Friday, April 18, 2014

How to Wake or Sleep, 1685

Look deep into the eye of the toad...
Edward Topsell, The History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents (1658)
"To make one wake or sleep. You must cut dexterously the Head of a Toad, alive, and at once, and let it dry, in observing that one Eye be shut, and the other open; that which is found open makes one wake, and that shut causes Sleep, by carrying it about one." 
Nicolas Lémery, Modern Curiosities of Art & Nature (1685)
Who needs caffeine or Ambien when you've got the shriveled head of a winking toad?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How to Exchange Photographs, 1891


Portrait of an Unknown Daguerrotypist, 1845
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

"Photographs should never be solicited from a mere acquaintance. Wait till you know a lady well before asking for her likeness. No gentleman should be allowed to possess, nor should he seek to possess, a lady's picture without first having met her at least seven times... And it is also unnecessary to comply with a like request from the lady till of fast acquaintance."

Mortimer Delano de Lannoy, Simplex Munditiis. Gentlemen (1891)

Best practices for dating: Keep plenty of headshots on hand, but never hand them over before the seventh date.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How to Choose Meat, 1772

Thomas Rowlandson, The Wonderful Pig (1785)
"Lamb is more Nutritious than any kind of Poultry, Mutton than Lamb, Veal than Mutton, and Beef than Veal; But Pork is more Nutricious than any of these; for the Juices of Pork, which is more like Human Flesh than any other Flesh is, are more adapted to the Nourishment of a Human Body than the Juices of any other Flesh." 
Directions and Observations Relative to Food, Exercise and Sleep (1772)
On reflection, I can understand why the US Pork Board chose "Pork: The Other White Meat"over "Pork: More Convenient than Cannibalism."

Monday, April 7, 2014

How to Talk About Your Kids, 1558


"You got a problem with my Momo?"
Paolo Veronese, Giuseppe da Porto with his
Son Adriano
(1551-2)

"Those who are constantly talking about their children, their wives or their nursemaids, are equally at fault. 'Yesterday my boy made me laugh so much. Listen to this...You have never seen a more lovable son than my Momo...' No-one has so little to do that he has the time to answer or even to listen to such nonsense and so it irritates everyone." 
Giovanni della Casa, Galateo (1558)
History teaches us many timeless and important lessons. Chief among them: no one wants to hear about Momo.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How to Use Bacon, c. 530

"The Little Hunt," Villa Romana del Casale, Piazza Armerina (4th c.)
"At this point I will explain how bacon may be eaten to the best effect... if it has been simply roasted in the same way as a joint of meat, the fat drains into the fire and the bacon becomes dry, and whoever eats it is harmed and not benefited; it also produces bad humors and causes indigestion. But if bacon that has been boiled and cooled is eaten, it is more beneficial... As for raw bacon which, so I hear, the Franks have a habit of eating... they are healthier than other people because of this food. Let me give a good example so that what I am writing may be believed: thick bacon, placed for a long time on all wounds, be they external or internal or caused by a blow, both cleanses any putrefaction and aids healing. Look at what power there is in raw bacon, and see how the Franks heal what doctors try to cure with drugs or with potions." 
Anthimus, On the Observance of Foods (c. 511-534)
Well, the bad news from Late Antiquity is that your crispy bacon is giving you bad humors. On the plus side, though, no medical treatment beats a bacon Band-Aid. Who needs emergency medical care when you've got raw bacon?

Monday, March 31, 2014

How to Make Snail Bread, 1685

Joachim Camerarius, Symbolorum et Emblematum 4 (1604)
"A sort of Bread, of which a Mouthful can maintain a Man eight daies, without eating any thing else. Take a quantity of Snails, and make them void their sliminess; then dry and reduce them to fine Powder, of which make a Loaf, with a Mouthful of which a Man may be eight days without eating." 
Nicolas Lémery, Modern Curiosities of Art & Nature (1685)
One bite of this special bread and the idea of eating anything at all will nauseate you for eight days! The only problem: to learn how to make snails void their sliminess, you'll have to consult a different manual.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How to Wear Platform Shoes, 1600

Vecellio, Habiti antichi e moderni (1598)
"Now in order to walk nicely, and to wear chopines properly on one's feet, so that they do not twist or go awry (for if one is ignorant of how to wear them, one may splinter them, or fall frequently, as has been and still is observed at parties and in church), it is better for [the lady] to raise the toe of the foot she moves first when she takes a step, for by raising it thus, she straightens the knee of that foot, and this extension keeps her body attractive and erect, besides which her chopine will not fall off that foot. Also by thus raising it she avoids sliding it along [the ground], nor does she make any unpleasant noise. Then she should put it down, and repeat the same thing with the other foot (which follows)... By walking this way, therefore, even if the lady's chopines are more than a handbreadth-and-a-half high, she will seem to be on chopines only three fingerbreadths high, and will be able to dance flourishes and galliard variations at a ball, as I have just shown the world this day." 
Fabritio Caroso, Nobilità di dame (1600)
Have you ever fallen on your face at a party in your six-inch platforms? Awkward! And it's even worse when it happens in church. Just practice this technique and you'll be strutting like a Venetian courtesan in no time.