More on Hildegard of Bingen and Her Cookies of Joy

Hildegard von Bingen, the twelfth-century mystic, author, composer, playwright, diplomat, visionary, abbess, and author wrote a great deal on the healing properties of food.  Yesterday I gave a modern adaptation of  her "Cookies of Joy."

Today, from her Physica, I give you something closer to her original words (which would have been in twelfth-century German, which I'm guessing few of my readers are fluent in). A translation is:
Take equal amounts of nutmeg and cinnamon and some cloves and pulverize them.  With this, and  fine whole wheat flour and water, make small cakes.

She goes on to give further directions to eat these small cakes often, to calm bitterness of heart and mind, to open the heart and impaired senses, and to foster cheerfulness.

Hildegard's Physica--which contains nine 'books' and is only one of her many written works--discusses the properties of a number of plants, including herbs, spices, vegetables, classifying them according to hot and cold and discussing their benefit and harm to people.  In some cases, that benefit or harm depends on the individual person.  Radishes, for instance, will cure and cleanse a strong fat man, but will harm one who is sick and lean.  (For one who is lean but strong...?)

Of the ingredients in the Cookies of Joy (or should we call them small cakes of cheer--no, cookies of joy has a better ring to it even if it is a bit anachronistic), individual results are listed:  Cinnamon, which is very hot, increases good humors and decreases bad humors.  Nutmeg opens the heart, makes one's judgment free from obstruction, and granta s good disposition.  Cloves diminish any stuffiness in the head, cures dropsy, and stops gout from progressing.

All in all, these sound like very good things to me, and as soon as I find cloves, I'll beg my daughter to make us all some Cookies of Joy.  (Believe me, if I make them myself, nobody around here is going to be too joyful.  I'll go play medieval cantigas on my harp and forget my medieval small cakes are in the oven.)  Won't my boys be surprised when I start ordering them to eat cookies every day!  In the meantime, I'm happily downing my Bengal Spice cinnamon, ginger, and clove tea and happily sprinkling cinnamon and nutmeg on everything I eat! (Okay...not really.  That was just my, um, humor.  Hopefully good humor!)

As an interesting coincidence, Hildegard of Bingen's feast day is September 17, which happens to be the day I'll be interviewed live on AM 950's Food Freedom program, talking about medieval food, and quite likely about Hildegard herself.  Not to make a shameless plug or anything.  And also not to make a shameless plug, but since we're talking about food, I have posted In the Kitchen today at Gaelic Word a Day.

SOURCES: Hildegard von Bingen's Physica: The Complete English Translation of her Classic Work on Health and Healing by Priscilla Throop


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