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Re: Re: self-documenting cordials
Poster: Mark Schuldenfrei <schuldy@abel.MATH.HARVARD.EDU>
Greetings from Tibor.
I shouldna done it. It almost never pays to rip the scab off the "end of
period thread". It may suffice to say that, without too much harm, people
with differing opinions on the 1650/1600 time divide can play well together,
and it is hard to know which side of the line they draw themselves.
Given all that (and ignoring Corpora and stuff like that), maybe there is
something positive, useful and intelligent to say about all this. I'll try,
and if it appears that we risk going off the deep end, the Secretary will
disavow any knowledge of our actions. (:-)
I prefer not to argue the point of periodicity when it comes to Digby. My
personal considerations go as follows:
a. I prefer 1603 to 1600 because I can't find any reasonable way
to arbitrarily ignore the last three years of Queen Elizabeth's life and
any attendant contributions of her subjects.
The only reason I can think of for defending the "Date Simple" method of
ending period, is that there is no good way to end period... different
countries have different points of cultural change, and nearly every month
in history has a turning point event.
It is agreed that if Queen Elizabeth the First is important to your
recreations, that there is no real reason to clip your wings of the last
three years of her reign. For the Belgian, Italians, Swiss, etcetera,
people could care less. In fact, one of my favorite sources for fun cookery
projects is (I think) published in 1604... because it is all about
vegetables, and I am a vegetarian. (:-) (And because the author wrote it
toward the end of a long life, after living most of it in period.)
b. Digby recorded some 140 or so recipes for mead, wine, cordials,
etc.; however, he did not create them all from whole cloth. You simply
have to review the recipe names to see the truth of this.
That appears to be the case. But just because they are not original with
him does not imply that his recipes belong to antiquity.
In fact, some of his recipes are poisonous, and others would not have been
fermentable. I cannot believe, therefore, that he made all the recipes he
cited, and that makes his references into "antiquity" suspect.
c. Many of Digby's attributions are to the nobility of age whose
births and ages I cannot even begin to guess. I believe that some portion
of those nobles were his seniors. If that is true by so much as three
years or the recipes were themselves handed down, the recipe is period. I
simply haven't had the time to determine what portion of his recipes this
is true for--frankly, I don't know if it's possible to determine this one
way or the other.
Exactly. You don't know, and you cannot know. (I don't get the three years
part... the poor man was BORN three years into period, and his works were
published 3 GENERATIONS after period, as I define it.)
d. I personally do not believe that Digby completely reinvented
brewing for all of England before he died.
I would not have thought so, myself, until I read an article in the
AEthelmearc/East Kingdom Brewers Guild newsletter, by Morgaine ferch Cadwr,
on the life and times of Digby and his contributions to brewing. It appears
that, in fact, he DID make some rather startling changes.
He may not have re-invented brewing... but I'll get to this point in a
These assertions are admittedly excuses for why I continue to use and to
recommend the use of Digby as a source. But I believe them to be
reasonable. I believe there are period elements in his work; I simply
can't document them to satisfy the more rigorous historians.
I agree: Yeast, sugars, liquids produced alcohol all through period. Digby
merely refined things, quite a bit.
I'll give a few points, however, on why I think Digby is atypical of
"period" brewing. (Aside.... if you mean period as in "anything at all that
happened even once, the point will be yours. If you, however, have an
interest in brewing in the sense of "what happened with fermented beverages
over the course of our recorded period of interest", well, read on.)
Digby is one of the few sources to give measurable and repeatable
proportions in his beverages. This is something that is new, and
interesting about Digby, and in one sense could also be considered a
re-invention. If, as I suspect is possible, his proportions are fit to meet
his new bottles, then it is quite possible (and even likely) that they are
not the same period proportions that would inform other recipes... for
example his bottles probably have less strength, and less porosity than
hogsheads, and therefore would respond differently to the carbon dioxide the
yeast would produce.
Digby also introduced (as far as I know) the concept of fruit based cordials
(just about the only one I know about) as well as sweetened cordials. Until
his time, cordials were not for pleasure, but as a medium for carrying
medicines and herbs into the body. This too, would be new.
His recipes introduce dozens of herbs that I do not believe appear elsewhere
in the corpus of recipes (cookery or brewing), and that's also a clear break
with the past.
>Information gleaned from Digby would not be terribly insightful into period
I also have to disagree when I compare Digby with Platt. Their works are
very consistent and I don't think anyone will argue that Platt is not period.
I believe there is far too much in Digby to have it discounted out-of-hand,
which seems to happen quite readily.
Hugh Platt was first published (as far as I can tell) within 4 years of the
end of period. I'll grant you Elizabeths last 3, if you'll grant me that
the last 4 years of period correspond to a different era.... (:-)
This message has gone on too long. Suffice it to say that the brewing and
cooking corpus had CLEARLY moved into a new cooking era by the middle of the
16th century, and that brewing and cookery sources from after that time show
significant differences from the earlier sources. (See Sarah Peterson's
"Acquired taste : the French origins of modern cooking")
In fact, I'll go further: Digby, Platt, and so forth are clearly the
antecedents of modern cookery and brewing, and are more closely connected to
them, than, say, Harleian. Although they extend in either direction.
All of this not to say "You shouldn't do that: you are wrong." I don't mean
that. I *do* mean that, if you want to educate people on the pros and cons
of various brewing choices, you need to extend your definitions beyond
Period and Not Period, and you need to explore the trends of brewing across
all of period.
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