Lindsay Middleton

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Research title: The Technical Recipe: A Formal Analysis of 19th Century Food Writing

Research Summary

Focusing on the nineteenth century, this project examines the form and function of the most ubiquitous form of food writing: the recipe, and its ties with material cooking technologies.

With formal analysis I read the recipe as a form of literary technology: it has significant aesthetic qualities and practical aims, it reflects technological modifications in food and cooking, and it is shaped by the changing pace of print and publications.

Furthermore, the recipe is technological due to its participation in the transformative process of cooking. I argue that the recipe’s form and content reflect technological developments and instruct readers on how to make sense of those developments.   

Methodologically, my project combines techniques from the history of technology and within literary criticism from English Literature, drawing upon ‘Strategic Formalism’ - defined by Caroline Levine - and book history, exemplified by Robert Darnton, Jerome McGann and Leah Price.

This dual focus on the uptake, use and perception of technologies and the literary qualities of the texts that describe them lends to nuanced observations about the place of culinary technologies in nineteenth-century culture.

The technological case-studies I select have distinctive relationships with temporality. By investigating perceptions of the past, present and future in the nineteenth century by looking at foods, material technologies and texts, I hope to find new ways of understanding contemporary attitudes towards innovation and cultural preservation in the nineteenth century.


Wrote introduction to the nineteenth-century section of the ‘Food and Drink in History’ resource by Adam Matthew Digital.

Blog for The Recipes Project: ‘Waste Not, Want Not: Interpreting Thrift through Victorian Food Writing’.

 ‘“No one wishes to say that you are to live on preserved meats”: Canning and Disruptive Narratives in Nineteenth-Century Food Writing’, Dublin Gastronomy Symposium 2020, online journal. DOI: 

In progress: ‘Feeding the 1820s: Bread, Beer and Anxiety’. Chapter in the proposed edited collection regarding the 1820s, Innovation and Diffusion.  


Grants & Awards

  • RSA-RSTG funding: £284.40 to attend the Cookbooks conference in Portsmouth
  • SGSAH AHRC DTP, 1.10.18 – 30.9.21, Full Time Fee Coverage and Stipend for undertaking PhD Research.
  • The Bibliographical Society, via ‘The 1820s: Innovation and Diffusion’ conference organisers, 13.1.19, £60-80, to cover attendance and dinner at the conference, which I am presenting at.
  • BAVS, 16.1.19, £300, for the running of a workshop at the GMRC titled ‘Queen Victoria’s Contemporaries’, co-organised by Dr. Helen Kingstone, Louise Creechan and Danielle Schwertner.
  • SGSAH AHRC DTP Scholarship


  • ‘Cookbooks: Past, Present and Future’ at the University of Portsmouth, presenting paper ‘Characters in Cookbooks: The Victorian Trend of the Fictional Housewife.’ 2nd of March 2019    
  • ‘The 1820s: Innovation and Diffusion’ at the University of Glasgow, presenting paper ‘Feeding the 1820s: Bread, Beer and Anxiety.’ 11-12 April 2019
  • ‘Queen Victoria’s Contemporaries: born in 1819’, Glasgow Museum’s Resource Centre (organised through the University of Glasgow), 17th May 2019.
  • ‘Waste Not, Want Not: Food and Thrift from Early Modernity to the Present’ at the University of Cambridge. Presented paper ‘Preservation and Textual Spaces: Interpreting Thrift through Victorian Food Writing’, 12-13 September, 2019.
  • ‘Introductions English Literature PGR Symposium’, University of Glasgow. Presented paper ‘Interdisciplinarity in ‘The Technical Recipe: A Formal Analysis of Nineteenth-century Food Writing’, 25.10.19
  • Public talk at the National Library of Scotland on ‘Eating the 1820s: Food Adulteration’ as part of the 1820s: Innovation and Diffusion project, 30.1.20
  • ‘Food and Disruption – What Will We Eat Tomorrow? Dublin Gastronomy Symposium’, Technological University Dublin. Presented paper ‘No one wishes to say that you are to live on preserved meats’: Canning and Disruptive Narratives in Nineteenth-century Food Writing’, 25-29 May 2020

Additional Information


  • Member of BAVS
  • Member of RSVP

Organisational Committees


Currently undertaking a SGSAH-funded internship with the National Trust for Scotland, working to research and reinterpret historical food within the Trust’s Scottish properties, and particularly in partnership with Gladstone’s Land in Edinburgh.