Friday, June 7, 2019

How to Pest-Proof Your House, 1639

Vincenzo Leonardi, Common Hoopoe (c. 1619)
To repel flies, spiders, scorpions, and other animals from your house. Take hoopoe feathers, and burn them in the room, and when these animals smell the odor, they will leave, and never return, and this is proven. 
De' Secreti del R. D. Alessio Piemontese 
You'll rest easy tonight in your pest-free, hoopoe-charred bedroom.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

How to Bathe in January, c. 7th century

Morgan Library, MS G.74, f. 19r
"January... Four baths in the course of the month; soap with sodium carbonate diluted in wine. Make a compound skin lotion by mixing 3 lb. weight aloes, 1 lb. myrrh, 2 egg yolks; combine these and apply to the skin. This is the quantity per person. Apply it before you enter the bath, and have three bucketfuls [of water] poured over you, then sweat, then go into the open air and sponge the ointment off thoroughly. After washing the ointment off, rub down with cooling wine and egg yolks mixed with hot rose oil, then make love." 
Hierophilus the Sophist, Dietary Calendar
If your bath routine does not involve pounds of lotion and fragrant mayonnaise, you are not living your best January.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

How to Make It Through November, c. 7th c.

British Library, MS Add. 19352, f. 101v
"November governs the watery phlegm. This month there must be no baths or anointing: if necessary, just two baths. Among meats, no deer or goat or wild boar or wild goat. All other meats of animals and birds may be eaten, lean, served hot, boiled and spiced; including sucklings. Among fish eat any except the more watery ones, corkwing and gobies, but do not eat scaleless fish. In using spices prefer the bitter tastes. Leek and mallow are good to eat, and all dry foods. Old, light, aromatic wines. Take fenugreek soup occasionally. Make love." 
Hierophilus the Sophist, Dietary Calendar 
Fenugreek soup and chill?

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

How to Eat a Pumpkin, 1597

"The pulpe of the Pompion is never eaten raw, but boiled... The fruit boiled in milke and buttered, is not onely a good wholesome meate for mans bodie: but being so prepared, is also a most phisicall medicine for such as have an hot stomacke, and the inward parts inflamed. The flesh or pulpe of the same sliced and fried in a pan with butter, is also a good and wholesome meate: but baked with apples in an oven, it doth fill the bodie full of flatuous or windie belchings, and is foode utterly unwholesome for such as live idly; but unto robustious and rusticke people, nothing hurteth that filleth the belly."  
John Gerard, The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes
Try some baked pumpkin! A few windy belchings are sure to enliven your week.


Thursday, October 4, 2018

How to Survive a Mermaid Attack, 1527

British Library MS Royal 2 B VII, f. 97r
The mermayde is a dedely beste that bringeth a man gladly to dethe. Frome the navyll up she is lyke a woman with a dredfull face, longe slymye here a grete body & is lyke the egle in the nether parte, havinge fete and talentis to tear asonder suche as she geteth. Her tayl is scaled like a fisshe and she singeth a maner of swete song and therwith deceyveth many a gode mariner for whan they here it they fall on slepe commonly & than she commeth and draweth them out of the shippe and tereth them asonder... but the wyse maryners stoppe their eares whan they se her for whan she playth on the water all they be in fear & than they cast out an empty tonne to let her play with it tyll they be past her. This is specifyed of them that have sene it.  
Laurence Andrew, The Noble Lyfe and Natures of Man of Bestes, Serpentys, Fowles and Fisshes
The bad news is that the slimy-haired mermaid of dread wants to tear you asunder with her talons. The good news is that you can distract her with an empty barrel.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

How to Treat the Freshmen, 1367

Luttrell Psalter, f. 157v
“We have learned from certain important and noteworthy persons...  that there are some students who compel (or try to compel) the new students arriving at the university... – both by brazen and evil seizure of their books and other belongings, and by threats and other scams they have devised – to pay, against their will, a penalty for their freshman state (their recent and happy arrival at the aforementioned university!)... by taking them to the tavern and, as a sheep is led to the slaughter, compelling them to join in. And so the decency of conduct which should flourish in the studious, and their gravity of manners and integrity of reputation, is defiled shamefully, and carousals, inebriations, disgusting words, promiscuities, all-nighters both in taverns and around the city at night, housebreakings, and other things we will not mention, ensue. And the reputation of the whole school and all its students is tarnished among prelates and princes and other good and honest people... Let them cease hereafter and utterly, under penalty of excommunication.”

Statute of the University of Orléans
Say it with me now: I will not ransom the freshmen’s books to make them pay for parties.

Monday, August 6, 2018

How to Make Cold-Brewed Coffee, 1850

Coffee plant (c. 1823)

"Take four ounces of good coffee, properly roasted and ground. Dilute it in two glasses of cold water with a spoon. Let it steep all night, covering the vessel which contains it. Next day, pour the pap with care on fine linen placed in a glass funnel in a bottle... One part of this infusion, and two parts of pure water... gives a coffee of a superb colour and perfect taste... How can cold water draw from coffee all that can be obtained from it? I answer, yes! approved by experience... I am astonished that so simple a process has not been adopted."  
P. L. Simmons, Coffee as it is, and as it ought to be
The artisanal, cold-steeped, linen-filtered coffee of your dreams has been around since 1850? I answer, yes!