The Temperate Voluptuary

Cover Temperate Voluptuary by Jerred Metz

Platina’s De Honesta Voluptate is the first dated, printed cookbook (1475, Venice) contains the reasoning and lore, the myths and history of cooking. These are rendered from his Latin. Enter this facinaiong world of the humors, the tongue, and the gullet.

Selections

Cucumbers
First of all
I should explain the cucumber’s
nature and virtue,
which Pliny asserts
is superior to the melon.
Frankly — I confess my mistake —
the pleasure of talking about eating
melons completely carried me away.

I also always place cucumbers
above all other foods.

There are three kinds:

The large, dark variety acts as a laxative and because of its coolness is most
accommodating to the stomach
especially in the summer.
Ground up with wine,
its leaves are potent
in healing the wounds of dog bites.
Taken with mild wine its seeds
soothe the stomach.

The Citrinus generates cold and noxious humours,
which lead to autumn fevers
because it
stays in the stomach too long.

Ground up as a drink,
its seed quenches the thirst
of those suffering from fever.

The serpentine cucumber is the most harmful.
In these verses Columella explains it properties:

Dark and full the cucumber which is born
like a snake in tangled grass
always coiled lies on its curved belly.
Its poisonous sting transmits the diseases of unfavorable summer.

Eat the first two varieties
with rind and seeds removed,
cut up dressed with salt and oil and vinegar.
There are those who,
to take away the chill,
sprinkle them with spices.

The Tuscans,
who delight in fruits and vegetables,
eat the serpentine,
the rind removed,
sprinkled with salt.

Prince Tiberius so loved the cucumber
he studied it
in every fashion
and with every art
in order to eat
and enjoy
it in all seasons.

The plant is so delicate
the mere touch of it
by a woman
in her time
kills it,
such is the power
of that condition.

Fried Figs
Ground pine nuts
and almonds
raisins
and two chopped figs
a dab of flour
some parsley
rosewater.
Cook in oil.

Though they nourish
and make the blood lively
avoid fried figs
for they produce
lice.

Peaches
Because in Persia they grow to be poisonous
King Cyrus had the army
carry peaches to Egypt
so those he could not conquer
by arms would die anyway.
It would seem the peach was
made harmless in Egypt’s sun and climate;
this is the opinion put forth by Columella.
He adds however “So the story goes”
lest he seem to have believed all the falsehood
present throughout the legend.
But now since peaches are known to carry little risk
of death they offer heavenly juices
powerless to harm.
Ground peach leaves laid on the stomach
drive out worms or kill them.

Ground up with oil, the pit
cures headache.

Fennel
Snakes
fond of fennel
grow young again
by tasting it.

Their eyes,
dull from gazing
so long in dark holes
and caves,
grow sharp again
when they rub
and shake their heads
through fennel stalks.