Judging by the media coverage, the idea of Benedictine monks discovering a 200-year-old chicken curry recipe is the sort of religious story people can – excuse the pun – stomach. The recipe was unearthed in a cookbook dating from 1793 held at Downside Abbey, near Bath in Somerset. The one slight disappointment with the news item was that it was a household cookbook rather than one detailing the diet of a group of regency-period monks.
Still, a Georgian cookbook is not something to be taken lightly and the novelty value that monks might have found it seemed to be the real attention grabber. This hint that monks might be cloistered mentally as well as physically has a long history despite it being somewhat inaccurate.
For example, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a number of English monks undertook their education at the Sorbonne and they were frequently at the…
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