Mushrooms – and the translation is up

This is the last from de diaetis

p. 471 of mushrooms

Mushrooms are cold and moist in the third degree, which bears witness to their moisture and softness. They are of two kinds, the deadly ones and those that are not deadly. (…) But those that would eat them and do not fear their harm should boil them and mix them with pears or calamint, then discard the first cooking water and season them with pepper, caraway, ginger, calamint, oregano and similar things. They are given to eat and at the end, old unmixed wine is drunk. (…),

Nobody in the medical community of the Middle Ages seems to have had a high opinion of mushrooms. Often enough – as here – there is not even an attempt to distinguish species. That does not mean there was no detailed culinary knowledge present, only that medical people did not appreciate it. At least here we have a hint of a recipe, albeit one more concerned with harm reduction than flavour.

The complete set of excerpts from de diaetis is now available for download. Tomorrow, I am beginning with a new source.

Isaac Iudaeus de diaetis universalibus et particularibus, originally written in Arabic in the late ninth or early tenth century, was translated and adapted by Constantinus Africanus in the late 11th century and circulated widely in Italy and beyond soon afterwards. While the original applies to a different context, it is still reasonable to use it as a guide to the advice that Siculo-Normans would have found useful. It is an open question how much the original was altered in translation – I cannot say since I read no Arabic. However, the extensive reference to eating pork suggests that some alterations took place.

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