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Michelin star restaurant add Bentham recipe to their menu

30 August 2013

Bentham recipe

An 18th Century recipe recommended by Jeremy Bentham for inmates of his proposed Panopticon prison has been added to the menu at St. John restaurant in London.

Including potatoes, gooseberries, tripe, lung and spleen, the recipe for Devonshire Pie was originally cooked as part of a report for BBC Radio 4's PM programme. The recipe impressed St. John owner and pioneering British chef Fergus Henderson so much that he also added it to the menu of his restaurant.

Contained within manuscripts in which British philosopher Jeremy Bentham described the food inmates would consume in his proposed prison, the recipe was originally transcribed by volunteers as part of UCL’s Transcribe Bentham project, which aims to make the vast archive of his writings more accessible to scholars and the public.

“The idea behind the recipe is that they would provide nutritious, cheap food for the prisoners and maintain their level of health and comfort without necessarily being too expensive,” Dr Tim Causer, a research associate at the UCL Bentham Project, told the BBC. "Most of the manuscripts are in Bentham’s hand, but this recipe is in the hand of copyist, so it seems that Bentham may have sent someone out to collect a set of prison recipes.” 

Initially launched in 2010, Transcribe Bentham is a multi-award winning online tool designed to harness the effort of all Bentham fans – whether schoolchildren, history enthusiasts, retired academics or armchair philosophers – to bring his work into the digital age and make it accessible to the world at large. To date, volunteers have transcribed nearly 6,000 manuscripts, or some 3 million words.

“The pie itself was actually delicious and tasting it brought about an entirely new sense of ‘knowing’ Jeremy Bentham. Whilst Jeremy is arguably easier to know than many other historical figures – not least because his corpse sits in UCL’s cloisters and his corpus of manuscripts are in the possession of our library – this pie, faithfully and authentically constructed, offered a real connection to his life and times,” said Kris Grint, researcher at the UCL Bentham Project.

Bentham’s Panopticon is also the subject of a free exhibition in the North Lodge at UCL until 5 September


Links:

UCL Bentham Project
Transcribe Bentham
UCL Centre for Digital Humanities
UCL Laws
St. Johns restaurant