aphrodisiac feast

Having finished the embroidery project, I am now deep into planning mode for my upcoming event, The Battle of Coeur du Valentine’s. Because I am CRAZY  (and because no one else would do it), I am both event steward and head cook.  I was worried it wasn’t going to come together for a few days but I did some fast (and somewhat superficial) research and I’m feeling better about the whole thing at this point.

Since it’s a valentines day themed event (sort of…) I am planning a feast of medieval aphrodisiacs!  I had two good sources that helped me figure those out… the book Eating Right in the Renaissance by Kenneth Albala, and the Tacuinum Sanitatis (Medieval Health Handbook).  Medieval food and health were very much linked, and the whole concept draws on the theory of the four humors, which is much older than the middle ages; goes back to Greek medicine, primarily Galen.  I did read some Galen, for background, but the Albala was probably the most helpful for giving me the theory.

As I understand it, while the ‘sanguine’ (hot and moist) humor is the one that produces the desire to reproduce, in the end all nutrition leads to sperm production.  And it is definitely about reproduction, not about pleasure!  The Tacuinum in fact ‘defines’ coitus as ‘the union of two for the purposes of introducing the sperm,’ and says that the optimal kind is ‘that which lasts until the sperm has been completely emitted’ and that it is useful because ‘it preserves the species.’  There’s romance for you!

You’ll notice this is rather male-focused… well, so were the middle ages, and it never seemed to be a concern whether the female was sufficiently ‘in the mood.’  I am guessing this is both because reproduction can happen whether she is or she ain’t, and because much of the medieval mindset was that women were too lustful anyway.  So don’t encourage them, right?

ANYWAY.  While some foods are more better (that’s a technical term) for instigating sperm production, all nutritious food preserves the body and leads to sperm production.  ‘Nutritious’ here basically means meat over veggies, and processed over raw.  But a feast of spam wouldn’t really appeal to the modern palate ;)… so for my feast, I’m focusing on the following: foods identified in the Tacuinum as aphrodisiacs, foods identified as being of hot and moist humors, hot and moist cooking methods, animals/meats that are known for fecundity (‘you are what you eat’) and spices that ‘fire the blood.’  My tentative menu (which may be cut to fit the budget once I do my price-checking) follows; I’ve tried to identify why each item is included.  Feedback is welcome!

  • On the table
    • red grapes (H&M)
    • olives/garlic/salt (garlic=A, salty foods whet all sorts of appetites)
    • a truffled (A) liver (H&M) pate based on mortrews, served with crustrolles
  • First course
    • pottage of chickpeas (A)
    • blanched asparagus (A,HM) with pinenuts (A), onions(A) and new cheese(HM) (my least medieval recipe – blanched asparagus with herbs is documentable, but this gets all the other bits into it)
    • chicken with cameline sauce (fire the blood with spices)
  • Second Course
  • Third Course
  • Intercourse: a salad of watercress(A,H&M), herbs(A), nasturtiums (A), pine nuts (A) with a pomegranate (H&M) and olive oil (H&M) dressing
  • Dessert: Marzipan balls (you are what you eat) – plus almond oil=A

Due to time constraints, I’m using many already redacted recipes, which is sort of a bummer… also, I don’t think I’m going to get the paper that I wanted for this written, but I might do it later.  Or I might just summarize and let people enjoy a tasty feast!  …so, do you think it sounds tasty?  And based on my summary do you think it gets the ‘aphrodisiac’ concept across?



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