restoring our historic building’s marble façade.  As a result seven parking spaces on 3rd Street, SE, just south of its intersection with East Capitol Street, will be unavailable for public parking. Learn More.