In each of the seventeenth-century moments that ground this analysis, a young woman decides to begin medical practice. In her decision, each woman breaks with her previous life path, figuring the time before it as distinct from the time to come. In looking to the past, each young woman must recognize her intergenerational inheritance, and in imagining the future, the three women variously consider the question of marriage. As a result, each of these moments taken from three distinct genres – one in an autobiography, one in a work of dramatic fiction, and the third from a recipe book – differently captures a dynamic sense of the roles of women in seventeenth-century England.
The bulk of my analysis will focus on the last instance, that of the recipe book. Through this emphasis, I hope to reverse the trend that puts recipe books in the service of literature as they are seen to provide a material/practical/intellectual backdrop for more well-known and well-combed texts. My second key point is that key moments in recipe texts like Dorothy Shirley’s might well have been overlooked if I had not undertaken the task of transcription.