Victorian Era Nonsense, With Recipes


Next week, the University of Chicago Press will publish a facsimile of Edward Lear’s Nonsense Botany and Nonsense Alphabets, first published in 1889. Included among the illustrations of such unnatural flora as Enkoopia Chikabiddia and Smalltoothcombia Domestica is a brief section on “Nonsense Cookery.”  A recipe for Amblongus Pie calls for “a small pigeon, 2 slices of beef, 4 cauliflowers, and any number of oysters,”, while preparation for Cumbobblious Cutlets requires “a sunny place, — say the roof of the house if free from sparrows or other birds.”

But it’s the recipe for Gosky Patties that offers some link between Victorian Era surrealism and the modern-day fixation with whole animal butchery, slow food, and painstakingly sourced ingredients: “Take a Pig…5 pounds of currants, 3 of sugar, 2 pecks of peas, 18 roast chestnuts, a candle, and 6 bushels of turnips,” the recipe reads. “…Visit the paste and beat the Pig alternately for some days, and ascertain if at the end of that period the whole is about to turn into Gosky Patties. If it does not then, it never will; and in that case the Pig may be let loose, and the whole process may be considered as finished.”

While we can’t imagine trying this at home, we can imagine more than a few underground dining clubs who would be more than game to take up where Lear left off.