This post will be a little off-topic, but I couldn’t resist sharing when I’ve learned in the past day or so. It will contain a recipe, written by a physician, so it’s not entirely off-topic for a health and weight loss blog, but it is a stretch. And that’s because that physician was Nostradamus, and he published this recipe a few years ago, in 1555.
Let me go back a few steps. I’ve always been a huge fan of game shows – I’ve even been a contestant on two of them (head to my “Other TV” page for links to watch online). Yesterday, I was watching “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire,” and the contestant made it all the way to the million-dollar question, which is extraordinarily rare. The question was:
In addition to his career as an astrologer and “prophet,” Nostradamus published a 1555 treatise that included a section on what?
A) Training parrots to talk
B) Cheating at card games
C) Digging graves
D) Making jam and jellies
I had no idea. The contestant had no idea, but she had some knowledge about Nostradamus and when he lived, and after some thoughtful reasoning, she went for it and took a guess: C) Digging graves.
She was wrong. She went home with $25,000 instead of the million. And, as you may have already have gathered, the correct answer was D) Making jams and jellies.
Being the curious, nerdy sort, I immediately starting seeing what I could find about Nostradamus and his recipes. And what I found is fascinating.
I didn’t know much about Nostradamus, except that he was an old-timey astrologer and psychic who supposedly predicted events hundreds of years into the future. Growing up, I remember seeing his name in supermarket tabloid headlines, proclaiming that he predicted whatever natural disaster or war was making headlines.
Nostradamus lived in the 16th century, when the bubonic plague was sweeping through Europe. He first gained recognition as a physician who had tremendous success treating the plague, and even curing people in the earliest stages. His treatments, which were revolutionary at the time, are now common sense: practicing good hygiene, eating healthy, getting fresh air, removing the corpses of plague victims from village streets. His colleagues, for comparison’s sake, were proponents of practices including blood-letting and drinking mercury.
In the late 1540s, when Nostradamus was in his 40s, he experienced some sort of psychic awakening, and a few years later, turned his attention to writing almanacs that included predictions for the next year. His almanacs were very popular, and in 1555, Nostadamus started publishing books of prophecies. Among other things, he predicted the death of King Henri II of France with eerie accuracy (pierced through the eye during a jousting match), and became very admired by the elite throughout Europe.
Since his death in 1566, Nostradamus has been credited by some for predicting major world events, including Napoleon and Hitler’s rises to power, 9/11, the French Revolution, and the atomic bomb. Critics, meanwhile, point out that his prophecies are so vague and lacking in details like dates or places, that they are easy to interpret however one chooses.
I tend not to believe in prophecies, but it doesn’t matter, because this is really about his jam and jelly recipes. As the “Millionaire” question said, one of Nostradamus’s publications included a section on making these treats, and I found a recipe online for what he calls “Love Jam.”
What is Love Jam? It’s a powerful aphrodisiac. How powerful? Says Nostradamus: “If a man were to have a little of it in his mouth, and while having it in his mouth kissed a woman, or a woman him, and expelled it with his saliva, putting some of it in the other’s mouth, it would suddenly cause… a burning of her heart to perform the love-act.” HOT!
And it’s easy to make! (I’ve italicized my favorite ingredients)
“Take three mandrake apples and go and cull them as soon as you see the sun rising, and wrap them in verbena leaves and the root of the mullein herb, and leave them alone until the following morning. Then take the weight of six grains of magnetite from the point where it repels the iron… and pulverise it on the marble as finely as possible, sprinkling it a little with the juice of the mandrake apple…”
Next, “Take the blood of seven male sparrows, bled via the left wing; of ambergris the weight of 57 barley seeds; seven grains of musk; of the core of the best cinnamon that can be found the weight of 377 barley seeds; of cloves and fine lignum aloes the weight of three deniers [‘pence’]; of the arms of an octopus one eyelet from each, preserved and prepared in honey; of mace the weight of 21 grains; of sweet flag the weight of 500 grains; of the root of Lyris Illyrica or Sclavonia [‘Illyrian or Slavonian Lyre’] the weight of 700 grains; of the root of Apii Risus [‘Bee’s Laughter’] 31 grains; of Cretan wine double the weight of the whole; of the finest sugar the weight of 700 grains, which is just a little more than an ounce.”
Mix all this together and pulverise it thoroughly in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle. Then boil it on a fire till it becomes like syrup (“take care above all that it is not a willow fire”). Then strain. Store in a gold or silver vessel.
Consider this my Valentine’s Day present to you and your significant other, 5 months early! Better start collecting male sparrows now! You’re welcome.
That recipe came from a 2006 newspaper article, which contains lots more info on Nostradamus’s recipes, including ones for toothpaste, laxatives, and a cure for the plague. Read it here. Learn more about Nostradamus’s life here.
Quick update: I’m ready for the big Stair Climb Race tomorrow. Today is a much-needed rest day. Yesterday I spent 47 minutes on the ARC Trainer at the gym, where I was able to add 2 miles to my Cardio to Vegas totals and burned over 800 calories in the process. Since I finished that workout around noon, and today is a rest day, and I don’t start heading up the US Bank Tower stairwell until tomorrow afternoon, it’s more like a 48-hour rest period, and believe me, I’m fine with that! My next post will be a race recap, and I plan on taking a bunch of pictures. Wish me luck heading up those 75 flights of stairs!
Keep it up, David!