Saturday, October 3, 2009

Receipts for Beauty: To Make Sweete Water

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Susan reports:

Take halfe a bushell of damask roses & put them in an earthen pot which will hold 3 gallons of water, & fill it almoste full,  & put into it 2 handfulls of lavender knops and set it in ye sun for a fortnight all ye day. Put in Allsoe a good handfull of sweet margerm & a good handfull of bayse, & when it hath stood ye fore mentioned time in ye sun, put in 2 ounces of cloves bruised, and soe still it, hanging in a little bagg wherein there is 2 gryns of muske. If you would perfume a roome with this water, you must heat a fire shovele red hot & poure some of it into it.

From "A Booke of Sweetemeats", c. late 17th century; included in Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery, transcribed by Karen Hess

Above: Portrait of a Young Woman, Francois Boucher (1703-1770)

8 comments:

Christine Trent said...

So was this a recipe for a 17th century equivalent of potpourri? If so, it sort of gives you insight into the fact that perhaps they didn't all run around completely unbathed and unconcerned with the noxious odors their bodies created! If only I knew what a lavender "knop" was, or bruised cloves, or soe, perhaps I might try making this!

Loretta Chase said...

Several OED defs for "knop"--but one is"the bud of a flower; a compact or rounded flower-head or seed-vessel."
I assume bruised cloves are cloves that have been mashed or pounded, the way one might "bruise" garlic. The only def I find for "soe" is tub. I think this is simply a way of spelling "so."
Do I get points?

Christine Trent said...

Yes, you definitely get points for being a "nerdy history girl." Congratulations. :)

I wonder how future generations will look at our recipes for things and make my same comments. "A pinch of salt? What's a pinch?" and so forth.

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Christine -- first off, congrats on your BEAUTIFUL cover! I don't think the "sweet water" is potpourri -- there were other recipes for that -- but more of an all-purpose nice-smelling-liquid, to be used as either an air or people freshener. Not quite a perfume, but better than regular water. Maybe like eau de cologne now?

As for the measurements -- there are other recipes that specify quantities of certain ingredients by their cost –– a "shilling's worth of ambergris" -- which would make it REALLY hard to figure out today. Fortunately the editor/transcriber of the book puts in helpful footnotes that give a context, such as "this was a very costly ingredient, given that it's the same cost as a yearling pig". *g*

And yes, Loretta, you know you have a permanent seat up there in the front of the class of nerdy-dom.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

ooo, yes, Christine, perrrty. I want to wear that dress. Congrats on the cover. NHGs, why is it that some NGs make one want to be best friends with them, while others make one want to give them just a dainty little smack to the side of the coiffure? tmi? TNHGs def fall into the former category, and I'd always offer up my front-row desk in class to either of you. I love cloves and any spice or herb that seems 'medieval' or used in the Old Country. Not in the Bush Gardens sense; you know what I mean. Susan: What a lovely cosmetics ad that'd make, "It cost a yearling pig, but I'm worth it." This is so fascinating. Thank you.

pippa said...

I bet roses, lavender, margerem, and cloves smell divine together. Clever, too, to make a sweet-smelling steam by pouring on the hot shovel. Much better than so many modern chemicals.

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Michelle, I'm glad you're not waiting to smack us upsides the head!

But as sweet-smelling as this concoction sounds -- and I agree, Pippa, it probably DOES smell divine -- we don't want to get too carried away about going all-natural a la the historical past. This same collection of household recipes also includes one to "Take Forth Stayns OUt of Linnen." The active ingredient is "Stercus Canis officinalis": dog's white dung. Uhh...maybe not.

Christine Trent said...

Thank you, Susan and Michelle, for your comments on my cover. Less than 90 days until it's released.

Michelle, I loved your "It cost a yearling pig, but I'm worth it" comment. Hysterical. Maybe you should be writing books! :)

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