13 February 2013

For The Lovers

I have recently decided to start collecting cookbooks. Why? Because cookbooks give us a window in the households of old. Recipe books were maintained by the midwives of colonial America. They called them "physick books" or "poppits". Such books were held up as evidence in the Salem witch trials. Some recipe books were treated like the family bible, handed down generation after generation, marked with the writings of each woman as they modified or added ingredients to their own tastes.

Written by Pilaff Bey
To me, cookbooks give me a chance to view the past in a language in which I am perfectly fluent. I have decided that only cookbooks printed prior to 1960 should be worthy of collection, being at least 50 years old. And while I was at the local thrift shop on Monday, I stumbled upon an excellent addition, not to mention a seasonally appropriate one. May I present Venus in the Kitchen, or Love's Cookery Book, a collection of aphrodisiacal dishes by Pilaff Bey. Originally gathered for the amusement and benefit of her friends in the 1920s and 30s, Bey eventually published them in a small printing in 1952. Bloomsbury tagged Norman Douglas to edit, and Graham Greene to introduce the whole mess, probably in the hope that it would bring respectability.

And it does, until you open the cover. For the faint of stomach, skip this list. For the brave, read on; the following is by no means a comprehensive list of recipes contained within, but enough that you get the point.
  • Athenian Eels
  • Skink (a reptile aphrodisiac)
  • Brain of Veal a la Mustafa
  • Curried Kidneys
  • Lambs' Ears with Sorrel
  • Pie of Bull's Testicles
  • Roti Sans Pareil (featuring the best use of fowl stuffed inside one another that I've ever seen; Turducken take note)
  • Vulvae Steriles (If testes, why not vulvae? Also from a cow)
  • Hysterical Water (With dried millipedes!)
See? I totally had to buy it. My favourite recipe of all, however, has been scanned in so that you may all try it out tomorrow night when you're craving something of an "aphrodisiacal nature":

The Latin roughly translates to "The leopard marrow drink is miraculous".

Should be easy to get all the ingredients at the local Safeway. Happy Valentines Day!


Laura Keller said...

My mother has an old cookbook that was her grandmother's. The first step for roast chicken is to go fetch a chicken and slit its throat. Between that and the "Pie of Bull's Testicles", I'll happily stay in the 21st century.

Michael Peterson said...

A very apt post for Valentine's Day. I'm not sure the Med Hat Safeway will have leopard's marrow. Maybe up where you city slicker hipsters live. :)
Kay has a cookbook of ancient Roman recipes that she bought when visiting Hadrian's Wall. The dormouse in pastry recipe looks very tasty.

Krista Johns said...

I just love reading through the old cookbooks, even if some of the recipes are a bit odd. They are so fascinating - there's a recipe in one of my great-grandmother's books that has two ingredients! How often do you find that now? Thanks for reading!

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