An Investigation of Irish Culinary History Through Manuscript Cookbooks, with Particular Reference to the Gentry of County Kilkenny (1714-1830)

Dorothy Cashman, Dublin Institute of Technology

Document Type Theses, Ph.D

Successfully submitted for the award of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) to the Dublin Institute of Technology in 2016.



This thesis argues that Irish culinary manuscripts have a significant contribution to make to an understanding of Irish culinary history. It does so by identifying one particular manuscript, NLI MS 34,952 (Baker) as being representative of the genre but singular in terms of the archival and literary support available for an in-depth study. Analysis of the manuscript is undertaken using a methodology devised by the culinary historian Wheaton for researchers attending her workshops at Radcliffe College, Harvard. In these workshops Wheaton studies historic cookbooks to ascertain what these complex texts can reveal by breaking them down into five categories, that of the ingredients, the kitchen, the meal, the book and the worldview. This is the first time a manuscript, Irish or otherwise, has been the subject of Wheaton’s structured approach. Irish authored cookbooks have a very slight presence in the historiography of cookbooks prior to the foundation of the Irish State. To date, four have been identified up to the start of the twentieth century. The book written by Ceres and Cole’s assembled work are the only two for the period covered by this research. The culinary manuscripts are therefore the most valuable source for recorded recipes on the island. This research argues for the legitimacy of their inclusion in the historiography of the recipe in Ireland. It does so by discussing their contribution in the context of the relationship between manuscript and printed cookbook, by presenting the case for a broader engagement with pan-European culinary history and by demonstrating that the history of food in Ireland shows that the inhabitants of the island at every stage absorbed and adapted to external influences. The concluding argument questions the validity of an interpretation of the manuscripts as being colonial imports within the context of food history. The Royal Irish Academy have published two thematic volumes addressing what are identified as fundamental themes in Irish life; Domestic Life in Ireland, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 111C, and Food and Drink in Ireland, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 115C, confirming that the study of all aspects of culinary history on the island is now an important contributor to academic research. Assembled here for the first time is a database, Appendix One, of cookbooks

published in Ireland before the extension of the copyright act to the country at the start of the nineteenth century. This is complementary to the database of manuscripts and selected source material in Appendix Seven. This brings together for the first time a listing of manuscripts across institutions in Ireland and beyond these shores. These databases along with the research conducted for analysis of NLI MS 34,952 (Baker) is the first to fully contextualise the manuscripts within Irish culinary history, and in so doing to legitimise their contribution to that history.