Esme Curtis

Esme Curtis


I am interested in studying the recipe as literature, and considering the recipe as a transformational and potentially prescriptive literary device, rather than a purely passive and descriptive one.

My MAR thesis challenges the assumption that the bareness of the recipe is evidence of its neutrality. It focusses on two 19th century colonial cookbooks, The Complete Indian Housekeeper and Cook and The English-Chinese cookery book. It explores how in these texts the recipes’ brevity reveals the authors’ expectations of and regard for their reader. It also considers how the recipe’s mobility as a text and the selection of recipes in the above cookbooks was used to uphold the Imperial hierarchy and preserve the dynamic of the colonial master/servant relationship.

I completed my undergraduate degree in Chinese at the University Oxford. After graduating I was awarded a Tsuzuki Scholarship to spend a year in Fukuoka, Japan studying Japanese. In Japan I also spent several months as the Political Intern at the British Embassy, Tokyo.

Research interests

  • Cookbook and recipe studies
  • Orientalism in British food media


  • BA Chinese (Hons), University of Oxford