Recipes and Remedies


A special series of events exploring the connections between food, health and life.

Inspired by the intriguing collections of hand-written recipes and remedies in the Wellcome Library, we will be asking if food can cure, rooting through the history of culinary medicines and exploring contemporary scientific and cultural responses to food.

The series will gravitate around an edible experiment where, as the winter evenings draw in, we will challenge a chef to cook up a cure for melancholy, following the suggestions for food, drink and lifestyle in Robert Burton’s seminal 1621 text The Anatomy of Melancholy.

Elsewhere we will be investigating the loaded relationships between food, class and morality, and debating how to navigate a healthy course between food science, social policy and the food industry in the face of media hype and ever-changing advice.

As the world’s population edges towards 7 billion we’ll need new ideas to feed hungry mouths. Join Stefan Gates over dinner and wine and discover his vision of the future of food.

There will also be plenty of opportunity to get up close to Wellcome Collection’s unique treasures in sessions exploring topics such as localism and healthy eating then and now, how food remedies have allowed women to challenge male medical orthodoxy, and whether the bloggers of today can find counterparts in the recipe swappers of 400 years ago.

Everyone eats, so come along to share your views and delight your mental palate.

  • Gut Reactions

    Gut Reactions

    15 September. Appetite is the body's complex and still mysterious system for regulating our food intake. It involves our guts, brains and genes. Can we control appetite or does it control us?

  • Bad behaviour in the kitchen

    Bad behaviour in the kitchen

    29 September. Join our experts to challenge preconceptions about the nation’s diet and to debate how to balance food production, availability and education for all.

  • Packed Lunch: Breastfeeding

    Packed Lunch: Breastfeeding

    5 October. Is breast best? It’s an emotive issue that raises strong feelings on both sides. Join paediatrician Mary Fewtrell in conversation about this controversial issue.

  • Healthcare and housewifery

    Healthcare and housewifery

    6 October. How did people ward off sickness in Shakespeare’s England? Although some turned to medical practitioners, many relied on homemade medicines and remedies. Explore the contents of their precious recipe collections and the role of women as physicians in early modern England.

  • Nourishing the nation

    Nourishing the nation

    13 October. From the 'Bran Gang' and debates over the evils of highly refined foods, to the growth of the modern ‘nutrition media’ in all its complexity, trace the roots of our current anxieties over what is and isn’t good to eat.

  • The cook's tour

    The cook's tour

    25 October. Take a tour of unique objects, archives and illustrative materials in Wellcome Collection, and explore the role of food, remedies and global interchange in our medical and cultural lives from the 17th century onwards.

  • Supper salon: Future Food

    Supper salon: Future Food

    26 October. What does the future of food look like – and more importantly, taste like? Join Stefan Gates over dinner and wine and discover his vision of the future of food.

  • The cook's tour

    The cook's tour

    3 November. Take a tour of unique objects, archives and illustrative materials in Wellcome Collection, and explore the role of food, remedies and global interchange in our medical and cultural lives from the 17th century onwards.

  • A feast to cure melancholy

    A feast to cure melancholy

    11 and 12 November. An edible experiment. Investigate the intimate relationship between melancholy, diet and lifestyle, and explore the relevance for our 21st-century lives of Robert Burton’s 1621 work The Anatomy of Melancholy. ‘The manner of living is to more purpose, than whatsoever can be drawn out of the most precious boxes of the apothecaries’

  • Reading between the lines

    Reading between the lines

    17 November. What do 17th- and 18th-century recipe collections and contemporary food blogs have in common? Explore the hidden meanings of recipes and remedies, and find out what they reveal about their writers' status, self-identity, and relationships with others and the world.

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