Rare hosting tips! (Wing A3032A )
Hosting a dinner party? Why not try these fun seventeenth-century tips... Richard Amyas has 53 in his treasury, I'll give you ten..
First, you'll want to make your house ready for your guests:
1. Make Rats forsake a House:
Burn Assafettida in the Roof of the House often, and the Rats will forsake and fly from the House in a short time. (Assafettida, also known as "devil's dung, tastes like leeks. Apparently. Someone can let me know).
2. Make a Light that will continue always: Take the Liquor of Glow-worms, mix it with a quarter of the quantity of quick|silver, and put it into a Vi[...]l, hang it up in the Room, and you may see all night long by the light. (Nifty, if you've got lots of glow-worms on hand!)
3. Catch Fleas in a trap: Take a piece of Tin made like a dripping-pan, the length and bigness of a small trencher, then put over it 5 or 6 small wires made fast to the Tin, bowed like the hoops over a waggon, then fill the Tin with Venice Turpentine mixt with a little honey, then put this Trap in the Bed in the morning when you rise, between the sheets, and there you shall find the Fleas stick in the Turpentine, as thick as Wasps in a Honey-pot. (Alrightee then!)
Why not try these parlour--ahem, withdrawing room--tricks? Wow and amaze your guests!!!
4. Write your name on a piece of Paper, and burn that piece of Paper & the same letters to appear on the back of your hand. (Got that?) To do this, first write the Name on a small piece of Paper; then privately write the same Letters on the back of your hand, with a Pen-ful of your own Urine, which none can perceive: then burn that Paper· and as it is almost burnt, clap it upon the back of your hand, and rub it, & there will strangely appear the same letters on the back of your hand, with admiration to the Beholders. (Ah, the secret hidden urine trick. Classic!)
5. Make Pease leap out of the pot as if they were mad.
Put a Quill or two of Quick-Silver into the pot, and all the Pease shall leap out of the pot. (Well, now that just sounds fun!)
(They're seem to be a number of related tricks like this: To make a blown Bladder dance and skip about the room; to make a penny-loaf tumble, and skip up and down on it self; to make a ring dance on a table of it self...Basically, just add quicksilver to anything, and the object will look mad!!! A handy substance, to be sure!)
6. Make an Apple to move on a Table of it self: A fine secret. (and guess what, no quick silver!) Cut an Apple in the midst, and in the one half make a round hole, putting therein a black Beetle, and so lay the half on the table, and it will move about the table.
7. Make a Chamber to appear full of Addors and Snakes. (Now THAT'S got to be a parlor trick you don't see every day!) Kill a dozen Adders and Snakes, and take the oyl of them, and mix it with wax, and make a Candle, light it in a Chamber where rushes are, and the rushes will appear to be Adders and Snakes about the Room. (Somehow I feel there's a corollary woodcut somewhere--how to trick your friends into being bitten by a poisonous snake by letting them think they are preparing a neat trick themselves...)
And at the end of the night, if your guests aren't bidding timely farewells...
8. Fright the people of a house, and make them believe there are Spirits walking in a Room. To do this, take a black or gray Cat; then take 4. Walnut-shells, put Pitch in them, beat it, and put on every foot one; and tye a certain piece of rotten wood, which you shall find to shine in a dark night about the Cats Neck, and put her in a boarded Room, she will so trample about the Room, to the amazement of them that know not what you have done; and the moist piece of rotten wood (if they peep in at the key|hole, or chink of the door) it will seem to be like fire.
And if the scare-the-bejezus-out-of-your-guests doesn't work...
9. Clear a Room of drunken or rude company. Take a Chafingdish of clear Charcoals, or live Wood-coals; throw Giney Pepper on it, and put it under the table, and they will both cough, sneez, fart, and spew, if they have drunk hard. (What can I say? What can I say?)
And to make sure everyone thinks your party was a success (even if it wasn't)...
10. Make a Tell-tale or Gossip, to trump about: the house an hour or two shooting off the great Guns. Take the Liver of a Hare dryed in an Oven, and made into fine Powder; mix it with the Eggs of yellow Ants, or Pismires, put it into the Parties broth, or into Beer with Sugar and Nutmeg to discolour it: then an hour after employ the party to draw off a straight pair of Boots, or the like Exercise, and he'l make cracking off about bravely. (Okay, I have to admit, I'm not sure I understand this one. I think this mixture will make people think they've been to the coolest party ever...)
And just think--Amyas had 43 more of these gems! Who wouldn't want to party 1659-style?
Quick! What do these celebrities--Will Smith, Elizabeth Taylor, Tina Turner, Monica Potter, and Bradley Cooper--all have in common? Hint: It's something medieval....
Each bears the last name of a medieval/early modern occupation. (Smith and taylor/tailor are self-explanatory, but a turner operated a lathe, a cooper made barrels, and a potter, well, potted).
I was thinking about this--how many early modern guilds are still represented in surnames today--as I was doing research for my second novel, From the Charred Remains (2013).
I had come across the occupation of “cordwainer.” Cordwainer? I knew this was an occupation, like a tinker, or a wainwright (wheelmaker) or a hooper (another name for barrel-maker), but I have to admit, I never thought to look this one up.
The cordwainer crest
Any guesses?..... No?
Well, it turns out a “cordwainer” is a shoemaker.
The term originated in medieval Cordoba in Spain, a region controlled by Muslims who excelled, among other things, in the production of high-quality specially-tanned leather. (See the goats in the guild crest?)
cordwainers at work
The French referred to those who made shoes from this leather as cordonnier, which became “cordwainer” in England (you know, after that little Norman invasion of England in 1066).
According to the website for the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers--yes, the medieval guild still exists today as a charitable group!—the cordwainer must be distinguished from the cobbler. The cordwainer only worked with new leather, while the cobbler could only work with old. (Indeed, cobblers could get in a lot of trouble if they were found with new leather).
mmm...leatherless cobbler pie
And the more important question of all?
What does any of this have to do with blueberry cobbler?
(Only that early American settlers used to make pie from any foodstuffs on hand-- cobbling it together as a cobbler would piece together shoes...Maybe Will Smith likes blueberry cobbler too, I don't know.)
What do you think? Do you know of any surnames--celebrity or otherwise--that have an interesting history?
Valentine's Day...For the birds?
Chaucer--the man knew birds
I'll leave it to other writers to focus on the fascinating, but much contested, history of Valentine's Day.
They can sort out how the medieval Church may have appropriated the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia (already being held in mid February); decide whether Valentine, a third century Bishop, had indeed been beheaded for holding secret marriages; and debate whether as a saint, he truly restored a blind woman's sight.
(And for goodness sake, will we ever agree whether Valentine really signed his final letter with these immortal words: 'From your Valentine?')
These questions are important--after all, an entire industry depends on these re-purposed, glossed-over events to thrive.
But, for me, the history of Valentine's Day would be nothing without the birds and, of course, the buns.
some really smart birds
First, the birds.
I've seen repeated many times this story that medieval people believed that birds mated on February 14.
It doesn't help that Chaucer seemed to confirm this belief in his fourteenth century Parliament of Fowls, "For this was on St. Valentine's Day, When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate."
(Birds, apparently, were smarter than people. Despite all the calendar changes--from Julian to Gregorian--that confused ordinary people, birds could figure out when February 14 was).
caraway buns--the makers of romance?
So, of course, with birds, must come buns...
Logically, then, if you believed that birds mated on Valentine's Day, then it's only rational to eat as birds do. Thus, many people ate buns with caraway seeds on February 14 too, hoping to entice a mate.
(Am I the only one imagining people sitting around with their pints of ale, taking turns pecking at buns on their own and other people's plates...?)
So this year, why not forgo the chocolates, and bring on the seeds?! And here is a traditional caraway seed bun recipe, in case, like me, you've never made such a thing in your life. So long as you don't say "Romance is for the birds!" (Sorry, couldn't resist!)
I'm curious, though, does anyone still eat these buns on Valentine's Day? And other than chocolate and candy, does anyone have any traditional Valentine's day food?
Historian. Mystery writer. Researcher. Teacher. Occasional blogger.