Lindsay Middleton

Lindsay Middleton

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Research Title

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

Research Summary

‘The Technical Recipe: A Formal Analysis of Nineteenth-Century Food Writing’ examines the form and function of the most ubiquitous form of food writing: the recipe. I consider the recipe as a specific literary form and moreover as a form of literary technology, in that it reflects, mediates and disrupts changes in food and print technology that occurred in the nineteenth century.            

Methodologically, my project combines ‘Strategic Formalism’ - defined by Caroline Levine - and book history, exemplified by Robert Darnton, Jerome McGann and Leah Price. My interdisciplinary focus on the history of food technology and the quantitative examination of recipe trends I undertake also means I emulate scholarship within the history of science and technology, such as Emma Spary’s Feeding France.

I analyse recipes across multiple media types such as cookbooks, manuscript recipe collections, newspapers and periodicals. I then relate recipes to other forms, including catalogues, pamphlets, advertisements, novels, poems and short stories. Attending to the recipe’s visual and structural appearance – and to the wider field of texts it invokes – I illuminate its cultural influence beyond the kitchen.

Tracing patterns in the recipe form through the nineteenth century shows how recipes incorporate or reject technological innovations for food preservation and cooking. Moreover, recipes and food technologies simultaneously rely on the reader’s/user’s agency and tacit knowledge. Both recipes and technologies are therefore open to misinterpretation or adaptation. A focus on the readers of recipes and how recipes present technology will thus open up the recipe as the valuable cultural and literary form it is and facilitate new ways of interpreting technology usage within the nineteenth century.



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


  • Upcoming conference: ‘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    
  • Upcoming conference: ‘The 1820s: Innovation and Diffusion’ at the University of Glasgow, presenting paper ‘Feeding the 1820s: Bread, Beer and Anxiety.’ 11-12 April 2019
  • Upcoming Workshop (co-organiser): ‘Queen Victoria’s Contemporaries: born in 1819’, Glasgow Museum’s Resource Centre (organised through the University of Glasgow), 17th May 2019.

Additional Information


  • Member of BAVS
  • Member of RSVP

Organisational Committees