Mother Bunch's Closet Newly Broke Open (a 'chapbook' published in 1685) contained the recipe for a 'Dutch' cake. Single women wishing to know the identity of their future husband , had to join others to bake a cake on Midsummers Eve. Every female would place a secret mark on a slice of the delicacy. The man selecting and eating that slice would be the future husband.
This (not very tasty) recipe was: Half flour, half salt and some water.
It is uncertain whether Mother Bunch was an actual person or a fictional character. Her name certainly appeared in several Elizabethan authors 'jest books.' One called 'Jests Mixed With Mother Bunches Merriments' was published in 1604 the author was Pasquil (probably a pseudonym.)
In 1777 a further book 'Mother Bunch's Fairy Tales went on sale. In this collection Mother Bunch was the wise old woman who narrated the story.
Jest and Play Books contributed to the popular entertainment of Elizabethan times. Both contained jokes. It is claimed that Barnacle and one or two of the other Shellies call their code book, 'Crabby's Jest Book.'
Amongst the people who helped to popularise the theatre at this time was the actor, author, clown and composer Richard Tarlton (orTarleton.) He was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, being one of the few who could keep her merry (or undumpish her.) Following his death in 1588 Tarlton's Jests was published. Many of the jokes and pranks of those days were attributed to him!
Both Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespear are claimed to have contributed to popularising Jest Books. During the Tudor period two different books were both called 'Shakespear's Jest Books.' The books were 'The Hundred Merry Tales' published in 1526 and 'Merry Tales and Quick Answers' published a few years later.
Authors Ian and Marie.