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Nostradamus' Cookbook

Michel de Nostredame is best known today as a prophet, because of his prophecies written in verse. Those verses are so enigmatic that they can be connected to all kinds of historical events, whether he had any insight to them or not. But there was more to Nostradamus: He was a writer, a chemist, an apothecary, and a cook. All those activities came together in a 1552 book called the Traité des fardements et confitures (Treatise on Cosmetics and Jams). The book was full of things he whipped up himself in the kitchen, such as medicines, love potions, and beauty aids.

But other recipes are more recognizable and downright edible. In the Traité, sugar is touted for its ability to preserve fresh fruit, and many of the recipes resemble modern jam and jelly techniques. A recipe for morello-cherry jelly involves fruit cooked until soft enough to strain out the pits and skins, then mixed with sugar. If a dab of the jelly on a plate doesn’t slide around, Nostradamus writes, then it’s ready to be stored.

But at the time, sugar was fabulously expensive. This is probably why Nostradamus writes that several of his sweet concoctions are intended only for nobility or kings. Consider his quince jelly recipe. Nostradamus turns up his nose at those silly enough to peel their quinces before cooking them: The rind and peel, he writes, enhances the jelly. After boiling the fruit, straining it, and adding sugar (taking care not to overcook), the final product has the color of a ruby and is “fit to set before a king.”  

Read about Nostradamus' other recipes from the book at Atlas Obscura.


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