chained_bear has adopted , looked up 4811 words, created 269 lists, listed 25021 words, written 17715 comments, added 9795 tags, and loved 8 words.

Comments by chained_bear

  • Usage on nutmeg. Probably also on silphium.

    November 28, 2017

  • "The Romans lacked nutmeg and cloves, whereas the cooks and connoisseurs of the Middle Ages never knew silphium or fish paste, but the desire of the affluent for sharp, piquant food flavors remained constant."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 223.

    November 28, 2017

  • "It isn't as if one day spices were all the rage, and on the next day they suddenly fell from grace. As late as 1667, the tiny nutmeg island of Run in the Banda archipelago was exchanged by the British for the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam on the American continent, the future heart of New York City. Even though King Charles II of England thought his side had the advantage of this deal, he could not have known just how different the value of the two islands of Manhattan and Run would subsequently be. Not only did succeeding years unveil the economic might of New York, they also revealed the decreasing importance of nutmeg. The decline was gradual, but inexorable and finally quite extreme."

    Paul Freedman, <i>Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination</i> (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 222.

    November 28, 2017

  • "Tea in England is the classic example of a common commodity whose service, accoutrements, and rituals denoted status, even down to whether the milk and sugar were added to the tea (middle and upper class) or the tea was added to the milk and sugar (working class)."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 221.

    November 28, 2017

  • "Sugar was already versatile and important in late-medieval cuisine and medicine, but it was used in relatively small quantities because it was expensive. In Elizabethan England, average per capita sugar consumption was no more than a pound a year. It increased to four pounds a year in the seventeenth century, and by 1720 the average was at eight pounds. The present consumption of sugar in Britain is on the order of eighty pounds per year, and it is 126 pounds in the United States."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 219.


    "It was the 18th and 19th centuries that saw an incredible increase in sugar consumption as tea and sweets became affordable for the working class and fruit pies and tarts surpassed meat pies in popularity. Sugar was a leading source of nutrition for urban workers as well as omnipresent in middle-class rituals of gentility (English tea or German service of coffee and cake). One historian has even credited the entire English Industrial Revolution to the combination of cheap energy provided by sugar and the alertness afforded by the caffeine in the tea it accompanied." (p. 220)

    November 28, 2017

  • "The crucial role that nutmeg played in early colonial history is hard to reconcile with the dusty tin of spice most Americans take out of the rack at the end of the year to garnish their eggnog."

    John Seabrook, "Soldiers and Spice," originally published in the New Yorker, August 31, 2001

    November 28, 2017

  • Usage note on rarity

    November 28, 2017

  • "There were three possible kinds of rarity: intrinsic, circumstantial, and artificial. Intrinsic rarity would be something resembling the current status of Italian white truffles: nature just doesn't produce many of them and it has so far proved impossible to cultivate them. As with the truffles, there might not be very much spice in the world because it only grew in certain places under special conditions or climates.

    "Circumstantial rarity is natural in the sense that nature rather than human intervention limits the supply, but here the limitation is imposed not by climate, soil, or other intrinsic obstacles but rather by the difficulty of acquiring the product desired. Saffron today is extremely expensive, just as it was in the Middle Ages, not because it is a rare plant--in fact it can grow in many climates--but because the usable part is tedious to harvest and requires an immense amount of labor. Each flower has only three orange-red stigmas, so that seventy thousand flowers are needed to obtain a single pound of saffron.

    "A third kind of rarity is that imposed by human action, usually through deliberate restriction of the supply in order to increase the price. The product may then not be as rare as its price might lead one to believe. Diamonds, for example, are more common in the modern world than the prices they command would seem to indicate. When monopoly control by the De Beers Company of South Africa was effective, the price of diamonds was more than twice what it has become since the end of the cartel in the 1990s. Thus until recently a moderately rare product was monopolized and so rendered artificially even rarer."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 131-132.

    November 28, 2017

  • "The small kingdom of Navarre in the western Pyrenees on either side of the modern French-Spanish border provides an example of relative prices in a less cosmopolitan setting than London. The kings of Navarre were important princes with connections throughout northern Spain and southern France. Between 1408 and 1412, royal household accounts show that the price of pepper doubled from eight to sixteen sueldos carlines to the pound. A pound of ginger, somewhat more expensive than pepper, remained steady at an average of three and one-half times a carpenter's daily wages, while cloves rose from five to six times those wages."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 127-128.

    November 28, 2017

  • "The temptation to profit from adulteration was great. Saffron was especially vulnerable because of its extremely high price, which explains the corresponding value of even a small addition to its weight or diminution of its purity. Catalan regulations of the 15th century describe three ways of adulterating saffron: mixing in foreign but not readily visible ingredients such as (apparently) eggs, must, and lard; not cutting the stigmas of the flower closely so that some of what is called the 'style' (the stem) is included (this still goes on); and adding to the weight by moistening the saffron with olive oil."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 125.

    Another note can be found on rarity.

    November 28, 2017

  • "In Piers Plowman, the character 'Liar' decides to become a spice merchant. This is appropriate not only because he is said to know a lot about aromatic 'gums' but also because he knows how to extend them fraudulently. Mixing fake with authentic spices is enshrined in a small corner of American historical lore. Legend has it that sharp Connecticut traders perfected the manufacture of imitation wooden nutmegs that were added to real ones, the fakery covered by the cunning artifice of their making and the powerful aroma of the real nutmegs. The popularizer of this story was Thomas Chandler Halliburton (1796-1865), a Canadian judge from Nova Scotia, who wrote folkloric stories about Sam Slick, a Yankee peddler who sold nutmegs liberally laced with wooden fakes. The tale was so appealing that the state adopted the unusual sobriquet 'the Nutmeg State,' which says something about the admiration of business success over mere ethics."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 124.

    November 28, 2017

  • Great fun on garbling.

    November 28, 2017

  • "Spices required sorting and cleansing to get rid of impurities, a process called garbling. The guild of Pepperers of Sopers Lane, the spice street in the City of London, appointed garblers to inspect and certify purity before spices were weighed. Spices were sufficiently valuable so that even the inferior residue, what the Italian merchants called the garbellatura, was not simply discarded but sold as a cheaper, lower-quality version of an intrinsically precious product. Francesco Pegolotti's commercial handbook lists the spices that are normally garbled and compares the price of the invferior siftings with the pure aromatics. Thus mastic garbellatura is worth one-fifth the price of first-quality mastic. The ratio for pepper is one-third; for ginger one-half; for nutmeg one-third as long as there was no dust in the garbellatura."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 124.

    November 28, 2017

  • Used in a translated primary source ca. 900 in comment on perfumer.

    November 28, 2017

  • Interesting usage in a translated primary source from ca. 900 can be found in comment on perfumer.

    November 28, 2017

  • Interesting usage/historical note in comment on perfumer. Also see nard used on myrrh.

    November 28, 2017

  • Historical note can be found in comment on unguent.

    November 28, 2017

  • Seven years later, ptero, I just saw your comment and have duly added it to said list. Thanks.

    "A more detailed picture of what apothecaries and spicers actually sold to clients is available from an account book kept by the Barcelona merchant Francesc ses Canes for 1378 to 1381, the last years of his life. Among his best customers was the count of Empuries, who ordered, among other things, medicines for his pet lion, including sugared bread and rose oil. Francesc dealt in medicinal products and edible spices, but also in spiced wines, sauces (mostly involving pepper combined with other spices), scented waters, sealing wax, ink, and paper. He sold medicines in many forms: unguents, syrups, oils, washes, plasters, preserved in sugar (electuaries), and as clysters (suppositories or anal injections). Particularly conspicuous among the accounts of ses Canes are sugared luxuries, such as glazed or candied quince, anise, almonds, ginger, even small birds (larks, for example). These seem to have been ordered frequently by the count of Empuries when entertaining distinguished guests.... Francesc ses Canes sold more than two hundred different products and at least one hundred aromatics confected in diverse forms for various uses."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 120.

    November 28, 2017

  • Usage/historical note in comment on myrobolan.

    November 28, 2017

  • Usage/historical notes on aloe wood and myrobolan.

    November 28, 2017

  • Fun note on apothecary.

    November 28, 2017

  • Fun note on apothecary.

    November 28, 2017

  • Fun note on apothecary. And here's a nice primary-source thing:

    "Regulations for Perfumers in Constantinople, ca. 900


    Every perfumer shall have his own shop, and not invade another's. Members of the guilt are to keep watch on one another to prevent the sale of adulterated products. They are not to stock poor quality goods in their shops: a sweet smell and a bad smell do not go together. They are to sell pepper, spikenard, cinnamon, aloe wood, ambergris, musk, frankincense, myrrh, balsam, indigo, dyers' herbs, lapis lazuli, fustic, storax, and in short any article used for perfumery and dyeing. Their stalls shall be placed in a row between the Milestone and the revered icon of Christ that stands above the Bronze Arcade, so that the aroma may waft upward to the icon and at the same time fill the vestibule of the Royal Palace. 

    From <i>The Book of the Eparch</i>, translated in Andrew Dalby, <i>Flavours of Byzantium</i> (Totnes, 2003), p. 40."
    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 121.

    November 28, 2017

  • Fun note on apothecary.

    November 28, 2017

  • Fun note on apothecary.

    November 28, 2017

  • See notes on grossarii (thence cubebs) and grocer and spicer and unguent for more. 

    "The medieval spice merchant or apothecary seems to have handled several kinds of products whose relation to each other is not all that clear: edible spices, medicine, sweets (including medicinal preparations but also candied fruit, sugar-coated nuts and spices, nougats, confectionary of all kinds), cordials (spiced and fortified wines), wax (candles and sealing wax), paper, and ink. Such establishments might even sell pasta or gunpowder. From Constantinople the regulations for the guild of perfumers show the overlap between fragrance and dyestuffs. The members of the guild were instructed to have a standing supply of exotics that included edible spices, incense substances, and dye-coloring agents in addition to perfume ingredients."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 119. 

    November 28, 2017

  • Interesting historical note can be found on gingerbread.

    November 28, 2017

  • Historical notes can be found on gingerbread and theriac.

    November 28, 2017

  • "There is considerable information about spot prices in Alexandria and other ports and enough consistency in weights and units of currency to demonstrate considerable price variations. In 1355, for example, an Alexandrian sporta of pepper (about five hundred pounds) cost 163 gold dinars, a very high price for the period. Eleven years later pepper cost less than half that amount--between 75 and 86 dinars. It declined to a quite inexpensive 60 dinars per sporta in 1386, but in 1392 (for reasons we don't know) it was already 88 dinars in April and soared to 129 by August of that same year. It hovered between 60 and 100 for the remainder of the 1390s, but reached a breathtaking 200 dinars in 1412 before beginning a long decline."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 115.

    November 28, 2017

  • Usage note in comment on carica.

    November 28, 2017

  • Usage in comment on carica.

    November 28, 2017

  • Usage/historical note in comment on carica.

    November 28, 2017

  • Usage/historical note in comment on carica.

    November 28, 2017

  • Usage/historical note in comment on carica, and more on sporta.

    November 28, 2017

  • "According to the Zibaldone da Canal, pepper was sold in Alexandria by a unit of weight called a carica, equal to 715 'light pounds' of Venice, but ginger, sugar, and frankincense were sold by the canter forbore, equivalent to 142 light pounds. The gold dinars of Alexandria (known in Venice as bezants) bore a fluctuating relationship to silver dirhams, and to make matters more complex, there were periods when the Venetian coinage (gold ducats) was standard in Alexandrian transactions."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 114.

    November 28, 2017

  • "A Venetian mercantile handbook known as the Zibaldone da Canal includes tips on how to distinguish good-quality spices. Here the concern is not so much deliberate dishonesty as deterioration. Few of the aromatic products sold in the eastern Mediterranean could be described as fresh from the tree. Great emphasis was placed on the units being 'big,' which seems to have meant full and not shriveled or in bits. Cassia reeds (a laxative related to cinnamon) ought to feel 'whole, big and heavy,' and when shaken they should not make a sound. Gum arabic must be big, white, and bright. Ginger needs to appear long, firm, and big. It should be cut open to make sure it is white and not dark. Nutmegs are to be bought only when they are big and firm, and no more than one-fourth of a measure should be unripe. When the shell of a nutmeg is pierced with a needle, it should yield a small amount of water, 'and any other way is not worth anything.'"

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 114.

    November 28, 2017

  • As for the spice, and how it was packed for long-distance transport, a note can be found on fondaci. Another on how to determine freshness is on gum arabic. On its famed use in Nuremberg spiced Christmas cakes, see gingerbread. Another interesting note can be found on garbling. Value relative to other spices, sueldos carlines.

    November 28, 2017

  • "The fondaci in Alexandria were large buildings of two stories surrounding a courtyard. Each merchant community had a separate facility, the Catalans from Barcelona, Valencia, and Majorca; the Provencaux from Marseilles; the Venetians; and the Genoese. They were built with a single well-guarded entrance for protection in case of riots or other disturbances, but so were all important buildings holding valuable property, whether belonging to Muslims, Jews, or Christians. The ground floor was used for stables and for storing goods purchased and awaiting the arrival of ships to transport them to Europe. The upper stories served as places of lodging. Spices and other Eastern goods were piled in the storerooms in different kinds of containers depending on their value. Relatively inexpensive spices like pepper, ginger, and sugar were shipped in large sacks weighing a hundred pounds or so. Rarer spices were wholesaled by the pound and came in boxes of about fifty pounds wrapped with canvas (typically cinnamon), or in jars (cloves, which were more perishable and expensive). The volatile and extremely valuable perfumed substances (musk, ambergris) were packed in small metal boxes where they were kept once they had been purchased until ready for shipment."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 113.

    Another usage/origins note can be found on fondaco.

    November 28, 2017

  • Historical note re: origins can be found in comment on fonduq. More on fondaci (plural).

    November 28, 2017

  • "The great European commercial centers were able to negotiate treaties with Muslim ports that governed crucial issues of customs payments, safety, self-regulation, and resolution of disputes. Merchants from Mediterranean cities were afforded a degree of immunity, autonomy, and corporate identity. They and their goods resided in the fonduq (plural fanadiq, Italianized as fondaco), a commercial facility not so different from free-trade zones in modern ports or the kind of recognized foreigners' neighborhoods characteristic of all premodern ports. Venice itself and other European commercial centers had fondaci, such as that of the Germans, the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, which is still an identifiable place near the Rialto."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 112.

    November 28, 2017

  • "In the twelfth century a new legend of a powerful Christian ruler of the East established the picture of India as fantastically wealthy and enthusiastically Christian. In about 1165 a letter began to circulate in Europe purporting to be from Prester John, who styled himself 'Emperor of the Three Indias.' ... There had also been earlier accounts of this fabulous ruler. ... The actual monarch with the peculiar name or title of Prester John was first mentioned in the mid-twelfth century by Otto of Freising, a half-brother of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and author of a universal history. Here Prester John is a priest and ruler (Prester from the German Preister, 'priest') who has battled Muslim Persia and whose extraordinary wealth is symbolized by a scepter made of emerald. ... Most of his subordinate kings are pagan, and so his land is by no means uniformly Christian, but everyone is just and there is no lying, adultery, or theft. ... The letter expresses the desire of Western Christians for a great ally."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 101-102.

    Also...

    "The legend of Prester John was not completely groundless or fantastic. There really was a Christian African kingdom, in Ethiopia (also called Abyssinia), just as there was a substantial Christian population along the western coast of India. Ethiopia was one of the first places to have embraced Christianity (in the third and fourth centuries), but it had little or no connection with Western Europe for the first thousand years after its conversion, and it followed the Monophysite doctrine (that Christ has essentially one divine nature), which had been deemed heretical in the Catholic and Orthodox churches. Ethiopia sent occasional emissaries to Europe beginning in 1306, when a group of Ethiopians visited the papal court in Avignon. In 1400, King Henry IV of England wrote to Prester John as 'King of Abyssinia' in response to rumors that the African ruler was planning to recapture Jerusalem from the Muslims. Speculation in this vein, understandably, irritated the real Ethiopians. At Rome in the mid-fifteenth century, members of an Ethiopian delegation responded to inquiries about the legendary priest-king with the bewildered comment, 'We are from Ethiopia, our king is Zara Yaqob--why do you call him Prester John?'" (p. 197-198)

    November 28, 2017

  • "There were evil pagans such as the cannibals but there were also supposed to be Christians in India, co-religionists of the West who might be called upon to aid in the common effort against the Muslims. ... One source of this peculiar optimism was the body of legends surrounding the apostle Thomas, who was thought to have preached in India and made many converts there. He was supposedly buried in India--at Mylapore, south of Madras (now Chennai), according to some accounts--where many miracles were performed at his tomb. According to some Western authorities, the local king and population were Christian. In fact, there really was a significant if not immense Christian population in western India, on the Malabar Coast (the modern state of Kerala), where much of the spice trade was headquartered. The Christians of these regions still refer to themselves as St Thomas Christians, although it is more likely that their ancestors were converted by Syrian missionaries in the fourth and fifth centuries than in apostolic times."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 100

    November 28, 2017

  • Usage: Cynocephali.

    November 28, 2017

  • Usage on Cynocephali.

    November 28, 2017

  • Usage on Cynocephali.

    November 28, 2017

  • "The basis for the imagery of Eastern wonders in the Middle Ages was largely classical lore accumulated in the wake of Alexander's conquests. ... Especially prominent among the tales of wonders were the fantastic semi-human peoples thought to inhabit parts of India, nations categorized into what would later be referred to as the 'monstrous races.' The definitive codification of the monstrous races, one that would influence the European view of the far-off borders of the world into the seventeenth century, was the work of the Roman natural historian Pliny the Elder. In his 36-volume Natural History, among the 20,000 facts from a hundred authors he claimed to have collected, Pliny listed some forty peoples, some of them based on Greek precedents, some perhaps found in versions of Greek writings now lost, and some based on more recent speculation. According to Pliny, these humanoids are prolific in India and Ethiopia. In fact, 'Ethiopians' were among the races bequeathed to Pliny by his Greek predecessors, confusingly, as a black population in India. Other plausible or at least fully human groups among this catalogue were pygmies and cannibals. More fanciful were such peoples as the Cynocephali, with dogs' heads; Blemmyae, who have no heads but rather faces in their chests; 'Apple Smellers' (Astomi), who have heads but no mouths and who nourish themselves by the scent of apples; and Sciopods, who have one large leg that they hop around on and use to shade themselves from the tropical sun.

    "It is worth pausing a little on these peculiar aspects of medieval images of the East, because the monstrous races came to be intertwined with spices and the other valuable products of the East, to the degree that when Columbus was searching for the realms of these precious commodities he was encouraged by reports of dog-headed people and other well-established semi-humans. Where they were to be found, he believed, so were spices."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 99

    A lot can be said about the causes of the dehumanization of indigenous peoples based on this long-held Euro-centric bullshit.

    November 28, 2017

  • Usage/note on galangal.

    November 28, 2017

  • "In addition to emeralds, sapphires, and topazes, the river also carries an herb called assidios that wards off evil demons."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 95

    November 28, 2017

  • "The book of Genesis does not actually say much about the aromatic flora of paradise. The only spice mentioned is bdellium, a fragrant resin supposedly common to a land called Hevilath, which lies on the border of paradise (Genesis 2:12). Hevilath is said to be watered by the Phison and so is usually identified with India. From these few hints Christian writers endowed the Garden of Eden with a specifically aromatic as opposed to merely flowery atmosphere."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 91-92

    November 28, 2017

  • Usage/note on galbanum. Another, re: how to tell if it's fresh, on gum arabic.

    November 28, 2017

  • Usage/note on galbanum.

    November 28, 2017

  • Usage/note on walwort.

    November 28, 2017

  • Usage/note on walwort.

    November 28, 2017

  • "Spices appear throughout the Old Testament, especially in the descriptions of ceremonies. One of the Lord's commands to Moses in the book of Exodus was to build an altar covered with gold to burn incense (Exodus 30). The altar itself should be anointed with holy oil made 'after the art of the perfumer' with myrrh, cinnamon, calamus, and cassia in an olive-oil base. The incense powder to be burned on the altar is also described: 'And the Lord said to Moses: Take unto thee spices, stacte (probably storax), and onycha (the shell of a Red Sea molusk that emits a strong scent when burned), galbanum of sweet savor (the resin of an Asiatic plant, ferula galbanitula), and the clearest frankincense' (Exodus 30:34). Exodus further instructs that these aromatics too are to be 'compounded by the work of the perfumer' and 'most holy shall this incense be unto you,' so holy that it is forbidden to use it for personal pleasure on pain of death or banishment."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 78

    November 28, 2017

  • "Other drugs had several applications that don't necessarily have much to do with each other. Lapis lazuli, according to Circa instans, was effective at purging melancholia but also against quartan fever (malaria)."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 71

    November 28, 2017

  • "In the later stages of healing from the anal fistula operation, John calls for using a compound medicine known as blood of Venus. Garden-variety blood of Venus is based on an herb called alkanet (Alkana tinctoria), but there is a rarer mixture meant for nobles in which the active ingredient is blood taken from a virgin girl of nineteen when the moon is in Virgo and the sun in Pisces. Both work, but which one to choose depends on the social position of the patient."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 70-71

    November 28, 2017

  • "Once the fistula was laid open, there was the problem of stopping the flow of blood. The surgeon could employ the standard exotic styptics, such as dragon's blood (copy/paste this link for more: (wordnik.com/words/dragon's%20blood), Armenian bole (a kind of yellow compacted earth), or Arabian hepatic aloes. Or he might have recourse to more homey remedies: the herb walwort (Parietaria officinalis), burned chicken feathers, or powder made from a hare burned with old linen cloth. John tells surgeons to use more expensive and 'noble' medicines for the aristocracy, but he says explicitly that the domestic products will work equally well if not better. He credits walwort in particular with excellent healing powers. ..."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 70

    November 28, 2017

  • Usage/historical note in comment on dicalamentis.

    November 28, 2017

  • Usage/historical note on dicalamentis.

    November 28, 2017

  • Usage/historical note in comment on dicalamentis.

    November 28, 2017

  • Usage/historical note in comment on dicalamentis.

    November 28, 2017

  • "The abbot promises to send a medicine known as dicalamentis (a mixture of such common garden plants as parsley, catmint, lovage, celery, pennyroyal, wild thyme, and fennel) to combat the effects of winter. He also promises that this dicalamentis, 'although cheap, has the same effectiveness as diamargariton,' a more expensive compound of powdered pearls, cloves, cinnamon, galangal, aloes, nutmeg, ginger, ivory, and camphor."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 70

    November 28, 2017

  • "Intimidating 'medicines' of these sorts (see comment/note on theriac) have given the Middle Ages a bad reputation for perverse strangeness, but it is worth remembering that modern medical experiments have produced such things as Byetta, a recently approved drug for diabetes derived from gila monster venom; horseshoe crab blood (which detects bacteria that can infect implants, such as artificial heart valves); and cadaver skin (used in cosmetic treatments to fill in wrinkles). What is really different about the Middle Ages is that all of these spices, jewels, potions, and electuaries were luxury items as well as medicines."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 68

    November 28, 2017

  • Usage/historical note in comment on yera pigra abbatis.

    November 28, 2017

  • "A compound known as yera pigra abbatis combines aloes, lapis lazuli, and bitter apple (colocynth) and is good for stomach pains and melancholy."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 68

    November 28, 2017

  • "A potio muscata, musk and sea coral in a decoction of anise and dried figs, was effective against gas pains."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 68

    November 28, 2017

  • "The mortar, an emblem of sophisticated cooking in the Middle Ages because of its use in grinding spices, has remained the preeminent symbol of pharmacists, just as the word 'recipe' in most languages means both instructions for cooks and prescriptions for druggists, a reminder of the conceptual similarity fo the two professions."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 67

    November 28, 2017

  • see also mummy

    November 28, 2017

  • Usage/historical note in comment on myrobolan.

    November 28, 2017

  • "Both copies include two pictures of apothecary shops.... A few aromatic botanicals are displayed, such as mastic, myrrh, mace, and Indian dried plums called 'myrobolans,' but the illustrator, the great French illuminator Robinet Testard, has here emphasized remedies with more shape, color, and visual drama, things like coral, cuttlefish cartilage, green vitriol (ferrous sulfate), pearls, azurite, glass, and solidified lynx urine (pierre de lynx, thought to be related to amber). Mummy is depicted in its bulk or 'wholesale' form, an entire corpse reposing in its opened coffin."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 65. 

    See also aloe wood.

    November 28, 2017

  • "In a similar but more exhaustive investigative report in the aftermath of the Black Death, the medical faculty of the University of Paris recommended carrying around sweet-smelling ingredients in what were called 'ambergris apples' (pommes d'ambre, the origin of the English word 'pomander'). These were openwork metal balls that could be filled with various combinations of aromatics that varied according to recipe, availability, and budget. They were portable and so could accompany the bearer around the dangerous infested streets, an advantage over medical incense.

    "The University of Paris 'house blend' for pomanders calls for storax, myrrh, aloe wood, ambergris, mace, and sandalwood. Some pomander recipes involve dozens of ingredients producing a complex combination of aromas. As is often the case, however, the highest level of prestige (and presumed efficacy) was in the form of quiet and expensive simplicity. The king and queen of France, according to the Paris doctors, should carry lumps of pure ambergris in their pomanders."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008),64

    November 28, 2017

  • "The Arabs introduced new exotics unknown to the classical world, especially ambergris and other perfume-like ingredients. They developed new techniques of preparing medicines, including the use of sugar and the concoction of syrups, juleps (both words of Arabic derivation), comfits, and electuaries. Islamic science also advanced the cause of the humoral theories in what has been called a 'new Galenic revolution.' Some 300 medical texts were translated from Arabic into Latin in the course of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 63

    November 28, 2017

  • "On an even more sinister level, herbs were more versatile and effective than spices as poisons. Aconite (hellebore), hemlock, and digitalis were known to be poisonous, whereas spices did not have this danger (although arsenic, known in the medical manuals as realgar, could be listed as a spice in merchant handbooks)."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 62

    November 28, 2017

  • Usage/historical note in comment on adwiya.

    November 28, 2017

  • "One of the basic Arab spice mixtures, adwiya, is the plural for what in its singular form (dawa) means medicine."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 61

    November 28, 2017

  • SPAM

    November 28, 2017

  • SPAM

    November 28, 2017

  • "Spices were extravagant, yet good for you, a combination that no food now duplicates."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 60.

    "Increased availability does not inevitably lead to a fall from fashion. Yet spices ... certainly <i>did</i> become unfashionable before simply disappearing from most European cuisine. There must have been a change in taste, a shift in what was considered pleasant and appropriate in food. The love of spices was more than a passing fad, because it lasted for centuries, really from the Roman Empire to the end of the Renaissance, well over a thousand years. When we look at the Middle Ages the real mystery is not why spices were popular, but why later, after a millennium of continuous popularity, they dropped out of favor." (p. 221)

    "It isn't as if one day spices were all the rage, and on the next day they suddenly fell from grace. As late as 1667, the tiny nutmeg island of Run in the Banda archipelago was exchanged by the British for the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam on the American continent, the future heart of New York City. Even though King Charles II of England thought his side had the advantage of this deal, he could not have known just how different the value of the two islands of Manhattan and Run would subsequently be. Not only did succeeding years unveil the economic might of New York, they also revealed the decreasing importance of nutmeg. The decline was gradual, but inexorable and finally quite extreme." (p. 222)

    November 27, 2017

  • An unusual addition (at least for me), but its origins surprised me. More info can be found in comment on humoral diversity.

    November 27, 2017

  • "Within the category of spices, just as among meats and different sorts of fish, there was a certain humoral diversity. Mace and nutmeg were considered hot and dry in the second degree. Pepper was even hotter but similar in its degree of dryness. Ginger was also quite hot (in the third degree), but unusual among spices in that it was moist (in the second degree). Spices could themselves be tempered if they seemed to be too hot for the food they were seasoning. Vinegar, which was humorally cold, was especially useful to accompany spices in the summer. ...

    At times, however, theories yielded to popular preference, as in the persistent consumption of lampreys, or were dealt with by a kind of compromise. The habit of eating prosciutto with melon began in late-medieval and Renaissance Italy because the salty, humoral warmth of the ham would allay some of the danger posed by the cold, moist melon. Initially, however, salty cheeses, pickled herring, or caviar were recommended."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 56-57

    November 27, 2017

  • "Because spices were for the most part hot and dry, they were especially appropriate for beef, goose, crane, brains, tongue, and other humorally cold meats. These required vigorously spiced sauces like cameline to temper them, whereas chicken, considered nearer to humorally neutral, needed only the milder jance sauce. Jance is also the appropriate accompaniment for fried fish, but boiled fish (which retains an essentially moist and cold character) should really be accompanied by cameline or perhaps a green sauce. Eels, and lamprey especially, get special treatment."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 55-56

    November 27, 2017

  • "Lampreys were a distinctively upper-class food but regarded as extremely dangerous because of their cold and wet nature. King Henry I of England died in 1135 a week after eating lampreys in defiance of his doctor's orders, and this became well enough known to serve as a cautionary although ineffective story."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 51

    Another usage/historical note can be found in comment on jance and on humoral diversity.

    November 27, 2017

  • "... a popular sweet known as Manus Christi (the hand of Christ), a white confection made with sugar and ginger with a soft consistency, the length of a finger..."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 48

    November 27, 2017

  • "For a grand banquet he envisages buying cameline sauce and hippocras already made, but also plenty of sugar, saffron, two kinds of ginger, cloves mixed with grains of paradise, long pepper, and a half pound of cinnamon. ..."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 48

    Another usage/historical note can be found in comment on jance.

    November 27, 2017

  • "Throughout the Middle Ages, but especially toward their end and into the early modern era, attempts were made by governments to limit the ostentatious and wasteful display of wealth, especially on the part of those deemed newly rich and hence not entitled to such tokens of privilege by ancestry. Concern over ruinous competition played a part in such sumptuary legislation, but even more important was anxiety over the erosion of social boundaries and a desire to avoid the perceived moral decay arising from indiscriminate consumption of luxuries. Most of the regulations enacted by cities and states dealt with clothes: what sorts of jewelry could be worn (or, more to the point, not worn) by different classes, with fur trimming and silk also coming in for special attention. Consideration was also given to banquets and the dishes served at them, to prohibit the lower orders from inappropriately showing off culinary creations symbolically higher than their status permitted... English sumptuary regulations of 1517 allowed cardinals, for example, to serve nine dishes at a meal, while those with property providing an income between forty and five hundred pounds were limited to three. These rules expressed obsessive concern regarding poultry and how many of the different kinds of birds might be deployed in any one service. One crane, peacock, or swan was an absolute limit. In addition, cardinals might have six small luxury birds (partridges, woodcocks), but other lords had to content themselves with four. Secular nobles might be consoled, however, with up to eight quail and a dozen larks. ... One would expect to find more regulation of spice usage in sumptuary legislation, but it was not a major concern. Spices were an important fashion item and a form of conspicuous consumption, but it was easier to control jewelry, clothing, or for that matter, main courses than the purchase of spices, expensive though they were."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 45

    November 27, 2017

  • "Fruit was in a peculiar category of its own. Dried and sugared fruits were greatly admired, especially those preserved in sugar syrup or made into jams or pastes (resembling the modern Spanish flat quince-paste membrillo or the Middle Eastern 'apricot leather')."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 41

    November 27, 2017

  • usage/historical note in comment on vegetables.

    November 27, 2017

  • usage/historical note in comment on vegetables.

    November 27, 2017

  • usage/historical note in comment on vegetables.

    November 27, 2017

  • "Vegetables were the most consistent edible sign of rusticity, even more than dairy products or sausages. As with fruit, we can surmise that nobles and affluent townspeople actually ate more vegetables than the sources allow us to see, but there is no doubt that the upper-class diet was quite unbalanced in the direction of meat and protein. ... Among vegetables, strongly scented root crops like turnips, onions, and parsnips were regarded with particular contempt as characteristic of the diet of the rural poor. ... The degraded life of the peasantry is symbolized by many things, according to their betters: bedraggled clothing, coarse features, dirt--but also by what they eat."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 42.

    November 27, 2017

  • Re: cheese as the archetypal peasant food, see comment on dairy.

    November 27, 2017

  • "Dairy products were also regarded as peasant food. The elite idea of the rustic condition is shown by the chorus of a song written at the time of a great Flemish peasant insurrection (between 1323 and 1328), according to which peasants thrive on curdled milk, bread, and cheese. Anything better would render them incapable of work. In fact, however, as far back as the thirteenth century a few cheeses were acknowledged as stylish. Brie, Comte, and Roquefort had enough prestige that they were known outside their regions of origin, but only in fifteenth-century Italy do we find a discussion of cheese addressed to an audience of gourmets. In Pantaleone da Confienza's 'summa' on dairy products, cheese is for the first time a delicacy worthy of comment and discrimination."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 41.

    November 27, 2017

  • Interesting notes about the food considered suitable for peasants can be found in comments on sausage and dairy.

    November 27, 2017

  • "Another common food seldom found at the tables of the wealthy was sausage or any meat flavored and made less perishable by means of salting, drying, smoking, or pickling. Even if spices had been used to preserve meat (which they were not), the resulting products, today considered delicacies, would have been regarded as hopelessly rustic or at best middle class. Although a tremendous amount of attention is now given to various Iberian, Italian, and German hams like jamon jabugo, Bundnerfleisch, or prosciutto, these were originally designed to save meat over winter and so not favored by those with the resources to serve fresher meat during the normally hard months. Sausages were thought of as typical of prosperous urban nobodies (merchants and the like), or of affluent peasants. It seems that in every late-medieval or Renaissance woodcut depicting a peasant wedding (and there are many), the guests are gobbling up sausages while a dog is running off with a string of them snatched from a table."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 41.

    This last image is particularly interesting to me since it also appears in many silent/B&W films and in cartoons.

    Also more about peasant food in comment on dairy and vegetables.

    November 27, 2017

  • In the Middle Ages, "Contrary, once again, to common belief, great attention was given to washing before the meal, an activity that might take place before sitting down, using bowls set near the dining table for that purpose, or while seated using special containers with pouring spouts called aquamaniles, of which a number have survived, often in the form of real or mythological beasts or representing moral or comical observations."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 36.

    November 27, 2017

  • "In 1483, a Friday meal served in the Tower of London as part of the three-day coronation banquet for Richard III included salted lamprey, pike soup, plaice in Saracen sauce, sea crabs, fried gurnard, and baked conger eel, followed by a second course of grilled tench, bass in pastry, salmon in pastry, sliced sole, perch in pastry, shrimp, trout, roast porpoise, and gurnard again (this time baked with quinces). The spices accompanying this meal were pepper, ginger, cloves, 'grains' (of paradise), mace, and a considerable amount of sugar."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 35.

    November 27, 2017

  • "In addition to nefs, grand tables might be adorned with small fountains or probae used to detect poison. Gems, coral, or certain kinds of animal teeth or horns were supposed to change color or otherwise warn of poison, and they were formed into goblets or fancifully ornamented sculptures."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 32.

    November 27, 2017

  • "An illuminated manuscript picture made in 1378 depicts a banquet given some decades earlier by King Charles V of France in honor of the Holy Roman emperor Charles IV and his son (and successor) Wenceslaus. ... In front of them are elaborate gilt saltcellars and spice vessels fashioned in the form of ships. These nefs, as they were termed (that is, ships), would adorn the table throughout the meal, not only fulfilling the function of holding condiments but also serving as centerpieces."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 32.

    This would seem to belie Colquhoun's assertion (below) that nefs were "particularly British."

    See also comment on probae.

    November 27, 2017

  • "Even something that does have an Arab origin, the common medieval European dish known as mawmeny or mamonia, derived etymologically from the Arab ma'muniyya, took on a very different texture, color, and flavoring. What had been a white dish of boiled rice and sweetened chicken (sometimes perfumed with musk and camphor) became on the Christian side of the Mediterranean a cold puddinglike affair made with raisins ground up in almond milk and wine with a great variety of spices and sugar, to which ground-up chicken or mutton was added. The mawmeny could then be colored in every possible hue."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 27.

    Also mawmenee.

    November 27, 2017

  • "Each course in Bishop Chandler's banquet was concluded by a 'subtlety,' or sotelty, a theatrical representation of a sacred or historical figure, an animal, or often a historical event. The subtlety, known on the continent as an entremet formed a kind of intermission in the service of the banquet but could also be integrated in the meal, even at times serving as a surprise addition to the courses or at least a theoretically edible sculpture."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 30.

    "The most grandiose way to give food a golden look was to wrap gold foil around it--hence Master Chiquart's need for those eighteen pounds of gold leaf for the two-day banquet mentioned in his cookbook. Among his grand offerings is an entremet consisting of wild boar's head served with the boar's feet, the head having one side glazed with green sauce and the other covered with gold foil. This heraldic-looking dish was to be brought to the table breathing fire by means of a wick soaked in camphor and set alight." (p. 37)

    November 27, 2017

  • "The first course of frumenty, wheat porridge with scrambled eggs often served, as here, with venison, was a standard medieval item."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 30.

    November 27, 2017

  • "The Romans lacked certain spices that became popular in the medieval centuries, especially cloves and nutmeg, which at the time were cultivated only in the Molucca Islands in what is now Indonesia, but they had a fondness for a North African spice called silphium (which they managed to render extinct), and for asafetida and fish paste (now considered completely alien to European tastes)."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 26.


    Another use on nutmeg but good luck finding it amid the storm of quotations I put there. 

    November 27, 2017

  • "Perceval arrives at the Grail Castle and i served peppered venison followed by candied fruit, nutmeg, cloves, Alexandrian 'gingerbread,' and sugared medicines (electuaries) along with after-dinner cordials such as pliris, a concoction of musk and camphor."

    Paul Freedman, <i>Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination</i> (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 24.

    November 27, 2017

  • Somehow this word is now considered new? Its own version of misleading, I suppose. Seen on this link: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20171114-the-disturbing-art-of-lying-by-telling-the-truth

    November 27, 2017

  • Usage/explanation on gyve.

    October 9, 2017

  • "A fifteenth-century English cookbook gives a recipe for haddock in a sauce known as 'gyve,' which includes cloves, mace, pepper, and 'a grete dele' of cinnamon along with raisins, saffron, sandalwood, and ginger. The same collection also includes a recipe for Pork Tarts in which ground pork is combined with all sorts of spices ... along with eggs, cheese, figs, dates, and then baked in a covered pastry. ... the tarts might be covered with a mixture of saffron and almond milk before baking to give them a golden color (a process called 'endorring')."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 19.

    October 9, 2017

  • Usage/historical note in comment on ambergris.

    October 9, 2017

  • Usage/historical note on ambergris.

    October 9, 2017

  • Usage/historical note in comment on ambergris.

    October 9, 2017

  • "The border between fragrance and drugs was porous and ill-defined. Among the rarest and most expensive spices listed in herbals and merchants' handbooks are perfumed substances used primarily as medicines, things like balsam, an aromatic resin from a plant native to Arabia. Its sap was credited with marvelous healing properties but also with high spiritual powers. Balsam was called for in Christian rites involving anointment, such as baptism, the ordination of priests, and the consecration of bishops. Another Arabian resin, frankincense, was (and remains) the principal ingredient in the censing rituals of the Catholic and Orthodox churches. In keeping with the versatility characteristic of spices, frankincense was also used as a medicine, to scent houses, and to perfume banquets."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 14.

    Used in a translated primary source from ca. 900 on perfumer.

    October 9, 2017

  • Usage/historical note on opium, and you can see also dragon's blood but I think you have to type that phrase into the search bar rather than clicking on the link, which merely brings you to the word page for dragon.

    October 9, 2017

  • Usage/historical note on opium. Of all places. And walwort, and aloe wood.

    October 9, 2017

  • "There were other spices that were predominantly for medical purposes. ... Francesco Pegolotti cites among his spices two kinds of opium and a botanical known as dragon's blood (extracted from the plant genus Dracanea), a medicine and red dye." 

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 13.

    Note the hyperlink above for Dracanea will not bring you to the word's page (but this one will). Neither will dragon's blood, unfortunately, so you can get there through typing it in the search bar or clicking onto my Spice list and finding it there. :(

    October 9, 2017

  • "Then as now, sugar disguised the bitter taste of medicine, but it was also useful as a way of preserving the often volatile ingredients of drugs. Medicines were combined with sugar and by heating and cooling rendered into a variety of textures: gummy, hard, paste-like, soft, or chewy. These sugared preparations, known as 'electuaries,' are the origin of candy and many similar confections combining sugar and spice."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 13.

    October 9, 2017

  • A really gross (at least to me) usage/historical note on momie.

    October 9, 2017

  • Usage/historical note on momie.


    Also... "All of the standard cooking spices appear in <i>Circa instans</i>, and hte author discusses their humoral properties, how long they may be kept, and what they are good for. ... Culinary spices were of value in balancing diet and as medicines in themselves, but equally or more important as drugs were exotic imports used primarily for fragrance rather than flavoring. Their wonderful scent was thought to be a token of medical efficacy and to bring a kind of healing. ... certain of these aromatic products ((were)) considered spices by merchants and apothecaries: resins like frankincense, myrrh, mastic, and balsam, along with the four perfumed animal secretions: ambergris, civet, castoreum, and musk."

    Paul Freedman, <i>Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination</i> (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 63

    October 9, 2017

  • "Among the strangest of Francesco Pegolotti's spices is momie, also known as mumia and informally in English as mummy."

    You can see where this is going.

    "The fundamental drug handbook known from its first (Latin) words as Circa instans (dating from 1166) defines mummy as 'a kind of spice collected from the tombs of the dead' -- but not just any dead people, only those whose bodies have been specially embalmed. Mummy, which was thought to be effective in stopping bleeding, was an exudation from the head and spine of the corpse resulting from decay combined with the spices used in the preservation process."

    Here is where my stomach started to turn. Moving on...

    "Indeed, Pegolotti notes that mummy should have a foul odor and a pitchlike consistency, or else it's inferior."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 13-14.

    Later in the same book... "The boundaries between wellness and luxury were nonexistent. ... Even mummy had a certain consumer cachet. Shakespeare's Othello, a Moor and so familiar with the East, possessed a handkerchief (in fact the fatal handkerchief given to Desdemona) 'dy'd in mummy.'"

    (p. 69)

    October 9, 2017

  • "A commonly mentioned panacea was 'tutty,' charred scrapings from inside chimneys. According to Francesco Pegolotti, tutty was imported from Alexandria, so obviously a routine European chimney would not suffice. Tutty was considered a spice as it was nonperishable, imported, fragrant (after a fashion), sold in small quantities, and expensive."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 13.

    October 9, 2017

  • A really gross usage note can be found on momie.

    October 9, 2017

  • Not a spice, but on my list because it was considered one in the Middle Ages (as are a number of other non-spice items also on the list). See also comment on electuaries.

    "Beginning with the 18th century, sugar ceased to be considered a drug and changed from a mere food flavoring (what we understand as a spice) to an essential basic ingredient. At the same time, the end of medieval culinary practices meant that sweet dishes were separated from savory ones, so that the last course (dessert) came to be defined as sugary."


    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 13.

    A note about how sugar was packed for long-distance transport/trade can be found on fondaci.

    October 9, 2017

  • "Among the new and fashionable spices of the medieval period was what the French called 'grains of paradise],' known more prosaically as malagueta pepper. Like long pepper, this spice is not in fact related to black pepper. ... It was first mentioned in Europe in the 13th century, and the designation 'grains of paradise' seems to be an early example of a commercial marketing and branding campaign."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 12.

    October 9, 2017

  • Usage/historical note in comment on malagueta pepper.

    October 9, 2017

  • Usage/historical note on malagueta pepper.

    October 9, 2017

  • Usage/historical note on Francesco Pegolotti.

    October 9, 2017

  • "The longest such list appears in a commercial manual composed shortly before 1340 by Francesco Pegolotti, a Florentine banker who had experience in Cyprus, a great center for European imports of Eastern spices. Pegolotti's La pratica della mercatura itemizes 288 spices (speziere) amounting to 193 separate substances (many come in several forms: three kinds of ginger, two grades of cinnamon, and so on). For our purposes we can leave aside some of the so-called spices such as alum (used to fix dyes so that the colors won't run) or wax (eleven varieties). Pegolotti included these because he tended to consider any nonperishable imported good as a spice."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 11.

    October 9, 2017

  • "The best impression of what exactly the term 'spices' meant to medieval traders comes from handbooks of how to do business composed by experienced merchants. These compendia of weights and measures, proverbial wisdom, and market lore tend to include lists of spices and advice on how to assess their quality in wholesale transactions."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 10-11.

    See also Francesco Pegolotti.

    October 9, 2017

  • "Mastic, for example, an aromatic resin, is produced by a species of acacia that grows only on the Aegean island of Chios."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 10.


    "Of course not everything that is rare is necessarily valuable. Mastic, a resin derived from a plant in the acacia family, grows only in Chios (an Aegean island) and was highly valued and expensive in the Middle Ages. As earlier discussed, it was used in medicine, as both a fumigant and an oral drug, and to a lesser extent in cooking. So valuable was it that Columbus mentioned it in his first exultant letter to Ferdinand and Isabella along with such things as gold and silver, as precious commodities he was (wrongly) sure he had found. Unlike other important medieval aromatics, mastic has never been transplanted and it still grows only in Chios (and only in southern Chios at that), so its supply remains quite limited. Nevertheless, today it has only marginal value as a flavoring in some Greek and Turkish sweets and liqueurs. The price of mastic is merely a fraction of what was obtained in the Middle Ages when it was credited with great curative powers." (p. 132.)


    More usages/notes from this book can be found on aloe wood and myrobolan, and garbling.

    October 9, 2017

  • Usage notes/explanations can be found on, of course, saffron, and on crocus sativus.

    October 9, 2017

  • See comment on crocus sativus. And of course, saffron.

    October 9, 2017

  • "Saffron is an exception to the definition of spices as imported aromatic products, since it grew locally but was nevertheless viewed as exotic and was breathtakingly expensive. The dried stigmata of a variety of crocus (crocus sativus), saffron probably originated in the Middle East (Iran and Kashmir) are the leading growers of saffron now). In the Middle Ages saffron grew throughout the Mediterranean world and was particularly associated with Tuscany, where there were major markets in Pisa and San Gimignano. At the end of the period, the eastern part of Spain started to gain the reputation it continues to hold as the source of the best-quality saffron. Unlike almost all other medieval spices, the saffron crocus was easily adapted to different soils and climates. As the English place name Saffron Walden attests, even northern Europe could produce a crop. ... Saffron was used as it is now in flavoring various dishes, but also as incense, as a coloring agent, and, probably most importantly, for its medicinal applications."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 10.

    See also saffron.

    October 9, 2017

  • Usage on long pepper.

    October 9, 2017

  • Many historical notes/usage notes can be found on pepper.

    October 9, 2017

  • Just found this!! Great storage place!

    October 9, 2017

  • "Another spice often called for in medieval recipes is long pepper, which is not in fact related to black pepper. Its dried fruit is extremely pungent, black, and rather large, the size of dry catfood or kibble. Beyond East and South Asia it is now completely unknown, having dropped out of European cuisine by the eighteenth century. Zedoary, another aromatic root related to turmeric, has also vanished outside India, but it was mentioned in medieval European cookbooks and its aroma was thought sufficiently attractive for it to be included among the fragrant plants in the magical garden of love at the opening of the popular allegorical poem The Romance of the Rose."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 11-12.

    October 9, 2017

  • Usage/historical note on mandrake.

    October 9, 2017

  • Usage on mandrake. But so much more can be said... *sigh*...

    October 9, 2017

  • Usage/historical note can be found on mandrake.

    October 9, 2017

  • Usage/historical note on mandrake.

    October 9, 2017

  • Usage/historical note on mandrake.

    October 9, 2017

  • Usage/note on mandrake.

    October 9, 2017

  • "Herbs as well as spices impart flavor and aroma, but herbs were thought of as green and fresh even if they might be dried on occasion. Herbs like parsley, sorrel, or borage were used in both cooking and medicine. Many, such as mandrake, digitalis, or rue, were exclusively or primarily medicinal. Some were gathered in fields and woods, while others were cultivated, but they were above all familiar, literally part of the European landscape.

    "Spices, on the other hand, arrived in dried or semiprocessed form. Until the end of the thirteenth century, when Marco Polo visited India and other parts of southern Asia, Europeans were completely unfamiliar with pepper, nutmeg, or cloves in their botanical form or fresh state. Even ginger and its cousins like galangal and zedoary must have been considerably dried out after a journey that would have taken at least a year. ...

    "Because they were gathered or cultivated locally, herbs did not have great commercial value."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 8.

    October 9, 2017

  • Usage note on spices. Another on galangal, and perfumer.

    "A spice merchant in Perugia who died in 1431 left a relatively modest stock of goods that included edible spices, such as pepper and ginger, but also dragon's blood (copy/paste this link: wordnik.com/words/dragon's%20blood) aloe wood, mastic oil, and coral, which were primarily used as medicines (although dragon's blood was also used as a red dye, aloe wood was important in devising perfume, and mastic oil was probably used more for cosmetic than medical purposes). This merchant also dealt in 'myrobolans,' a type of small dried plum imported in several varieties from India and used as a laxative, to purge an excess of bile or phlegm, and to warm 'cold' stomachs."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 119. 

    October 9, 2017

  • Usage note on spices and another on perfumer. Also this:


    The most esteemed (and staggeringly expensive) medicinal perfumes were four animal products: ambergris (from sperm whales], castoreum (from certain kinds of beavers), musk (from a small Tibetan deer), and civet (from a kind of wild cat). ... Ambergris ... could be found washed up on Indian Ocean beaches (usually in East Africa because of the winds and tides). The connection with whales was dimly and inconsistently understood. Some Arab authorities ... asserted that ambergris came from a fountain at the bottom of the sea or that it was a kind of marine fungus. ... Pharmaceutical manuals, such as Circa instans and its French translation from the 1400s ... were more confident that it was produced by whales. Marco Polo informs his readers on the basis of his knowledge of the Indian Ocean that ambergris comes from whales. ... 

    "Ambergris tends to be gray and surprisingly lightweight in relation to its mass, resembling an aromatic version of pumice. It has a compelling smell that seems to combine perfume, the sea, and some primordial animal scent. It was often confused with amber, another lightweight substance often found on beaches. The word for 'amber' and 'ambergris' is the same in most languages, and our term 'ambergris' comes from the French for 'gray amber.'"

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 15-16.

    A note about its relative value and how it was packed for long-distance trade can be found on fondaci.

    October 9, 2017

  • "Spices in the Middle Ages were marks of status and success, but they occupy this position no longer, and have not for several centuries. Serving a highly spiced meal in Europe today might show cooking skills or a willingness to try out risky dishes, but the spices themselves confer no particular social distinction. ... Some of the magic of spices was the intrinsic appeal of fragrances and the pleasurable flavor sensations they offered. The desire for spices was additionally stimulated by external factors, by their rarity. Even if spices were readily available, for a price ... they were seen as rare because they came from far away and their origins were mysterious. Above all, they were expensive, ranging from merely costly (pepper) to the fabulously expensive (ambergris and aloe wood)."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 7-8.

    October 9, 2017

  • "However much moralists and advocates of simple and sensible living complain, the flaunting of fashionable and expensive goods is a constant social fact. What changes is the nature of such goods. What provides status and pleasure in one historical period may not carry over into the next. True, there are some enduring forms of prestige objects, such as fine clothing or jewelry, that mark class distinction even when specific fashions change: there has never been a time when rubies weren't precious. Most goods, however, rise and fall in perceived social value. ... Hot chocolate was all the rage in the eighteenth century and has left souvenirs of importance in fine porcelain collections, but elegance in the world of chocolate has moved to exclusive or artisanal candies, while the beverage is not mostly just for children."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 7.

    This last line makes me unutterably sad. I want to go drink some killer hot chocolate right now.

    October 9, 2017

  • "The attraction of the East as both exotic and sacred is apparent in a story told by Thomas of Cantimpre, a thirteenth-century encyclopedist who also wrote biographies of saintly contemporaries. He describes an unusually austere bishop who received a magnificent silver cup filled with nutmegs. The bishop sent back the silver goblet, but he made an exception to his rule of refusing gifts and accepted the nutmegs, saying that he did so because they were 'the fruit of the Orient.'"

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 5.

    A note on determining freshness can be found on gum arabic. A note on relative value and amounts of trade can be found on cloves and on garbling, while a weird historical note can be found on Connecticut, a/k/a "the Nutmeg State."

    October 9, 2017

  • "This simple explanation for the popularity of spices doesn't work--it had nothing to do with the perishability of meat. A truer account involves the prestige and versatility of spices, their social and religious overtones, and their mysterious yet attractive origins. Versatility is especially significant because ... spices were not used just for cooking. They were regarded as drugs and as disease preventatives in a society so often visited by ghastly epidemics. Spices were considered not only cures but healthful in promoting the body's equilibrium. ... they were not only medicinal but luxurious and beautiful. Spices soothed and cheered, creating a refined environment of taste and comfort."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 4-5.

    October 9, 2017

  • Another spice citation on drug.

    October 9, 2017

  • "The most popular explanation for the love of spices in the Middle Ages is that they were used to preserve meat from spoiling, or to cover up the taste of meat that had already gone off. This compelling but false idea constitutes something of an urban legend, a story so instinctively attractive that mere fact seems unable to wipe it out. Actually, spices don't do much to preserve meat compared with salting, smoking, pickling, or air curing. The bad taste of spoiled meat, in any event, won't be substantially allayed by spices, or anything else. ...

    Spices were very expensive, and meat was relatively cheap. ... an entire pig could be had for the price of a pound of the cheapest spice, pepper. ... Given the cost, trying to improve dubious meat with cloves or nutmeg would have been perverse, something like slicing Italian white truffles (currently upward of 800 dollars per pound) to liven up the taste of a fast-food cheeseburger."

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 3, 4.

    October 9, 2017

  • "The desire for spices, however, was already waning before European colonial expansion reached its zenith. By the 18th century, European food preferences had dramatically changed in favor of a richer but blander taste, and spices were no longer associated with healing or the sacred. The spice trade became unimportant.... In the summer of 2004, Hurricane Frances destroyed the nutmeg crop of Granada, the largest producer of this spice, yet the world financial system did not tremble. In fact, it took no notice whatsoever. A once great commodity is now a mere flavoring. Timothy Morton put it cogently in his book The Poetics of Spice: 'Yesterday's banquet ingredient becomes today's Dunkin' Donuts apple-cinnamon item.'"

    Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 2008), 3.

    Later same book:
    "The bulk of the world trade and consumption of spices took place considerably east of the Mediterranean. Europe was a peripheral player and India was the center of a trade that reached eastward to China for sales and to Indonesia and Indochina for supply, and westward toward Persia, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and Egypt for distribution to both the Islamic Middle East and ultimately Europe. The Indian subcontinent was, in the words of the economic historian Janet Abu-Lughod, 'on the way to everywhere,' not, as the European intellectuals imagined, at the edge of the world." (p. 105)

    "The direct trade with the West was largely in the hands of Arab entrepreneurs. ... European merchants did not have direct access to this trade except in unusual instances." (p. 106)

    October 9, 2017

  • "Black, the ultimate noncolor, has supplanted red as the color of power."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 259.

    October 6, 2017

  • "This passion for color did not surprise the African American scholar W. E. B. DuBois. 'All through the life of colored people and of their children the world makes repeated efforts to surround them with ugliness,' he wrote in 1924. 'Is it a wonder that they flame in their clothing? That they desire to fill their starved souls with overuse of silk and color?' It was true, he admitted, that they 'may fail in their object or overdo it ... but I do say that New England old maids dressed like formless frumps in dun and drab garments, have no right utterly to suppress and insult these children of the sun."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 252.

    See also comments on colorless, colored, snazzy, and Carmen.

    October 6, 2017

  • "In 1857, a French handbook connected red and race in even more explicit fashion, stating that 'women with jet-black hair and very dark skin should not wear red clothing (Oh shut your face. --Ed.), because this color darkens their complexions even more and makes them look like mulatresses." In succeeding decades, as factories churned out ever-increasing amounts of synthetic dye, the racialization of bright colors only gathered pace."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 251.

    See also comments on colorless, colored, snazzy, and Carmen.

    October 6, 2017

  • "One of the earliest works to specifically link bright clothing and race was Prosper Merimee's 1845 novella Carmen, which later became the basis for Georges Bizet's opera. Carmen's very name is nearly synonymous with the French word for the color that cochineal produces (carmine), and from the start it is clear that she is a Gypsy--which to most Europeans of the time meant that she belonged to a separate, darker, and lesser race. ('Their complexion is very swarthy,' Merimee explained in an afterword to the book. 'Hence the name of cale (blacks) which they so often call themselves. ... One can only compare their expression to that of a wild animal.') Wild, clever, and passionate, Carmen wears red--in scandalous fashion. ... Her mode of dress shocks Don Jose ... The short red skirt also made a tremendous impression on Merimee's readers, including Bizet, who insisted that the Carmen in his opera be clothed exactly as Merimee had described."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 251.

    See also comments on colorless, snazzycolored, and mulatress.

    October 6, 2017

  • "In North America, some of the most enthusiastic customers for the new colors were immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, who had started to arrive in the United States in huge numbers just as synthetic dyes became widely available. Many eagerly bought brightly dyed dresses and other clothing, often because it had been associated with high status in their homelands. This affinity, especially on the part of Jewish immigrants, did not escape notice from journalists, who sometimes criticized and sometimes rhapsodized about what, according to them, was a 'racial love' for color.

    "In both Europe and North America, vivid colors also became associated with people of African and Asian descent, and with indigenous peoples on many continents. It is possible that linguistics may in part account for this: In English, for example, the adjective colored had been a racial term for nonwhite people from the early 1600s, and the terms Red Indian and yellow race date back at least to the early 1800s. But despite the existence of these terms, it seems that Europeans associated bright colors--especially in clothing--far more with wealthy whites than with any other group until the mid-nineteenth-century. Only then, as cochineal and other bright dyes became ever cheaper, did vivid clothing, especially in red, acquire other racial connotations."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 250-251.

    See also colorless, Carmen, and snazzy.

    October 6, 2017

  • "If the working poor had a thirst for scarlet, so too did other people who had previously been barred, either by dictate or by cost, from wearing such brilliant colors. This was true not only in Europe and America, but in regions far beyond them, such as early-twentieth-century Turkistan, where government soldiers longed to replace their standard-issue blue trousers with brilliant red uniforms, which they associated with military glory. A young pretender to the throne, learning of their desire raided state storerooms for red cloth and fashioned it into snazzy red trousers. When he distributed the trousers to the troops, he won their loyalty then and there."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 250.

    See also colorless.

    October 6, 2017

  • "Significantly, the English word colorless, which had until then only been a synonym for pale, took on a new and less flattering meaning during this period: it became a derogatory adjective describing a person or object 'without distinctive character, vividness, or picturesqueness.'"

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 249.

    (Time period is the 1850s-1860s.)

    See also snazzycolored, and Carmen.

    October 6, 2017

  • "In the 1960s, when the craft of natural dyeing had almost vanished from Oaxaca, a few artisans like Isaac Vasquez, a Zapotec weaver from the small town of Teotitlan del Valle, sought to revive the old techniques. Coloring wool with cochineal, Tehuantepec indigo, and dyes derived from lichens, the acacia tree, and other natural sources, Vasquez became famous for his textiles...."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 246.

    October 6, 2017

  • "Sold free of bug parts, in liquid or powdered form, cochineal appears on European labels as additive E120, and elsewhere as cochineal extract, carmine, carminic acid, or simply as 'coloring added.'"

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 244.

    October 6, 2017

  • Note on salmonella.

    October 6, 2017

  • Note on salmonella.

    October 6, 2017

  • Note on salmonella.

    October 6, 2017

  • "By the late 1960s, however, Mexico had hopes of a much greater cochineal revival. Demand for the dyestuff was growing in North America and Europe, as a consequence of the wider vogue for natural foods. Even a New York City outbreak of salmonella that was eventually traced to contaminated cochineal from Peru did not dampen enthusiasm for the dyestuff, in part because synthetic dyes were increasingly being linked with a more dreaded disease: cancer. ...

    In the early 1970s, public fears reached fever pitch when Russian research indicated that one of these dyes--known as amaranth or Red No. 2 in the United States, and as E123 in Europe--was a carcinogen. ... The United States Food and Drug Administration banned its use in foods, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics in 1976."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 243.

    October 6, 2017

  • Historical/usage note on poison gas.

    October 6, 2017

  • "... the Allied nations were almost wholly dependent on Germany for dyes. When the war (WWI) began, their textile industries were thrown into crisis. Homegrown dyes were in short supply, and many proved streaky and unreliable--which did nothing for Allied morale. But worse was to come, for dominance in the dye trade also allowed Germany to make rapid progress in manufacturing poison gas. ...

    "After Ypres, the Allied armies made every effort to catch up with the Germans, and soon they, too, were producing and deploying poison gas on the battlefields of Europe. But Germany's prewar dominance in the dye industry gave it a head start in the production of the toxic compounds. Dye companies like Bayer, Hoechst, and Badische became the kaiser's war machines, churning out poison gas by the ton. They also produced another kind of war materiel closely related to chemicals used in the dye industry: explosives."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 239.

    October 6, 2017

  • Note on Lyons blue.

    October 6, 2017

  • Note on Lyons blue.

    October 6, 2017

  • "Envying Perkin's wild success, other chemists strove to imitate him. The colors they created--including Lyons blue, Britannia violet, and iodine green--all found enthusiastic buyers."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 227.

    October 6, 2017

  • "While most consumers quickly switched to textiles made with synthetic dyes, a small but faithful crowd continued to insist on fabrics made with old-fashioned dyestuffs like cochineal. For some, the preference was a matter of state dictate: in 1903, the government of Persia, wishing to safeguard the traditional craft and high quality of Persian carpets forbade the importation and use of chemical dyes."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 232.

    October 6, 2017

  • See note on eosine.

    October 6, 2017

  • See note on eosine.

    October 6, 2017

  • "After alizarin, a new red dye entered production every year or two. Eosine, roccelline, and other synthetic reds were followed in 1878 by Biebrich scarlet, a German dye that was a near-perfect cochineal match when applied to wool. As new red dyes continued to appear--each one seemingly better, richer, cheaper than the last--the bottom dropped out of the cochineal market."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 231.

    October 6, 2017

  • "Overproduction on such a grand scale had repercussions of its own. But it was only in the mid-1870s, when a new generation of synthetic reds reached the market, that cochineal producers were at last driven to the wall.

    "The first of these new red dyes was synthetic alizarin, an exact chemical replica of the active ingredient in the red dyestuff known as madder. The discovery, made simultaneously by Perkin and by chemists working for the German dye firm BASF in 1869, took a few years to reach the market, but when it did it took Europe by storm. Purer, brighter, and less costly than natural madder, synthetic alizarin was the first artificial red dye that was very light- and water-fast."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 230.


    See also note on eosine.

    October 6, 2017

  • "In 1859, French chemists created fuchsine, a crimson dye that some christened solferino or magenta, in celebration of the bloody defeat of the Austrian army by Garibaldi's republican forces in Italy."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 228.

    October 6, 2017

  • Usage notes can be found in comments on solferino and fuchsine.

    October 6, 2017

  • Usage on solferino.

    October 6, 2017

  • "Like mauve, the new color was worn by Empress Eugenie and became extremely popular; her solferino cashmere petticoat and matching 'Garibaldi' blouse were considered quite dashing. Perkin, too, created his own magenta dye, as well as a new color called vermillionette."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 228.


    Another note on fuchsine.

    October 6, 2017

  • Usage note in comment on Canary Islands.

    October 6, 2017

  • "The turning point came in 1853, when the fungus Uncinula necator destroyed the islands' grapevines. No longer able to produce wine, the islanders turned to cochineal as if to a lifeline. By 1855, annual cochineal exports from the Canaries reached one million pounds."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 216.

    Also, on p. 244:


    "Since the modern-day cochineal boom began, Mexico has seen a mild resurgence in cochineal production, but so far those hoping for a full-scale revival of the industry there have been disappointed. ... Today the Canary Islands, Bolivia, Chile, South Africa, and several other countries are all cochineal exporters. The chief beneficiary of the cochineal boom, however, is Peru."

    October 6, 2017

  • Note on biopirate.

    October 6, 2017

  • See biopirate.

    October 6, 2017

  • "What drove him to particular fury was the suggestion that he had 'stolen' his cochineal from Spain. Even though Thiery was indisputably what we today would call a biopirate (Would we? --Ed.), he maintained that he had behaved justly toward the people of Mexico. Far from stealing anything, he insisted, he had paid Oaxacan farmers very generously for every nopal and insect he had taken. When Spaniards and other enemies continued to call him a thief, he was outraged."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 181.

    Also, it would be hard to label Thiery with that tag if we aren't going to label, for example, Sir Joseph Banks with the same word.

    "Having heard that nopals and cochineal grew wild in Brazil, he instructed Commodore Arthur Phillip, the commander of Australia's first fleet, to stop there before continuing on to Botany Bay. (Banks was aware that wild cochineal and cultivated cochineal were not exactly the same insect, but he did not fully comprehend the extent of the difference.) In Rio de Janeiro, Phillip collected samples of the plant and the insect, which he ferried to Australia along with 'Eight Hundred convicts two Hundred of whom are women.'

    "The fate of Phillip's nopal and cochineal samples are a good illustration of the perils of imperial botany--perils that were not well understood at that time. Introduced into a new environment, exotic species can produce erratic and unpredictable results. Sometimes they perish altogether; sometimes they proliferate wildly. In the case of Banks's Australian experiment, the wild cochineal soon died off, but the nopals thrived, becoming the first of several related opuntia species that eventually overran nearly 100,000 square miles of eastern Australia, rendering the land useless for farming or grazing. Only in the 1920s, with the deliberate introduction of yet another exotic species, the South American moth Cactoblastis cactorum, whose larvae fed on the cactus, were the opuntias finally brought under control.* (The moth itself has since become a pest elsewhere....)

    *In South Africa, where introduced opuntias also became invasive, cochineal itself--a wild species called Dactylopius opuntiae--proved the most effective means of biological control."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 188.

    October 6, 2017

  • "Though intended as a cloak for his true purpose, these investigations nevertheless led to a fortuitous discovery. For years, Veracruzanos had been importing the roots of the jalap plant--a strong purgative related to the morning glory--at great expense from the city of Jalapa, over fifty miles distant. To the great relief of both their bowels and their purses, Thiery was able to show them that the plant grew locally. 'A discovery like this rendered me famous throughout the city,' Thiery wrote. 'I was looked upon as a most extraordinary character.'"

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 175.

    October 6, 2017

  • An interesting historical note about a bad translation involving the butterfly can be found on Dahua Yitz.

    October 6, 2017

  • Usage note re: Mixtec language can be found on Dahua Yitz.

    October 6, 2017

  • "There were, of course, many questions about cochineal biology... Chief among them was the subject of cochineal procreation.... Unfortunately, the only Oaxacan witness who addressed the issue was the corregidor, who reported that when (the cochineal) grow large, a small Butterfly passes and re-passes over them"; the corregidor added that the Indians believed this "butterfly" was responsible for cochineal conception. Both he and Ruusscher were somewhat skeptical of this theory. To them, it seemed natural that like should breed with like. How, then, could a butterfly breed with a cochineal?

    "The word butterfly, however, appears to have merely been a bad Spanish translation. A 1777 document states that the local Mixtec term for the same insect was Dahua Yitz which means 'flying husband.' Evidently, Indian growers were well acquainted with the truth: male cochineal was a flying insect, which traveled from cactus to cactus copulating with females."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 163.

    October 6, 2017

  • Previously unknown to me except as the name of the island in the Pacific. So here's a usage:

    "Upon receiving the letter, the region's highest Crown authority, Don Juan Bautista Fortuno, the corregidor, agreed to testify in the case."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 160.

    October 6, 2017

  • "Gambling is an activity as old as time, but rarely has it exercised such a hold on a culture as it did on Enlightenment Europe. ... In France, where Versailles itself was known as ce tripot (the gambling den), noblewomen hazarded millions at the card table each night."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 157.

    October 6, 2017

  • "In subsequent experiments, Newton noted that if the rainbow was then passed through a second prism, rotated through an angle of 180 degrees, it became pure 'white' light again. Newton concluded that 'white' light was nothing more than, as he put it, 'a heterogeneous mixture of differently refrangible rays.' That is to say, 'white' light was composed of all colors."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 152.

    October 6, 2017

  • "Not until the 1660s did Isaac Newton, the brilliant son of an illiterate Lincolnshire farmer, begin to work out the true relationship between light and color."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 151, see also following pages.

    What I'd like to know is, why do people question whether William Shakespeare's works were truly written by William Shakespeare, and not question whether Isaac Newton's works were really written by Isaac Newton? The argument that Shakespeare, given his upbringing and education, could not possibly have come up with anything so brilliant as his own plays, is so elitist and ignorant about human capability as to be maddening, while there's no such--at least not as widely publicized--questioning of how Isaac Newton could have been a genius given *his* upbringing. I actually stopped reading this book and sat there stewing on this for several minutes. Unfortunately I don't even want to perform the most cursory of searches, lest I find that some of my fellow humans really are the kind of creatures who would go looking for proof that a person can't rise above the circumstances of their birth and early years.

    Anyway. Newton and color! Here's more:

    "Having revolutionized the study of colored light, Newton turned his attention to colored objects. ... He hypothesized that the color of an object depended on the selective absorption and reflection of different parts of the spectrum; that is, an object that absorbed orange light but rejected blue light would appear blue to our eyes. This hypothesis was advanced for its time, but it was only partially correct, and Newton's physical explanation for why such differential absorption and reflection might occur was completely off base.

    "Not until the nineteenth century did scientist begin to grasp how a range of light effects--such as diffraction, interference, reflection, and dispersive refraction--might combine to create color in objects, and only in relatively modern times have scientists come to understand many of the complicated chemical and atomic factors behind such phenomena. A green leaf, for example, is green because it produces chlorophyll, the molecular structure of which absorbs incoming red and violet rays and reflects the green ones. Many green birds, however, have only yellow pigments in their feathers; we see them as green because the feathers' physical structure produces light effects called thin layer interference and scattering, which adds blue to the yellow."

    (Same book, p. 152)

    October 6, 2017

  • "Most microscopists, including Leeuwenhoek, preferred to examine a wide range of life-forms, but Jan Swammerdam devoted much of his life to studying a single class of animals, the insects. At the time, insects were a somewhat ill-defined zoological category, many of whose members were thought to be characterized by a predisposition to spontaneous generation; in the 1600s, the term insect encompassed not only flies, grasshoppers, and beetles but also many other creatures, including worms, slugs, frogs--and, for some scientists, crocodiles. A precise and careful microscopist, Swammerdam helped separate such myths and misconceptions from fact.

    "Swammerdam's precision is evident in his description of cochineal, which he wrote sometime before 1680. After careful examination, he compared cochineal to the larvae of bees; he also saw the vestiges of legs on their bodies. He did not, however, communicate these findings to the wider world. Haunted by depression, Swammerdam was ill at ease with most people; he was also a perfectionist. Rather than write them frequent letters about his results, he saved almost everything--including his observations about cochineal--for his magnum opus, Biblia naturae. Unfortunately, Swammerdam died of malaria before the book could be published. Subsequent lawsuits and other misadventures prevented the Biblia naturae from reaching the public for nearly sixty years, by which time many of its revelations were common knowledge among scientists."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 148-149.

    October 6, 2017

  • Interesting note in comment on microscope.

    October 6, 2017

  • See also a historical note in the comments for microscope. And if you dig this kind of thing, check out Jan Swammerdam too.

    October 6, 2017

  • "There can be no doubt, however, that Leeuwenhoek was a master when it came to the microscope. No one knows why he took an interest in the invention, but he may have begun by experimenting with the weak magnifying glasses that drapers commonly used to detect flaws in fabric. In a surprisingly short time Leeuwenhoek became an expert lens grinder and glass-blower. Although he built only single-lens microscopes, they were superior to all others of the period, including the compound ones that used several lenses to boost their viewing power. ... For clarity and power, it soon became evident that Leeuwenhoek's microscopes could not be equaled. One Leeuwenhoek lens, now held by the University of Utrecht Museum, was capable of portraying structures only 0.00075 millimeters thick--a feat not equaled until the 19th century.

    "Fearing that he would lose his tenuous place in the scientific world if he revealed his secrets, Leeuwenhoek refused to share his methods of magnification with anyone; to this day, we do not fully understand his techniques. His observations, however, were a different matter; he shared them with any number of friends and colleagues."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 145.


    See also another note on Antonie van Leeuwenhoek.

    October 6, 2017

  • Usage/historical note can be found in comment on scarlet. Another on alizarin.

    October 5, 2017

  • "The Kufflers went to great lengths to keep Drebbel's technique secret, but dyers everywhere were curious about how the bright scarlet cloth was made. Eventually, the most dedicated dyers figured out that tin was the key ingredient; indeed, a few dyers may have discovered how to make the new scarlet--either independently or through espionage--while Drebbel was still alive. By the 1660s, top dyers across Europe were using tin and cochineal in various formulations to produce the sought-after dye.

    Known as Bow-dye, Dutch scarlet, and Kuffler's color, Drebbel's dye took fashionable Europe by storm. ... the various recipes yielded a range of luminous scarlets, from a deep cherry red to an eye-popping neon color."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 140.

    See also Cornelis Drebbel and aqua regia.

    October 5, 2017

  • See Bow-dye.

    October 5, 2017

  • See Bow-dye.

    October 5, 2017

  • "Aqua regia is a dangerous chemical that must be treated with great caution; would Drebbel really have left it in so precarious a position by his window? Is it possible, instead, that Drebbel was deliberately experimenting with cochineal--as an alchemist?

    Tin and aqua regia were commonly used in alchemy. Moreover ... the philosopher's stone--which transmuted base metals into gold and bestowed immortal life, wisdom, and salvation on its maker--was actually a red powder or liquid. ... Consequently, alchemists like Drebbel were greatly interested in red dyes."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 139.

    More info on Cornelis Drebbel.

    October 5, 2017

  • "Born around 1572 in Alkmaar, North Holland, Cornelis Drebbel was a colorful character in more ways than one. An inventor, he built a 'perpetual-motion' machine that became the sensation of early-seventeenth-century Europe. Later he built the first submarine. To the great amazement of Londoners who crowded the riverbanks to watch, the leather-covered boat carried a dozen oarsmen and traveled under hte Thames for three hours; apparently Drebbel generated an oxygen supply for the crew by burning saltpeter--another first. The Dutch diplomat and amateur scientist Constantijn Huygens the Elder wrote admiringly of Drebbel's 'remarkable mechanical instruments.' To Robert Boyle, he was 'that deservedly famous Mechanician and Chymist,' to Baron von Leibniz, 'le fameux Drebbel.' ...

    True to form, Drebbel left no personal record of his experiments with cochineal, so no one knows exactly how he stumbled onto one of the dyestuff's unusual characteristics: its great affinity for tin."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 136 and 138.

    October 5, 2017

Comments for chained_bear

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  • Hello chained_bear!

    January 11, 2017

  • Greetings! I have a potential typo to report in your citation over on the Georg Elser page (it's in the last sentence).

    January 4, 2017

  • There's some discussion of drumming and weird old military stuff over on rigadoon. Who do I know that could answer questions about drumming and weird old military stuff? Think, ruzuzu, think....

    September 10, 2014

  • Thank you!

    *hands over thank-you fufluns*

    And I suppose I shouldn't stomp my foot and pout... but I miss seeing you here!

    Edit: Lord knows I'm still figuring things out, too. Sigh.

    April 11, 2014

  • Any chance you could be convinced to add brackets to "epileptic lagomorph driving" over on moro reflex? I have just the list for it.

    April 9, 2014

  • I'm muttering about confectio Damocritis again--I started a list about galen, which seems to be helping, but...

    you know....

    *mutters*

    March 20, 2014

  • Imigongo.

    October 15, 2013

  • *psst*

    tappen

    September 25, 2012

  • Oh! Iroquoisy! So I was looking up Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty, &c. There's a theory* that Moriarty was modeled after Simon Newcomb, the man "accused of a 'successful destruction'" of the career of Charles Peirce (author of many of my favorite Century Dictionary definitions).

    *http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professor_Moriarty (which also mentions Carl Gauss and Srinivasa Ramanujan)

    August 8, 2012

  • Insolent, self-centered, achingly intelligent bastardy. *sigh*

    August 8, 2012

  • Indeed, ruzuzu, I do. *sigh*

    Isn't Benedict Cumberbatch dreamy with his black hair and his insolent self-centered bastardy?

    August 8, 2012

  • So I was watching the first season of Sherlock last night when something caught my eye in the opening credits--a handwritten word flashed across the screen for just a moment, and I immediately read it as confectio. Although it didn't shock me to see it there, and although I was starting to be pleasantly surprised that someone else in the world shares the obsession with confectio Damocritis, I did decide it might be a good idea to rewind and pause until I could see it again. Alas, it was only the word connection.

    Somehow I thought you might understand.

    August 8, 2012

  • I found a cool Century definition for free-lance which answered a question you'd had over on freelance.

    May 27, 2012

  • Are you related to Gum E. Bear? (See Roy G. Biv.)

    March 14, 2012

  • I heart

    January 13, 2012

  • Turns out that as long as we heart each other we can

    January 13, 2012

  • And my niece! Happy Birthday to sionnach-sister as well. :-)

    May 15, 2011

  • Congratulations, c_b! This means your new cub shares a birthday with my sister.

    May 15, 2011

  • Oh! Yay! Congratulations!

    May 15, 2011

  • Congrats on the new cub! :-D

    May 15, 2011

  • Don't miss my word of the day for tomorrow.

    May 13, 2011

  • I just re-read the marathon of phony umbrage taking page and laughed my ass off.

    Thanks. I needed that. :-)

    April 25, 2011

  • Happy National Chocolate-Covered Cashews Day!

    April 22, 2011

  • You cannot escape the charge that you have previously engaged in the amazing pastime that is IDENTIFY THE WORDIE.

    You are therefore prime target material for inviting to IDENTIFY THE WORDIENIK.

    The whole of the bit of Wordnik that joins in on this would be truly honoured should you participate this time round.

    Easily find the right page right now because it is currently the most commented on list shown on the Community page.

    April 14, 2011

  • Umm...?

    April 6, 2011

  • you rained on me today

    April 6, 2011

  • Sure, it's expensive till you figure out pounds-per-square-inch. Those greedy bastards had no right! How the hell do they think my tiara looks with all that damn camo around?!

    April 6, 2011

  • Who knew bears had such expensive taste? (link)

    April 6, 2011

  • Across the site, in IE8.

    (I just tried Firefox and it doesn't do it there! Instead, every last blessed comment is in bold type. Grr.)

    March 10, 2011

  • Hi c-b!

    I can't replicate that right-click issue you reported. Are you seeing it just on the homepage, or across the site? And what kind of browser are you using? Does it happen for you with all browsers, or just one?

    March 10, 2011

  • HI c_b, sorry for the delay on the list paging bug--it's fixed now. Hope all's well.

    February 15, 2011

  • *sings* Happy Birrrthday to da Bearrrr....

    January 27, 2011

  • *sings* Confectio Damocritis to you....

    January 27, 2011

  • *sings* Thanks, frindley!

    January 27, 2011

  • *sings* Happy birthday to you!

    January 27, 2011

  • How old r u ?

    January 25, 2011

  • ♫ It's beginning to look a lot like ram schist. ♫

    December 5, 2010

  • poop-lantern

    That is all.

    September 16, 2010

  • Why is slalom your least favorite word?

    September 5, 2010

  • And I like your tags--they're helpful.

    September 5, 2010

  • Of course not!

    *puts away notebook full of observational notes, tucks camera into vest pocket, and hides book about recognizing specific excrement*

    September 5, 2010

  • P.S. I got rather a load of guff for those tags, by the way.

    September 5, 2010

  • Uhh... that's right...

    *suspicious*

    Are you stalking me?

    September 5, 2010

  • "Chained Bear has added 258 lists containing 23,840 words, 16,839 comments, 9,787 tags, 125 favorites, and 0 pronunciations."

    September 5, 2010

  • Hi c_b. There is a Google-powered 'search-most-of-wordnik' feature, which is kind of hidden right now, since we hope to improve upon it in the future. But at the bottom of every page, the far-right footer link is 'search'.

    I love that thing too!

    August 5, 2010

  • I love that thing. I like visiting my profile to see it. :)

    June 18, 2010

  • No chains! :-)

    June 15, 2010

  • June 8, 2010

  • Hi c_b, Tony just cleared up the glitch in our database that was causing trouble with war tourist. It necessitated removing it from your list, but you should be able to add it back now no problem.

    May 20, 2010