Tag Archives: Rubens

Hippocras

Hippocrates, engraving by Peter Paul Rubens, 1638. Image via Wikipedia.


In this blog, I’m looking drink rather than food, and like the drinks I’ve looked at before, this one is alcoholic. Early modern people drank rather a lot of alcohol, and it wasn’t just reserved for an evening tipple – beer, and especially ale, were regularly drunk throughout the day with meals, even breakfast. Water was generally too unsanitary to drink, and tea and coffee entered the national diet sometime around the mid-to-late 17th century, so for the majority of the early modern period were not widely consumed. By the 18th century tea and coffee were very popular indeed, but heavy drinking had certainly not gone away – just look at the gin crisis.

Anyway, early modern society had what you might call a complex relationship with alcohol, though I suppose the same could be said about many societies, including our own. Drunkenness was a problem much bemoaned by many 16th and 17th century writers, such as James Hart of Northampton who, in his treatise on health and morality Klinike, or the Diet of the Diseased (1633), wrote that “Drunkenness is an excessive and unseasonable powring downe of strong drinke” that was the cause of “mischiefs there insuing to the soule, body, and good”. On the other hand, alcoholic drinks were a key part of the everyday diet, they provided nourishment, and in some cases, they were used as medicine.

This is where hippocras comes in. Also spelled hypocras, ypocras, ipocras (and others I’m sure), this was an ancient drink, popular during medieval times as well, very popular at banquets and for medicinal purposes. Hippocras takes its name from the ancient physician Hippocrates, he of the Hippocratic oath fame, though only indirectly, it is in fact named after the hippocras sleeve. This was an invention of Hippocrates, essentially a bag used to purify water. Presumably this lends its name to hippocras as the drink is made by filtering spiced wine through one of these bags. The medicinal associations of the name, however, were quite fitting given the various uses of the drink. In one 1612 text, Child-birth by Jacques Guillemeau, hippocras is suggested to help “the weake and dainty women” during labour, or alternatively they can “be fed with yelkes of egges, cullis, a tost with wine and sugar”.

The end to a great feast would often involve “wafers and hippocras” being served together. This was either served after the banquet course or was part of it. Banquet courses themselves generally consisted of comfits, sugar-plums and other kinds of sweet foods. Robert May in The Accomplisht Cook (1660) suggests serving wafers and hippocras, along with other banquetting foods, at the end two of his suggested menus:

First set forth mustard and brawn, pottage, beef, mut|ton, stewed pheasant, swan, capon, pig, venison, bake, custard, leach, lombard, blanchmanger, and jelly; for standard venison roste kid, fawn and coney, bustard, stork, crane, peacock with his tail, hearn-shaw, bittern, woodcock, partridge, plover, rabbets, great birds, larks, dowcets, pampuff, white leach, amber-jelly, cream of almonds, curlew, brew, snite, quail, sparrow, martinet, pearch in jelly, petty-pervis, quince bak’t, leach, dewgard, fruter-sage, blandrells, or pippins with carawayes in comfits, wafers, and ipocras…

…and later in another menu…

…Fresh sturgeon, bream, pearch in jelly, a jole of salmon, sturgeon, welks, apples, and pears rosted with sugar can|dy, figs of molisk, raisins, dates capt with minced ginger, wafers, and ipocras.

Medicinal or not, hippocras was a popular drink – but did it taste good? I shall soon be finding out when I try making some! It does involve leaving the wine and spices to infuse for a while though, so I won’t be posting the results right away. I have a feeling this is going to be a good one though, my previous adventures in early modern drinks have been some of the nicest things I’ve cooked. Anyway, thanks for reading, come back for the recipe in a week or so!

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under History and background

Golden Apples: Part 1

Peter Paul Rubens, Judgement of Paris. C 1636. (image via wikipedia)

As I said in my last post, I’ve been working on a piece of of a chapter about about Thomas Dekker’s The Pleasant Comedy of Old Fortunatus – I will be posting something in my new blog later this week about it. Anyway, I’ve been looking at the use of food as a prop in the play, specifically golden apples.

Golden apples were a popular trope in art and literature during the early modern period. The apples from the tree of knowledge are sometimes depicted as golden, but a more common reference point is the apple of discord, from the Greek myth of the Judgement of Paris. Plucked from the garden of Hesperides by the goddess Eris, and engraved with the word “fairest”, the apple is rolled into a wedding party. On finding it, Aphrodite, Athena and Hera ask Paris to judge which of them the apple should belong to, who is the fairest. Paris chooses Aphrodite, and as a reward, she “gives” Helen of Troy to him, which results in the Trojan War. The apple of discord is often cited as the starting point of the war, Early Modern sources often place it as such. In one of his “Songs and Sonnets”, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey refers to it as:

The golden apple that the Troyan boy,

Gaue to Uenus the fayrest of the thre,

Which was the cause of all the wrack of Troy

Spenser also refers to the apple of discord in The Fairie Queene. The apple itself is once again positioned as the catalyst for the war:

 Here eke that famous golden Apple grew,

The which emongest the Gods false Ate threw:

For which th’Idaean Ladies disagreed,

Till partiall Paris dempt it Venus dew,

And had of her, fayre Helen for his meed,

That many noble Greekes and Troians made to bleed

Spenser demonstrates how Paris’ choice of beauty – Venus and “fayre Helen” herself – ahead of anything else is the reason for the war “That many noble Greekes and Troians made to bleed”. The golden apple, however, is the “famous” mythic object associated with the situation, this story imbues it with associations of danger, warmongering, the unwise choice of beauty and outward appearance over other qualities.

Dietary regimens and herbals of the period often seem concerned with the question of what kind of fruit the mythic golden apple actually is. John Maplet, in A Green Forest (1567), in a section on quinces, says “Many thinke this is the fruit which the Poets call golden Apple”.  Rembarte Dodoens in A Niewe Herball (1578) gives the name golden apples to tomatoes, or “Amorus Apples” as he also calls them. Tomatoes were a relatively new food at this time, and Dodoens seems cautious about recommending them:

The complexion, nature, and working of this plante, is not yet knowen, but by that I can gather of the taste, it should be colde of nature, especially the leaues, somwhat like vnto Mandrake, and therefore also it is dangerous to be vsed.

In Foure Bookes of Husbandry (1577), Conrad Herebach identifies oranges and other citrus fruits as “Golden apples”, stating that “the fruite is called in Latine Hipericum, and Aureum malum, the golden Apple, also the maryage Apple of Iupiter and Iuno: such of them as are yellow, and of a golden colour, they commonly call Oranges”.

For the second post, I’m going to be cooking something called “apple-moyse”, which is a dish made from apple pulp and other things, it’s golden in colour, and (fingers crossed) it does sound very tempting.

Leave a comment

Filed under History and background