The Foote sisters’ Compleat Housewife
Cookery texts as a source in lived religion
in Reading and writing recipe books, 1550–1800
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As Marie Griffith and Barbara Savage have noted, students of lived religion have 'challenged timeworn distinctions between public and private realms'. This chapter focuses on a particular cookery text, one specific copy of E. Smith's The Compleat Housewife. It suggests that in elite households in Virginia, households like that of Elizabeth Foote Washington, and, indeed, George and Martha Washington, seemingly 'secular' recipe books in fact carried religious meaning. Laypeople's alimentary practices were shaped by the church; but laypeople exercised significant authority over their domestic religious performances, and in Anglican Virginia, that authority unsettled clerics. Foote sisters' recipe book speaks to the labour arrangements that underwrote religious practice in the households of elite Anglican Virginians. In the context of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Virginia, such labour was carried out by enslaved men and women.

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