Recipes for Trick Lights

Busy day ahead, I only have time for these recipes from the Mondseer Kochbuch:

117 A courtly light for a prank (schimpff)

Take the herb that is called centanicca and take ants and hop flowers. Add oil to all of it and put it into a lamp (in ainen liehtstain oder in ain lampelen). That way, all who see it will seem as though their neck is long enough to reach the stars and the hewad touches the firmament. And if the light stands so that you can see the light of the stars, it will seem to people that the stars are running against each other, quarreling and fighting.

118 Again another light

Take a green lizard and take the fat out of it. Prepare a wick from it and light this at night. Be sure there is no light in the room except this one. Whoever looks at the light will think the walls are silver.

Recipes like these sometimes show up in culinary rewcipe collections. This kind of ‘natural magic’ was considered entertaining ansd useful knowledge. As to whether these would have any effect – I cannot say. Nor do I know what herb centanicca is. It might be cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) or centaury (Centaurium umbellatum), or indeed deliberately unidentifiable. I doubt that either recipe would have any appreciable effect, but I have not tried either and am not sure I want to.

The Mondseer Kochbuch is a recipe collection bound with a set of manuscript texts on grammar, dietetics, wine, and theology. There is a note inside that part of the book was completed in 1439 and, in a different place, that it was gifted to the abbot of the monastery at Mondsee (Austria). It is not certain whether the manuscript already included the recipes at that point, but it is likely. The entire codex was bound in leather in the second half of the fifteenth century, so at this point the recipe collection must have been part of it. The book was held at the monastery until it passed into the Vienna court library, now the national library of Austria, where it is now Cod 4995.

The collection shows clear parallels with the Buoch von guoter Spise. Many of its recipes are complex and call for expensive ingredients, and some give unusually precise quantities and measurements. It is edited in Doris Aichholzer’s “Wildu machen ayn guet essen…” Drei mittelhochdeutsche Kochbücher: Edition, Übersetzung, Quellenkommentar, Peter Lang, Berne et al. 1999

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