Time Measurement and Cooking Techniques in the Seventeenth Century

In the seventeenth century, temporal indications started to appear in cooking books. Practitioners were increasingly interested in the quantification of cooking times, and the introduction of such exact indications contributed greatly to the codification of cooking techniques. In this paper, I will show that the quantification of cooking times promoted a ‹scientific approach› to cookery, insofar as recipes progressively lost the private or familiar dimension traditionally associated with them, and became vehicles of knowledge transfer across communities of cooking practitioners. Alongside this epistemic function of temporal indications, I will contend that such indications also functioned as a powerful technical tool: the control over the duration of procedures allowed artisans to achieve the expected results more safely, thus affording an economy of fuel, resources, and labour.