Toast: for the weakness of the back

I visited the Folger Shakespeare Library a few times over the summer to develop updated recipes for an upcoming exhibition, First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas. I cannot wait to share these recipes with you this winter. If you live in DC or plan to visit, make sure you check this out!

As I looked at printed books and manuscripts that had been selected for display in the exhibition, I had the pleasure of revisiting Margaret Baker’s recipe book, Folger V.a.619. I’ve previously worked on this book with undergraduate researchers and I wrote about it here. Reading through the manuscript again, I noticed a medicinal recipe that looked decidedly scrumptious: toasted manchet bread with egg and spices. As a devotee of toast in all its glorious forms, I knew I had to test this one.

The Recipe

This recipe is “for the weakness of the back” and calls for bread, egg yolk, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  These spices are known for their warming and energizing qualities. From my preliminary research on humoral medical treatments, I gather that the cinnamon and nutmeg might strengthen a phlegmatic patient by warming the body and reducing phlegm. The instruction to eat this first thing in the morning might help the patient disperse phlegm that had accumulated in the back of the body overnight.

for the weakness of the back
take 2 tostes of manchets the take the yolke of a new lead egge
and spread itt uppon the tosts and flinge uppon itt the powder of
sinemen and nutmegge and let the party eate of it first in the
morninge

I tested this recipe on a chilly morning and quickly devoured a slice with a cup of coffee. Somewhere between French toast and cinnamon toast, the combination of the rich egg yolks and the warming spices was delightful.

The original recipe calls for raw egg on toasted bread sprinkled with spices. I assume that bread toasted on a hearth would be quite hot and would interact with the yolk. Cooking mine in a skillet on a conventional stove, I opted to add butter and cook the eggy side of the bread, too. This is a recipe I would love to try again on a hearth or open fire. I hope some of you do so and tell me about it in the comments!

toast

Updated Recipe

serves 1-2

2 pieces of bread
2 egg yolks
1/4 t cinnamon
1/8 t nutmeg
1 T butter

Heat a heavy pan and add the butter. (I used a cast ion skillet.) Toast one side of the bread in the butter, then flip.

Mix the egg yolks with the spices. Spoon over the first, toasted side. Flip when the bottom is toasted and quickly cook the eggy side.

Eat immediately.

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