Monday, July 23, 2018

Gen Con 2018 Schedule

August 2 - 5, 2018

Ack!  It's only a week until Gen Con and I haven't posted about it yet! Sorry. It's been kind of a busy summer.

I'm part of the Writer’s Symposium this year and they've got all sort of great panels and such scheduled. I'm especially excited that Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck are guests of honor (they write under the pseudonym of James S.A. Corey).

For my contribution to the fun, I'm doing the following:

SEM18142584 - Real Medieval Feasts  Curious what medieval feasts were really like? Come learn about medieval cuisine as well as common myths. 08/02/2018 (Thursday), 8:00 PM, Marriott : Atlanta 
SEM18142520 - Build Your Own Language  Fictional worlds often include languages to make their setting more believable. This seminar will help you create your own language, suitable for adding color to a game or novel. 08/03/2018 (Friday), 8:00 PM, Marriott : Atlanta 
SEM18142744 - From Rations to Feasts  What will people eat in the future? How will it be packaged? What should fantasy adventurers bring on their quest, and what will be served when they feast with the king? Elizabeth Bear, Bruce Cordell, Daniel Myers, and Aaron Rosenberg discuss. 08/04/2018 (Saturday), 1:00 PM, Marriott : Marriott Blrm 1 

The first two are listed as being sold out, but if you're interested and have the time free try anyway - there are usually some open seats. I promise to keep you all entertained!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

La Maison Rustique - Turnips

From: L'agriculture et maison rustique, Charles Estienne (Rouen, 1658).

The Potherbs

(Chapter 32)


[Translator's Note: the heading specifies two different plant names: “Naveaux ou Navets”. Cotgrave’s 1611 French-English dictionary gives the following definitions.

Naveau: The navew gentle, French navew, long rape (a savorie root) / Naveau blanc de Jardin: the ordinarie rape, or turnep / Naveau rond: a Turnep.

Navet: The small Navew gentle, the least (and daintiest) kind of the French navew.]

Large and small turnips, called “nappi” in Latin, are two kinds of the same species, however different in flavor, color, and size. The roots are larger on the yellow turnips, and less pleasant tasting. The white turnips are smaller and much more savorous. Both of them are sown in the same fashion in well turned soil, worked, and rendered very soft so that they can lodge well before taking root, or in soil that you want to clear, or in that which has been newly plowed, or between millet and panic [a grain in the genus Panicum], and it is sown in finely powdered soil, for sowing more clearly, and no more than three years old, because after three years it produces cabbages. If the seeds are soaked or mulled in milk, must, or hydromel for two or three days before sowing they will be infinitely better.

If they come in to thickly, they must be cut away for transplanting elsewhere. They must be weeded and spaded, allowing the most beautiful and tall to go to seed, and sow them in August. To sow them one must wait until the soil has been newly watered with rain, because they grow better that way. Above all they must not be sown in shady ground, for the shadows are completely contrary to them, and again the soil must be good and fertile. They are harvested in November, and keep through winter in sands and cellars, for eating throughout winter and Lent. This brings me back to those of Maison and Vau Girard near Paris, who harvest and gather them each year for selling in Paris.

The turnip root is windy and engenders the wind in little children for its sweetness, so you must eat it with mustard. It is true that their seeds resist poison, which is why it is used in antidotes. It also causes worms to die when mixed with the juice of oranges or lemons. And draws out the venom of smallpox, and when shredded with a decoction of maidenhair fern or lentils, provokes urination if it is mixed with an equal quantity of flax seed and given to drink with wine. It induces vomiting of undigested stomach contents when taken with oxymel and warm water. The Egyptians make it into very good oil.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

La Maison Rustique - The Potherbs - Parsnips, Carrots, Skirrets

From: L'agriculture et maison rustique, Charles Estienne (Rouen, 1658).

The Potherbs

(Chapter 35)

Parsnips, Carrots, Skirrets

[Translator's Note: the heading specifies four different plants:  Panis, Pastenades, Carrotes, and Chervis. Cotgrave’s 1611 French-English dictionary gives the following definitions.

Panaiz: A certain root thats lesse, and ranker, then the ordinarie Parsenip, otherwise resembling it, and oft mistaken for it / Panaiz de Macedoine: the Macedonian Parsenip, whose juice is much esteemed of by heardsmen / Panaiz sauvage: Hercules Wound-wort, or All-heale, also the wild Carrot, Some also tearme so Cow Parsenip, meadow Parsenip, Madnep.

Pastenade: The Garden carrot, or a root like a Carrot (most commonly) of a bloud-red colour, and sometimes of a yellow, but that by Art, some Authers also call the Parsnip thus / Pastenade jaulne: the yellow garden Carrot / Pastenade rouge: the red, or blacke Carrot / Pastenade sauvage: The wild Carrot, called Birds-neast.

Carote: The Carrot (root, or hearbe) / Carote sauvage: Daucus, wild Carrot, birds neast.

Chervis: The root Skirret, or Skirwicke / Chervis grand: A Parsnip / Chervis sauvage: The wild Parsnip, or wild Skirret.

So effectively, this section is titled, “Parsnips (maybe wild carrots), Carrots (maybe parsnips), Carrots, and Skirrets (maybe parsnips).”]

Wild carrots, parsnips, carrots, and skirrets, are all planted in the same fashion in soil that is well turned, cleared of stones, weeded, cleared of all other pests and roots, fertilized, and strongly worked ahead of time, but they are not sown thick so they will grow large and thick. If they are sown they must be watered, and of the weather is dry, once a week as long as they are growing well. They are planted in Autumn, and at the renewal. Autumn is always the best to have at the time of Lent. If you want the roots to be beautiful, large, and thick, you must often cut away the leaves, and must pick them half a year after they are sown. In cutting away the leaves, keep them in sand, mainly in winter, because the frost will spoil them.

Carrots can be kept for a whole year or two in the ground, so much so that they are found by torrents of rain, old and new, which are good winter and in Lent, either fried or otherwise.

All have the virtue of encouraging urination, of calming the pain of colic, and of provoking menstruation in women. The pounded leaves used as a plaster, when put on the legs is very beneficial.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

La Maison Rustique - The Potherbs - Rocket and Tarragon

From: L'agriculture et maison rustique, Charles Estienne (Rouen, 1658).

The Potherbs

(Chapter 27)


Rocket and Tarragon

Rocket, an herb common in salads, is good to temper the coldness of lettuce. It can be sown and planted as much in winter as in summer, because it does not fear the cold, nor does it beg for airing or require much work. It likes to be frequently weeded and fertilized in sandy soil. Rocket should not be eaten alone because of the excessive heat it brings to those who use it so it should be given a companion such as lettuce when eaten in a salad, because one will temper the other. It is good nevertheless for urinating, applied in the form of a poultice to the penis. It is said that three leaves of rocket picked with the left hand, pounded with mead, and taken in drink are excellent for jaundice and hardening of the spleen. Rocket cooked and mixed with sugar cures the coughs of little children. Tarragon, which gardeners call “estrangon,” is made of flaxseed or in many places from the head of red onion, which is the strongest one can find, and planted in well fertilized earth, and after it has sprouted the height of a foot or so, it is necessary to take the end and replant it in the same soil, and water it often. Tarragon has the same virtues as rocket, and should not be eaten alone, but with similar lettuce and herbs.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

La Maison Rustique - The Potherbs - Shallots or Chives

From: L'agriculture et maison rustique, Charles Estienne (Rouen, 1658).

The Potherbs

(Chapter 25)


Shallots or Chives

Shallots or chives are similar to garlic in flavor and smell, but their stems and leaves resemble onions, except that several pods come out from their head which produce many small leaves and rounds. They are better to be planted than sown, for when sown nothing of great beauty is expected before the second year. They can be planted after the first day in November up until the month of February to have fruit by the next Spring, and plant them like garlic, but they must be harvested before the common violet blossoms, for if one wants to have flowers they will be found wretchedly diminishing. One can know when they will die if their leaves are seen to be withered below. To make them have large, fat heads, it will be necessary to put tiles all around the routes, as we have said of leeks.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

La Maison Rustique - The Potherbs - Strawberries

From: L'agriculture et maison rustique, Charles Estienne (Rouen, 1658).

The Potherbs

(Chapter 41)



Strawberries do not require much cultivation, provided they are planted in soil that isn’t fertilized; especially in shady places, because they take great delight in the shade of other plants, so we see them growing in the woods well sustained without any cultivation. True, they grow very well in full sun, provided they are watered once or twice a week, mainly when they start to blush, it is necessary to replant them after three years to make their fruit very beautiful, and weeded once every year at Advent with a weeding fork, and weed them by hand when leaves can be seen growing therein.

In the soil where they are transplanted, put well-rotted horse manure, or cow manure, each hosted by a board three feet long. Work this soil in dry weather, then let it rest, and in damp weather when it isn’t raining, plant them a half foot in all directions, with root at peg. 

It is necessary to mark an innocent, almost miraculous thing with strawberries, which while growing on the ground, and assiduously trampled by snakes, lizards, and other venomous beasts; they are never infected and do not acquire any venomous flavor, which is a sign that they have no affinity with venom.

Among the other commodities that they bring, the juice or wine expressed from strawberries is excellent to remove redness and small rash that comes to the face from heat of the liver, and the same to ease redness of the eyes; and erases marks and pocks of leprosy. Similarly, the decoction made from the roots and leaves of strawberry, made into wine, is singular for jaundice if you drink it sometime in the morning, and also for provoking the month for women, and this nonetheless stops yeast infections and the flux of dysentery, the same when used in the form of a gargle comforts the gums and teeth, and repels mucus in the head.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Mystery Fruit

Sometimes it's kind of embarrassing how my brain works.

A friend of mine (Hi Erica!) posted this picture to Facebook, and of course (embarrassment #1) I found it amusing and (embarrassment #2) I responded with a fruit-based pun.

But this is a 17th century painting of a fruit & vegetable seller, so my brain isn't going to let me ignore all the food in it. In short order I've got it open at the highest resolution the meme will allow and unlike a majority of guys my age, my eyes are quickly drawn to (embarrassment #3) this one particular fruit.

There's something about it that looks different from the nearby apples. In fact, it kind of looks like a frickin' tomato.

For those not so into medieval European cooking, here's the thing about tomatoes: they're a new-world food that wasn't available in Europe before around 1500, and weren't commonly eaten until the 1700s. John Gerard mentioned them in his 1597 herbal, but he thought they were poisonous. That means it's a bit unusual to see one depicted in a 17th century painting with a bunch of food.

The resolution of the meme is too low to tell for sure though, so I start looking for a better image. My Google-fu skills quickly reveal that the painting is Cookmaid with Still Life of Vegetables and Fruit, by Nathaniel Bacon (c. 1620-5). Google also politely provides me with a much better quality image.

I eagerly zoom in and here's what I see:


That's helpful, kind of, sort of, but ... huh.

I'm pretty sure it's not an apple. The shape is very tomato-like, as is the glossiness. The thing in the middle doesn't look right though. It looks more like the calyx (bottom belly-button like thing) of an apple than either the calyx (top leafy bit near the stem) or stigma (bottom little nubbins) of a tomato. Also if it were the top of the tomato I'd expect some discoloration or cracking around the shoulder.

Another friend (Hi Drake!) suggested it might be a persimmon, which would match the glossiness and shape but not really the color, and again the calyx isn't right. Persimmons have a calyx and stigma more like a tomato.

It's certainly not a medlar - it's not nearly obscene enough.

At the moment I'm still not sure. Maybe it's just an oddly-shaped, wet apple.

The (probably wrong) answer I find most appealing though is that it's a tomato, and that the artist chose to put it into a still-life that would normally be associated with fertility, fecundity, and a bit of eroticism, specifically to provide a touch of hidden peril.

La Maison Rustique - The Potherbs - Saffron

From: L'agriculture et maison rustique, Charles Estienne (Rouen, 1658).

The Potherbs

(Chapter 31)



As to saffron, as will be said below, it loves moderate soil, not strong, nor dunged, and at the same time well aerated, exposed to the sun, and well turned, and grows well where onions will have been planted. It loves water, fears the mouse and mole, and grows better planted from bulbs than seed. It is not sown, but its bulblets and remains similar to leeks or sea-onions, are planted in furrows in April or May, and let it be first planted, to kill the onions heaped up in the area in eight days in the shade of the Sun, in some place which is not damp, and plant them with the root in well-fired earth, and about half a hand from each other, and three fingers deep, and it grows better in an open walkway. It blooms every year in the Autumn for a continuous month, and then wildly lets the blossom fall: bu tit keeps its leaves throughout winter all green until Spring when it begins to wither, and does not appear in any way in Spring; it can endure being planted for up to nine years, and if it is transplanted elsewhere it will still be able to benefit. True, it wears several spices and kernels, which should be culled from three in three years, otherwise the herb would be suffocated. No one plants it, and for the better, after mid-August until mid-September, and put at their root a quantity of grapes pulled from under the press, and leave them in the ground for two or three years, and each year, in April and May, bind the herb for drying, and tamp them down by foot around two fingers deep, without hurting the bulb. After thoroughly cleaning the herbs when the flower is dead, as in August and through Autumn, harvest them in the morning as the Sun rises, and keep them in a closed room, and dry. In addition, the good saffron can be known if it is very fat, if held in the hand it makes a crackling sound; if put into some liquor it dissolves; if held in the hand and carried to the face, it gives some bite to the eyes; if it is of a golden color; if it dyes the hands with this color, and if it has a scent that is somewhat acrid and poignant that is not very fragile. Saffron taken in very small quantities is good for weakness of the stomach, and failing of the heart, preserves the drinker, and protects from the bite of snakes and spiders. In large quantities, either by mouth or applied to the outside, stirs up torments and pains in the head, and brings a clouding to the eye.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

La Maison Rustique - The Potherbs - Marigold

From: L'agriculture et maison rustique, Charles Estienne (Rouen, 1658).

The Potherbs

(Chapter 17)



Marigolds do not need much cultivation, for they grown in the uncultivated fields, and in whatever soil one wants, and do not require to be sown every year because once sown will revive itself. They bloom in all months of the year, as much in summer as in winter, for which reason the Italians call it the flower of all months. In fact it is very difficult to recover land where they have been sown. If they are cultivated a little and often shorn they will carry more beautiful and fuller flowers, still more in autumn than in spring. The juice of marigold flowers taken when fasting has a great virtue to excite the menstrual flow of women. The perfume of these flowers collected by funnel to the bashful parts does the same, and brings out the back burden, and delivers the young girls of their color. The preserve of these flowers has the same virtue. The women of Italy use both to provoke the months, but for stopping them fry the juice and tender tops of the herbs, with yolks of eggs and eat them. The same juice mixed with very little wine or warm vinegar is excellent to appease extreme pain of the head and teeth if used in the form of a wash. Drinking this juice in the amount of one ounce with the weight of a crown of powdered, prepared earth greatly benefits those with jaundice. It is said that eating the leaves of marigold, makes for good vision. The water distilled from marigold leaves, instilled into the eyes, or cloth soaked in it and applied to them, cures the redness of the eyes. The powder of the dried leaves put into a tooth cavity cures the pain in that tooth. The juice of marigold flowers, drunk in the quantity of two ounces at the start of a pestilential fever protects from the plague, provided that the patient after drinking this juice, is immodestly clothed and sweats well-covered in bed. It also protects against jaundice and heart palpitations. The preserves of marigold flowers does the same. Drink with about three ounces of white wine, half an hour before the start of a fourth fever, diluting seven grains of marigold. Repeating this beverage several times in the morning is an excellent remedy for the fourth fever.