Food History 101

A Medieval Trick for Turning White Wine into Red

By • June 14, 2013 • 7 Comments

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.

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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!

Jump to Comments (7)

Tags: food history, history, strange food history, medieval, medieval history, wine

Comments (7)

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Mini_modiglianised

about 1 year ago NoraMunro

Brette, I am very happy to see that you've found an actual mediaeval recipe to share. Now, could you please stop applying the adjective "creepy" to everything mediaeval? I'm normally a calm person, but this is starting to make me want to poke you (gently!) with a spork.

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about 1 year ago itrofnoc

Be careful, darnel (Lolium temulentum) is considered toxic

Mini_modiglianised

about 1 year ago NoraMunro

I was under the impression it's the fungus (of the genus Neotyphodium) that can infect the darnel, not the darnel itself that was the problem. Good point, though, as I'm not sure how you could be sure that any darnel that came into your hands was fungus-free.

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about 1 year ago Nick R

Totally following you now. I'll follow anyone who reads cookbooks from 1313.

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about 1 year ago Brette Warshaw

You just made my day!

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about 1 year ago Gabriella Paiella

Gabriella is a PR & Audience Development Director at Food52.

I'm so trying this.

Me

about 1 year ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

Right? Me too. This is fantastic.