Welcome to the first ever post from Folklore, Food and Fairytales. I’m so excited to welcome you here. This way of sharing my passions is all so new to me so I thought I could share some wonderful things I’ve discovered in the last few weeks.
Let’s start with fairytales: on the podcast I often look at the darker side of these tales but it isn’t all about the dark. There must be balance, so let us revel in one of the more frivolous elements: dresses. I was fascinated by the descriptions of these dresses growing up and I’m not talking Disney here. These were far more magical:
“But one must be like the Sky, with the Sun, Moon and Stars; the second like the Earth with all her Trees and Flowers ; and the third like the Sea with all the Fishes that swim in it” – Three Wonderful Dresses – A Turkish Tale from Lucy Mary Jane Garnet
“A dress the colour of the sky, A dress the colour of the moon, a dress as bright & shining as the sun made from cloth of gold & diamonds” - Donkeyskin
“A fig, a nut, and a hazelnut each contain a dress. On one “the month of May could be seen with its flowers”; on the second “the heavens could be seen with its stars”: and on the third “the sea could be seen with its waves.”
“a dress of the colour of a beautiful noontide sky, but all covered with stars like the sky at midnight, a dress of the colour of the sea, all covered with golden fishes, a dress of a dark blue, all covered with gold embroidery and spangled with silver bells" – Maria Wood
Anyone who knows these tales, knows why these dresses were so complex but I promised to stay in the light (I am willing to share the reasons for those of you that don’t know but you’ll have to ask).
How could such dresses exist? They can’t really outside the fairy tale and the imagination can they? Or can they? Did you know that 2-5% people can’t generate images in their mind’s eye? I didn’t until last week either, its known as aphantasia. Once I had finished thinking how terrible that must be, I thought about these fabulous descriptions and decided to test out whether some cutting edge technology could help out.
With some help from an expert some descriptions from my story of Isabellucia were imputed into an AI generator in it’s test phase. These are the descriptions we gave:
“An elegant dress as pale grey as the dawn, shimmering with white opals clinging to the dress in patterns reflecting both the setting moonlight and rising sunlight.
“her dress was a dazzling green silk, with wheat stems embroidered all over in gold thread with tiny wildflowers made of tiny coloured jewels scattered amongst them”
“A dress of deep midnight blue silk, with moons embroidered in silver thread & stars sparkling with thousands of diamonds.”
And this is what we got! I know there are lots of reasons why we need to wary of AI but sometimes it can help create wonders (and some very weird body parts it turns out). I also learned during this process that AI very much needs to be guided, something which I will bear in mind for the future.
Last week I had an amazing response on social media to a fact I put up about Tyromancy so I thought those of you wonderful enough to sign up for my newsletter should get some more fascinating facts about this interesting area of folklore:
Tyromancy is thought to work by connecting revealing patterns and symbols. These would be different depending on the type of cheese used. Holes like those found in Swiss or Dutch cheese, could share their omens via numerology, whereas blue cheese was read via the pictures that could be seen in their intricate veins. A cracked or bumpy rind or uneven surface to hard cheeses could reveal shapes that a cheese medium could interpret into predictions of love, money, travel, and depending on the ethics of the teller, illness and death. The veins in my picture are made of truffle so I’m not sure if it is eligible, on the other hand it is definitely addictive.
An alternative form was to write the possible answers to a question on separate pieces of cheese and them place them inside a cage along with a hungry rodent. Whichever piece the mouse ate first would be the best solution to a problem. I’m not really sure about this as you are relying on the mouse being ethical enough to be more concerned about your future than the tastiest smelling cheese. Also, these would have to be short questions or big bits of cheese.
Your average maiden in the middle ages also practiced cheese divination in a somewhat similar fashion. She would write a selection of suitor’s names on various bits of cheese and store. The one that grew mould first was the one to choose. It does seem a little arbitrary but considering everything I’ve read about dating apps it probably isn’t the worst option.
Historic Herbal Remedy of the Week
Please remember that I am not, under any circumstances, providing medical advice but I thought this was an interesting remedy. Mostly because nearly every herbal I have read doesn’t recommend parsley for bruising although there is many an old wives’ tale about butter being effective. Parsley however is supposed to reduce drunkenness which might stop the bruise happening at all. Personally, I’d just add some garlic to the parsley & butter mix and make fabulous garlic bread which I would munch happily whilst resting with some ice on the bruised part. Has anyone got any alternative suggestions, comments? Has this parsley chat whetted your appetite? You’ll be able to learn all about parsley and its folkloric powers in my next podcast.
Wonderfully Named Historic Recipe of the Week
I couldn’t help this when I saw the name. It’s very doable from a modern perspective too but perhaps a low hob setting rather than charcoal in your kitchen. I think it would be excellent with a parsley, olive and caper salad and some lovely toasted bread.
The remedy and recipe this week are from the same source from 1763:
That’s it for this week, if there is anything you’d like me to share with me, don’t hesitate to comment below.
Such beautiful dress descriptions 💖 And what interesting facts about cheese divination lol I had never heard of this before!