This manuscript cookbook is of high interest because it was compiled by various persons connected to Lady Grisell Baillie (1665-1746) and is partly in Lady Grisell Baillie’s hand. Grisell Baillie is legendary figure in Scotland, where she is remembered as a childhood heroine who saved her father’s life during the Covenanter crisis, as a Scots songwriter, and as the builder, with her husband George Baillie (1664-1738), of Mellerstain, a stately home in the south of Scotland. From the time of her marriage, in 1692, nearly to her death Lady Grisell kept detailed household books, in which she recorded servants’ wages, expenses for foods and other necessities purchased both for family and help, various household memoranda, and several dozen bills of fare for dinners staged between 1717 and 1732, some hosted by the Baillies, and some served to the Baillies at other homes. In 1911 an abridged version of Lady Grisell’s household books was published as The Household Book of Lady Grisell Baillie. This book, which is available online, provides a wealth of information about Scottish and English social life during the late-Stuart and early Georgian eras, including the cuisine of the privileged.
This manuscript cookbook is essentially in two parts, the first comprising pages 3 to 175, which are in a single hand, the second comprising pages 175 (bottom) to 591, which are in multiple recurring hands, including that of Lady Grisell.
The second part of the cookbook includes, on page 185, notes on the correct dosage for purges given to "Grisie" and "Rachy," the Baillies' daughters. It also contains a run of recipes on pages 261-262 attributed to a “Mrs. Johnston.” She was likely Lucy Claxton, who became the third wife of James Johnston in 1716, after his second wife, Catharine Poulett, the writer of the first section of the manuscript, had died. There is also a recipe for "A Good Seed Cake," page 414, which is annotated "Naples, Augst: 24th 1732." The Baillies briefly lived in Naples with their daughter Rachel and her husband Lord Binning, in hope that the warm climate would cure Lord Binning of tuberculosis. (Unfortunately, he died there.) A medical recipe on page 408 is endorsed by Lady Grisell's father, the Earl of Marchmont.
The second section of this cookbook was a collaborative project that was presumably undertaken under the auspices of the Baillies, who probably came into possession of the manuscript around 1704. (The bookplate of George Baillie is pasted in at the front.) Leslie Abernethy has identified four of the recipe writers in this section: Grisell Baillie; her daughter Grisell (“Grisie”), who became Lady Murray upon her disastrous marriage, at age 17, to Alexander Murray of Stanhope; Janet Kirk, a cook in the household in 1706 and perhaps beyond, about whom nothing is known; and May Menzies, who was engaged by Lady Grisell in 1705 as governess to her two daughters, Grisie and Rachy, and remained with the family until her death in 1753. Lesley Abernethy has compiled a document that identifies the sections of the manuscript written by these four individuals and that also reveals the identities of many of the persons to whom recipes in this section are attributed. This document is available here. Elisabeth Chaghafi, a scholar of Elizabethan poetry who teaches at the University of Tubingen, has compiled a helpful document that lists all of the recipes written by Lady Grisell Baillie. It is accessible here. Interestingly, a number of the dishes that Lady Grisell outlined in the manuscript appear in the dinner bills of fare that she recorded in her household books.
Notwithstanding its Scots recipes, measures, and vocabulary, the book mostly draws on the same cuisine then current among the English privileged--as is also true of Lady Grisell's menus. Some of the book's uncommon recipes merit special note. "To make court cakes,” page 240, is precisely a recipe for what were usually called "Portugal cakes," providing corroboration for the theory that these popular and historically important cakes were popularized by Catherine of Braganza, the Portuguese queen consort of Charles II. “A blood pie,” page 287, entails baking a fillet of beef or pieces of mutton leg with two quarts of sheep’s blood and suet in a pie crust. This uncommon recipe is likely a variant on Shoulder of Mutton in Blood, which was highly fashionable at the time and which is outlined elsewhere in this volume. A brief run of French recipes on pages 305-6 includes a fowl dish identical to the modern French Poulet a la Sainte Menehould. Unfortunately, the recipe is written in Lady Grisell's difficult hand and the title is illegible beyond the word "fowl." (Elisabeth Chaghafi suggests that the illegible words may be a la tartare, which is plausible, as the fowl is served with a pungent oil-and-vinegar sauce that bears some similarities to the modern sauce.) Page 418 features a recipe titled "To Make the Best Soupe on Earth" (basically, pea soup with chicken, cabbage, and little lard). A recipe "To make 52 pound of Chocolat," page 476 (annotated Naples 1732, though not in Lady Grisell's hand), calls for pounding 30 pounds of chocolate, 22 pounds of sugar, two varieties of cinnamon, and ambergris into a paste and then molding the paste in twenty-six 2-pound "parcels," each to be boiled with milk or water to make hot chocolate. No doubt there are many other fascinating recipes tucked in the pages of this tome.