[Sca-cooks] [Fwd: Nutmeg in stale ale]

Gretchen Beck grm at andrew.cmu.edu
Sat Aug 2 12:20:55 PDT 2008

--On Saturday, August 02, 2008 1:43 PM -0500 Terry Decker 
<t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net> wrote:

> I suspect the nutmeg is being added to the ale to give it some bite.  The
> traditional ales I've encountered tend to be a little on the sweet side.

I think it's also being added to balance the humors of the ale (of course, 
in medieval cooking, I'm always amazed how taste and humors often follow 
each other:-)). Here's some lines:

from Robert Greene (contemporary of Marlowe and Shakespeare), Looking Glass 
for London and England:

"...I am a Philosopher that can dispute of the nature of Ale; for marke you 
sir, a pot of Ale consists of foure parts, Imprimus the Ale, the Toast, the 
Ginger, and the Nutmeg...The ale is a restorative, bread is a binder, mark 
you sir, two excellent points in physic: the ginger, O, ware of that! the 
philosophers have written of the nature of ginger, 'tis expulsitive in two 
degrees; you shall hear the sentence of Galen:
   "It will make a man belch, cough, and fart,
    And is a great comfort to the heart,"
a proper posy, I promise you; but now to the noble virtue of the nutmet; it 
is, saith one ballad (I think an English Roman was the author) an 
underlayer to the brains, for when the ale gives a buffet to the head, O 
the nutmet! that keeps him for an while in temper..."

The ditty "The Nut-Brown Ale" by John Marston (1575-1634) more or less 
repeats this (or perhaps vice versa, or perhaps both just make fun of 
conventional wisdom)

The nut-brown ale, the nut-broen ale
Puts down all drink when it is stale!
The toast, the nutmeg, and the ginger
Will make a sighing man a singer.
Ale gives a buffet in the head,
But ginger under-props the brain;
When ale would strike a strong man dead
Then nutmeg tempers it again.
The nut-brown ale, the nut-brown ale,
Puts down all drink when it is stale!

toodles, margaret

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