Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Love, Lust, and Libido: Aphrodisiacs in Medieval Europe

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KEN ALBALA: Well, Hello, everyone.

Welcome to our presentation about Love, Lust and Libido,


we'll be talking about aphrodisiacs

in Medieval Europe.

And I'm Ken Albala, professor of history

at the University of the Pacific in Stockton,

California, and food historian.

So obviously we're going to be talking

about aphrodisiacs that are foods, not just

aphrodisiacs in general.

And with me is Larissa.

LARISSA GROLLEMOND: So I'm Larissa Grollemond.

I'm assistant curator of medieval

and Renaissance manuscripts here at the Getty Museum,

or here virtually at the Getty Museum.

So let's go ahead and get started.

Ken, will you put us in the mood by starting

to talk a little bit about the history of aphrodisiacs?

KEN ALBALA: Yes, so as you people probably know,

every single food at some point in history

has been labeled an aphrodisiac.

In some culture, at some time or place,

there's scarcely anything that someone

hasn't claimed is going to be good for sexual performance

or whatever.

And then what that means is that the secondary literature is

kind of all over the map.

You can make an argument that anything

is going to stimulate you.

But I found it as sort of helpful

to discuss what Medieval people thought

would be an aphrodisiac.

How they kind of classified it, just

to give you a brief taxonomy.

Because it's actually very different than the way

we think of it.

Today we think, OK, there's drugs that

will help your performance.

There are drugs that help fertility.

We very rarely take food seriously.

A few people researching, you know,

oysters and how that contributes to sperm production and things

like that.

But really, we don't take food seriously as an aphrodisiac

anymore, or we say it's alleged to,

or if you're in the mood it may help.

But you know, we don't scientifically care about that.

In the past they did, very, very seriously.

And they had slightly different ways of categorizing things

so that a food might be very nourishing--

and we'll see that that's the real criterion for why

something is an aphrodisiac, and I'll explain that all the way


but sometimes it could be something

that increases sperm, causes it to flow, will increase desire,

will increase performance, will increase conception.

And that's, of course, what the medical literature

is most interested, in and they lump those all together.

They're not really separate.

We would never put Viagra and, you know,

fertility drugs in the same category.

They have totally different functions.

In the Middle Ages they kind of stuff them altogether,

but they do mention specific foods

and what they are very good at doing,

and I will go into some of the details of that today.

But let me sort of give you a beginning, an introduction

to humoral theory.

Because I don't think any of this stuff

is going to make sense until you kind of understand

the way people used to speak about primary qualities

and secondary qualities.

So what we have here is a little schema of the four humors.

Now let me explain what those are.

So just as there are four elements in the universe,

according to Empedocles, there are also

four fluids that correspond inside our bodies that

will have an effect upon us.

So we could say that there is a sanguine humor, which is blood.

The majority of what's inside of us is blood.

There is also a phlegmatic humor,

if you look down in the lower right hand corner, which

is the phlegm in your mouth.

It's the moisture in your brain and your joints and everything.

There is a choleric humor, or choler or--

which is the Greek word, we would

call it bile, yellow bile.

And there's also melancholia, or black bile,

which is the smallest amount.

But those but each of those is very essential to maintaining

health, and in fact the physicians

like Hippocrates and Galen would have described health

as a balance of these four humors,

not in quantity but intensity.

Meaning that if your makeup was somewhere

in the middle of that chart there,

if you had an equal strength of all of those four humors,

it was called Eucrasia, or good health.

Now the thing is that just as we have these four humors that

regulate our health, all foods are also

categorized as hot and moist, or cold and moist, or hot and dry,

or cold and dry.

And it's not that the things themselves are say, hot,

but it's the effect that they have on our bodies.

So for example, when you say chili is hot, well,

what you're speaking, really, there is humoral theory, right?

It doesn't burn your tongue, heat wise.

It does with the effect.

When we say a martini is dry, we're really

saying that it's styptic.

It dries out your tongue.

It's obviously a liquid.

It's not dry.

So when they're speaking of these things,

this is about the effect that it has on your body.

So a food that is very sweet, for example,

will be considered hot and moist.

Meats are somewhere in that category.

Obviously, sugars are there, too.

Why, they thought sugar was an ideal food, very, very healthy.

Things that burn on your tongue, or things that are salty,

are usually considered hot and dry, or choleric.

They will increase choler in your body.

They will actually make you angry

because there's a psychosomatic effect

of the elements in the food that will influence you.

Things that are watery, that are cold and moist,

things that don't have a whole lot of flavor--

cucumbers are in that category, melons, most fruit are there,


those things are very useful if it's a hot day, let's say.

You're physically hot and dry.

This will be useful for re-balancing

your humors to drag you back toward the center.

And on the same note, the foods that are so acidic, or styptic,

or acerbic, those are all considered cold and dry.

So every single food is categorized this way.

But in general, foods--

this is just sort of the base.

Everything I'm going to say that will follow really

has to do with the heat and moisture,

the confluence of heat and moisture of things that are nutritious.

And everything that is nutritious

increases your libido.

And let me explain how this works.

I have to take you through a whole secondary set of factors

because the humors are not the whole story.

The other side of the story is how difficult

a food is to digest.

What's its texture or qualities?

In other words, if you good get a lot of exercise,

you can digest things that are really tough.

That were crass is the word they use in English.

If you have a--

LARISA GROLLEMOND: So it's really about the whole food.

It's not just flavor or the ingredients of a recipe, say.

But it's really textures, and temperatures,

and all of these things together.

KEN ALBALA: That's absolutely right.

And it's about your own digestive capability.

So if you are very delicate and don't get a lot of exercise,

you can't look at something like beef.

It'll corrupt before it goes in your body.

And if you do get a whole lot of exercise,

if you eat something that's very light and delicate

like pheasant, it's going to burn up before it gives you

any nutrition.

And that's totally missing from our nutritional theory.

Nowadays, we think you put food in, you get all the nutrition.

They thought exactly the opposite.

And some things like, say, a peach, tend to go corrupt.

If you eat at the end of a meal, it

will corrupt before all the other food gets digested.

So fruits and vegetables are really not very good for you.

And they're not very nutritious, either.

And we'll see that when we talk about anaphrodisiacs, usually

it's salad.

Salad is a food of penitence.


Most of us would agree that salad is a food of penitence.

Maybe not in LA.

KEN ALBALA: Thinking through the sort of--

so imagine food goes into your mouth, and it gets broken.

And digestion for them was not just what

takes place in your stomach.

It's the whole entire system, and what

they would have called assimilation, meaning,

ideally, the food goes in your mouth.

The food that is closest to your body

is the easiest to assimilate.

So meat is actually the most nutritious thing by that logic.

Wine is the thing that converts into your blood most easily.

And obviously that's got religious significance, also.

And so the food goes into your body, into your stomach.

It's broken down.

The wastes are removed.

It goes into your liver.

And then it goes to where it becomes blood or other humors.

And then it goes into your body.

It's actually assimilated into the parts of your body.

And if you are healthy, and well exercised, and well-balanced

in your humors, the excess nutrition gets stored as sperm.

And that actually stimulates your libido.

Now, ancient people-- I'm talking mostly about Galen


believed that both men and women had sperm.

It's not that they were stupid.

Let me explain the logic of this.

Obviously, they didn't have microscopes.

So they couldn't have looked at these and told the difference.

But in their minds, men and women

were actually two forms of the exact same sexual reproductive


If a person was very healthy, and well-nourished,

and emotionally stable at the point of conception,

you would have a fully complete human being that

would turn into a boy, would have external genitalia.

And if something were wrong, if the mother were cold,

or badly nourished, or something happened--

emotionally disturbed--

the parts wouldn't be fully formed.

And the genitalia would remain inside.

So they believed both men and women had a kind of sperm.

And the food-- and you'll see consistently

through the medieval medical literature and all the way

up until the 18th century, foods that

are very nutritious are the ones that are going to stimulate

your libido most powerfully.

And if you're interested-- and so

that's just the underlying theory.

Now, there's a whole lot of exceptions.

There are some things that accidentally

stimulate or cause some other kind of thing to happen.

But let me just give you a few examples

of what a medieval text about aphrodisiacs would include,

the sort of details that are--

but let me give you one person.

There's Magninus Mediolanesis, or Mayno de Maineri,

who died in 1368.

So he's contemporary to where we're talking about here.

And I love him because he actually

wrote a book on sauces.


LARISA GROLLEMOND: A man after my own heart.

I do love a good dip.

KEN ALBALA: It's a great culinary text.

So he will say that, for example, arugula or mustard

are hot and dry in the third degree.

Mustard is hot and dry in the fourth degree.

So you can see on that chart where that would be plotted.

And his logic is that if you eat something like pork,

you want to combine it with mustard so

that the phlegmatic humors that are in pork will be corrected.

And ultimately that will become an aphrodisiac food.

Spices have the same effect.

They're both also hot and dry.

They burn.

Ginger, peppers burn on the mouth.

And then, let me just show you how

Galen's logic, as it passes through the Arab authors

like Avicenna, and Averroes, and Rhazes,

gets translated from Greek to Arabic back

all the way to Latin.

And it had never been in Latin.

And then it gets picked up by people like Magninus.

So this is just a passage that talks about it.

So coitus, following the truth, is

useful in the expulsion of superfluities

of the third digestion where it's

used in a regimen of health, meaning that he would prescribe

sex for people who had eaten very well, were well nourished,

and they're beginning to get sick.

LARISA GROLLEMOND: So it's all about balancing things, right?

So you want to have a little bit of this, a little bit of that,

keeping everything right in the middle.

KEN ALBALA: Well, yeah.

And let me just finish the passage.

He says, it's a danger if coitus is not expelled.

It putrefies and converts into a kind of venom

and causes the worst illnesses and even death.

So all these were very, very open

about discussing these topics, especially

about conception and about the role that sex had

in that whole schema of maintaining your humors,

and staying healthy, and keeping a balanced constitution.


KEN ALBALA: Let me just mention one other guy.

This is Benedetto Reguardati, who is exactly

contemporaneous with Chiquart.

And he's of interest because the figure

we're going to talk about, Amadeus, his daughter goes

to Milan, marries into the ducal house there.

And Benedetto is brought in to look at her fertility.

They wanted her to conceive very badly,

and apparently she was having trouble.

So they brought her in.

And they brought him in to consult.

And he has some very specific recommendations.

And the logic of what he's saying, I think,

will be revealing here.

So he says garlic, if eaten in moderation, will excite coitus.

That's the polite way he says it.

He says, don't let her overdo it.

She's going to overheat if she has garlic.

But mint, for example, is hot and dry

and helps coitus on account of inflation.

And I'll talk about what that means in just a bit.

It's one of those accidental causes

of an aphrodisiac working, not because it's nutritious.

Eggs, he says.

If the coitus has caused the debility, it will restore you.

And eggs are really easy to digest.

They're very nutritious.

That's the logic of that.

Oysters-- and I should point out here,

everyone thinks, oh, they said oysters

because they're similar to I don't know what.

And they said carrots or parsnips

because they look like genitalia.

Absolutely not, that's not the logic at all.

He tells us oysters are nourishing, and fattening,

and restorative, and they augment the material of coitus.

And what he's saying there is that this is not something

that's inherently nutritious.

But its similarity to the sperm itself

will actually assimilate and become aid

in the production of sperms.

So this is in general what's called

the theory of signatures.

I think you find it far more in the early modern period

by the 17th century.

But it's there, is that the shape of something-- the walnut

to the brain, for example, asparagus to a penis, I guess.

But that is much, much rarer than people assume.

They think, oh, it's this shape.

It's phallic-shaped, so therefore it

must be an aphrodisiac.

And that's usually not the logic at all.

The logic tends to be a lot weirder and a lot more

interesting in my mind because--

LARISA GROLLEMOND: And often almost counter-intuitive

to the way we tend to think about foods today.

For example, I would say that we would

tend to think of mint as a cool food

but really, in the medieval conception,

you would think of it as a hot food.

KEN ALBALA: Yes, mint is hot and dry in their minds.


KEN ALBALA: And in fact you're not

supposed to sow mint at times of war, according to Aristotle,

because the soldiers will get distracted,

I guess, or something like that.

So as I said, there's a few other types of aphrodisiac

that don't follow this idea of just

because it's nutritious it will increase sperm, stimulate

libido, and then work.

This one of inflation is kind of weird

because what we're imagining in our minds

is like one of those little squeeze toys

where you squeeze on the body, and then all the parts

bulge out.

You know, it's like a stress toy.

That's not what they're thinking at all.

Inflation, what they're saying is

that if a food causes wind, if it's causes flatulence,

it's not that your whole body is going to inflate.

It's that the food will then pass into your stomach,

and that quality will go there.

It'll pass into your liver.

That quality will go there.

That part will go into the parts of your body.

And they will be in the last part of digestion, which

is the assimilation into your members, literally,

that that will cause it to cause an erection.

But it will not cause conception.

It's not good for increasing the material of coitus,

as they would say.

But it's good as Viagra.

It's good for performance, two totally different things.

Likewise, if something is salty, that may cause a prurient itch,

as one my authors claimed.

But it doesn't mean it's going to be good for conception

or engendering good children.

That's the other thing.

You want to be very well nourished.

Saltiness will make you salacious.

I mean, the word from Latin, salacitas,

means just being horny.

And then there's the idea that there's

dozens of other minor ways that can stimulate.

But I think most of them are really very

secondary to the idea that foods that are nutritious

will lead to production of sperm that will signal your libido.

And then you are ready to reproduce.



So we have a little poll for people

who've been paying attention to what kinds of foods

cause the enhancement of libido or not.

So we have our first poll.

If you would like to dampen low libido of your guests,

say you want to really host a lame party,

what would you serve at your next medieval feast?

So the possible answers are spinach, almonds, ginger,

and beans.

So go ahead and vote in the poll now.

And we'll see if it makes humoral sense

to serve any of these things at your next meal.

KEN ALBALA: OK, so should we go on to why people

didn't want to be stimulated?


KEN ALBALA: Because interestingly,

the literature recommending aphrodisiacs

is not as rich as the literature saying, don't eat this

because it's going to stimulate you.

And if you can think of the type of person who

would want to do that, it's obviously

clergymen, and aesthetics, and people who--

and actually even ordinary people, too, for fast days.

Now, what's really interesting is obviously Christianity,

at the very beginning, didn't have any dietary regulations,

meaning that they wanted to distance themselves

from Judaism.

And so they said, no kosher laws, no circumcision,

no things like that.

But laws came in anyway.

And they did specifically for fast days,

fasting meaning not total abstinence from food,

but abstaining from meat.

And I think that most people don't quite

understand the logic is those first early churchmen writing

about fasting like Tuertullian, like St. Jerome,

like Clement of Alexandria.

They were Roman people.

Their mental mindset was the exact same as Galen's.

They would have known that theory.

And for someone who wants to prevent the libido from being

stimulated, don't eat meat.

Don't eat things that are nutritious.

Eggs-- absolutely out.

Cheese, milk, any animal products--

but fish are fine.

Fish are not nutritious.

They're cold and moist.

They're not going to make you horny.

And vegetables are-- absolutely.

So for days when you want to be penitent,

it is best to eat vegetables, and fish, and cold things.

And obviously for Lent, for the vigils before saint days,

for any time that you want to be penitent, avoiding meat

is the answer.

And this became not just a choice, it became the law.

This was standard.

You could get arrested if you were serving meat during Lent

or selling it, especially.

And so a different kind of food limitation came in.

And I think the effect that it has is really feast or fast,

that some seasons people will be eating to excess

and trying to stimulate their libido,

as we'll see in the recipes from Chiquart.

And other times they were trying to be completely penitent.

And they didn't go so far as sackcloth and ashes

on their head, but for ordinary people

who really couldn't, like Jesus, fast for 40 days,

they would just avoid meat for those days,

and sex, presumably.

That's the ultimate goal.

So the poll is very interesting because--

LARISA GROLLEMOND: Yeah, I was going to say.

So to quench or to turn people off at your next feast,

you should in fact serve spinach.

KEN ALBALA: Absolutely.

That's it.

And beans, also.

Beans because they're hard to digest.



KEN ALBALA: But no ginger, absolutely not ginger--

hot in the mouth.

That's going to excite.

You remember Falstaff says, ginger

will be hot in the mouth.

That's a stimulant.

And almonds are a stimulant also because they're

very nutritious.

One other thing I want to just mention.

If you want to understand the mindset of these people who

were aesthetics, I want you to picture these people who've

just taken vows of celibacy, who are meek, downtrodden,

whatever it may be.

And they are looking at all the other people

who are enjoying sex, having fun, eating meat.

I think it's sort of born out of spite.

I think they're kind of rabid, anti-status.

Their statements against sex come from the fact

that they can't get it.

They're not allowed to have it.

And so they make a decision.

And the idea is that you may be enjoying life now,

but in the afterlife we're going to be sitting on the edge

of the clouds looking down on you and laughing

because we've made it into heaven, and you haven't.

LARISA GROLLEMOND: To that end, thinking about the way

the settings in which medieval people might

have enjoyed feasting rather than fasting,

I wanted to show this image.

This is actually from a manuscript

of Augustine's City of God, which you wouldn't necessarily

expect to have scenes of hot tub dining, necessarily.

You can see here, people in tubs, eating meals,

often in mixed genders, it looks like.

And so Augustine's text actually presents human history

as a conflict between what he calls the earthly city

and the City of God.

And this image actually accompanies

a passage about the corrupted customs of the Romans.

So they are scenes from a public bath.

And then the couple in bed is actually

supposed to be a brothel scene.

So this is all of the stuff that you shouldn't be doing, really,

if you hope to gain admittance to the City of God.

And so there is an interesting, I think,

tension in what we can see in the medieval visual material

with what is actually being practiced in food culture.

So we see people indulging here, having these public baths

with food, and indulging in sex, which of course is not

good for Augustine.

But of course this is a reality of life.

People were definitely indulging in baths, and sex, and all

of these other things.

So I think what you're saying is an interesting balance

between this idea of feast culture

and excessive culture, and then fast culture reining things

in a little bit, too.

So this is also happening in life, not just not just food

culture, but the way that people are conducting themselves,

as well.

KEN ALBALA: Absolutely.

And I think in order to accompany this whole talk,

we chose a cookbook that comes from this period

by Chiquart dAmiczo, who was the chef to the Duke of Savoy

at the time.

Savoy was this state between France and Italy--

those modern states-- and with its capital in Chambry.

The pope-- well, I'll tell you how he became pope--

and he was ruthlessly ambitious.

There's no other way to put it.

The state had just become a duchy, actually.

I think was a county before that.

And the pope who was elected before--

actually there'd been a schism.

And there was at that point one pope in Avignon, one in Rome,

and there was a third pope in Pisa.

LARISA GROLLEMOND: It was total chaos.

I mean, popes everywhere.

KEN ALBALA: Let's have a pope convention.

So they re-elected Martin V. And when Martin V died,

there were again two popes.

And one was backed by England, the other by France, basically.

So this guy who was the duke became pope.

He's the last of the anti-popes.

So right before this happened--

1420 is actually when the manuscript comes from--

Chiquart wrote this cookbook which exists only

in one copy left in Seon, in Switzerland,

that describes absolute incredible amounts of food.

It's just stunningly grotesque at a certain point

because obviously he's inviting people.

But let me just give you an idea.

So Chiquart is not a cook.

He probably did cook.

He probably worked his way up through the kitchens.

But he was the banquet manager.

So he has to do all the ordering,

buy everything, design the menu, provide the entertainment,

hire the carvers, whatever it may be.

So he says, first--

this is just one day for the provisions for a day--

100 fat cattle, some 130 sheep, also fat,

six score of pigs, Furthermore, for the day of the banquet,

100 small piglets both for roasting and for other uses,

and six large fat pigs salted for larding and stewing,

and it just goes on and on.

It's just a grotesque amount of food that you wonder,

this seems sort of weird.

Here's a guy who becomes pope.

Apparently he did keep very strict fasting rules at court.

So you go from--

LARISA GROLLEMOND: So we actually have a photo.

Can we go to--

I'm sorry to interrupt-- to slide 11.

We have an actual photo of the manuscript

that Ken is talking about.

It's dated from 1420.

And this is the actual manuscript

that all of the recipes that are associated with today's event.

If you didn't see those, there's links in the event

page on the Getty's website.

And please go watch the videos because they're

very entertaining.

Ken was kind enough to put together

some instructional videos.

And from what I've heard, the food is very good.

And yeah, Ken, as you're saying, so we

know Amadeus VIII as the anti-pope Felix V.

But before he retired to a life of religious introspection

and was elected anti-pope, he had this really

magnificent court in Savoy.

And so we know of these epic banquets that he's throwing,

and from Chiquart, actually, records the marriage banquet

between Amadeus VIII and Mary of Burgundy, so an actual feast

that actually occurred.

And to get a sense of what that feast might have looked like,

we have a couple of other manuscript images here.

And this is actually an image that's

from a manuscript that tells of the exploits

of the ancient King Alexander the Great.

But it's been updated visually, so medievalized

into the 15th century.

And so we can get a sense of what 15th century feasts might

have actually looked like.

So all of these courtiers sitting around

this huge table, epic tableware, and what looks

like maybe some lamb, or pheasants, on the table--

KEN ALBALA: It looks like a dog.

LARISA GROLLEMOND: --and these big dishes.

Or a little dog.

But you can also get a sense of how fancy a feast like

this might have been.

So people in these really amazing costumes,

and over on the side of the image you

can see this kind of sideboard with all

of these other vessels.

So very fine silver, tableware, these

would have been really incredible events.

People serving, people attending,

people eating, often dancing and music,

and so getting ourselves in the mindset of a medieval feaster

when we're thinking about Chiquart.

These are also some additional images, actually,

both from other manuscripts telling

of the exploits of Alexander.

And again, you can see these really elaborate tables,

all of these really elaborate fabrics,

and you can always tell who the most important person

in the meal is here.

So they're seated in the middle.

In the image on the left, you can

see Alexander seated underneath this really fancy canopy

showing how important he is, and all of these different people

milling around the banquet, women wearing furs and all

of these fine brocades and damask fabrics.

And so when we're thinking about a court

like the Duke of Amadeus of Savoy,

and Chiquart having to rise to the occasion of creating just

an epic meal, but it's not just about creating an epic meal,


It's all about what ingredients you're using.

So maybe you can talk a little bit

about the recipes from Chiquart's cookbook

that you are highlighting for this event.

KEN ALBALA: Sure, I'd love to also point out

that in these images, notice what's missing.

There's no forks.

One of them had little square metal trenches.

But here they're just slices of bread that the food goes on.

And everything else is just eaten with their fingers.

If you wanted a drink, someone brought you the drink,

and then they'd take the cup away.

So anyway, so look the text here very closely.

It says, "Encor plus ung chaut."

Now, it's very easy to read, actually, this French.

It's in a secretary hand.

But let me give you--

I think what's the translation here is--

Is this the rissole one?

I think it is.



"Encor rosseolle et pour donner entendement a celluy qui les fera."

So rissole is to instruct the person who will be making them.

So this is the banquet manager telling the person

what's going to be made.

And it goes on.

He's obsessive about cleanliness.

So any ideas you might have about filthy medieval people,

he is obsessed with cleanliness of the pots,

the cleanliness of the bowls and everything,

the cleanliness of the pigs.

So this is a rosseolle, is what he calls it.

But a rissole is really a little pie.

It's not a croquet, so to speak.

And the parts that are put together,

there's one guy who does the pastry separately.

There's another guy-- and having done these,

this was a long recipe to cook.

It took a good hour to put together a handful of them.

Imagine serving 10,000 of them.

And there's gold on it, too.

He's clearly trying to impress so, so, much.

And the people who he--

I should mention also the time when this is written, 1420.

Remember that the English had just

beaten the French in Agincourt.

And the French are out of the picture.

England is preoccupied.

Savoy fills in this power vacuum,

allied to the kingdom of Burgundy.

It was under Charles the Good, supposedly

the most elaborate court at the time.

So he's spending a lot of money on expensive things.

And the spices, especially, come from the other side

of the world.

They are aphrodisiacs.

And the fact that there's gold on it, and you're eating it,

talk about conspicuous consumption, obviously.

LARISA GROLLEMOND: I was just going to say.

I mean, I would like to gild almost everything I eat.

But I don't know if I can afford it.

KEN ALBALA: So the spices that go into this

are white ginger, grains of paradise--

not too much, he says.

Grains of paradise come from the coast of Africa,

the West Coast of Africa--

and then saffron, which is obviously expensive,

then as now.

And it's got all these fruits in there, the figs, the prunes,

the dates cut up very fine.

And it's really a very elegant food.

We tend not to combine things that are

sweet and savory in one dish.

But this clearly is.

And I think if you look at the way the combination of flavors

also, the pork is nutritious.

So it's going to be an aphrodisiac to start with.

But it's slightly phlegmatic, so that you

would want to balance that out with things that

are hot, and dry, and sweet.

Hot and moist things, that's where all those figs,

and the prunes, and the dates, all of that stuff comes in.

It will make it more balanced, humorally.

And it will stimulate everyone.

I mean, this is nutritious food.

It's not because there's any resemblance to genitals

or anything like that.

It's just that this is really good nutritious food.

LARISA GROLLEMOND: So we have here on the screen--

I'm just talking about pork--

these are some images from medieval calendar pages.

So these are in manuscripts that are actually

devotional manuscripts.

They are used to facilitate private devotion.

But they're really practical, too.

So they're a very popular kind of manuscript.

And they often have these calendars that precede

or that preface the book.

And they list saints days and all sorts

of other practical information.

But they often have these images that

show what you're supposed to be doing at that particular time

of year.

And so I'm wondering when Chiquart is serving pork,

if it's in the wintertime or in the springtime,

because we often have images of pork being brought into being,

say, pigs being slaughtered, boars being slaughtered,

as part of December calendar pages,

so people getting ready for the long winter.

You can see on the November calendar page

on the left, this woman feeding the pigs.

And then, I have to say, the other images

are a little heartbreaking.

They're sort of you know people with axes raised--

KEN ALBALA: Bludgeoning.

LARISA GROLLEMOND: --pork or pigs about

to get what's coming to them.

But thinking about the immense amount of pork

that it would have taken to feed a feast as big as the one

that Chiquart describes, and as many risolles

as they might have needed to serve all of the guests,

but this gives you a little bit of a window into the idea

of pork in the medieval visual imagination, as well.

And you were talking a little bit about raisins and figs.

We have the next slide.

Slide 13, please.

These are images from this really fantastic manuscript.

It's known as the Taciunum Sanitates,

which translates roughly to the maintenance of health.

And this is a guidebook to keeping yourself healthy,

so thinking back to the idea of humoral all balance

and eating certain kinds of foods.

It survives in a lot of illuminated copies

from Northern Italy that have these amazing images that

are glimpses into how medieval people were

serving food, harvesting food, and thinking about food.

And so these are raisins and figs at market stalls.

And again, you can see the way that they might have

been stored in these baskets.

And Ken, can you tell us a little bit about how

raisins and figs would have figured into Chiquart's meal,

and why you would want to eat them at certain times of year?

KEN ALBALA: Yeah, they're all sweet, hot,

and moist things, very nutritious, easily digested.

Another sort of quality that is useful as an aphrodisiac

are things that are aperitif, meaning they

open the passages of your body.

Obviously, they work as laxatives also.

But they also aid in the flow of sperm.

I know that sounds sort of weird.

But a lot of things, the fruits and especially nuts,

and then what about-- the pine nuts and chickpeas

are the two things that you see most frequently that are not

necessarily very nutritious.

But they always will say these things

augment the material of sperm, meaning

that they are similar to them.

Pine nut, I don't know.

Maybe if you make pine milk out of it.

There's some kind of similarity--

LARISA GROLLEMOND: Well, it's interesting

that you mentioned that, though.

So we do have that recipe that has almonds and spinach.

So on the next slide, we can see some more images

from the same manuscript of the harvest of spinach,

here, this woman carrying this really overflowing basket

of spinach on her head, and then harvesting almonds.

So I think we think of almond milk

as almost a kind of a recent invention,

or it's come it's become popular in recent years.

But here we can see people knocking down

almonds and gathering them.

And the recipe that you made that combines spinach

with almond milk, I have to say that's not a combination that I

have ever thought of.

But maybe talk a little bit about that.

KEN ALBALA: Oh my god, it's great.

And I don't know what I was expecting,

something like cream spinach, I guess.

But interestingly, it's in a section

of the book for convalescence because it's

very easy to digest.

And normally almond milk would be used during Lent.

It's a substitute for regular milk.

The stuff you buy in the store, of course,

there's very little real almond in there.

It's mostly flavoring.

But it's very easy to make.

If you blanch almonds and then put them with hot water

and pound them up, or use a blender--

It's even easier-- and then strain it,

what you get looks, smells, tastes exactly like milk.

It's uncanny.

And what he has us do is cook the spinach dry--

you know, it's standard procedure to this day--

and parsley.

So the parsley is actually hot and dry

because it has a little bite to it.

So it counteracts the cold of the spinach.

That makes it more balanced.

And then they're washed.

And they're chopped fine.

And then a little almond oil is added.

It gives you a couple of different options.

But the one that I tried was with--

the almond milk goes in and it becomes

this cream spinach that you can imagine, being a little sick

and having something really comforting like that.

But in general, spinach is an anaphrodisiac.

Things that are cold, and you eat them on their own,

especially if you don't go through that cooking them

dry first to get off these superfluous moisture, that

will chill your libido immediately, almost as badly

as lettuce.

Lettuce is the worst.

It's the coldest thing you can eat that is--

you want to kill the mood?

Let's start with the salad.

That's it.

LARISA GROLLEMOND: And so we had already talked

a little bit about pepper.

So on the next slide, you can see an image

of the harvesting of pepper.

This actually comes from a great manuscript

of the travels of Marco Polo, who

is this famous Explorer from Venice who goes around

to the East.

He's one of the first Europeans to travel the Silk Road

and then write an account of it.

And you can see here, this idea that pepper

and these spices come from around the world.

So they're extremely valuable as imported items.

And so would someone like Chiquart use pepper sparingly?

Or is this a food that people who

are at the highest echelons of society like Duke Amadeus,

would they have easy access to this?

Or is this still something that is rare?

KEN ALBALA: With wild, extravagant abandon

they would use pepper.

Pepper is the most important spice.

And interestingly, it's the only spice

that still survives on the table today.

It's the only one that we would have a pepper shaker.

We would never have cloves or nutmeg or galangal

or grains of paradise on the table.

And it's because they were really into heat.

I know that sounds strange.

They liked spicy things.

They liked this combination of spice, and sweetness,

and sour from verjus.

And sugar, of course, goes on everything, especially when

we get to the 15th century.

But they liked the heat of pepper.

By this point, Venetians really have a monopoly on it.

In the 15th century, they're getting it-- obviously

it comes from India.

The Malabar coast goes all the way around with the dow

to the Mediterranean.

Venetians picked it up there, and then they transported

to the rest of Europe.

By the time it gets there it's wildly expensive.

But that's the whole point.

They want to spend tons and tons of money.

And it's slightly lascivious, right?

I mean, people know that pepper is going to stimulate them.

Things that are spicy you're going to arouse them.

That's standard in the medical literature.

And it's why people who don't--

during Lent you generally don't use spices.

And you don't drink a lot of wine,

either, because wine is a direct analog of blood.

It's going to stimulate blood production and the same.


LARISA GROLLEMOND: So we've gone through a couple

of the ingredients that feature in the recipes

that we've pulled out of Chiquart's cookbook.

We're wondering, for people tuning in,

if you made the recipes, what was your favorite one?

So we have a poll coming up.

You can vote for the pork rosseolles, which I understand

are sort of difficult and kind of a project to make,

the spinach with almond milk, the hippocras,

or the spiced wine, or you haven't tried the recipes yet.

And we do encourage you to do that,

to get kind of a taste of what a 15th century feast might

have actually tasted like.

And if we go on--

KEN ALBALA: Let's talk about that hippocras, then.


Let's go into the next slide, where

we have some images of grape harvesting and winemaking,

much the way that I think we imagine it today.

KEN ALBALA: Well, hippocras, we think

that we add things to wine and it's adultery, ruining it.

They loved putting spices in wine.

And it was a stimulant, right?

I mean, it's obviously stimulating.

You get a little drunk.

You get a little loose, whatever.

But they also figured that wine was very nourishing.

It's a necessary nutrient.

And so the hippocras, it's named for Hippocrates.

But actually, it's named for this sack

that you filter out the spices with.

And what I found kind of fascinating

is in Chiquart's banquet, he has a Fountain of Love

which is blowing--

spiced wine comes out of one side.

And a rose water comes out of the other.

I'm not sure.

I don't think they're drinking the rose water.

LARISA GROLLEMOND: Just for the scent, right?

KEN ALBALA: Exactly.

But the Fountain of Love is--

you have to stop and think, wait a minute.

This is a guy who becomes pope.

What is a Fountain of Love doing there?

Well, it refers to a poem by Guillame Dufay,

who was well-known as a composer, too.

He wrote this poem about this guy

who is melancholy and wishes and falls in love with this woman.

She's not there.

And a saint comes and convinces him

that he can love her on a spiritual level.

And it doesn't need to be fulfilled in a physical sense,

that a spiritual love is just as good.

And that's exactly what's happening right here

in this picture, is his monk friend is telling him,

don't worry.

You can still love.

It's OK if it's not physical.

LARISA GROLLEMOND: I love the envisioning of these fountains

in these illuminated copies of some of the Fountain of Love

texts, too, where you have this very elaborate, gothic-looking

structure that has carved figures in it,

and the idea of courting couples, and really just

over-the-top kind of ideas about the Fountain of Love.

The idea that Amadeus VIII is actually

having is maybe something that looks a little bit

like this at his court.

I mean, I think you can get a sense of just how elaborate

the feast might have been.

So we have most people voting for the hippocras,

the spiced wine.

I agree with that.

And for those of you who haven't tried the recipes yet,

I do encourage you to go back because they are really--

I mean, Chiquart is interesting because the recipes

are actually quite legible and pretty, I think--

KEN ALBALA: Detailed.

They're really easy to follow.


You can really get a sense of what medieval feasting might

have been like around 1420 at this very, very

elaborate court.

And thinking a little bit about the idea of feasting, love, ,

courting we have a couple of additional images that I just

want to go through quickly before we get to Q&A.

So on the next slide, we have a couple of images that I think

are just really fun of couples courting.

Again, these are from calendar pages.

So maybe you didn't know that courting

is a springtime activity.

But I think it makes sense, the idea of fertility,

newness, youth.

And so we have these very fancy couples here.

The image on the left, a courting couple next to a man

who is hawking, so obviously, this

is the purview of the elite class.

And again here, I love this middle image

that also has this idea of a fountain and lovers

meeting at a fountain.

And so I just wanted to show these

because I think they're really fun.

We're thinking about Valentine's Day, and the beginning

of spring, and the idea of courting your beloved, maybe

on a horse ride through the forest.

I don't know if anyone's doing that on Valentine's Day.

But if you are, let us know.

I would love to know.

So you have this idea of the ideal

of courting that we can see in these manuscript images.

And then on the next page there is this again

the intrusion of what the church is actually

teaching coming into contact with the reality

of the situation.

So this image I love to show because they're--

so we have this idea of the church

mandated idea of love and sex, and its depiction

in manuscripts.

So we have this image that was originally an image of Abraham

and Hagar making love.

And we have a later reader who is maybe

a little bit scandalized by the image of that,

And so a later act of censorship where the reader has actually

scraped off the offending image, a little too spicy for them.

And so I think that the last images we'll show

are again returning to this idea of bathtub dining.

And again, the image on the left is

from a luxury copy of the translation of Valerius

Maximus, which is actually the same text that our banner

image, the Temperate and the Intemperate, is taken from.

And again, it's hard to know if these kind of mixed gender

baths are actually taking place because this is supposed

to again be an illustration of the depravity

of ancient pagans, ancient Romans.

KEN ALBALA: But the logic has actually medical.

They believe that sperm was solidified like wax.

And so it wouldn't get going unless you

heated it and rubbed it.

And the bathtub helps it melts.

And that's what helps the flow.

So it's part of the whole dietary logic.

And if you look at what they're eating, it's nutritious foods.

They're eating chicken.

There's something that's easily digested, and wine, and nuts.

This is a prelude to conception.

I don't think that this was meant to be dirty or something.

LARISA GROLLEMOND: In some manuscripts,

I think it is meant to illustrate the pagan

practices of the Romans.

But these images are always updated in terms

of contemporary visual culture.

So we had this really fancy 15th century interior

with this really elaborate stone fireplace, this really

elaborate canopy bed.

We know that medieval people were bathing, of course.

That's a sort of persistent myth about the Middle Ages.

So we do have surviving big wooden tubs like this.

Whether or not people were taking full meals in the bath,

we don't know.


I mean, I think we can imagine very elite people doing things

like this.

I love the look on the servants face

which is just like so bored-looking, like so over it.


LARISA GROLLEMOND: She's bringing new water

for the bath.

It's so funny.

KEN ALBALA: They are different ages in that picture.

And maybe he needs some help.



KEN ALBALA: These are all over the place,

these images of people in the bathtub eating.

And sometimes it's a whole crowd of people.

Like, we need an establishment that does this.

People just come in as couples, and all get it in,

and eat in the tub naked.

And there's a bed in the background,

so they're clearly supposed to do it afterwards.

LARISA GROLLEMOND: So we have our last poll, our final poll,

is bathtub dining planned in your Valentine's Day?

And maybe you want to take into account

the idea of this balanced menu that we've put together.

So we have meat to stimulate your libido,

and spinach to cool it down, and maybe spiced wine

to wash it all down.

So I think we have some time for a couple of questions.

So if you've put something in the Q&A,

or if you have a question, please go ahead and have that.

KEN ALBALA: Well, I hope there'll

be a poll after everything to let

us know if these things work.

LARISA GROLLEMOND: Yeah, definitely.

Yeah, let us how the recipes go for you.

OK, so we have a couple of questions here.

Could you tell us a little bit more

about foods that might cause accidental stimulation?

KEN ALBALA: Yeah, the things that are--

it's usually things that they tell you to avoid.

And spices are usually in there.

Salty things like sardines and anchovies

will cause a prurient itch, is what one author says.

And you should avoid those unless you

want to be lecherous.

And it's why they serve them in taverns.

People say, oh, it's to increase your thirst so you drink more.

That may be the case.

But it's also, those are the things

you find with, if you look at Shakespeare with sherris-sack,

it's always pickled-- a plague on this pickled herring.

So salty foods are unnatural and so are turnips.

That's the other one that I've just always found amazing

because they're not very nutritious.

They cause flatulence.

And so they inflate the whole body accidentally

and don't necessarily make good procreation.

But they're good for distension.

Now, why do you don't say that about beans, I don't know.

And I think it's because beans are just difficult to digest.

LARISA GROLLEMOND: I mean, turnips are not exactly great.

I don't know if anyone's a great turnip fan.

I don't mean to offend anyone.

Let's see.

What role did alcohol, or wine more specifically,

play into the whole mix?

So is wine or alcohol something you would have at every meal?

Just sometimes?

A mix of the two, depending on what

you needed to stay balanced?

KEN ALBALA: Wine is a necessary nutrient, absolutely,

every day.

It's part of the sacraments.

So you have to take it to be saved in the mass.

There's this impression that the water was not clean.

So people drank alcohols.

And obviously, ordinary people drank water.

Of course they did.

But if you could afford not to, absolutely.

You'd drink beer if you were in northern Europe

over water any day because it doesn't go bad.

But wine is really for--

unless you live in a wine region.

If you live in the south, there's cheap wine everywhere.

If you're in the north, you import wine

and spend a lot on it.

And sweet wine, this is the other thing.

They loved sweet wine.

They loved white, sweeter wines.


Can you speak a little bit more to the use of gold leaf?

Was it perceived as nutrition?

Or is it simply a beautiful addition?

KEN ALBALA: So gold does not corrupt, right?

And it will help preserve your body, as a result.

Now, what they didn't realize--

I guess they didn't examine because it goes right

through your system.

You don't digest it.

It just goes right out into your poop.

And it's such a fine gold leaf.

It's a quarter millionth of an inch hammered out thin.

But they believed-- and they tried drinking it, also.

There's something called arum potabile,

which is drinkable gold that was supposed to help in longevity.

Longevity is a totally different topic than the libido.

But I think--

I don't know.

Why was Chiquart using it?

Is because they could.

Because it was expensive--


KEN ALBALA: And if you put in a bid to become pope,

you want to show you've got the money.


Now, I love the idea of gilding food just for aesthetic effect,


I mean, you can imagine the platters overflowing

with these things all gilded, how spectacular

that would have been for guests and the overall impression

of them.

Let's see.

Let's see what else we can answer here.

Let's see.

Are there other non-nutritious metals or gemstones that

were thought to be beneficial to consume,

so any non-food things that would

have been maybe used as aphrodisiacs

or ingested for other reasons?

KEN ALBALA: Yeah, there's actually a recipe in Chiquart

also for gemstones made into a broth.

Now, it's complete nonsense, of course.

It's not going to have any effect.

And people used to also dissolve pearls into--

in Messisbugo, whose early 16th century has recipes

for coral and pearls dissolved into food,

presumably for therapeutic benefit.

But yeah, there's a really strange restorative broth

made out of emeralds, and rubies, and things.

LARISA GROLLEMOND: Interesting, yeah.

Let's see.

I think we have time for a few more questions.

So yeah, if you want to ask a question,

please go ahead and type them into the Q&A box.

We have a lot.

So we won't be able to get to all of them.

But I'll try to get to some more.

Let's see.

Speaking a little bit more about Chiquart,

is there anything in the cookbook

that would strike us as very antithetical

to the modern palate?

Or is it all sort of things that we would still

eat today, theoretically?

KEN ALBALA: Well, I think sugar in the food and savory dishes

we find a little off-putting, unless we're thinking, oh,

maybe if it's Moroccan it's pastilla.

But you know, their combination of foods sounds really strange.

But when you think about something

that has got a sour component, a sweet component,

a spicy component, a savory component,

it sounds really noisy, right?

Let's stop and think.

What is barbecue sauce, right?

It's all those things.

It's got smoke because you've cooked the pork.

And I think we don't like things overtly sweet in a main course.

But we banish them to the end of a meal after the 17th century.

And we put sugar and all the spices are now in desserts.

But think of Indian food.

That's really the closest living relative.

Or think of mole.

That's also a descendant in an indirect way through Spain,


But the ground-up nuts and fruits.

And instead of pepper, you have chili, and cinnamon, and stuff.

That's a descendent of these medieval sauces.


OK, so this is a fun question about bathtub dining.

Would water temperature play a role

in the stimulation of libido?

I can't imagine a hot water bath being

very appetite-stimulating.

I think that's probably right.

I know we think of a hot bath as very relaxing.

But is it also for the libido?

KEN ALBALA: It is for the libido.

The hot water melts it, and makes it flow more easily.

But the idea of dropping food in the tub is so--

LARISA GROLLEMOND: Not so appetizing.

KEN ALBALA: Imagine taking a chicken leg

and bring it in the shower in the morning with you.

It just sounds so bad.

LARISA GROLLEMOND: Well, I appreciate

the 35% of respondents to the poll

who said that heck yes, that bathtub dining is planned

for their Valentine's Day.

So I wish you good luck with your hot tub dining exploits.

If you do decide to try to eat the cream spinach or the pork

rissoles in the bath.

And I think maybe we have time for one last question.

Let me find one that is really interesting.

Thank you to everyone who typed questions into the Q&A.

We're getting so many.

Let's see.

Do you notice a difference in the text in the treatment

of libido between genders?

So are there foods that affect men or women more,

or are they the same in terms of recommendations?

KEN ALBALA: It's a really, really complicated question

because I think it changes when they

realize that men and women have different anatomy.

And that's with Fracastoro in the 16th century,

when that whole innie and outie theory of gender difference


Up until that point, it's the same thing

because both men and women have sperm.

It needs to be made the same way.

It needs to become fluid in the same way.

It needs to be produced in the same way.

When they realize that they're not the same anatomy,

they're not analogous at all, they suddenly

forget about women.

Women don't need stimulation.

It's only men.

And men need to--

and it becomes overtly sexist.

There's no other way to say it.

All the way through to--

I would argue even until today.

LARISA GROLLEMOND: Oh, absolutely.

KEN ALBALA: They don't even think about them.

LARISA GROLLEMOND: So people who are still tuned in,

if you did not make the recipes and you're

still interested in them, please see the Love, Lust, and Libido

event page on the Getty's website, where you can see

videos that Ken put together of the instructions

for the recipes, as well as PDFs of the recipes.

And we would love to see photos of your courtly attire

that you wore to this event or your completed dishes.

So you can tag us @gettymuseum or with the hashtag


And thank you all so much for joining us.

This has been really fun.

And I hope everyone is in the mood for their own Valentine's

Day feast later this evening.

So thank you all so much.

KEN ALBALA: Thanks, everyone.

That was fun.


The Description of Love, Lust, and Libido: Aphrodisiacs in Medieval Europe