The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

“What manner o’thing is your crocodile?”: February 2022

For this month’s crocodile mystery, please examine these words from different manuscript recipe books from our collections, and tell us what they have in common. We’ll be back next week with the answer.





  • they are all ingredients imported or exotic from various regions not native to the writers of the recipes, most seem to be originating from various Mediterranean cultures and Asian lands? Carrots are originally from Afghanistan, and turnips from Asia, peascode a bird from Hindi cultures, Anis seed and bread making originated in Egypt, so perhaps the emphasis is that they traveled through the Mediterranean to get to English pantries or grocers and as seed for gardens? But the use of milk – hence veal, originated closer to home in Northern Europe, so that one stumps me.. Hmmm…you got me!
    Thanks for the brain stretch! ~;0)

    • Peascods are peas in the pod, in this context, nothing to do with peacocks. The peascod bellied doublet, an odd fashion statement if ever there was one, was also called a “goose belly” and probably does relate to the bird.

  • I have no idea what they have in common, but I love that “pasnep” reveals the writer’s accent in the list of root vegetables.

  • Is it things to do with (changed) terminology or ambiguous terms that you need to consider if you try to actually cook from these recipes? I.e. we can’t take it for granted that our definition of herbs (or the herbs that spring most readily to mind), what we think of as a leg of veal, anchovy or asparagus actually corresponds to what the recipe-writer had in mind in terms of size, looks etc., so unless So those ‘Achovies’ may be more or less salty – and probably an entirely different fish – than what you might find at the shops today, ducks would probably have been other breeds and sizes (and probably bred in very different conditions) than the ones that are now most common, which would affect how they cook and taste, a peascod may or may not still contain the peas, the ratio of crust to crumb in ‘some cruste’ of bread – or the quantity it’s meant to represent – is anyone’s guess, really, and what passes for a ‘small walnut’ today may have been considered normal-sized in 1712.

  • Sorry, I clicked ‘submit’ a little too soon. I meant to add ‘unless you do quite a bit of research on how those terms were used at the time the recipe book was written, you won’t be able to properly reconstruct the recipe – and sometimes you’ll probably just have to guess at the recipe writer’s meaning’.

  • First thoughts were that they had all appeared in Shakespeare’s writings, but I could only find some of them. So are they from the works of various Elizabethan authors?

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