Today, December 14 …
Michel de Nostredame, better known by his Latinised name of Nostradamus was born on this day in Provence in 1503. What has this “prophet” got to do with food, you ask? Well, it just goes to show that the interest in his “prophesies” is so great that it has completely overwhelmed his work as a physician. And what has his work as a physician got to do with food, you ask? Well, in those days they believed that medicine was food, and food was medicine – a modern idea, no?
His “prophesies” were written in such obscure and convoluted language that they may be interpreted as broadly as the interpreter wishes. Luckily, his other book, “An excellent and most useful little work essential to all who wish to become acquainted with some exquisite recipes”, also published in 1555, is much more straightforward.
There were numerous jellies and sweetmeats amongst the more obviously medicinal recipes, including this one:
How to make a jam or preserve with heart-cherries, which the Italians call 'amarenes'.
Take some of the nicest heart-cherries you can find, good and ripe … Take three pounds or so of them. Then take a pound-and-a-half of sugar, and let it dissolve in the juice of three or four pounds of other heart-cherries. And take care that once the juice has been extracted you add it to the sugar at once. .. Boil it up as quickly as possible … When you have removed all the scum and can see that your sugar is as red as it was to start with and is thoroughly clarified, … immediately put in the heart-cherries to boil, stirring them neither too much nor too little, until they are perfect, all the while removing the scum on the top with a spatula. Do not take them off the fire until they are cooked right through ... Then put one drop on a pewter plate, and once you see that it will not run down in either direction, they are ready. … pour them while still hot into small containers holding three or four ounces each. You will then have beautiful red, whole heart-cherries with a wonderful taste that will keep for a long time.
… if a sick person takes just a single one, it will be to him like a balsam or other restorative.
Might come in handy for the post-Christmas sloth, yes?
Tomorrow: Sex and Science in the kitchen.