Monday, October 15, 2007

Advice for the Melancholy.

Today, October 15 ..

Firstly ….

Before I tell you today’s story, I want to make a little announcement. Small changes are afoot on this blog. I may move away, a little, from the strict “on this day” format (don’t worry, there will still be a story every weekday.)

There are two reasons. One – the negative one – is that I am aware that another blog is systematically stealing my content on a daily basis, with no acknowledgement (I think it is called a “scrapping”). So - if you are reading this and the name The Old Foodie is not at the top of the page, then you are reading this on the site of a word thief. My blog is almost two years old. As the weekend days become weekdays in each succeeding year, if I continue this format by the end of another twelve months I will have covered all 365 days. It is still my hope that I will publish something along the lines of a Food History Almanac in the future, and although I have ample more material for every day of the year, it has been suggested to me that I may be giving away potentially the entire content for such a book to some other thief.

I might add that this person is doing the same thing to another blogger who runs a site called The Art of Drink. By all means go there and say hello to Darcy, who alerted me to the theft and is also trying to get this guy to cease and desist. And no, I am not going to give you the thief’s site address, because if you go to it you will assist him to earn money from the Adsense ads he is running. At this point in time the perp has been notified to the Google Adsense team knee-capping department (at least, I hope that’s one of their disciplinary techniques.)

The second reason for the change – the positive one, I hope – is that there are a lot of lovely stories that do not have a specific date, but do not deserve to be neglected on that account. This applies particularly to the more ancient stories. So, for a little while, or from time to time, I will just give you a random story. It also means that if you have a particular question or idea, then that just might be able to be accommodated too.

And Finally, our story for the day ...

The experts now say that eating chocolate increases our naturally happy-hormones, the endorphins – something that most of us didn’t need scientists to tell us, although their evidence is useful for decreasing any break-through chocolate-guilt.

The idea that food can affect mood is far from new. The ancient Greek Doctrine of the Humours underpinned medical thought until well into the Middle Ages, and it was firmly based in food as medicine and medicine as food and food as potentially mind-altering (and it was not referring only to a certain variety of mushroom). A gross over-simplification of the complex concept that was Humoral Theory goes something like this:

Everything in the natural world is made up of the four elements: Fire, Earth, Water, and Air. Each of these has a particular “quality”: fire is hot, earth is dry, water is moist, and air is cool. A combination of two of these elements gives each natural thing or process its “complexion”, which has an associated “humour”. The four humours are represented in humans by blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile (or choler). A persons “temperament” depends on which humour has “sovereignty”, so there are four basic temperaments:

SANGUINE: complexion is “hot and moist”, blood is the dominant humour.

PHLEGMATIC: complexion is “cold and moist”, phlegm is the dominant humour.

CHOLERIC: complexion is “hot and dry”, yellow bile is the dominant humour.

MELANCHOLIC: complexion is “cold and dry”, black bile is the dominant humour.

Disease was believed to be due to an imbalance of the humours, which is why it was perfectly logical to perform blood-letting if the condition was understood to be due to an excess of that particular humour, or of administering purges or diuretics for other excesses. Alternatively, deficiencies in a particular humour could be addressed by administering a medicine or food which was rich in that humour.

The system was of course more complicated, with varying “degrees” of a quality being assigned to a food, the influence of age, gender and a multitude of astrological and occult influences also having to be taken into account.

To return to our specific topic of the day, first, the diagnosis: a melancholy person could be recognised by these physical signs: digestion slowe and yll, tymerous and fearefull, anger longe and frettynge, seldome laughynge,pulse lytell, urine watry and thynne.

Secondly, the treatment: this was two-pronged. Foods with similar characteristics (i.e that were “cold and dry”) should be avoided, and foods that were “warm and moist” should be eaten. This refers of course to the actual complexion of the food, not its cooking and serving method.

So, if you are of a gloomy temperament, or are in a sad mood, the foods to avoid because they ingendre melancholy are:

Gotes flesshe
Hares flesshe
Bores flesshe
Salte flesshe
Salte fysshe
All pulses except white peason
Browne breadde course
Thycke wyne
Black wyne
Olde Cheese
Olde flesshe
Great fysshes of the see.

As to what to eat, that is proving slightly more complicated for me to advise you. Pork is certainly “hot in the first degree”, so should be good, but I have not been able to find out if it is “moist” enough from a humoral point of view to be suitable for a melancholy person. From a culinary point of view it would certainly be wonderfully moist cooked according to this sixteenth century recipe, if you follow the instructions and use the recommended good store of butter. It is cooked in a pastry “coffin” which functioned like a casserole dish.

To bake a Pigge.
Take your Pig and flea [skin] it, and draw out all that clean which is in his bellye, and wash him clean, and perboyle him, season it with Cloves, mace, nutmegs, pepper & salt, and so lay him in the paste with good store of Butter, then set it in the Oven till it be baked inough.
[A book of cookrye Very necessary for all such as delight therin.1591]

Tomorrow’s Story …

The virtues of coffee.

Quotation for the Day …

Pork - no animal is more used for nourishment and none more indispensable in the kitchen; employed either fresh or salt, all is useful, even to its bristles and its blood; it is the superfluous riches of the farmer, and helps to pay the rent of the cottager. Alexis Soyer 1851.


Anonymous said...

Oh I do hope this despicable scraping person is well and truly knee-capped. May your enthusiasm for your wonderful site endure!

Arwen said...

Oh dear! Good luck with the kneecapping - I'm waving a pair of virtual nutcrackers for you from here.

Anonymous said...

Hello again Old Foodie!
Sorry to go back on an older post but in regards to your bacon ponderings, you MUST try Boks Bacon from down here in Cygnet Tasmania. Dry cured, it makles aAll the difference. I apologise for sounding like an ad!
Oh & sorry to hear you are being plagerised.

Joanna said...

Really sorry to hear your theft problems ... another blogger who has had this sort of systematic theft is Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen which you can find at

She has had some success in tracking down the perpetrator and making him desist, and I suggest you email her to get some support. It is horrible to think of people working hard to build up content and traffic and then finding it is being stolen by ruthless people. And also her blog is a good read, if you don't already know it!

Good luck with the book - and please please keep on blogging!


Anonymous said...


I visited the son-of-a-bachelor's site -- and left an excoriating letter in the comment section. However, while the SOAB seems to automatically post your material (without even reading it, apparently), he does screen the comments that are posted.

The best that can be said for him is that he has good taste in what he chooses to steal, and that he provides a link to your original site -- even if he does not acknowledge the brazen theft of your work.

The Old Foodie said...

Thankyou to all of you (and those of you who emailed me) for your support. I will keep you informed.

gobbler - I wonder if they send that bacon up to Queensland? It sounds fabulous. I'd better check them out.

Gary - the guy is not actually linking - the apparent link simply leads to his archive of my posts.