playtime in Burgundy

Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy hosted the party of the century in 1454.

On one table, there was a church with bells, stained-glass windows, and a working pipe organ and choir, which provided musical interludes throughout the evening as well as a silver ship filled with rose water.

image found here

A larger table was far more elaborate. Eight-and-twenty musicians, baked in a giant meat pie, accompanied the interludes of the church choir on the previous table. In addition, the towers of a castle squirted orange punch into its moat. A trick barrel could give either sweet or sour wine: “Take some, if you want!” was written on the scroll of a man standing nearby.

image found here

There are no dimensions or proportions mentioned in the chronicles, but it is a reasonable assumption that with the exception of the meat pie, all of these “entremets” (as they were called) were scale models.  Five more “entremets” adorned this same table: a tiger fighting a serpent; a wildman on a camel; an amorous couple eating the birds that a man was beating out of a bush with a stick; there was also a jester on the back of a bear and a ship floating back and forth between cities.

image found here

Elsewhere in the hall, a living lion was chained to a pillar protecting a statue of a nude woman who served “hypocras” from her right breast. Above the lion, it was written, “Ne touchez a ma dame.”

Dishes (Entremets) that were intended to be eaten as well as entertain can be traced back at least to the early Roman Empire.

The cook to Amadeus VIII described an entremet entitled Castle of Love in his 15th century culinary treatise Du fait de cuisine. It consisted of a giant castle model with four towers, carried in by four men. The castle contained, among other things, a roast piglet, a swan cooked and redressed in its own plumage, a roast boar’s head and a pike cooked and sauced in three different ways without having been cut into pieces, all of them breathing fire. The battlements of the castle were adorned with the banners of the Duke and his guests, manned by miniature archers, and inside the castle there was a fountain that gushed rosewater and spiced wine.

edible castle found here

Published in: on January 31, 2010 at 7:10 am  Comments (36)  
Tags: , ,

the prince of the assassins

Hotel Pimodan found here

Dr Jacques Joseph Moreau and his friend Theophile Gautier were the driving force behind the setting up of Le Club des Haschischins in 1844 which met every month at the Hotel Pimodan on the Ile St Louis. The order was under the command of a ‘shiek’ called the Prince of the Assassins. This role was played by Dr Moreau himself, who would distribute green hashish paste among his assembled “assassins.”

image found here

Gautier wrote about the experience here

The doctor stood by the side of a buffet on which lay a platter filled with small Japanese saucers. He spooned a morsel of paste or greenish jam about as large as the thumb from a crystal vase, and placed it next to the silver spoon on each saucer.

The doctor’s face radiated enthusiasm; his eyes glittered, his purple cheeks were aglow, the veins in his temples stood out strongly, and he breathed heavily through dilated nostrils.

Dr Purple and his team found here

“This will be deducted from your share in Paradise,” he said as he handed me my portion.

Already some of the more fervent members felt the effects of the green jam: for my part, I had experienced a complete transformation in taste. The water I drank seemed the most exquisite wine, the meat, once in my mouth, became strawberries, the strawberries, meat. I could not have distinguished a fish from a cutlet. That strange visitor, hallucination, had come to dwell within me.

Strawberry meat found here

Little by little the salon was filled with extraordinary figures, such as are found only in the etchings of Callot or the aquatints of Goya; a pêle-mêle of rags and tatters, bestial and human shapes; at any other time I should have been uneasy in such company, but there was nothing menacing in these monstrosities. Only in a grin of good humor could one discover the uneven fangs and pointed teeth.

Courtyard of Lunatics by Goya found here

One of the club members, who had not taken part in the voluptuous intoxications, in order to survey the phantasma and prevent those of us who believed we possessed wings from leaping out the windows, got up, opened the piano, and sat down. His two hands plunged together into the ivories of the clavier and a glorious chord, resounding forcefully, silenced the clamor and changed the direction of the drunkenness.

read about turkey parachuting here

A veil was torn away from my mind’s eye, and it became apparent to me that the club’s members were none other than Cabalists and sorcerers who wished to sweep me to my doom.

Then vertigo enveloped me completely; I became mad, delirious. I was overcome with despair, for, in lifting my hand to my skull, I found it open, and I lost consciousness.

skull cake found here

The dream had ended. The hachichins each escaped separately to their houses, like the officers after Malbrouck’s funeral.

As for myself, I went down that stairway which had caused me such tortures with a light step, and several minutes later was in my own room, in full reality; the last, lingering mists of the hashish had disappeared. My reason had returned, or at least that which I call reason, for want of a better term. My lucidity would have been just sufficient to grasp a pantomime or vaudeville, or to make verses rhyming in three letters……

Published in: on January 27, 2010 at 7:27 am  Comments (34)  
Tags: , ,

do you want beaver with your nuncheons?

What did you have for breakfast today? If you lived in 19th century England you may have eaten this Sunday menu from Breakfast, Luncheons and Ball Suppers

Fried skate and shrimp sauce

Curried pig’s feet

Breakfast cakes

Potted anchovy

Devilled hot meat

Hot buttered toast


The author, Major L, also tells you how to boil an egg

“A new laid egg takes longer to boil than one which has been laid some days, and if you wish the white set it should be put in boiling water four minutes and a half. If you prefer the white running all over your plate, and dropping all over your dress on the way to your mouth, let it boil three minutes and a half.”

“Nuncheons” was the name given to a meal break for manual workers. “Bever” (pronounced as beaver NOT as bever-age) meant much the same thing –  a light meal, possibly a lump of bread, a gobbet of cheese or some seed cake, always served with something liquid, usually beer or ale.

Raincoaster’s beaver recipe

Gabriel Tschumi was Master Chef to three monarchs – Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and King George V.

In his autobiography, Tschumi recalled that for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee banquet 24 chefs were brought over from Paris to help with the cooking and that the younger apprentices in the royal kitchens attempted to grow their moustaches to resemble those of their French superiors. The book reproduces the recipe for Côtelettes de bécassines à la Souvaroff, served by Tschumi at King Edward VII’s coronation banquet in 1902. This consisted of snipe cutlets covered in brandy, pâté and breadcrumbs, placed in a pig’s caul, and served with beans, truffles, mushrooms, and a Madeira and truffle sauce.

Pig’s caul (and duodenum, uterus etc.) found here

Tschumi doesn’t dish the dirt on any of the royals but he does reveal a snippet about Queen Victoria’s eating habits.

“Towards the end of her life she was not a large eater. Rumour had it that her breakfast was usually a boiled egg, served in magnificent style. According to the upper servants, she used a gold egg cup and a gold spoon, and two of her Indian servants, in their showy scarlet and gold uniforms, stood behind her chair in case she wanted anything.”

image by Banksy found here

Published in: on January 21, 2010 at 7:01 am  Comments (42)  
Tags: , , ,

beware the jack dempsey erection

image found here

Lina Basquette was a prima ballerina and silent movie star who was married nine times. She also caught the attention of Adolf Hitler.

“The man repelled me so much” she recounted. “He had terrible body odour; he was flatulent. But he had a sweet smile, and above all, he had these strange penetrating eyes.”

image found here

Her first husband,  Sam Warner, was 20 years older than his bride.

“He died two years later of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 40. She had one daughter, Lita, by this marriage. Husband No. 2 was cinematographer J. Peverell Marley and they divorced about a year later. She was also widowed by Husband No. 3, actor Ray Hallam, who married her in 1931 and died that same year at age 26. Husband No. 4 and 5 was Theodore Hayes, former boxing trainer to prizefighter Jack Dempsey. They married in December of 1931 but it was annulled when it was found he was a bigamist; they remarried in 1933 but divorced two years later after having one son, Edward. Marriages to Husband No. 6, British actor Henry Mollison, No. 7, Warner Gilmore, and No. 8, Frank Mancuso, ended in divorce.

She also had an affair with Jack Dempsey

Dempsey was a strong, powerful youth who quickly discovered he had a talent for fighting. With the help of his older brother Bernie Dempsey, he began training to be a professional boxer. His other brother, John Dempsey, shot his own wife, then killed himself in a murder-suicide in 1927

Dempsey was for a short time, a part-time bodyguard for Thomas F. Kearns, president of The Salt Lake Tribune. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Dempsey worked in a shipyard while continuing to box. After the war, he was accused by some boxing fans of being a draft dodger. It was not until 1920 that he was able to clear his name on that account, when evidence was produced showing he had attempted to enlist in the U.S. Army but had been turned down

But Jack Dempsey is not only the name of a famous boxer.

“It’s a cichlid fish that is widely distributed across North and Central America  Its common name refers to its aggressive nature and strong facial features, likened to that of the famous 1920s boxer.

In 1997 the San Francisco Chronicle reported that a man had died when he put a Jack Dempsey into his mouth as a joke: the fish erected its fin spines to avoid being swallowed, a characteristic cichlid anti-predator response, and became wedged in the man’s throat.

In an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street, a Jack Dempsey is recovered at the scene of a murder, and is taken home by an unsuspecting Detective John Munch, who intends to give it to his tropical fish-collecting girlfriend as a present. As a surprise, he places the fish in her aquarium, where it proceeds to devour $4,000 worth of her fish before being removed. Munch later refers to the fish as an “assassin who uses piranhas as toothpicks.”

Published in: on January 9, 2010 at 7:11 am  Comments (34)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

protecting the odor soul

We’ve reported on smell before at the gimcrack here and here and here. But there’s still more to be found at the Social Issues Research Centre

“Among the Amazonian Desana, for example, all members of a tribal group a believed to share a similar odour. Marriage is only allowed between persons of different odours, so spouses must be chosen from other tribal groups. This belief is expressed in rituals involving the exchanges of goods with different odours: one group will present the other with a gift of meat, for example, and receive fish in return. Some rituals involve the exchange of differently scented ants.

image found here

The Batek Negrito of the Malay Peninsula take the same taboo on the odour-mixing of close relatives a stage further: not only is sexual intercourse between those of similar odour prohibited, but even sitting too close to one another for too long is considered dangerous. Any prolonged mixing of similar personal odours is believed to cause disease in the people involved and in any children they may conceive.

The dangers of odour-mixing are even more extreme for another Malay Peninsula people, the Temiar. The Temiar believe that each person has an odour-soul, located in the lower back. If you pass too closely behind a person, the odour-soul is disturbed and mingles with your body, causing disease. This must be prevented by calling out ‘odour, odour’ whenever you approach a person from behind, so that the odour-soul is forewarned of the intrusion.

For the Dogon people of Mali, odour and sound are believed to be intrinsically related because both travel on air – the Dogon speak of ‘hearing’ a smell. In addition, speech itself is believed to be scented: good speech – with appropriate grammar and pronunciation – smells pleasant (in Dogon terms, this means an odour of oil and cooking, which are highly valued), while nasal, indistinct or ungrammatical speech has an unpleasant, stagnant odour. Ten-year-old children who persist in making mistakes of grammar or pronunciation will have their noses pierced as a corrective.

Western notions of aesthetically pleasing fragrances are by no means universal. For the cattle-raising Dassanetch of Ethiopia, no scent is more beautiful than the odour of cows. The association of this scent with social status and fertility is such that the men wash their hands in cattle urine and smear their bodies with manure, while the women rub butter into their heads, shoulders and breasts to make themselves smell more attractive.

The Dogon of Mali would find these customs incomprehensible. For the Dogon, the scent of onion is by far the most attractive fragrance a young man or woman can wear. They rub fried onions all over their bodies as a highly desirable perfume.

I highly recommend visiting this site and reading more about the perfume box rituals of Arab countries

Published in: on December 14, 2009 at 7:03 am  Comments (53)  
Tags: , , ,

solder a crackt one

Dreams and Moles was published around 1750. It was particularly helpful for men who wanted to be sure they were marrying a virgin

“Take a piece of alabaster, burn it in the fire till it may be beat to powder, sift through a fine piece of muslin then put it in her drink when you are merry-making. If she drinks it and no visible alteration appear, she hath already parted with the toy you covet.

Anita Ekberg looks good in fine muslin

Women could also use it to ascertain if a bachelor was chaste

Dry thistle seeds and beat to a powder, take the pith that grows on the shell of an oyster, dry powder it too and mix together. Put this in your young man’s drink and if he be chaste he will oftener than usual be observed to make urine.

Dick Dene failed the urine test

Prospective brides who wanted to disguise the fact that they had already parted with the covetous toy, could restore it thus

To restore a lost maidenhead, or solder a crackt one, take myrtle berries and beat to a powder, add to the beaten flour of cotton, mix and drink a little of the powder in the morning, in a glass of wine, and you will find the effects wonderful”

Tallulah Bankhead recommends wine in the morning

Published in: on December 2, 2009 at 7:20 am  Comments (44)  
Tags: , , ,

the anti-vagina complex

In the Western Highlands of New Guinea many men believe that female sexuality is potent and dangerous. They think that prolonged contact with women can make their bones dissolve, and lead to debilitation and even death.

“As one might expect, the terror of women’s contamination focuses on the vagina. Vaginal discharges are so poisonous they can be used by witches to kill a man overnight, simply by depositing them near his clothing. Everything from the vagina is polluted, even nonsexual things like babies. Until a baby is purified, its father will not touch it, only poke it playfully with a small stick.

Any object that passes over or near the vagina can no longer be used safely by a man. If a woman’s genitals are physically higher than a man’s head, serious health risks may ensue. For instance if a woman steps over a sleeping man, he will sicken and his body will rot unless he is treated with an exorcism. Women therefore are not allowed to climb above men in trees or on ladders.

The woman’s vulva must never be above a man’s nose, lest her genitalia menaces him with lethal radiation. Some men will place spearmint leaves up their nostrils to avoid inhaling vaginal exhalations.

A woman who entices her husband into excessive sexual relations (more than a few times a year) is said to be purposefully driving him to an early death. “Coitus is contaminating, it can cause the stomach to distend and lose its taut masculine quality.”

Published in: on November 30, 2009 at 7:28 am  Comments (42)  
Tags: , , ,

fruit, tree, stone…..

Different cultures view marriage in different ways. The Newar people of Nepal marry their young girls to bel-fruits.

A majority of Newars observe the symbolically arranged marriage of their daughters with a bel fruit before they ever marry a man. The bel fruit marriage is done when the girl is seven to nine years old, or before she attains puberty; and since it is the general belief of Hindu and Buddhist Newar communities that a proper marriage with full rites can be held only once in a lifetime, her subsequent marriages, if any, are considered of only secondary importance.

image found here

Punjabi men can have one, two or four wives, but not three. To get around this prohibition, they sometimes would go through a third marriage ceremony with a tree. In Madras, if a younger son wishes to marry but his older sibling has not yet decided upon a wife, the elder son can wed a tree. After the ceremony, a priest cuts the tree down and pronounces it dead. The family all mourn the man’s deceased wife, and then the younger son is free to marry.

image of 1960s icon Penelope Tree found here

The daughter of a courtesan is unable to marry but she may get herself a ritual husband by marrying a house plant which she then cares for in a special way.

image of Robert Plant found here

Two trees may also marry each other. This type of wedding is arranged by a childless couple who are trying to conceive. The trees, usually a mango and a fig are planted close together so their stems entwine. If one of them dies it is considered a very bad omen for the woman.

In Siberia a man sometimes married a stone. There would be no wedding ceremony, the man simply chose an attractive stone, put clothes on it and placed it in his bed. There was even some sexual connotation, since the man would treat the stone as a human, caressing it as if it were a real woman.

image of Sharon Stone found here

Marriages to objects were also known of in Mongolia. A father might sometimes offer his daughter to a guest for the night as a sexual favour. The guest would be asked to leave behind his belt as a token. If a pregnancy resulted from this hospitality, the girl was simply married the belt. On the other hand, if a girl became pregnant to a stranger outside this sexual hospitality arrangement, she would be married to a prayer rug instead.

Published in: on November 24, 2009 at 7:01 am  Comments (39)  
Tags: , ,

the domovoy diet


Slavic Maiden

The Slavs believe in their own special household ghost called a Domovoy.


A Domovoy is seen neither as good or bad and can be mischievous or benevolent, depending upon its mood and the time of the year. The creature is described as short, all covered with hair, even on the palms of his hands and soles of his feet. If he draggd his hand across your face while you slept, a bristly and cold touch foretold of impending woes ahead. A warm and fuzzy touch meant good fortune would befall.


These spirits are thought to be ancestors of your paternal line. The Domovoy does not like to be seen so he is invisible. Reportedly, when you do sight a Domovoy, it takes on the form of an ancestor or the past owner of your home. Sometimes, when the male of the household is away, a Domovoy can be seen in his form plowing the fields at night.

peter finch sheriff

(Peter Finch’s Domovoy prepares to plough the fields)

Domovoys are to be treated with great respect. He is considered (and considers himself) the master of the house. When a family moves from one house to another, they invite their Domovoy to go with them. Your neighbors Domovoy is seen as malevolent but your household’s Domovoy protects you from him. It is believed that your neighbor’s Domovoy will try to steal your oats and livestock and yours will try to steal your neighbor’s (a convenient excuse as to why you had your neighbor’s oats).


(Livestock reputedly stolen by Domovoy)

Calling to your family’s Domovoy to enter into your home is not only a way to reconnect with your ancestors, but will also ensure you keep your house tidier. Just remember to be respectful, leave bread, cookies or porridge by the stove and do not block his path.

sean connery

(Only James Bond dares to break the Domovoy’s rules)

Published in: on November 23, 2009 at 7:27 am  Comments (28)  
Tags: , , ,

bovine benefits


The first newspaper ever published in Australia was the Sydney Gazette. Just like the papers of today, unusual advertisements and human interest stories captured the public’s imagination.

john wilson webb

“As a reward for the Encouragement of growing Peaches for the purpose of making Cider, it is His Excellency’s pleasure to announce, that the person who will produce, in the next Peach Season, Two Hogsheads of Peach Cider, which when One Year old is judged by him to be the best, shall receive a Cow from Government as a Reward.

14 December 1806

Three corn porters were drinking together on Wednesday, when one of them, for the trifling wager of 5 shillings, undertook to eat the worsted stockings which the other two then had on, fried in oil, and half a pound of yellow soap, by way of bread to the delectable ragout. The fellow once before undertook to eat as much tripe as would make him a jacket; he was accordingly measured by a tailor, and the material cut out, when, to the great surprise of everyone, he ate up the whole in less than 20 minutes.


25 November 1804

On Thursday night last a Settler at Kissing Point attempted to put a period to his worldly difficulties by applying a noose to his neck. The noise occasioned by this alarmed a young girl in an adjoining room, who, with remarkable presence of mind, severed the suspending cord, and thus restored the care-devoted victim to a current of anxiety. This attempt upon his own existence had been occasioned  by a superabundance of sensibility, and an insupportable vexation, occasioned by the elopement of an amiable partner, whose paramour, to add to his mortification, wore a wooden leg.

outdoor sports

17 April 1803

A few days ago a fine young boy hung himself on a farm at Hawkesbury, and was found lifeless, though his feet were on the ground, his knees half bent. He had fastened the rope to the rafter of an outhouse, placed a looking glass before him and thrown himself from a height of two feet.

old age

3 July 1808 *

* Am I the only one who thinks this sounds like a case of auto-erotic asphyxiation gone wrong?

Published in: on November 14, 2009 at 5:49 am  Comments (37)  
Tags: ,