Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How to Make Macaroni, 15th century

Tacuinum sanitatis Casanatense
"Sicilian Macaroni. Make a dough of the whitest flour, one egg white and rosewater-- and should you be preparing two plates of it, put in only two or three egg yolks... these macaroni should dry in the sun and can be kept for two or three years; cook them in water or a good meat broth, and garnish them with grated cheese when you set them out on plates with fresh butter and mild spices. Boil them gently for an hour."

Neapolitan Recipe Collection, Pierpont Morgan Library, MS Bühler 19 (15th c.)

It's a wonder these Italians had time for a Renaissance, given that fifteenth-century pasta had to be boiled for an hour.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How to Say 'Drunk,' 1770

"[T]he simple idea of having drunk too much liquor, is expressed in near FOURSCORE different ways...

William Hogarth, A Midnight Modern Conversation (1732)
Chuck full,
A little how came ye so?
As wise as Solomon,

        It is also said that he has
Business on both sides of the way,
Got his little Hat on,
Bung'd his Eye,
Got a spur in his head,
Got a crumb in his beard,
Got his beer on board." 

        The Gentleman's Magazine (1770)

Sometimes I think that the entire eighteenth century had a crumb in its little hat, if you know what I mean.

Monday, July 29, 2013

How to Heal All Wounds, 1683

This looks like a job for Sanicle, Milfoil, and Bugle!
Ambroise Paré, Opera chirurgica (1594)
"A Drink that healeth all Wounds... Take Sanicle, Milfoil, and Bugle, of each a like quantity, stamp them in a Mortar, and temper them with Wine, and give the sick that is wounded to drink twice or thrice a day till he be whole: Bugle holdeth open the wound, Milfoil cleanseth the wound, Sanicle healeth it; but Sanicle may not be given to him that is hurt in the Head, or in the Brain-pan, for it is dangerous. This is a good and Tryed Medicine." 
Hannah Woolley, The Accomplish'd Ladies Delight (1683)
Sanicle, Milfoil, and Bugle: sounds like a law firm, but no! It turns out they are a highly regarded team of paramedic elves specializing in trauma care.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

How to Make a Giant Egg, 1660

Scrutinium chymicum (1687)
"To make a great compound Egg as big as twenty Eggs. Take twenty eggs, part the whites from the yolks and strain the whites by themselves, and the yolks by themselves; then have two bladders, boil the yolks in one bladder, fast bound up as round as a ball, being boild hard put it in another bladder, and the whites round about it, binde it up round like the former, and being boild it will be a perfect egg. This serves for grand sallets. Or you may adde to these yolks of eggs, musk and ambergreece, candied pistaches, grated bisket bread, and sugar, and to the whites almond paste, musk, juyce of oranges, and beaten ginger, and serve it with butter, almond milk, sugar, and juyce of oranges." 
Robert May, The Accomplisht Cook (1660)
So those are your options. Make a giant egg, and serve it with a giant salad. Or raid your pantry for ingredients to make a giant, musky, pistachio-pocked, orange-juice egg, and serve it with queasy regret. Bon appétit!

Friday, July 26, 2013

How to Bathe in the Sea, 1880

"To prepare the skin for the cold sea bathing, it would be well, before taking a dip in the sea, to have on the previous day a warm salt water bath... The bather, as soon as he enters the water, ought instantly to wet his head; this may be done either by his jumping at once from the machine into the water, or, if he have not the courage to do so, by plunging his head without loss of time completely under the water." 
Pye Henry Chavasse, Advice to a Wife (1880)
So, the bathing machine: you step into a horse-drawn shed in your street clothes, and it conveys you directly into the sea, where you emerge like some kind of aquatic superhero. Yes please. I'm skipping the warm salt water bath, though.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

How to Flirt With a Handkerchief, 1877

"I hate you"?
George P. A. Healy, Euphemia White Van Rensselaer (1842)
Metropolitan Museum of Art
"The handkerchief, among lovers, is used in a different manner than its legitimate purpose. The most delicate hints can be given without danger of misunderstanding, and in "flirtations" it becomes a most useful instrument... The following rules are the law on the subject:  
Drawing it across the lips                       Desiring an acquaintance
Drawing it across the cheek                  I love you
Drawing it across the forehead            Look, we are watched
Drawing it through the hands               I hate you
Dropping it                                                   We will be friends
Folding it                                                       I wish to speak with you
Letting it rest on the right cheek         Yes
Letting it rest on the left cheek            No
Letting it remain on the eyes                You are so cruel
Opposite corners in both hands          Do wait for me
Over the shoulder                                     Follow me
Placing it over the right ear                   How you have changed
Putting it in the pocket                            No more love at present
Daniel R. Shafer, Secrets of Life Unveiled (1877) 
It would be pretty easy to confuse "I hate you" with "Do wait for me," and your lover will be heartbroken if you ever have to blow your nose, but still: the time has come to apply this system to bar napkins.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How to Serve Wine to Your Toddler, c. 1450

Early Sippy Cup?
Guido Reni, Drinking Bacchus (c. 1623)

"I will speak briefly about care of the child up to the age of seven... concerning wine, children should always drink common wine, diluted more or less according to the strength of the wine and the lesser or greater age of the child, because older children can drink their wine mixed with less water; white is better than red."

Michele Savonarola, Ad mulieres ferrarienses (c. 1450)

The author also pleads that women nursing infants should drink "good and delicate wines, not large and smoky." He does not explain what type of wine pairs best with mashed bananas.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

How to Sing, 1650

Jan van Eyck, detail from Ghent Altarpiece, 1432
"A singer should not sing through his nose. He must not stammer, lest he be incomprehensible. He must not push with his tongue or lisp, else one will hardly understand half of what he says. He also should not close his teeth together, nor open his mouth too wide, nor stretch his tongue out over his lips, nor thrust his lips upward, nor distort his mouth, nor disfigure his cheeks and nose like the long-tailed monkey, nor crumple his eyebrows together, nor wrinkle his forehead, nor roll his head or the eyes therein round and round, nor wink with the same, nor tremble with his lips, etc." 
Christoph Bernhard, Von der Singkunst oder Manier (1650)
Don't let your singing career be ruined by the age-old problem of Bitchy Singing Face.

Monday, July 22, 2013

How to Mix Drinks for Ladies, 1892

"The Ladies' Great Favorite. A large glass, a squirt of Seltzer, a spoonful of fine sugar, fill a wineglass half full with sherry and the other half with port wine, 1 dash of brandy; mix this well. Fill your glass with shaved ice; ornament with orange and pineapple, and top it off with ice-cream; serve with a spoon." 
William Schmidt, The Flowing Bowl (1892)
Ah, the history of the girly drink. But it's not totally clear when and how to combine the glasses of various delights. Perhaps the ornamental sundae functions as a decoy while the lady puts away the wineglass full of booze.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

How to Make Bird Missiles, 13th century

Them's fightin' birds!
Luttrell Psalter, BL Add. 42130 f.17v (14th c.)
"Another kind of fire for burning enemies wherever they are. Take petroleum, black petroleum, liquid pitch, and oil of sulphur. Put all these in a pottery jar buried in horse manure for fifteen days. Take it out and smear with it crows which can be flown against the tents of the enemy. When the sun rises and before the heat has melted it the mixture will inflame. But we advise that it should be used before sunrise or after sunset." 
Marcus Graecus, Liber ignium ad comburendos hostes ("Book of Fires for Burning Enemies"!, 13th c.)
Revealed: the origins and operational tactics of Angry Birds. The text does not explain how you get the crows to fly against enemy tents, but my guess is you put them in a little avian catapult and aim it with your finger. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

How to Save Your Soul at a Dance, 1530

"Never doze during the ball, please, my good companion: sleeping during the dance is like denying God."

Antonius Arena, Leges dansandi (1530)

Tie up your codpiece and wipe your face, because God is waiting for you to bust a move.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

How to Defend Yourself From Basil, 1595

"An Italian, through the oft smelling of an hearb called Basil, had a Scorpion bred in his braine, which did not only a long time grieve him, but also at the last killed him... Take heede therefore ye smellers of Basil."

Thomas Lupton, A Thousand Notable Things (1595)

Mend your wicked ways and repent, ye smellers of basil! Is the enchanting aroma of your insalata caprese worth the risk of death by grievous brain scorpion?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How to Interview People Abroad, 1789

"A traveller's memory will be greatly relieved, by putting down the questions he wishes to have answered... 
Is it easy for ships of war to land on the sea coast, or is landing rendered hazardous by sands? and rocks? 
Which are the favourite herbs of the sheep of this country? 
How are the merchants of this country secured against the pyratical powers of Barbary? 
What is the general value of whales of different sizes? 
What celebrated ladies are still living, and worth to be taken notice of for their extraordinary qualifications?"
Leopold Berchtold, An Essay to Direct and Extend the Inquiries of Patriotic Travellers (1789)  
Careful with your questions there, traveler. The natives will assume you're plotting to raid their coasts, beguile their sheep, sell their whales of different sizes, and take notice of their celebrated ladies.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

How to Make Your Own Lip Balm, 1595

"If one use to rub chapped or rough lippes with the sweate behind their eares, it will make them fine, smooth, and well culloured. Prooved."
Thomas Lupton, A Thousand Notable Things (1595)
Little did you know that you have the best lip balm right behind your ear! But don't reveal your secret, or your admirers may be weirded out. Prooved.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

How to Win at Croquet, 1867

"It is often the case that you and an enemy may both be in position for the last bridge. In such a case as a general rule roquet him, then croquet or roquet-croquet through the bridge, roquet again and croquet him against the starting post, thus depriving the other side of a rover, and gaining the advantage." 
Caroline L. Smith, Popular Pastimes for Field and Fireside (1867)
Just remember this handy rhyme: roquet, croquet/roquet-croquet, roquet, croquet = OK! Actually, don't. Your neurons will short-circuit and you'll end up shambling around aimlessly with mallet aloft, like those poor confused Victorians in the illustration.

Friday, July 12, 2013

How to Cure Seasickness, 1695

Ludolf Backhuysen, Ships in Distress in a Raging Storm, c. 1690
"Dear Past, How do I keep from getting seasick?"
"[O]thers assure me, That the best Remedy is, to keep always, night and day, a piece of Earth under the Nose; for which purpose they provide a sufficient quantity of Earth, and preserve it fresh in a Pot of Clay; and when they have us'd a piece so long till it begins to grow dry, they put it in again into the Pot, and take out some fresh Earth." 
Maximilien Misson, A New Voyage to Italy (1695).
In addition to abating seasickness, the earth treatment will also create the illusion of a handsome mustache. Win!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

How to Intoxicate Waterfowl, 1777

Widgeon Duck, 1790
"Way to intoxicate Water-Fowl. First clean, and then steep in clear Water, for full 4 hours, the Roots, Leaves, and Seeds of the herb Bellenge; then boil them in the same Water, till it is almost all evaporated; and after it is cold, throw it in the places where the Fowls frequent, who, eating eagerly of it, will be made so drunk as to be readily taken; but no time must be lost in catching them, for they will soon recover." 
The Complete Vermin-Killer (1777)
No doubt there are also remedies to cure your newly-caught waterfowl of their hangovers.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

How to Train Your Cat to Do Tricks, 1809

"Cats may be taught to pull a bell-rope, to fire a pistol and a multitude of similar tricks... A bit of cloth may be attached to the string communicating with the bell, to afford the cat something convenient to seize hold of. It will be easy to induce her to seize it by holding it near her, or by aggravating her a little with it. When she does so, and causes the bell to ring, reward her... Firing off a pistol may follow this, taught in the same way, a piece of cloth being attached to the trigger, and the pistol being secured in a stationary position. Merely snapping the trigger will do at first, then caps may be used, and finally powder."
Haney's Art of Training Animals (1809)
If only the great age of ill-advised animal tricks had coincided with the YouTube era.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How to Harvest the Mandrake, 12th century

Tacuinum sanitatis Casanatense
"It shines at night like a lamp, and when you see it mark it round quickly with iron lest it escape you. For so strong is this power in it, that if it sees an unclean man coming to it, it runs away. So for this reason mark it round with iron and dig about it, taking care that you do not touch it with the iron; but remove the earth from it with the utmost care with an ivory stake, and when you have seen the foot of the plant and its hands, then you shall at once bind the plant with a new rope, and you shall tie the same round the neck of a hungry dog, and in front of it place food at a little distance, so that in its eagerness to get the food it may pull out the plant." 
Apuleii liber de medicaminibus herbarum (12th century)
I'm not sure mandrake farming is worth it, in the end. All that trouble just because you can't find a clean man to dig up the mandrakes?

Monday, July 8, 2013

How to Make Men Rave, 1658

"How to make men mad with Mandrake... Take the Roots of Mandrake, and but put them into new Wine, boyling and bubling up: cover it close; and let them infuse in a warm place for two months. When you would use it, give it to somebody to drink; and whosoever shall taste it after a deep sleep, will be distracted, and for a day shall rave: but after some sleep, will return to his senses again, without any harm: and it is very pleasant to behold. Pray make trial."

Natural Magick by John Baptista Porta (1658)

Early modern rave: just like the 1990s, but with more lute music.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

How to Cure a Headache, 9th century

Ninth-century headache?
St. Gall 904 (ca. 850)

"Headaches you will enchant: take some earth, touch your breast three times and say: My head hurts, why does it hurt? It does not hurt." 
Pseudo-Pliny (9th century)
Good old denial: it's better than ibuprofen.

Friday, July 5, 2013

How to Wear a Waistcoat, 1860

"What a handsome waistcoat you have on!"
Gazette of Fashion, 1872
"Dear Past, How should a man wear a waistcoat?" 

"A gentleman should always be so well dressed that his dress shall never be observed at all. Does this sound like an enigma? It is not meant for one. It only implies that perfect simplicity is perfect elegance, and that the true test of taste in the toilette of a gentleman is its entire harmony, unobtrusiveness and becomingness. If any friend should say to you, 'What a handsome waistcoat you have on!' you may depend that a less handsome waistcoat would be in better taste."

Mixing in Society (1860)

This is a good method for taste-testing your toilette. And also for ridiculing the garish waistcoats of your acquaintances.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

How to Make a Rain of Fireworks, 1658

"To make the golden Rain, you must get store of Goose-quills, and cut them off next the feathers, and fill these quills hard with the same composition that is in your rocket, and must be put on the head of the Rocket with the open end downwards: If it were possible to put a thousand of these quills upon the head of a Rocket, it were a dainty sight to see how pleasantly they spread themselves in the air, and come down like streams of gold much like the falling down of Snow, especially if the wind be any thing high."

John White, "The School of Artificial Fire-Works," A Rich Cabinet (1658)

Fourth of July to-do list: grill hamburgers, make potato salad, obtain and manicure a thousand goose quills for dainty fireworks display.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How to Interpret Dreams, c. 1100

BL Harley 4867, f. 74v

"A dream of hot waters bubbling up: this is bad.
Falling from a horse: consider this to be great disaster.
If you are sitting in feces, you will experience all manner of harm.
Beautifying your head is a good sign.
Embracing your mother is a very good dream.
Vomiting in one's dream causes loss, my friend.
Eating hard-shelled seafood signifies illness.
Wine of the best vintage: expect joy."

Oneirocriticon of Germanus (c. 900-1300), excerpts

Sitting in feces is unlucky in waking life too, my friend.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How to Exercise, 1623

The racket, c. 1610
"[W]hen the skinne shall be wet with sweat, it shall be good to desist from exercise, lest by proceeding therein, not onely the spirits and good humours be exhausted, but also the fat... bee melted, or at least caused to putrifie; by meanes whereof, if sudden death ensue not, as oftentimes it doth... the body become sickly, withered, and impatient of cold... Here therefore it is to be advertised, how great and laborious exercises doe evilly dispose the body, and subvert the state thereof, and that the best and most profitable exercises, for them that are sound and healthfull, are walking, bowling, the racket, and such like easie exercises." 
Tobias Venner, Vita recta ad vitam longam (1623)
For the love of God, don't use the elliptical machine. Does putrefied fat sound like a joke?

Monday, July 1, 2013

How to Pack for Camping, 1877

"Lay out the blanket flat, and roll it as tightly as possible without folding it, enclosing the other baggage as you roll; then tie it in a number of places to prevent unrolling, and the shifting about of things inside; and finally tie or strap together the two ends, and throw the ring thus made over the shoulder, and wear it as you do the strap of the haversack,-- diagonally across the body... you will probably prefer the roll to the knapsack." 
John Mead Gould, Hints for Camping and Walking (1877)
This also works well if you are trying to transport a python on your camping expedition.