Preserving the Last Sturgeon: Appetites for Sustainability in Seventeenth-Century Recipe Books
This essay analyzes the increased popularity of sturgeon recipes in Late Stuart cookery texts. As an esteemed fish at grand early modern banquets, sturgeon recipes attempted to recover a lost culture of hospitality in late seventeenth-century England. But while printed recipe collections collected a wide variety of sturgeon preparations, Restoration-era manuscript recipe books only contain recipes for pickled sturgeon and “artificial sturgeon” made from turkey, veal, and other meat. As the sturgeon population in English river systems declined, these recipes reveal early modern culinary adaptation to a changing environment. In these recipes, we see a bid to preserve and restore the culinary culture of England’s past while simultaneously seeking to convene a more sustainable table. Thinking with recipe books allows us to understand how households responded to the political and ecological losses of the seventeenth century by rebuilding the gastronomy of the past through culinary analogs.