Thursday, August 31, 2017

Renaissance Spice Sailors



 

Spices during the Renaissance



Renaissance sailors first took to the seas to supply England and Europe with the many Asian and Mediterranean spices that were in demand. Peppercorns, nutmeg, mace, and cinnamon all came from lands to the east. Also from the East came precious gems and fine silk, a fabric especially sought after for women's clothing. These trading voyages were often paid for by investors and/or monarchs.

Buying black pepper, ginger, cloves and other spices back then was costly as these delights were considered to be valued as highly as gold and silver.

The people of the Renaissance found many uses for spices in everyday life. For example:

  • Black Pepper was used to preserve and flavor spoiled meat.
  • Cloves and cinnamon were used as substitutes for cleanliness, and were scattered across the floor to prevent foot odor from permeating the room.

Spice Lore:


Food has long been associated with health and well-being. People believed in the medicinal as well as supernatural properties of the spices they used. These tales also applied to the challenges that were faced when trying to secure these valuable and tasty commodities.



Here is one example: Before the Renaissance, it was reported that Arabs had cornered the cinnamon trade market. They restricted trade to maintain their monopoly. For sailors, the routes were made more hazardous by the legends that surrounded their efforts to secure and deliver these this spice. It was believed that poisonous snakes protected the great storehouses and that threatening birds built nests on mountain passes that made it almost impossible to safely return to the ships.



Renaissance era household cookbooks regularly recommended ginger, pepper, sugar, cinnamon, and other spices to treat stomachaches, headaches, or even to cure poisoning. Cookbooks of the royalty and nobility contained tarts, meats, soups, and other recipes that included great numbers of spices.



With the exception of mustard, fennel, and a few others, most spices had to be transported to Europe over the course of many months (if not years) via land trade routes like the Silk Road.



They came by sea on galleons that, under Elizabethan rule, were engineered with longer and lower designs that made them faster. 



To learn more about food of the Renaissance, click here.

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Friday, August 25, 2017

Sun Folklore




Summer is when the sun shines!

It stays high in the sky for longer periods of time, warming up the earth for several months before making a seasonal change into Fall. Like many heavenly bodies, the sun, a big part of our summer celebrations, is the topic of much folklore. Each culture has its own myths, legends, stories and folk wisdom about how the sun first came to light up our skies.  From escaping evil spirits to needing attention, the sun is a force in many folktales. Here are some examples of folklore about this ball of fire in the sky:

Siberia- One day the evil spirits of the land stole the sun out of the sky.  The animals of the land stumbled around in the darkness looking for food and shelter.  Finally, the wise raven called a council meeting to plan how to free the sun.  The hare was sent to find the sun since he was the fastest in the group.  The hare traveled for days until he found the hole where the evil spirits had hidden the sun.  While the spirits were sleeping, the hare climbed down the crevice and stole the sun back from the evil spirits.

Cherokee - The sun was jealous of her brother the moon because the people liked him more. The sun got so angry she sent a fever to kill the people who looked at her funny.  The sun traveled every day across the sky to see her daughter, so the people placed a poisonous snake at her daughter’s door to kill the sun.  The snake bit the daughter instead and the sun was so distressed she refused to shine.  To make the sun happy again the people danced in her honor.  Today, the Cherokee Tribe continues to please the sun by performing the sun dance.

Tsimshian- The sky used to be completely dark according to Tsimshian legend.  The chief of the land’s younger son, “One Who Walks All Over the Sky,” was sad at all the darkness.  He decided to make a mask out of wood and light it on fire.  Legend says that he travels across the sky every day wearing the mask to light up the sky.

Even with today’s scientific interpretations, the Sun remains a mysterious force of nature that people still try to understand. Folklore is one very useful and long-standing way to do that.

Related Information
Tsimshian