Treatise on Make-up and Jam: A Bestselling Cookbook by Nostradamus
It is undeniable that Michel de Nostredame (more commonly known as Nostradamus) is most renowned for his published collection of prophecies known as Les Prophéties, or in English as The Prophecies. Nostradamus has been credited by many as having accurately predicted many major world events, including the French Revolution, the Second World War, and September 11, 2001. It is perhaps less well known that Nostradamus had worked for some time as an apothecary, and studied medicine as well. More interestingly, perhaps, is the cookbook that he wrote which contained apothecarial recipes.
The Life of Nostradamus
Nostradamus entered the University of Avignon at the age of 14, where he received a classical education. After about a year into his studies, however, Nostradamus was forced to leave Avignon, as a plague had broken out, and the university had to close its doors. Apparently Nostradamus used this time to travel throughout the countryside, researching herbal remedies and working as an apothecary.
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A portrait of Nostradamus, painted by his son, Cesar. (Public Domain)
Some years after working as an apothecary, Nostradamus entered the University of Montpelier as a student of medicine. When university officials discovered his previous job, they had Nostradamus expelled, as the work of an apothecary was regarded as a ‘manual trade’ that was banned by the university’s statutes.
Thus Nostradamus took to the road again, and travelled throughout France and Italy. Using his skills as an apothecary, Nostradamus treated victims of the plague. He had supposedly made use of some rather progressive methods of dealing with the plague. During that time, the standard practices that were used to treat plague victims included the use of potions made of mercury, blood-letting, and having the victims dressed in robes soaked in garlic.
Alleged Stories of Nostradamus’ Innovation
It has been alleged that Nostradamus did none of this. Instead, he practiced effective hygiene by keeping his patients clean, and having infected corpses removed from the city streets immediately. Additionally, Nostradamus reportedly administered low-fat diets, and encouraged his patients to get plenty of fresh air. Nostradamus is also credited with the creation of something called the ‘rose pill’, which was made of rosehips. This was a source of vitamin C that is said to have provided some relief to patients who had mild cases of the plague.
The Rose of Nostradamus (abovetopsecret)
As a result of his experience as an apothecary, Nostradamus was able to produce a book known as Traité des fardements et confitures, which translates as Treatise on Make-up and Jam. This text is said to have been first published in 1555, although its Prologue is dated to 1552. Nostradamus’ treatise was a best-seller, although the recipes in it may not have been Nostradamus’ own.
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The Treatise on Make-up and Jam
In the first part of the treatise, which deals with the topic of ‘Make-up’, Nostradamus provides recipes, amongst others, for dying one’s hair blonde, for making toothpaste in the form of powder (with cuttlefish bone and calcined sea-snail shells, and for the production of a ‘love potion’. Ingredients for this ‘love potion’, for instance, included the blood of seven male sparrows, ambergris, musk, Cretan wine, and sugar. This ‘love potion’ is said to be able to excite one’s lover to perform the love act when a little of this potion is expelled into his / her mouth with saliva during kissing.
Less well known is his expertise as a pharmacist (of sorts) and a jam-maker. (pharmaceutical-journal)
Sugar seems to be a prominent ingredient in Nostradamus’ recipes, and this is more clearly seen in the second part of his work, i.e. the part that deals with ‘Jams’. Recipes in this part of the treatise include a cherry jam, the title of which has been translated as:
“To do Jelly of Cherries that is so Clear & Vermillion like a fine Rubey, & of Goodness, Taste & Virtue Excellent, that the Cherries will Preserve Long in Perfection without adding anything but the Fruit: & will be fit to present to a King for their Supreme Excellence.”
Another, which has a shorter name, was “ Another Way to make Jelly of Cherries, that is more Delicate than the First but it is more Dear & is for Great Lords.” He also had recipes for candied orange peel (“ To make candied orange peel, using sugar or honey, that will be excellently tasty”), candied pears, and marzipan. Considering that sugar was a luxury item during Nostradamus’ lifetime, these sweet treats were perhaps made only by those who could afford this expensive commodity.
An edition of the Treatise on Make-up and Jam that was issued in Lyon (1555) (Public Domain)
Featured image: Spanish modern edition of Nostradamus' 'Treatise on Make-up and Jam' and a portrait of its author. Photo source: (grupoartesana)
Crum, M., 2013. Nostradamus' Recipe For Cherry Jelly. [Online]
Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/08/nostradamus-recipe_n_2424491.html
Dean, S., 2011. Cooking with Nostradamus!. [Online]
Available at: http://www.bonappetit.com/trends/article/cooking-with-nostradamus
Foden, G., 2006. Nostradamus and his pot of jam. [Online]
Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2006/apr/01/featuresreviews.guardianreview1
Hare, J. B., 2010. Nostradamus. [Online]
Available at: http://www.sacred-texts.com/nos/
Ryan, R., Koski, D. & Symon, E. V., 2013. 6 Books That Destroy Your Image of the People Who Wrote Them. [Online]
Available at: http://www.cracked.com/article_20512_6-books-that-destroy-your-image-people-who-wrote-them.html
www.biography.com, 2016. Nostradamus. [Online]
Available at: http://www.biography.com/people/nostradamus-9425407