Thursday, November 28, 2013

How to Make a Cooked Bird Sing, c. 1450

Luttrell Psalter, BL Add. MS 42130, f. 207v
"To make that Chicken Sing when it is dead and roasted, whether on the spit or in the platter. Take the neck of your chicken and bind it at one end and fill it with quicksilver and ground sulphur, filling until it is roughly half full; then bind the other end, but not too tightly. When you want it to sing, [heat] your neck or chicken. When it is quite hot, and when the mixture heats up, the air that is trying to escape will make the chicken's sound. The same can be done with a gosling, with a piglet and with any other birds. And if it doesn't cry loudly enough, tie the two ends more tightly."  
The Vivendier (c. 1450) 
 From the same geniuses who brought you the live bird entrée: this sequel recipe will provide a soundtrack for your feast! Plus, what's a holiday without some toxic mercury-based stuffing?

Monday, November 25, 2013

How to Serve a Live Bird at a Feast, c. 1450

"Get a chicken or any other bird you want, and pluck it alive cleanly in hot water. Then get the yolks of 2 or 3 eggs; they should be beaten with powdered saffron and wheat flour, and distempered with fat broth or with the grease that drips under a roast into the dripping pan. By means of a feather glaze and paint your pullet carefully with this mixture so that its colour looks like roast meat. With this done, and when it is about to be served to the table, put the chicken's head under its wing, and turn it in your hands, rotating it until it is fast asleep. Then set it down on your platter with the other roast meat. When it is about to be carved it will wake up and make off down the table upsetting jugs, goblets and whatnot."  
The Vivendier (ca. 1450)
Is your Thanksgiving turkey routine getting dull? This year, don't roast the bird -- just denude, glaze, hypnotize, and serve. Your guests will never forget the dinner, and you'll never have to host again.

(I'd love to see the out-takes on this one.)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

How to Make Cock Ale, 1697

Gijsbert d'Hondecoeter, Poultry
"To make Cock-Ale. Take nine Gallons of Ale, and let it Work; and when done Working, have in readiness four pound of Raisins of the Sun, stoned and bruised in a Mortar, two Nutmegs, and as much Mace bruised; then take two Cocks, flea them, and take out the Guts, then hold them in a pot of boiling Water, just to Plump them; then break their Bones, and bruise them in a Mortar, so put them in a Vessel to your Ale, (Before you put in all the Blade Fruit and Spice,) so stop them close: let it stand a Fortnight; and when you Bottle it, put in every Bottle two or three bits of Limon-Peel, and as much candied Ginger-Root, with a Lump of Sugar; stop it close: let it stand a Fortnight or three Weeks, then drink it; it is very pleasant, and good against Consumption."  
A New Book of Knowledge (1697)
Some days, you're not sure whether you need a mug of ale or a steaming bowl of chicken broth. On those days, Cock Ale will drown your sorrows and cure your consumption. Perfect for holiday parties!

(Thanks to Michael O'Brien)

Monday, November 18, 2013

How to Avoid the Plague, 1595

Juan van der Hamen, Still Life (detail), 1627
"Whosoever eateth two Walnuts, two Figs, twenty leaves of Rew, and one graine of Salt, all stampt and mixte together, fasting: shall bee safe from poyson and Plague that day."  
Thomas Lupton, A Thousand Notable Things (1595)
This Early Modern energy bar provides the nutrients you need to get through a pestilential and poisonous workday. (As instructed, take this with a grain of salt.)

Friday, November 15, 2013

How to Make a Hedgehog, 1725

"Dear Ask the Past, I am looking for some vegetarian recipes for the holiday season. Any suggestions? Sincerely, A Vegetarian Jew"

"To make a Hedge-Hog. Take a Quart of New Cream and boil it, then beat an Egg and put into it, and take a quarter of a Pint of sowre Cream, and mix them well together, stirring it continually; let it boil till it be a little turn'd, then put it into a Cloth, and squeeze the Whey from it; when it's cold, mix it with pounded Almonds, and refin'd Sugar; then lay it like a Hedge-hog, and stick it with Almonds, cut small, and put good Cream about it; stick two or three Currans for the Nose and Eyes." 
Robert Smith, Court Cookery (1725)
Sometimes you want to serve a hedgehog, but dietary restrictions or scarcity stand in your way. Enter the Hedge-Log: part cheese ball, part Tiggy-Winkle, all eighteenth-century genius.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How to Wash Your Head, 1612

"You shall finde it wonderfull expedient, if you bath your head foure times in the yeare, and that with hot lee made of ashes. After which, you must cause one presently to poure two or three gallons of cold fountain water upon your head. Then let your head be dryed with cold towels. Which sodaine pouring downe of cold water, although it doth mightily terrifie you, yet nevertheles, it is very good, for therby the naturall heate is stirred within the body, baldnesse is kept backe, and the memory is quickened. In like manner, washing of hands often, doth much availe the eyesight." 
William Vaughan, Approved Directions for Health (1612)
Pouring water on your head sure is terrifying! But the dreaded quarterly headwashing has its benefits. Best practices!

Monday, November 11, 2013

How to Look Good on a Budget, c. 1280

Cantigas de Santa Maria

"Your clothing should be pleasing and fine, cut to your figure. If you have no expensive cloth to make clothing, then have it cut nicely from something less than the best, so that it looks good and you appear well dressed. If you lack good clothing, you should accept this: but let your shoes and footwear, belt, purse, and knife be the finest you can have... Be very careful not to wear unkempt clothing, for anything torn is lovelier by far: one appears ill-bred when wearing unkempt clothes, but torn ones simply cannot be helped. It never takes great skill to make something lovely look nice, but one who knows how to wear well what is not lovely appears pleasing and courtly."
Amanieu de Sescás, Enssenhamen de l'escudier (Instruction for a Squire), c. 1280
Stretch your fashion budget in a "distressed" tunic! The courtly look is all in the accessories.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How to Make a Flaming Drink, 1862

"Blue Blazer. (Use two large silver-plated mugs, with handles.) 
1 wine-glass of Scotch whiskey.
1 do. [ditto] boiling water. 
Put the whiskey and the boiling water in one mug, ignite the liquid with fire, and while blazing mix both ingredients by pouring them four or five times from one mug to the other, as represented in the cut. If well done this will have the appearance of a continued stream of liquid fire. Sweeten with one teaspoonful of pulverized white sugar, and serve in a small bar tumbler, with a piece of lemon peel.
...The novice in mixing this beverage should be careful not to scald himself. To become proficient in throwing the liquid from one mug to the other, it will be necessary to practise for some time with cold water." 
Jerry Thomas, How to Mix Drinks: Or, the Bon-Vivant's Companion (1862)
The splendid mustache is a prerequisite, but be careful not to ignite it while mixing this manly drink.

Monday, November 4, 2013

How to Grow an All-Purpose Herb, 1586

"To make an hearb to growe which shall have many savours and tastes. And to doo this: firste take one seede of the Lettice, one seede of Endive, one of Smallage, one of the Bassill, one of the Leeke, & of the parslie, al these put togither in a hole in such sort, that one seede may touch an other: but this remember that you plant these together in the dung of an Horsse or an Oxe without any earthe at all with them. And then after of these seedes shall growe up one proper hearbe, which will have so many savours and tastes, as there were seedes sowne together." 
A Briefe and Pleasaunt Treatise, Intituled: Naturall and Artificiall Conclusions (1586)
With the power of manure, you can grow one herb to rule them all.