Category Archives: food

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?

 

feast planning

There is a putative event in progress; the bid is not official yet (got to work with neighboring groups on selecting our date), but it’s highly probable our Shire will be putting on a valentine’s event this February!  The event is my idea but I am not going to be the event steward; I have bullied persuaded someone else to take that role so that I can cook!  It’s been a while since I’ve done much medieval cooking and I’m really jonesing to get back in the kitchen.

Given the theme of the event, the feast will of course be full of foods which induce luuuuuurve.  Research thus far suggests a couple different ways things could be aphrodisiac in nature: one, physical appearance (think of the banana scene from Dangerous Beauty); two, be rare and exotic (you spent a lot of money on me, you must really want me!); three, animal behavior (eg rabbits); four (and most prominent) balance of the four humors.

So I’ve started my reading re: humoral theory and how to cook foods in accordance with them; the period sources all recommend seeking a balance of the humors, but I will of course be seeking to promote the hot, moist humor: blood, i.e. sanguine.  There are a lot of foods which are hot and moist; the cooking method also impacts things, so boiling will be preferred to baking.  I have references to a few foods as being specifically good for coitus and sperm production, and will definitely try to include those.  I’m sort of amused at all the instructions that talk about how to prepare or combine foods to balance their humoral properties, since most of them just sound like they are mad tasty (and I wonder how much that was the reason!).  New cheese, like ricotta?  shouldn’t eat, unless you have it with honey and walnuts.  Pork? requires spices and mustard.  Acorns? You should roast and eat with sugar.

As far as the habits of animals go, though – medieval folks thought that beavers, when pursued, would rip off their testicles and throw them at their attackers, then escape while the pursuers were distracted.  Therefore, beaver testicles are aphrodisiacs (cause ripping off your balls is totally hawt. right?).  given that the mascot of our local university is the beaver…. well, I think marzipan balls in the university’s colors would get the idea across well enough!

event foods

An Tir has introduced me to the concept of the potluck feast.  I’ve done event potlucks before, usually a bunch of friends planning a lunch together.   We’ve had as many as about 20 (which produced an extremely tasty lunch), but no more than that.  Potluck feasts for 80 up to… 500?  Not something I’ve ever considered.  Obviously it saves money and the manpower of producing a feast, although it doesn’t make for a very consistent sort of meal (all the same culture, time period, or some other theme), which I do like.  I miss the artistry involved in a prepared feast.

Buuuut that’s not the point here.  The point is, potluck feasts, I haz them.  And since thus far everyone seems to use the same system for assigning dishes (mundane last name), I always seem to be bringing main dishes.  While experimenting with new recipe redactions is good fun, I don’t think mass potlucks are the right place for that, so I’ve been defaulting to this Spinach Pie – mad tasty, super easy, transports well, vegetarian protein, and is good cold.  (Another fave recipe, Pie of Paris, hits the same buttons minus vegetarian – it’s a meat pie with dried fruit and there are tons of redactions out there, none of which are exactly what I use, so… no link, go find your own!)

So, what experience have you had with potluck feasts?  Any default dishes for such things, or for camping events, etc?