Friday, April 22, 2016

How to Stop Sneezing, 1680

Allegories of the Senses (1561), Wellcome Library
"To stay the sneezing scratch the Soles of the Feet and Palms of the Hands; rub the Eyes and Ears; smell to white Lilly, and Bath your hands in warm Water... The Phlegm that runs from the Nose like Snot is stay'd by proper Remedies for the Cure of the Brain, whereby the Spring of such Noisome Humors is dryed... use some proper Syrup to correct the ill scent of the Snot's abundance." 
The Country-Mans Physician
Allergy season self-care: foot-scratching, hand-washing, fragrant lilies, and getting rid of the #*$&@ brain snot.

Friday, April 8, 2016

How to Use Asparagus, 1568

John Gerard, The Herball (1636)

"Asparagus cooked with wine alleviates pain of the loins and kidneys, provokes urine, loosens the stomach, and frees the liver and kidneys from attacks, especially the roots and seeds. But if asparagus is used too much, it brings great harm, since it expels urine quickly, and irritates the bladder, which is bad. It is believed to incite lust… asparagus is a helpful food for a man, especially a newlywed having trouble in bed with an eager spouse: if at first he is unable to please his wife, this will allow him finally to have a sweet and loving partnership." 
Hugo Fridaevallis, De tuenda sanitate 
Ah, springtime, the season of love: the birds, the bees, the newlyweds gobbling asparagus...

Thursday, March 24, 2016

How to Use Dry Shampoo, 12th century

Luttrell Psalter, British Library Add. MS 42130, f. 63r (1325-40)
"When she combs her hair, let her have this powder. Take some dried roses, clove, nutmeg, watercress, and galangal. Let all these, powdered, be mixed with rose water. With this water let her sprinkle her hair and comb it with a comb dipped in this same water so that [her hair] will smell better. And let her make furrows in her hair and sprinkle on the above-mentioned powder, and it will smell marvelously." 
The Trotula
Running late for work? No problem – just grab a comb, raid your spice cabinet on the way out the door, and you'll be fresh and sweet as a medieval noblewoman.

Monday, March 7, 2016

How to Converse Politely, 1595

John Bulwer, Anthropometamorphosis
(1653), George Peabody Library
"It is also a fowle and unseemely thing for thee to make faces, in wrything thy visage into divers formes: or, to rub one while thy nose, another while thy forhead: or, one while to lift up thine eye browes, another while to pull them down too much, or to patter with thy lips; or, one while to thrust out thy mouth too much, another while to pul it in over-much, or to shake thy head, or to cough, unles thou be there too inforced: or to spet oft, or to scratch thy head, to picke thine eares, or to blow thy nose, or to smoothe thy face with thine hand, as if thou wouldest wype away shamefastnes from thee: to bee picking or rubbing thy neck, as if thou wert lowsie: or to clyng in thy shoulders, as some Italians use. All these are evill." 
William Fiston, The Schoole of Good Manners
 OMG stop picking thine ears and seriously what is with all the spetting?!

Monday, February 22, 2016

How to Give Up Wine, 1658

A Warning-piece to All Drunkards (1682),
Wellcome Library, London
There are many who when they have drank much Wine, that is the worst thing in the world for them, fall sick, and die of it. Now if you would refrain, and abhor Wine and strong drink... let three or four live eels, put into the Wine, stay there till they die. Let one drink of this Wine, who is given to drunkenness, and he will loath Wine, and always hate it, and will never drink it again: or if he do, he will drink but little, and with much sobriety. Another way: wash a Tortois with Wine a good while, and give one of that wine to drink privately, half a cup full every morning for three days, and you shall see a wonderful vertue.
Giambattista della Porta, Natural Magick
The sommelier recommends: a full-bodied red wine with notes of tortoise grime and a lingering aftertaste of eel death.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

How to Use Wheat, c. 1150

Tacuinum sanitatis casanatense (14th c.)
 "Wheat is hot and full of profit. Nothing is lacking in it… But, if anyone sifts out the bran from the flour (which is semolina), and then makes bread from that flour, the bread is weaker and more feeble than if it had been made from the proper flour… Whosoever cooks wheat without the entire grain, or wheat not ground in the mill, it is as if he eats another food, for this wheat furnishes neither correct blood nor healthy flesh, but more mucus. It is scarcely digested. It is not at all good for a sick person, even if a healthy person is able to survive on this food… If someone is ailing in his back or loins, cook grains of wheat in water, and place them, warm, over the place where he is ailing. The heat of the wheat will chase away the powers of that disease." 
 Hildegard of Bingen, Physica  
An advisory from the Medieval Grain Council: white bread will turn you into an ill-blooded mucus-monster. Also, have you tried porridge on your loins? 

Friday, January 22, 2016

How to Plan for Snow, 1600

British Library, Add. MS 35313, f. 1v (c. 1500)
"Now the daies are shortened, & the nights prolonged, winds are sharp, snow and suddaine inundations of waters arise, the earth is congealed with frost and ice, & all liuing creatures do quiuer with cold. Therefore a man must vse warme and drie meates: for the cheerefull vertues of the bodie are now weakened by the cold aire, and the naturall heate is driuen into the inward partes of the bodie, to comfort and maintaine the vitall spirites. All rost, baked, or fried meates be good; and so are boyled beefe and porke. Veale agreeth not, except it be well rosted. Also wardens, apples and peares may be vsed with wine or with salt for swelling, or with comfits for windinesse. Beware least the cold annoy your bodie. And aboue all things haue a regard to keepe your head, neck, and feete warm. To vse carnall copulation is expedient." 
William Vaughan, Naturall and Artificial Directions for Health
Snow day action plan: fried meat and chill. (But for the love of God, keep your socks on.)