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Welcome all dreamers, fantasists, bibliophiles, and romantics. Join me Mondays and Fridays for speculation about other worlds, exploration of the human heart and soul in fiction and fact, sojourns in history and science, advice and tidbits in the realms of story, and thoughts on everything in between...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Barley Water: The Medieval Cough Syrup


As a medieval enthusiast and a writer, I periodically experiment with food, experiences, or whatever strikes my interest.  I had the chance to make a variety of medieval recipes at a party and, out of that periodically dangerous curiosity, I put barley water on the menu.

No, it wasn’t as bad as cough syrup, but it wasn’t very good either.

Barley water was a mild, easy to make drink often given to the sick or elderly during those days of yore.  But after one taste, I wondered if medieval men and women reserved it for the sick room, despite my research saying that healthy individuals drank it as well.

Barley water is bland, very bland.  Yes, it’s gentle, but the lack of taste, or rather the dull sucking-away-the-joy-of-flavor taste, robs imbibing it of any worth, in my opinion.  I can see it going down easy on an upset stomach, but no more.

All this made me wonder if, in the Middle Ages, barley water was one of those dreaded things to threaten children with when they tried to squirm out of working in the fields.

“But Mom, my tummy hurts.  I can’t help in the harvest today.”

At which point, the medieval mother might say, “Oh, well that’s too bad.  Here, just let me put this caldron of barley water on so you’ll feel well enough by tomorrow.”

“Uh, no thanks, Mom.  Look, I’m better already.  See you in the fields!”

What historical recipes have you tried? What did you think of them?

Have a happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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