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News & Editorial

Cooking the books

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Modern recipe books regularly top the non-fiction bestseller lists. Their authors, the celebrity chefs, are household names.

This exhibition showcases a selection of cookery books and food-related pamphlets from the University of Aberdeen's Special Collections. They date mainly from the 1800s, when a fashion and a passion for food was fed by the dramatic increase in book publishing. The names of the cooks may not be familiar, but their books sold like hot cakes.

On a summer menu are starters of acorn bread and viper broth; main courses of ragooed larks and venison pasty; and desserts that quake. There are showstoppers by Joseph Bell, Royal Confectioner, and the truth behind the blackbirds baked into a pie. Some curious items include the designs for a pressure cooker from 1681; the first printed recipe for the potato crisp; and a miniature cookbook containing over 800 pages of pies, jellies and puddings. There are cautionary tales too. The sad demise of the lady who ate poisonous pickles is recounted by Fredrick Accum, and Launcelot Sturgeon considers the consequences of an irresistible sauce. The exhibition pays homage to Aberdeen’s signature bake, the rowie, our buttery. It invites visitors to try more of the Rowett Institute’s nutritional reinventions of classic Scottish dishes such as Clootie dumpling, Rumbledethumps and Cullen Skink.

Cooking the books

'Threat to Aberdeen’s morning delicacy' ran a headline in the local press on 27th August 1917. Rowie post on Lena's blog.


'Lifting the Lid: 400 Years of Food & Drink in Scotland': National Library of Scotland touring exhibition.

The 'Cooking The Books' exhibits are accompanied by a touring display on the subject of '400 Years of Scottish Food and Drink'. Subjects include "Desserts & Baking", "Fish & Shellfish", "Oatmeal & Bread", "Soups & Broths" and "Jams & Preserves". There's an activity cart and games to have a go at, and a film reel featuring a menu of foodie films from the Scottish Screen Archive.

Try cooking some of the classic recipes featured in the exhibitions. You'll find the recipes, and information about posting photographs of your bakes, in the exhibition. Signature challenges include:
1. Quaking pudding, a 16th century recipe.
2. A cake shaped and decorated to look like a piece of fruit.
3. An Entremets pie. No pix of baked blackbirds please!