Copyright © 2000 Robert G. Ferrell

Food of our Fathers

s It seems that every time I go into a bookstore I am immediately confronted by a barrage of books about herbs, exercise philosophies, and other more or less "natural" means of attaining good health. Since this seems to be where the money is, I present here for you the medieval equivalent, gleaned from several mid-to-late-fourteenth century medical manuscripts. Remember to keep thy tummy tucked.

ACORNS will interfere with menstruation. The next time you ladies have occasion to wonder whether or not knitting tiny socks is in your immediate future, first ask yourself, "Have I been nibbling on too many acorns recently?"

ASPARAGUS boosts sex drive, but is bad for the stomach lining. I suppose everything fun involves some sort of risk.

BARLEY SOUP generates flatulence. Not much of a recommendation, is it?

BEANS stimulate urination. That isn't all they stimulate, in my experience. You think maybe they got these last two mixed up?

BEETS will cure dandruff, but can cause the blood to ignite. Baldness is also a cure for dandruff, and is a damn sight less dangerous.

CHESTNUTS will occasionally inflate in your stomach or intestines, and can result in headaches. I suppose this is in addition to serious cramps from those inflated organs.

FENCING is bad for your chest. Well, only until you get good at parrying.

GRAPES purify the system, but cause thirst unless eaten in conjunction with sour pomegranates. If you haven't got any pomegranates handy, I guess you could drink some water or something, too.

LETTUCE relieves insomnia and slows down sperm production. Thank God rabbits like it.

MARJORAM purifies the blood. In case you suspect your blood to be contaminated with barley soup or pine cones.

OLIVE OIL puts the stomach to sleep. This might be a good thing to have around after you go on a chestnut-eating binge.

PARTRIDGES are bad for people doing heavy labor. Probably just getting them down from the pear trees is pretty heavy labor, in itself.

PASTA is good for the chest and throat, but bad for those with weak intestines. I wonder what happens when one has 'weak intestines?' Is that what they mean when they say, "He can't hold his liquor?" Does it run right on through? Am I finished?

PINE CONES stimulate the bladder, kidneys, and libido, but often contain newly hatched worms. Nothing stimulates my libido like young worms, I can tell you.

ROSES are good for inflamed brains, but can block the sense of smell and cause a feeling of heaviness. Wouldn't having a swollen brain sort of mess up your sense of smell anyway? What worries me about roses are the thorns.

RUE that is grown near a fig tree sharpens the eyesight and dissipates flatulence, although it can dampen the sex drive. So it's a choice between smelly lust and inoffensive apathy: Not tonight, dear, my intestines aren't swollen.

SAGE can lighten your hair color, but is good for paralysis. I think being blonde is a relatively small price to pay for mobility.

TERRESTRIAL HUNTING (as opposed to what? Extraterrestrial Hunting?) dries out the body. Especially if you do it in the desert and nude.

THERIAC is good against poisons, but if you use it after it is more than ten years old, it causes insomnia. Either change out the Theriac every ten years, or eat it with lettuce.

WATERMELONS AND CUCUMBERS will cool a fever and purify the urine (in case you've always yearned for pure urine), but they cause stomach aches and pains in the loins. That would depend on just what you do with them, methinks.

WHEAT will open abscesses. That could be embarrassing at dinner or on a date.

WHEAT SOUP irritates the respiratory passages. Personally, I make it a practice to avoid exposing my respiratory passages to soup or anything else I'm not planning on trying to breathe, but maybe I'm just a nervous nellie.

Oh, I forgot to mention that TURNIPS will block your pores. If you can find some small enough.

I have to go now. Too many pine cones.