Restocking & Redacting Night

It would seem that I have signed on to teach at least one class at the next three events I am attending.  I took a look at my samples and realized that I am out of nearly everything.  So after work I began the process of restocking and even redacting a few new recipes that my research has uncovered.  My mouthwash is currently steeping and my batch of tooth powder has been packaged (see previous posts for recipes).  I have also began a recipe for scented soap from Notandissimi de  l’arte Proformatoria,  1555.  Another new one is a recipe for chapped lips and hands from The Secrets of Don Alessio Piemontese, 1557.  

To Make Sweet Smelling Grease that will keep the lips and hands from Chapping and Make them Moist and Soft

Take 12 oz. of fresh suet and 6 oz. of majoram and pound them together.  Form into balls and sprinkle with good wine.  Next put into some vessel, and seal it tightly, so that the odor of the majoram does not escape.  Place it in the shade for 24 hours and them put them into water.  Cook slowly; then strain.  Take another nine ounces of majoram and grind up with the same suet, form into balls ; sprinkle them again with good wine.  Put them in another clean vessel and place in the shade for another 24 hours.  Then put into water again.  Repeat four or five times, always adding to them 9 oz. of majoram and sprinkling with good wine.  Finally you can add a little musk or civet to them.  And you will have an excellent thing for chapped and cracked hands and lips.

 

My local butcher shop gave me about seven pounds of suet and I grow majoram in my window containers, so this was a pretty good start.  The trick here is to remove the buds from the stems, you don’t want those in the mixture.  also, suet has a very low melting point, so watch the pan when cooking; low heat is best. The picture is what they look like on Day 2 of the process.Image

Advertisements

Results from a recipe for “Foul Smelling sweat”

Last week I put together a wine & bilberry concoction from the Trotula which promises to rid a woman of foul smelling sweat.  After some thinking I decided that this was possibly a period deodorant.  I made up a batch and applied it as directed for the course of one week.  I am happy to report that it not only worked very well on underarm odor, but it also kept me dry. 

My original hypothesis was that the wine’s acidity would work with the berries to kill the bacteria which live in our underarms, thus eliminating the odor.  I was wrong.  My first mistake was that white wine is less acidic than red.  After some additional research I have discovered that white wine is actually the more acidic of the two.  Even though the recipe makes no mention of the type of wine to use, I would recommend a white, non-dessert wine.   Secondly, the berries do another job which I was completely surprised by.  There seems to be a compound in the berries which decreases sweat production, therefore you stay dry.  On my first application, I noticed a slight tingling sensation and was very surprised that my underarms stayed dry on an 80 degree day.  I was even more surprised when I went to my physically demanding job and lifted crates, cartons, and boxes for a few hours while remaining completely dry and stink-free.

I do have one additional thing to note about this recipe.  The effectiveness of it decreases with the amount of body hair one has.  This is true with any deodorant/antiperspirant though.  Body hair increases the number of places for bacteria to hang out, so you are better off using this concoction clean shaven.  I see this as more support for the idea that woman in period actually used the multitude of depilatory recipes I have found.  We know that the ancient Egyptians and the Romans removed their body hair and the Trotula recommends removing any hair not on the head.  Portraits of the era show lots of women with little body hair, we’re just missing written evidence. 

I am still searching for a period depilatory recipe which I feel is safe to use.  Meanwhile, I am experimenting with Egyptian body sugaring and a tumeric based recipe from Indian folk medicine.  Further research must be done here, but in the meantime let’s just revel in the fact that people in the Middle Ages didn’t like smelly underarms and found a solution for them.

Deodorant?, from the Trotula, 12th century

There are some women who have sweat that stinks beyond measure.  For those we prepare a cloth dipped in wine in which there have been boiled leaves of bilberry, or the herb itself or the bilberries themselves.-

Before I begin this redaction, let me first note that bilberries are on the SCA RESTRICTED HERBS LIST, which means you must make it very clear that the herb is used  and should be used with caution.

I came back from Pennsic War very energized and encouraged to do more of my cosmetics experiments.  So the morning after I came back, I went through the Trotula and found about ten things I want to try.  I found I like the Trotula because it is pretty user friendly and I have had some very satisfactory results from it so far.  This is the first recipe of the ten I want to try.

At first glance, you may not be sure what sweat they are talking about.  Not all sweat has an odor and besides, sweating is often considered healthy in period, as it was thought that it purged the body of excess humours.  The segments on bathing in the Trotula and the writings of Maimondes would seem to indicate this.  After thinking about it I concluded that this might be a recipe for deodorant or even something to combat foot odor.

 

Why?  According to modern science, our underarms smell bad because of the microbes which live on the surface of our skin,  The microbes “eat” the sweat from our underarms and produce a waste product which has an unpleasant smell.  The same thing also happens to those with foot odor.  So basically, it’s not the sweat itself which stinks, but the byproduct of the microbes.

Whatever the cause, modern people, and apparently folks in the Middle Ages, found smelly armpits undesirable.  Yesterday I put about one ounce of dried bilberries from Croatia in a saucepan and put in enough white wine to cover them.  I did not use a good bottle of wine either.  I went to the store and got the cheap white wine in a paper container.  I have serious doubts that the average medieval housewife is going to use the good stuff for this, she is most likely going to use the stuff which is about to go bad.  This is good because what we want from the wine is its acidity.  White wine has an average acidity of about 2.5, with red wine having a bit more.  The acid is going to control the growth/activity of the armpit microbes (hopefully).  The bilberries might be there as a way to control free radicals (which they do a bang up job at), or possibly for their tannins.  I once saw a natural remedy on the Dr. Oz show for foot odor which used foods with high tannins (grapes, tea, etc.) as a way to significantly improve foot odor, so I think that may be the case here too.  Anyway, the result of a low simmer for twenty minutes is pictured below.  Today is my first day testing it, so I do not know if it could be a period deodorant or not.  My plan is to apply it with a cloth every day for a week and report my results next Sunday.

Concoction for “Foul Smelling Sweat”

This is another one from the all mighty Trotula. It does not specify where one applies it, it just claims to be the cure for “Foul Smelling Sweat”.

Image

Astringent for the Face, from the Trotula, 12th century

For whitening of the face and clarifying it…take some lovage and cook it well and wash the face with it.–Trotula, On Women’s Adornments, 12th century.

 

I made up a batch of this for Pennsic War.  I found lovage at the farmer’s market and went home and made it in about thirty minutes.  I covered the lovage with just enough water to cover it and cooked it on medium heat about twenty minutes.  I decided on the time based upon what I know vegatable philosphy in period, which goes something like “cook it to mush”.  After it cooled a bit, I strained out the lovage and put it in a labeled,  travel size spray bottle.  I used it once or twice a day during my nine days at Pennsic, and found it did a decent job of controlling my shine and breakouts.  It was much gentler than other things I have used, but I think I still prefer my rosewater astringent.

A conditioner? from Marinello’s Gli Ornamenti Delle Donne, 1574

Normal
0

MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;}

Rimedi Capelli Lunghi, Molli, & Delicati Acqua

A conditioner from Marinello’s Gli Ornamenti Delle Donne, 1574

A redaction by Donna Heodez Sofonisba de Talento Minotto, CW

This is another work in progress.  Giovanni Marinello published this treatise as a reaction to the many very dangerous recipes for cosmetics which were circulating at the time.  Research seems to suggest he was a physician, or at least went to medical school and the aim of this book was to give women healthy alternitives to white lead powder and mercury based cosmetics.  So far I have not found an English translation of this book.  I was able to find a Latin/Italian text through inter-library loan.  Because I  like the intent of this book, I have decided to try and translate the entire manuscript into English myself.  I was able to get a free copy of this through Google Play and have begun the process as of yesterday.  This recipe translated in March, 2013 and is included below.

Rimedi Capelli Lunghi, Molli, & Delicati Acqua

(Recipe for Longer, Softer, Delicately Scented Hair)

Normal
0

MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;}

Original

Che prendiate scorze de salice, abenzo & abro ano, & roseseche, & in acqua flianosi tutta la notte del venerdi, il Sabvato di mattina ponete al fuuco il valo, elasciatelo, che conformi la terza parte dell auqua della quale sicuramente vi lavande, m aggrada di diruene uno paio di bellissime & dilettevoli motto.

 

Togliete una, o duelire di lardo vetchio, grasso, non rancido & quelso con alcuno cottello acuto anarm te minutamente radendo.  Oltre a cio il porrete cosiraso, nel mortaio, & tanto il pestarete.  Che diventi finile alla pasta, quindi il distillate con alcuno lambico 7 il liquore che n’uscird servate, per bagnarnie li capelli.  Liquali in brevissimo station di tempo sentirete lunghi, molli, & delicate in tanto che muna cosa vi sard piugrata ‘a favettarne con le attre, ma il bagno che la segue, etate.

My Amateur Translation

You take willow bark, wormwood, (lavender, & myrtle leaf?) and soak in rosewater throughout the night of Friday.  Place it on the fire on the Sunday morning and cook until reduced (by one third or until it is one third of the volume?). 

 

Take two pounds of lard or grease which is not rancid & with a sharp knife, add the shavings therein.  Grind to a paste with a mortar & pestle.  The mixture can be mixed with (wine?) and the liquor can be preserved & wetting the hair with it will have it feeling longer, softer, & delicately scented in much the same way as the recipe which follows.

 

Here’s my first try at the recipe.  I have about a dozen bottles floating around the SCA on a field test right now, but have not received any written results back as of yet.

First, i made a list of ingredients.  I used willow bark, rosewater, lavendar, & myrtle leaf.  I left out the wormwood because it is on the SCA PROHIBITED HERBS LIST.  On a Friday evening, I soaked about two tablespoons of each herb in about a cup of rosewater and left it alone until Sunday morning.  I strained off the herbs and saved the liquid.  Then I started it on a low simmer until It was reduced by a third.  While it was cooking, I added a fat.  I decided against useing lard or grease, opting for olive oil instead.  i also greatly reduced the amount.  I only used two tablespoons.  These changes were made as a way to adjust to modern sensibilities.  What i was aiming for is a recipe with a period feel that could be used in a modern world.  Women do not have super long hair which needs to be kept braided as they did in period, so i really felt that the extra grease was not necassary.    Once it was cooled I divided it up into labeled, travel size spray bottles and handed them out to volunteers after my class at Pennsic War.

I did save one to use on my 11-year-old’s hair.  She liked the smell and her hair felt much softer and shinier.  This was helpful in the summer because she tends to have very dry, chlorine damaged hair.  At her insistance, we measured it before and after use, and found that it did seem to speed up hair growth a tiny amount.  I think you would need to do some long-term testing before we can definetively say it increases hair growth.

Hopefully, I can have more results on this later.  If you took a sample, please send me the results back.

Almond Hand “cream” from, The English Housewife, 1615

Normal
0

MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;}

Almonds, blanched

Whole cloves

 

The text says to grind the almonds to oil.  Then you combine whole cloves with this in a large glass jar.  I advise you not add more than three cloves, because this can be a skin irritant for some folks  You are supposed to let this steep in the sun five or six days.  After six days, you should strain it and anoint your hands with it every night before bed for very smooth hands.

 

I am still working on perfecting this one.  I have not yet been able to “beat the almonds to oil” and so have resorted to using commercially produced almond oil instead.  However, I went on a research junkit yesterday and may have found a methods which works.  I’ll keep you posted.

Otherwise, this recipe seems to have a great reception.  I carried a sample of this around with me at Pennsic War this year, and offered it to anyone I came across.  The reaction I got was very positive.  Almond oil is a great non-clogging moisturizer with a light, pleasant scent.  The “cream” seems to last a long time, even through several handwashings.

Previous Older Entries