medieval-sounding recipes from the Manchester Folio of 1528
In secluded and little-known coastal harbours south of Liverpool there lives a community of wizards whose religion foretells the long-awaited second coming of a rogue Portuguese naval captain named João Baptista. On his first appearance in the early sixteenth century, the black-bearded, peg-legged João both impressed and divided his English hosts by claiming that he had “found the East by sailing West.” Those who later joined his cult were the laughingstock of Middle English wizardry, owing to a chorus of strange beliefs: that the Earth is round, that it is millions of years older than is widely known today, and that the Portuguese Navy is superior to that of Spain.
João Baptista praised the sacred hippogriff for its glorious two-tone meats, bittersweet milk, and its plump eggs, which seemed sometimes to emerge already soft-boiled. In exchange for two of the animals, he gave them a sacred beverage “made from the blessed blood of the Christ of the East.” The clear golden liquid—called “teka ylaa” by the East Indians—was lauded for its capacity to cure consumption (now known as tuberculosis) and boredom. João offered proof of the spirit’s divine status, by showing that it could kill tapeworms, a fact clearly announced with the inclusion of one at the bottom of each bottle…sullen, dejected, and “diminish’d in stature frum its contact withe the elixir.”
João Baptista left forty casks of the liquid with his new acolytes, and this was expected to last them the forty years until his second coming, which—we hardly need to tell you—signified the end of days.
And don’t they wish those casks had lasted through the next winter! A sudden shortage of the fancy Eastern drink called for painful emergency measures: substituting its precious imbibement with an incantation, sung in unison while preparing the yield of the Manchester Folio’s fine taco recipe.
It takes only a few drops of tequila per taco, an economization that we hope for his devotees’ sake made less painful the agonizing wait for João Baptista’s return.
4, with leftovers.
Anthropologist by trade and patent-obsessed inventor by night, the great Italian wizard Armando Iannucci (1267-1481) knew the future and he could taste it. On an otherwise unremarkable teleportal journey to Papua New Guinea, Iannucci stumbled on a strange ornamental citrus plant. The natives considered its fruit “too sweet to curd for lemon tarts and too sour to powder for Tang,” but Iannucci realized that the bi-curious nature of the mai-ehr lemon plant (later renamed “Meyer lemon” by ethnocentric Americans) lent itself to a sauce his grandmother once prepared with a difficult balance of citrus fruits and fresh, non-rHGH hippogriff cream.
The Great Iannucci felt entitled to return to Genoa with a tree or two in his possession, but—bet you didn’t know this—Papua New Guineans are a very proud culture. By which we mean: they are not ashamed of their culture. Picture if you will in the moments before Iannucci’s departure, a proud Genoan and a proud Guinean crossing swords over whether a Guinean ornamental could be used in a Genoan recipe. It got personal. It got socio-political. “And besides,” one native pastry chef shrugged pointedly, tapping the wizard’s chest “your name sounds like a Japanese figure skater or something. Kind of hard to take you seriously.”
“What’s to stop me?” Iannucci asked, wondering aloud how their minister of culture could prevent the movement of ornamental fruits into the kitchen pots of a man gifted in teleportation.
“We put a border agent in your teleportal when you weren’t looking,” replied the ministry secretary. “You can’t take lemon seeds out, and you can’t bring parsley in. We are adapting to your fancy schmancy fifteenth-century ways, and now your grandmother’s recipe is doomed.”
“Why parsley?” Iannucci asked, bewildered.
“It’s just pretentious. We’ve got 19 species of cilantro here. You’ll be fine.” With a laugh, the secretary added “But cilantro doesn’t go with Meyer lemon.”