In Strange Food History, we're hitting the books -- to find you the strangest, quirkiest slices of our food heritage.
Today: Creepy medieval magic at the dinner table.
Sure, we hear stories of people slipping things into their enemies' drinks, of people dying mysteriously at the dinner table, of wildly paranoid kings employing armies of taste-testers to make sure their morning porridge was safe.
But sneaking strange powders into a friend's drink, as a medieval cookbook points out, doesn't have to be malicious -- it can be magical.
A British cookbook from 1313, now housed at the British Museum, contains a tiny tip for turning white wine into red at the table:
Take in the spring the flowers that grow in wheat, which are called darnel or passerose, and dry them until they can be powedered. Put some of this, without being observed, into the wine glass, and the wine will turn red.
Forget the asparagus, ramps, strawberries, peas -- ask your local farmer for some darnel and passerose, and try this at your next dinner party!