Saturday, March 23, 2013

Hi everyone! I have a fun, ‘new’ recipe for you to try! It’s from a guide and cookbook put together by the Goodman of Paris, an “upright French landowner of sixty,” for his young wife, who would be entering into his household at 15 years old.[1] The whole guide itself was written in the late 14th century, and includes instructions on how to manage the household affairs, an herbal section and recipes “taken from books in his library.”[2] It does sound like an invaluable record of life for the upper-middle class of France at this time, and I would be very happy to see his section on plants and their uses for our herbal. But for now, this recipe I’m going to give you has the, perhaps misleading, name of pottage, but it is NOT every-day peasant fare, rather, this recipe is for a “genteel dish,” as Maggie Black calls it, because it uses fine white bread, wine and “precious white sugar.”[3] The instructions are very detail and thorough, ranging in subjects from issues with the servants to shopping. I guess he wanted her to get it right…well, he meant well anyway, and we get a yummy recipe from it too! Enjoy!

“Cherry pottage                            Wash the cherries and discard the
2 lbs fresh ripe red cherries                                                   stems and stones. Purée the fruit in a
1 ½ cups red wine                                                                   blender with 10 tablespoons of the
6 oz. white sugar                                                                    wine and half the sugar. Add more
2 oz. unsalted butter                                                               wine if needed. Melt the butter in a
8 oz. soft white bread crumbs                                                      saucepan, add the fruit purée, bread-
Pinch of salt                                                                            crumbs, and remaining wine and
                                                                                                sugar, and the salt. Simmer, stirring
Flower heads of small clove pinks                                        steadily, until the purée is very thick.  
or gilded whole cloves (Soluble gold gouache                      Pour in a serving bowl, cover and let
can be used to gild the tops of whole cloves,                                    cool. When quite cold, decorate the
but do not bite them; they stun the taste-buds)                      edge of the bowl with flowers or
                                                                                                [gilded] cloves. And sprinkle coarse
Course white sugar for sprinkling                                         sugar over the center.”[4]

Maggie Black finishes off this yummy recipe by telling us that “any hostess, married or not, would enjoy showing off this pretty recipe.”[5]

[1] Black, Maggie, The Medieval Cookbook, Los Angeles: Getty Publishers, 2012.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid. emphasis added. Also, see my blog on carnations and John Harvey's article "Gillyflower and Carnation" for more discussion on clove pinks. 
[5] Ibid. 
Image appears with recipe in The Medieval Cookbook. 'European Columbines and Sweet Cherry' from Mira calligraphiae monumenta, Joris Hoefnagel, Vienna, Austria, 1291-96. Watercolors, gold and silver paint and ink on parchment. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Hi guys! It was a successful week of researching and compiling! And I had a wonderful meeting to get things organized. Our little Loyola garden ‘herbal’ is nearly completed, just have a few flowers to go. Actually, I would like to talk to you today about one flower that we are all very familiar with, and that has in fact appeared since ancient times. The rose is my personal favorite (I think most of us have that phase where we try to find other flowers to like, but really now, what girl doesn’t like roses?) and there are some very interesting and exciting facts in the history of this beautiful flower that holds a continual fascination for us.

Rosa gallica officinalis is the type that we have, and that medieval gardeners had for centuries in their own gardens. In a small article that finishes her dissertation, Hazel Le Rougetel says, “quantities of Rosa gallica [that were] brought back, it is thought, from the Middle East by the Crusaders, were grown for the production of rose conserve. Much earlier, apothecaries had used this rose in medicine and in c.849, Walahfrid Strabo wrote in his poem, Hortulus, 'No man can say, no man remember how many uses there are for Oil of Roses as a cure for mankind's ailments'. Thus, it became known as R. gallica officinalis or the 'Apothecary's Rose'.”[1] So, not only are the lovely and fragrant, but roses were very useful in a society of pre-modern medicine. Some of the more frequent uses involved rose water, which also flavored food. One of my books, an herbal by Henry of Huntington, has poems detailing the uses of each plant. Henry’s poem on roses uses Macer’s voice to tell us this about the rose plant: “It surpasses flowers equally in appearance and in scent,” and therefore, it is “the flower of flowers.”[2] The poem goes on to say that the bloom of rose may “wither,” but it never diminishes in its medicinal potency. Some of those medical uses were for “eye salves” and as a powder to treat “ailments of the mouth.”[3] Furthermore, he says, “every fresh rose, when ground, will destroys all fevers” and, with “mead” it is “soothing.”[4]

In his study of the ‘damask’ rose, Mark P. Widrlechner gives a nice synopsis of the history of roses in general, beginning with the “oldest fossil roses” which are “from the Paleocene.”[5] I learned that the rose is painted in a very early fresco in the palace at Knossos, Crete. Also, the Rosa gallica is probably related to the damask rose through its hybridization with the Rosa phoenicia.[6]

Very interesting and exciting stuff! We do have the lovely Rosa gallica, (‘rose of Provins,’ ‘apothecary rose’) at the Heraldic garden and since it is getting close to spring, do make sure you come and see the garden behind Crown!

[1] Le Rougetel, Hazel, “The Rose of England,” RSA Journal Vol. 136 (1988); 742-744.
[2] Winston Black “Henry of Huntington Angelicanus ortus A Verse Herbal of the Twelfth Century” (Toronto; Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1993)
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Mark P. Widrlechner “History and Utilization of Rosa Damascena” Economic Botany, Vol. 35 (1981); 42-58.
[6] Ibid.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Hello again everyone! I have some exciting new books to share with you! The first is a facsimile edition of William Turner’s A New Herball. This was first published in its first part in 1551, the second and third parts coming later. A New Herball is “the very first genuine attempt to identify scientifically, in English, the plants which were of medical use to everyone.”[1] (I strongly encourage students to borrow this book from our library sometime and thumb-through its beautiful illustrations!) I was able to get a lot of good information from this book. As I found out, late medieval doctors were having some of the same trouble that I’ve run into when tracking down sources for our herbal: They could not read Latin fluently. They could not benefit directly from the masters of ancient times, and so they had to rely on word-of-mouth.[2] The need was becoming greater and greater for a compilation of plants’ identification and medical uses, in English, that one physician and botanist finally composed it.[3] The editors also urge us to think of the potential dangers of someone administering medicine or care without knowing what exactly they’re doing![4]

So, this book contains precise descriptions of the plant, and then how to prepare a remedy. For example, “the juice [of oregano] drunken with wine will remedy the bitings of serpents.”[5]

William Turner: A New Herball The front page of William Turner’s 1551 herbal

The second book I have is more ‘just for fun’ although it does tie in nicely to the uses of a medieval garden. The Goodman of Paris was “a rich French landowner” who compiled a little book for his new wife of 15.[6] Included in this was a book of recipes, which Maggie Black has modernized (exact measurements and cooking times were not included in the 14th century) and one of which I include here!

Have fun making this dish from the Middle Ages and I’ll see you later at the Heraldic Garden!

Cabbage chowder
1 ¼ lbs firm-hearted cabbage or 1 ½  lbs open-hearted cabbage or spring greens
8 oz. onions, peeled and finely chopped
8 oz. white part of leeks, thinly sliced into rings
Teaspoon dried saffron strands
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon each ground coriander, cinnamon, sugar
3 ¼ cups chicken or vegetable stock

“The Goodman of Paris has quite a lot to say about cabbages, from the small spring shoots for salads, to the frost-bitten winter leaves; only his recommendation to boil cabbages all morning is best ignored when dealing with a modern vegetable.
            This recipe will make a main-course soup for supper if you add sippets of toast and fried bacon--both well-known medieval additions.
            If using a firm-hearted cabbage, cut it into eight segments and remove the center core. If using open-hearted cabbage or greens, cut off the stalks and cut the leaves into strips. Put into a large pan with prepared onions and leeks. Stir the saffron, salt and spices into the stock, adjusting the amount of salt if required. Cook gently, covered, for about 20 min. or until segments of firm cabbage are tender,”[7]

[1] Chapman, George T. L., Marilyn N. Twedle, eds. William Turner A New Herball, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Anne Van Arsdall stresses the importance of “the unwritten text” in apprenticeship traditions to the practice of medieval medicine. Van Arsdall, Anne, “Reading Medieval Medical Texts with an Open Mind.” In Textual Healing: Essays on Medieval and Early Modern Medicine Ed. Furdell, Elizabeth Lane, Koninklijke; Brill, 2005.  I wonder if the rampant danger caused by this was itself caused in large part by the exclusion of women from the practice of medicine. 
[5] Chapman, George T. L., Marilyn N. Twedle, eds. William Turner A New Herball, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
[6] Black, Maggie, The Medieval Cookbook, Los Angeles: Getty Publishers, 2012.
[7] Ibid.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Hi everyone! I was looking through our herbal that I’m adding information to, and I realized that I’m very much lacking flower info! I’m awaiting one source, called simply, “A Medieval Book of Flowers,” which looks very beautiful and helpful. One article I came across also is all about the history of the carnation flower, of which we have a type in our Heraldic Garden here at Loyola. It’s written by our good friend and expert medieval botanist John H. Harvey.

 A lovely modern carnation. Image from
Carnations, Harvey tells us, are mistakenly believed to be an ancient flower of Britain but “it now seems far more probable that the real carnation, the old double red clove, is the most modern of all the classical plants brought into cultivation [in England] before the great age of introductions.”[1] He tells us how the confusion arose, beginning from ancient Rome: Pliny misidentified it as a particular plant from Spain used in flavoring. (The plant actually was in Spain, from the East and under a different name, and the Spanish carnations were named differently than Stock/Wallflower.) Then the confusion was compounded further by William Turner, who mistakenly called Pliny’s flower the English “wylde gelouer or gelefloure.”[2] This flower is known now as “gillyflower,” however, it was “not found in [that] spelling until 1535…” Once more, confusion added to confusion, as the English called many things ‘gilliflower.’[3]
So what are we left with? Well Harvey comes to the conclusion that carnations were first “in Turkey and the Middle East, and also in Western Europe,” but the latter not until “after 1500.”[4] Harvey concludes this by careful study of pictorial images from the Mediterranean and also lists and gardening documentation in medieval England. Harvey also follows the trails left by these documents through the plant’s cultivation in turkey, to when the “Ottomans had crossed into Europe at the Dardanelles in 1353” and brought it West, so we could eventually enjoy it. [5]
 A medieval Italian rendering of a carnation. From 

As always, stay warm, if you’re a teacher or student at Loyola then enjoy your break, and hopefully I’ll see you at the garden when it’s nicer outside!

[1] John H. Harvey, “Gillyflower and Carnation.” Garden History Vol 6 (1978); 46-57.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.