Confession: I have never been a good speller. I struggled at least as much with spelling in fourth grade as I did with chemistry in 10th. One word, among many, that has always perplexed me is the word “receipt.” Why is the “p” silent? Just to add to my confusion is the word “recipe,” which also does not follow any English phonetic rules (if there even are any). Yet, both words sound and look similar to each other.
Upon investigation, it turns out that receipt and recipe used to have the same meaning and derive from the Latin word recipere, which means to receive or take. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1386) contains the first known use of the word receipt and is in reference to a medical prescription formula. The use of receipt as a slip of paper acknowledging the receipt of goods in exchange for an amount of money did not begin until the early 17th century.
The word recipe is first recorded about 15 years after Canterbury Tales in a book on surgery. The imperative form of the original Latin verb meaning “take,” recipe was an injunction and frequently the first word used in a prescription (receipt), followed by the list of ingredients the patient was to consume. An abbreviation in the form of the letter R with a bar through the leg still appears on modern medical prescriptions.
Food and medicine have a long history together, as many of the same ingredients used for food preparation were also key in a physician’s practice. Receipt was first used in a culinary sense in 1716, and recipe was similarly recorded not long after. Recipe has gradually replaced receipt for cooking instructions over the decades since.
Surprisingly, the United States has preserved this original use of “receipt” the longest. Upon digging through old cookbooks for “Heirloom Recipes” on page 54, we came across many old, traditional “receipt” books from Charleston and Savannah. We hope you enjoy this article sharing traditional recipes from families across Columbia and its surrounding cities. Perhaps it will conjure up favorite, or forgotten, memories of your grandmother teaching you her favorite receipts!
From all of us at CMM, a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday season!