I swear I didn’t start out looking for aphrodisiacs. Believe it or not, I was looking for a recipe for gruel. I’ve seen it mentioned in so many historical novels (as well as that song in the movie Mary Poppins) that I just had to find out what it’s really like. Nobody ever wants to eat/drink it. Is it really that bad?
I looked at a few recipes in old cookbooks, and gruel did look pretty boring, but I didn’t have time to make it, and in any case there are more interesting foods for invalids.
Such as asses’ milk.
Really? Maria Rundell, the author of the 18th C. cookbook in question, follows the suggestion of genuine asses’ milk (which may give you gas—try taking it with a spoonful of rum) with a couple of recipes for artificial asses’ milk.
Boil together a quart of water, a quart of new milk, an ounce of white sugar-candy, half an ounce of eringo-root, and half an ounce of conserve of roses, until half be wasted. (I assume this means boil it down to half the original volume…?)
Boil two ounces of hartshorn shavings, two ounces of pearl-barley, two ounces of candied eringo-root, and one dozen of snails that have been bruised (um…what?), in two quarts of water to one. (Half the original volume again, right?) Mix with an equal quantity of new milk, when taken, twice a day.
I would have loved to try one of these, but I don’t have hartshorn or eringo root, and if I have snails, I won’t waste them making asses’ milk—I’ll cook them in garlic butter and eat them with French bread. I didn’t even know what eringo-root was.
Well. Turns out it’s the candied root of sea holly, and it’s…an aphrodisiac. (Among other things—it was believed to be good for all manner of ills.) Still, what an entertaining find.
Just recently, I found a story to put it in. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s a sequel to my two Christmas novellas from last year, Under a Christmas Spell and Under a New Year’s Enchantment, which feature an incubus and succubus—very special people (NOT demons) who can send erotic dreams. These two novellas will be out soon in an anthology, Improper Christmas Nights, in the UK and Australia…not on my side of either pond, alas.
The WIP is also about a succubus, Lettice Raleigh, who is playing a dangerous game sending erotic dreams to Lord Hadrian Oakenhurst. Here’s an excerpt. (The Marquis of Staves is Lord Hadrian’s father, and his brother, Lord Valiant, is the incubus hero of Under a Christmas Spell.)
“Weakness of character and constitution go hand in hand,” the Marquis of Staves pronounced.
Lord Hadrian was about to retort—the more he annoyed his father, the better―but then he had a more entertaining idea. “Precisely, which is why I intend to look for some sea holly today.”
Miss Raleigh’s eyes widened, and a smile teased at her mouth. “Sea holly? Whatever for?”
In the vivid flesh, her lips were even more entrancing than in his dream. “Loath as I am to admit to any accompanying character flaws, I do suffer from a weak constitution,” Hadrian said.
She narrowed her eyes at him. He didn’t blame her, for he was perfectly hale and hearty.
“What the devil are you talking about?” the marquis demanded. “There’s nothing wrong with your constitution.”
“No?” Hadrian stifled a grin. “You’ve always said I lack manly vigour.”
“Nonsense,” his father said predictably. No one but he was permitted to criticize his progeny. “All my sons excel in—” He stopped, as Lord Valiant, that most potent of the potent, instantly came to everyone’s mind—even Miss Raleigh’s, judging by the twitch of her lips.
“Perhaps the family’s share of manly vigour was dealt out unevenly by the Almighty,” Hadrian said. “Val certainly makes up for my lack of it.” Not only had Lord Valiant been disinherited and banned from Staves Court forever for debauching an innocent whilst still at Eton, but he had also made a point of flaunting his shocking reputation.
Lord Staves purpled. One of these days his rage would result in an apoplectic fit. “How dare you mention his name in this house?” he shouted. “He is dead to this family! Dead, do you hear?”
“But not to his new wife, one hopes,” Hadrian said.
“Now, now, Lord Hadrian, don’t agitate your father,” Miss Raleigh said with that same faint smile. She was cooing again. He should dislike it. He should certainly disapprove, but it had the opposite effect on his cock.
Surely she hadn’t developed an interest in him. That would make the next several days abominably awkward. He was adept at fending off unwanted advances, but something about Lettice Raleigh was different from other women.
She smiled more widely, a twinkle in her dark eyes. “You are perfectly correct about the restorative effects of sea holly. I always have a supply of the candied root ready to hand.” The tip of her tongue touched her upper lip. “It’s excellent for boosting a man’s…vigour.”
His was already boosting a little too well, thank you very much.
So, leaving Lord Hadrian and Miss Raleigh to their fun… I’d love to hear about other old-fashioned aphrodisiacs. Or fun old-fashioned recipes. Has anybody out there in Embracing Romance land actually tried gruel?
Now for our trivia question: Eringo root is the root of what plant? Fill in your answer here.