Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How to Make a Halloween Cake, 1893

"The Ring Cake is always an object of interest at Halloween parties. The cake itself is made like the ordinary kind, but before it is baked a plain gold ring is hidden in the dough, not to be taken out until the cake is cut and it falls to the share of the fortunate person in whose slice it happens to be found. The ring is sometimes put in a flour-cake, which is simply flour packed into a cake-mould so firmly that when it is turned out it retains the shape of the mould and can be sliced off with a knife. Each member of the party cuts her or his own section of flour, and whoever secures the ring, it is confidently stated, will be the first of the group to marry." 
Lina Beard and Adelia B. Beard, How to Amuse Yourself and Others (1893)
Know what your Halloween parties have been missing? A brick of compressed flour with a choking hazard hidden inside!

Friday, October 25, 2013

How to Compliment a Lady, 1663

Amorous compliments endorsed by John Gough, The Academy of Complements (1663):
"Her Dove-like eyes."
"Liquorous rolling eyes."
"Her cheeks shine like sparkling stones."
"Her Cheeks are like Punick Apples."
"Her Cheeks are spread with Spices and Flowers."
"Her breasts are the soft Pillows of love."
"Her breasts are soft and tender as the Pelican's."
"Her Thighes are fit subjects for the pleasant Songs of youthfull Poets to acquaint the world with."
"Her legs as stately and firm as marble pillars."
Looking to stand out among the crowds of suitors? Try the pelican line at your next courtship event -- it really gives you the element of surprise.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

How to Dress for Cycling, 1896

"Modesty is becoming at all times, and especially upon a bicycle... A prominent physician advises women cyclists to wear woolen clothing, the head covering light, low shoes, leggings, and no corsets... The Alpine hat is considered the proper head-gear for women. Men should wear a short loose-fitting sack coat of some light woolen material, with knickerbockers to match, woolen stockings, cap, low shoes and a negligee shirt, or if the day is cold, a sweater." 
John Wesley Hanson, Etiquette and Bicycling for 1896 (1896)
Ladies, grab your Alpine hats! Men, don your negligee shirts! Your next cycling adventure is sure to be modest thanks to this physician-approved costume advice.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

How to Cure Smelly Feet, 1590

Eygentliche Beschreibung Aller Stäande auf Erden, 1568
"Whosoever have their feete smell strongly, if they put the scales of Iron in their shoes, wherein they use to goe, it takes cleane away the evill smell thereof."  
Thomas Lupton, A Thousand Notable Things (1590)
Is foot odor holding you back? No problem-- just fill your shoes with iron shards. The sacrifice in comfort is a small price to pay for the delightful lack of evil smell.

Friday, October 18, 2013

How to Light a Fire, 1628

"An easie way to procure Fire speedily. Take a round Glasse, and fill it with faire water, and set it against the Sun, so that it may stand fast: then take something that is very dry and hold it neere the Glasse (betweene the glasse and the Sun) and it will set the thing so holden on fire: which is very strange to behold, the rather, because Fire which is an hot and dry Element, is procured out of Water, which is a cold and moist Element."  
The Booke of Pretty Conceits (1628)
This is a great trick if you can get the angle just right. If not, though, you'll still end up with a nice glass of lukewarm water. Win!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How to Make a Pumpkin Pie, 1670

Still Life with Pies (17th c.) 
"To make a Pompion-Pie. Having your Paste ready in your Pan, put in your Pompion pared and cut in thin slices, then fill up your pie with sharp Apples, and a little Pepper, and a little salt, then close it, and bake it, then butter it, and serve it in hot to the Table." 
Hannah Woolley, The Queen-Like Closet, or Rich Cabinet (1670)
Paraphrase: prepare your pan, pare your pompion, put it in paste with pepper.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How to Cure Soreness, 1835

William Heath, c. 1828

"To remove great STIFFNESS OR SORENESS after a hard day's ride or hunt. On going to bed, order a pan with bright glowing coals, throw a handful of brown sugar over them, with or without a few juniper berries; have your bed well warmed and fumigated with this sweet-scented steam from the sugar, which, instead of allowing to escape, you should creep into, whilst yet quite warm. All the soreness will have left your bones by the next morning."

Charles de Berenger, Helps and Hints How to Protect Life and Property (1835)

Sore from a hard day of hunting? Just slow-cook yourself with some aromatics, and you'll be tender and luscious in the morning.

Friday, October 11, 2013

How to Make Pumpkin Ale, 1771

Vietz, Icones plantarum (1804)
"Let the Pompion be beaten in a Trough and pressed as Apples. The expressed Juice is to be boiled in a Copper a considerable Time and carefully skimmed that there may be no Remains of the fibrous Part of the Pulp. After that Intention is answered let the Liquor be hopped cooled fermented &c. as Malt Beer." 
American Philosophical Society papers (1771)
This fall, treat yourself to some pumpkin ale-- homebrew of 18th-century American philosophers.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

How to Fatten Up, 1660

Or just wear all your clothes at once.

"A Potion to make the Body fat. Take of the flour of Vetches, Beans, Barley, Rice, each alike parts, flour of Lentils, white Poppy, each half as much; flour of bread corn, Turky-millet, each alike quantity, Sugar twice as much, boyl them in a sufficient quantity of Sheeps milk, of which let him take one cup every morning fasting, sleeping upon it half an hour."

Johann Jacob Wecker, Arts Masterpiece (1660)

It's hard to find a multi-grain porridge that doubles as a plumping potion. This one will have you tipping the scales in no time!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How to Catch a Rat, 1768

"Remember likewise, that they are a very subtle vermin, for if they in the least suspect what you are about, you cannot catch them... set your great cage out of the way at some distance that the other Rats may not hear them squeak, for that will baulk your sport and occasion them to run away." 
Robert Smith, The Universal Directory for Taking Alive and Destroying Rats (1768)
Dealing with an infestation of subtle vermin? Robert Smith offers a "method hitherto unattempted," in which you lure the little beasts into what looks like an exciting rat funhouse. Some assembly required.

Monday, October 7, 2013

How to Negotiate, 1597

The Somerset House Conference, 1604
"It is better dealing with men in appetite then with those which are where they would be... In dealing with cunning persons, we must ever consider their endes to interpret their speeches, and it is good to say little to them, and that which they least looke for." 
Francis Bacon, "Of Negotiating" (1597) 
Some timely advice for Washington -- although "cunning" seems like too generous a term for Congress.

Friday, October 4, 2013

How to Make Ketchup, 1774

"To make catchup to keep twenty years. Take a gallon of strong stale beer, one pound of anchovies washed from the pickle, a pound of shalots, peeled, half an ounce of mace, half an ounce of cloves, a quarter of an ounce of whole pepper, three or four large races of ginger, two quarts of the large mushroom-flaps rubbed to pieces. Cover all this close, and let it simmer till it is half wasted, then strain it through a flannel-bag; let it stand till it is quite cold, then bottle it. You may carry it to the Indies."

Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery (1774)

Planning a twenty-year sea voyage to the Indies, but unsure which condiments to pack? This mushroomy ketchup will sustain and console you for decades. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

How to Stay Young, 1489

Portrait of Marsilio Ficino
Domenico Ghirlandaio, Zacariah in the Temple (1486-90)
"There is a common and ancient opinion that certain prophetic women who are popularly called ‘screech-owls’ suck the blood of infants as a means, insofar as they can, of growing young again. Why shouldn’t our old people... likewise suck the blood of a youth? — a youth, I say who is willing, healthy, happy and temperate, whose blood is of the best but perhaps too abundant. They will suck, therefore, like leeches, an ounce or two from a scarcely-opened vein of the left arm; they will immediately take an equal amount of sugar and wine; they will do this when hungry and thirsty and when the moon is waxing. If they have difficulty digesting raw blood, let it first be cooked together with sugar; or let it be mixed with sugar and moderately distilled over hot water and then drunk." 
Marsilio Ficino, De vita libri tres (1489)
One wonders how difficult it was to find a willing youth to serve as an ingredient for Ficino's rejuvenating recipes. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

How to Make Facial Toner, 1660

Johannes Vermeer, Portrait of a Young Woman

"Of Waters that adorn the Face... Take of the Decoction of a Chicken, Capon, or Hen, three pints, of the juice of Lemmons, one pint, White wine vineger, half a pint, Bean and Water-lilly-flowers, each three small handfuls; Camphure and whites of Eggs, each two drams; mix them and distil them with an Alembick."

Johann Jacob Wecker, Arts Master-Piece (1660)

Wondering what to do with that leftover chicken broth? Adorn your face with it! Obviously.