Friday, June 1, 2018

How to Remove Wrinkles, 12th century


BL Harley 4425, f. 114r
For treating the wrinkles of old women, take a stinking iris, and extract the juice, and smear the face with that juice in the evening, and in the morning the skin will be raised, and it will crack. We treat the eruption with the aforementioned ointment which contains lily root, and by peeling off the skin, after it has been washed, it will appear very fine.  
The Trotula
Who needs Botox and chemical peels when you've got stinking iris?

Friday, May 4, 2018

How to Eat Bread, 1567


Stadtbibliothek N├╝rnberg, Amb. 317b 2, f. 85r (1607)
Nobles, who are bilious by nature, have both crusts removed from the bread, both the upper and lower crust. And the preeminent leaders of the church and more fastidious gourmands do likewise. So you should choose the inner part of the bread, because it provides better, more substantial, and faster nourishment than the crust. For people who are healthy but have a humid stomach, or people who want to lose weight, it is sometimes permissible to eat crusts after other foods. 
Johann Curio, De conservanda bona valetudine 
Just as you suspected: your crust-rejecting toddler is actually a bilious Renaissance lord.


Monday, March 26, 2018

How to Choose Tinted Glasses, 1653


Cornelius Meyer, Nuovi ritrovamenti (1689)
"Of Spectacles of pleasure. Simple Spectacles of blew, yellow, red or green colour, are proper to recreate the sight, and will present the objects died in like colour that the Glasses are, only those of the greene do somewhat degenerate; instead of shewing a lively colour it will represent a pale dead colour, and it is because they are not dyed greene enough, or receive not light enough for greene... all colours are not proper to Glasses to give colour..." 
William Oughtred, Mathematicall Recreations
Your choice: the spectacles of pleasure, or the shades of pallid death.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

How to Survive Cold Season, 1761



Giovanni Battista Ferrari, Hesperides (1646)
Fever: To prevent catching any infectious fever, do not breathe near the face of the sick person, neither swallow your spittle while in the room. 
Cold in the Head: Pare very thin the yellow rind of an orange. Roll it up inside out and thrust a roll up each nostril.  
Cough: Drink a pint and a half of cold water lying down in bed... Or, make a hole thro' a lemon, and fill it with honey. Roast it, and catch the juice. Take a tea-spoonful of this frequently.  
The Country Gentleman, Farmer, and Housewife's Compendious Instructor 
What, you don't want to spend the winter with a cocktail garnish up your nose? Maybe you shouldn't have swallowed your spittle, my friend.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

How to Make Snowballs for Dessert, 1798

Isaac Cruikshank, "Snow Balls" (1794), LWL


"Snow Balls. Pare and take out the cores of five large baking apples, and fill the holes with orange or quince marmalade. Then make some good hot paste, roll your apples in it, and make your crust of an equal thickness. Put them in a tin dripping-pan, bake them in a moderate oven, and when you take them out, make icing for them... let your icing be about a quarter of an inch thick, and set them at a good distance from the fire till they are hardened; but take care you do not let them brown. Put one in the middle of a dish, and the others round it. 
[Icing:] Take a pound of double-refined sugar pounded and sifted fine, and mix it with the whites of twenty-four eggs, in an earthen pan. Whisk them well for two or three hours till it looks white and thick." 
William Augustus Henderson, The Housekeeper's Instructor

Ring in the New Year with this festive dessert! Bonus: if you start whisking the icing at exactly 9 PM, you'll die of exhaustion before 2018.

Monday, December 11, 2017

How to Prevent Drunkenness, 1612


"A Looking-Glass for Drunkards," 17th c.
"Shew me a way how a man may drinke much wine and yet not be drunke. To drinke great store of wine, and not to be drunke, you must eate of the rosted lungs of a Goat: or otherwise, eate sixe or seaven bitter Almonds fasting: or otherwise, eate raw Coleworts before you drinke, and you shall not become drunk.
How to make them which are drunk sober. You must make them eate Coleworts, and some manner of confections made of brine; or else drink great draughts of vinegar." 
William Vaughan, Approved Directions for Health
Office holiday party preparedness kit: cabbage, pickles, goat lung.

Friday, November 17, 2017

How to Prepare a Humble Feast, 1638


Mattia Giegher, Li tre trattati (1629)
“Now for a more humble feast, or an ordinary proportion which any good man may keepe in his family for the entertainment of his true and worthy friends... it is good then for him that intends to feast, to set downe the full number of his dishes... and of these sixtene is a good proportion for one course unto one messe, as thus for example: First, a shield of Brawne with mustard: Secondly, a boyl’d Capon: Thirdly, a boyl’d piece of Beefe: Fourthly, a chine of Beefe rosted: Fifthly, a Neats-tongue rosted: Sixthly, a Pig rosted: Seventhly, chewets bak’d: Eighthly, a Goose rosted: Ninthly, a Swan rosted: Tenthly, a Turkie rosted: the eleventh, a haunch of Venison rosted: The twelfth, a Pasty of Venison: The thirteenth, a Kid with a pudding in the belly: The fourteenth, an Olive Pie: The fifteenth, a couple of Capons: The sixteenth, a Custard or Dowsets. Now to these full dishes may be added in Sallets, Fricases, Quelquechoses, and devised paste, as many dishes more, which make the full service no lesse then two and thirty dishes, which is as much as can conveniently stand on one Table... and after this manner you may proportion both your second and third course...” 
Gervase Markham, A Way to Get Wealth 
Sometimes it's a long week and you're tired and you just need to get some food on the table. And you know what? That's fine! No one is expecting more than 32 dishes. Per course.