Work: The Write Stuff

 

The other day, I ordered a book from Amazon. It was available in a Kindle format, so I pressed a couple of buttons, and, Wallah!, as they say around here, it was on my device within seconds.

Now I don’t mind reading books on a Kindle, and I’m well aware of the amount of shelf space I’ve saved over the past eight years by using it as much as I do. In addition, I have the “Kindle Unlimited” subscription, and I’ve found that very handy and cost-effective, when it comes to loading up on light reading which, for me, mostly consists of binge-reading mystery and detective novels in series, when I find an author I like. Is it the same as holding a book in my hand and turning the pages slowly, one by one? No. But it serves the purpose, and gets me by, and through.

I do love the feel of actual books, though. And second-hand bookstores. And the smell of a nice library. Not to mention museums and collections of antiquarian tomes, the few times that I’ve been lucky enough to be in an especially good one. (Such as the Library and Archive at Worcester Cathedral, a hidden gem in the English Midlands. I’m not so down with their exhibition of the fragment of human skin, flayed alive from a Viking who was caught stealing the Sanctus Bell somewhere around 1000, after which his skin was nailed to the door as a warning to others. But the manuscript and early book collection is spectacular. )

Most of us know the stories of medieval monks toiling in their scriptoria, diligently copying other manuscripts, either for their own or other monastery libraries, or perhaps as a private commission for the Duke of Thusandsuch, who had his own collection, and enough money for the purpose, and who wanted to show off his erudition and wealth. The end result, whether or not it was the tactical objective at the time, was the preservation of the wisdom of the ancients, and there’s nothing not to like about that.

But what was involved in getting a manuscript together? And suppose I wanted to duplicate the process today. What would it actually take to do that?

Well, first there must be a surface to write on. No problem! I have a couple of reams of paper I picked up at Sam’s Club, last time they had a BOGO on the stuff.

Ummm, not so fast. Instead, how about we gather up some dead animals. The most highly prized are stillborn goats or sheep (their end product is called parchment), known for the whiteness and smoothness of their skin, but calves do almost as well (if you’re making vellum), and have more surface area per. Skin them, and dump the skins in a vat of lime, to remove the hair or wool. Next, stretch their skins on wooden frames, held taut with laces, and let them dry. Then scrape them, using long knives with two handles (one for each hand). Even further back in time, and you’d be doing the job with flints. Keep scraping until the skin is the thickness you want it, still opaque enough that you’ll be able to write or draw on both sides, but so that it’s thin and fine enough that it can be bound into a book, or stored easily between boards. That process is the subject of the illumination at the top of this post.

OK. Got that. Writing surface? Check.

Now, there must be something to write with. Both a means and a medium. The means is a quill, and the medium is some sort of ink.

First, to misquote Hannah Glasse, author of several 18th-century English cookbooks (short pause for the cognitive disconnect at the words English and cookbooks occurring in the same sentence), “catch your goose.” And pull a suitable feather from it. Or, if you’re lucky, perhaps you’ll find one (a feather, not a goose) lying around, in a field or by a pond. Let it dry for a good while (weeks or months), until it stiffens, and will hold up to the pressure that’s going to be applied as you write page after page. Scrape away any oil, grease, or dirt, and trim the end at an acute angle. Slit the barrel of the feather about half-way up, as that will be the reservoir for ink once you get going, and then make a small cut straight across the very tip, defining the “nib,” and, by its width, indicating the boldness of the letters you’ll be making. You’ll probably need to have 50 or 60 quills ready to go (those poor, naked, geese), as they dull quickly, and if you don’t have a copious supply, you’ll spend half your time sharpening and reshaping the nibs over the course of your writing day, and you won’t get much writing actually done. Have several dozen quills at hand, and you can sharpen them all during your downtime, when you have nothing else to do (sarcasm off).

So. Writing implement? Check.

Now, a writing medium: ink. Crimenutely at this point. Can’t I just go to Staples and buy a bottle of the stuff? No.

You’ll need three ingredients for good quality ink: A few dozen oak galls, some ferrous sulfate, and some gum arabic.

Oak galls are lumpy swellings that occur on the bark of oak trees when a wasp lays its eggs in their buds. The larva develops in a spherical, hard, cocoon, and when it is grown, the wasp bores through the shell and flies out. Oak galls can occur anywhere, so you can go foraging for them in the woods and by the roadside yourself, but the best are thought to come from the Middle East.

Ferrous sulfate (iron vitriol) was brought from Spain. It’s a mineral that’s still used today, medically, to treat anemia.

And gum arabic is a sticky sap from the acacia tree, usually imported from what is now Turkey or Egypt.

So yes, you’ll need ready access to trade routes, fairs, and traveling salesmen, and you’ll need the resources to buy these exotic and expensive products. Otherwise, you might have to resort to one of the cheaper, less effective, not-so-long-lasting ingredients — for example, rather than using gum arabic as your fixative, you could collect several months worth of earwax from cooperative family members and co-workers, and mix that in, instead. Failing that, egg yolks (stinky). You might substitute charcoal or lamp black (soot) for the oak galls. Whatever is accessible, affordable, and will serve the purpose. Just do your best.

Best case though: Boil the oak galls in rainwater, until the mixture is reduced by half, add your gum arabic, and boil again, and then mix in the iron vitriol (which you’ve pre-mixed with some wine). I’d suggest at this point that you also pour yourself a glass of the same wine and drink it (you could try adding a bit of iron vitriol to your beverage if you’re feeling faint or wobbly–medieval Geritol, as it were). Then leave the new ink to mellow for a couple of days, and strain out the bits so they don’t get stuck in your pens, or blotch up your pages.

Done. Writing medium? Check.

All set, right? Not quite.

Image result for medieval illumination writing deskYou’ll need a writing desk. If you want to go full Medieval, this desk will not have a surface that’s parallel to the floor. It will look more like a lectern, so your manuscript will be angled as you write. This will introduce a bit of gravity into the equation, and help with the evacuation of the ink from your quill. Don’t worry; after a time you’ll find the writing position quite comfortable, and if you don’t, well, it doesn’t matter anyway. It’s not about you. It’s about posterity.

And, you’ll need a small knife (which you’ll have to make) in order to scrape away your (probably) frequent mistakes. Be careful when you do, because you don’t want to make a mess, or scrape a hole in your nice parchment or vellum.

Now, I think you’re ready to go. Take several sheets of your writing surface, and either poke little holes in them, or mark guidelines with very watery ink, so you’ll have straight lines to follow. Let the ink dry, if you used it.

Set your original on your desk where you can easily follow along (or find a hapless novice, or even better a woman, to hold it for you), and get busy. Be careful, and don’t make a mess. Set each page on a table to dry, and make sure you keep them in order. That’s important, because when everything is done, you’ll either bind them between two wooden boards into something resembling a modern-day book, but which you’ll call a Codex, or you’ll leave them loose, and just place them between the boards and tie decoratively with a ribbon. In either case, depending on the financial circumstances, or political sway of your patron, you may decorate the wooden boards with cloth, intricately tooled leather, writing, or jewels.

But before that final step, the illuminators must get to work! This step is done after the writing, because it’s even more time-consuming, and it would be a real shame if some dolt of a copyist messed up so badly that the whole page, including your lovely illumination, had to be scraped off and done over.

Illuminators use inks into which even more exotic ingredients have been added or applied: cochineal, azurite, lapis lazuli, volcanic or rare earths, gold, and silver, just for starters. The lasting and vivid colors of medieval illuminations is a testament to the care that was taken and the quality of the inks used. As with this beautiful example from The Book of Hours of Notre Dame, around 1470:

Hours of Notre Dame

As you can see, the scribe left plenty of space on the page for the illuminators, when both were working amicably together. Sometimes, the illuminator, who had a great deal more freedom than the scribes, would get carried away, and would carry his drawings, and sometimes his doodlings, into the margins. Sometimes, his drawings cast a satirical, a fanciful, or even a vulgar, commentary on the work:

The theme of “Knight versus Snail,” and “Knight versus Rabbit” is fairly common in medieval manuscripts. Theories as to why that’s the case abound, but a common one is that it’s a commentary on the “elites” versus the fast-reproducing and intellectually slow “deplorables.” No prizes for guessing who represents what:

I’m never other than thrilled, charmed, and humbled by the original medieval manuscripts that I’ve been lucky enough to see, and in some cases, even touch. In doing so, it’s impossible not to feel the connection, across hundreds of years, to the ordinary, but very human, beings who, with much toil, and if not in all cases, at least in a great majority of them, with much love, produced great wonders for the ages.

Image result for medieval st john scribe

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  1. Al French Moderator
    Al French
    @AlFrench

    She: Slit the barrel of the feather about half-way up , as that will be the reservoir for ink once you get going, and then make a small cut straight across the very tip, defining the “nib,” and, by its width, indicating the boldness of the letters you’ll be making. You’ll probably need to have fifty or sixty quills ready to go (those poor, naked, geese), as they dull quickly, and if you don’t have a copious supply, you’ll spend half your time sharpening and reshaping the nibs over the course of your writing day, and you won’t get much writing actually done. Have several dozen quills at hand, and you

    Hence the pen knife (which has morphed into the pocket knife). I have my grandfather’s, gold colored one, which I suspect was worn on the other end of his watch chain. By its dullness, I suspect that it was not made to cut quills, which fits the time frame, as he was born long after the introduction of steel nibs (1872). Possibly an affectation of the middle class of the times.

    • #1
  2. Juliana Member
    Juliana
    @Juliana

    This is fascinating! Thank you.

    • #2
  3. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    She: when it comes to loading up on light reading which, for me, mostly consists of binge reading mystery and detective novels in series, when I find an author I like.

    Thanks again for the Louise Penny recommendation, HOWEVER I just finished the most recent Inspector Gamache (A Better Man) and I think the characters are getting a little too mushy and touchy feely. At least for me.

    If you are not already familiar with them let me recommend Peter Robinson, Rennie Airth, Jussi Adler-Olsen (Dept Q), Sophie Hannah, Liane Moriarty.

    BTW – very entertaining post.  

     

    • #3
  4. Weeping Inactive
    Weeping
    @Weeping

     

    Wow! That’s a lot of work. I knew it wasn’t easy, but I had no idea how difficult it was. 

    • #4
  5. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Hannah Glasse, author of several eighteenth-century English cookbooks (short pause for the cognitive disconnect at the words English and cookbooks occurring in the same sentence)

    Ha!

     

    • #5
  6. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    She: I’m not so down with their exhibition of the fragment of human skin, flayed alive from a Viking who was caught stealing the Sanctus Bell somewhere around 1000, after which his skin was nailed to the door as a warning to others.

    To be fair, their options were rather limited. They could have put up signs, I suppose. The signs would have to have been in futhark to be effective. And the most important message would have been “there is someone in these parts who flays Vikings, so behave.”

    • #6
  7. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    They really are everywhere. My personal theory is that the knights and the snails represented equally matched opponents. They are both heavily armored and kind of slow.

    • #7
  8. She Member
    She
    @She

    Percival (View Comment):

    She: I’m not so down with their exhibition of the fragment of human skin, flayed alive from a Viking who was caught stealing the Sanctus Bell somewhere around 1000, after which his skin was nailed to the door as a warning to others.

    To be fair, their options were rather limited.

    Fair?  Fair? Who said anything (other than you, just now) about being fair?  IMHO, “fairness” is vastly overrated.  Also, I think it’s pretty much like “greatness.”  Some are born fair, some achieve fairness, still others have fairness thrust upon them.  And then there are a few who, due to exigent circumstances, have it squashed out of them.

    They could have put up signs, I suppose. The signs would have to have been in futhark to be effective. And the most important message would have been “there is someone in these parts who flays Vikings, so behave.”

    LOL.

    Percival (View Comment):
    They really are everywhere. My personal theory is that the knights and the snails represented equally matched opponents. They are both heavily armored and kind of slow.

    That’s very good.

    • #8
  9. She Member
    She
    @She

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):

    She: when it comes to loading up on light reading which, for me, mostly consists of binge reading mystery and detective novels in series, when I find an author I like.

    Thanks again for the Louise Penny recommendation, HOWEVER I just finished the most recent Inspector Gamache (A Better Man) and I think the characters are getting a little too mushy and touchy feely. At least for me.

    If you are not already familiar with them let me recommend Peter Robinson, Rennie Airth, Jussi Adler-Olsen (Dept Q), Sophie Hannah, Liane Moriarty.

    BTW – very entertaining post.

     

    Thanks for the compliment and the recommendations, @justmeinaz.  I read A Better Man last week.  Still miles better than most of the genre, but I see your point.  I’m hoping, if Beauvoir really has been seen off to Paris, and Gamache has a new partner (the woman, whose name escapes me, oh, Isabelle), that Penny will take things in a bit of a new direction with the next one.

    OTOH, Ruth rarely disappoints.

    • #9
  10. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Percival (View Comment):

    She: I’m not so down with their exhibition of the fragment of human skin, flayed alive from a Viking who was caught stealing the Sanctus Bell somewhere around 1000, after which his skin was nailed to the door as a warning to others.

    To be fair, their options were rather limited. They could have put up signs, I suppose. The signs would have to have been in futhark to be effective. And the most important message would have been “there is someone in these parts who flays Vikings, so behave.”

    “Thank You For Not Viking” 

    • #10
  11. She Member
    She
    @She

    Al French (View Comment):
    Al French

    She: Slit the barrel of the feather about half-way up , as that will be the reservoir for ink once you get going, and then make a small cut straight across the very tip, defining the “nib,” and, by its width, indicating the boldness of the letters you’ll be making. You’ll probably need to have fifty or sixty quills ready to go (those poor, naked, geese), as they dull quickly, and if you don’t have a copious supply, you’ll spend half your time sharpening and reshaping the nibs over the course of your writing day, and you won’t get much writing actually done. Have several dozen quills at hand, and you

    Hence the pen knife

    Of course!  Duh.  Thanks.

    • #11
  12. She Member
    She
    @She

    Some of the most ornate and beautiful medieval manuscripts are Books of Hours, devotional texts containing Biblical readings, church calendars, and psalms.  The most famous is probably the Tres Riches Heurs du Duc de Berry, but Worcester Cathedral has a lovely one that I’ve seen, from around 1400, and done in a more primitive style.  Here’s an example, described on the Cathedral blog page, as “King David with harp (not in a man trap, as one of our earlier catalogues claims).”  I can so totally see both interpretations:

    • #12
  13. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    I wonder if those manuscripts would be easier to read if the font was Comic Sans.

    • #13
  14. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    And that was when writing got easy! Roll back the years a bit and you get what my father likes to call Nabisco shredded wheat: cuneiform tablets that were, indeed close in form to the large Nabisco Shredded Wheat.

    This post is part of our Group Writing Series under the March 2020 Group Writing Theme: “Working.” There are plenty of open days, so get busy and work it! Stop by and sign up now.
    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #14
  15. DrewInWisconsin, Influencer Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Influencer
    @DrewInWisconsin

    She: . . . so I pressed a couple of buttons, and, Wallah!, as they say around here . . .

    I hope they say Voila! instead.

     

    • #15
  16. JennaStocker Member
    JennaStocker
    @JennaStocker

    Thank you for this post. It’s a very good reminder of how much we take for granted by the wonders of modern technology. It really helps me grasp both why people dedicated their lives to reproducing the great works, and how they were artists in their own right creating works of art. It’s an odd dichotomy that I mourn the craftsmanship of books and that I must get around to writing that “thank you” note to Johannes Gutenberg.

    • #16
  17. Judge Mental, Secret Chimp Member
    Judge Mental, Secret Chimp
    @JudgeMental

    Percival (View Comment):

    She: I’m not so down with their exhibition of the fragment of human skin, flayed alive from a Viking who was caught stealing the Sanctus Bell somewhere around 1000, after which his skin was nailed to the door as a warning to others.

    To be fair, their options were rather limited. They could have put up signs, I suppose. The signs would have to have been in futhark to be effective. And the most important message would have been “there is someone in these parts who flays Vikings, so behave.”

    If more libraries did that. they wouldn’t need late fees.

    • #17
  18. She Member
    She
    @She

    DrewInWisconsin, Influencer (View Comment):

    She: . . . so I pressed a couple of buttons, and, Wallah!, as they say around here . . .

    I hope they say Voila! instead.

    Well, I don’t know how they think they spell what they are saying, but that’s the sound that comes out of their mouths and although it’s never occurred to me to look it up before, I just did, and it seems they’re not alone . . .

    • #18
  19. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    My class in Medieval English Society in Cambridge went on a field trip with our instructor to the Gonville & Caius College Library, where they have some of those manuscripts on display. Beautiful after all these years. 

    • #19
  20. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    My old Kindle (and now, my new Fire) was great for traveling.  I could bring sixteen suitcases of books along on vacation, yet hardly take up any room.  All I had to do was remember to pack the charger . . .

    I love real books too.  I keep my “haven’t read yet” stack on my nightstand, ready to go when I am.  However, we’ve run out of bookshelves and places to put new ones, so I’ll be buying more e-books as time goes on.

    • #20
  21. DrewInWisconsin, Influencer Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Influencer
    @DrewInWisconsin

    She (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin, Influencer (View Comment):

    She: . . . so I pressed a couple of buttons, and, Wallah!, as they say around here . . .

    I hope they say Voila! instead.

    Well, I don’t know how they think they spell what they are saying, but that’s the sound that comes out of their mouths and although it’s never occurred to me to look it up before, I just did, and it seems they’re not alone . . .

    What do you expect from the French . . .

    • #21
  22. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    DrewInWisconsin, Influencer (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin, Influencer (View Comment):

    She: . . . so I pressed a couple of buttons, and, Wallah!, as they say around here . . .

    I hope they say Voila! instead.

    Well, I don’t know how they think they spell what they are saying, but that’s the sound that comes out of their mouths and although it’s never occurred to me to look it up before, I just did, and it seems they’re not alone . . .

    What do you expect from the French . . .

    When Rome conquered the Gauls they didn’t burn their fields or decimate their ranks; instead they left Grecian diacritical marks lying around and the French grabbed them up and doomed themselves. 

    • #22
  23. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    She: First, to misquote Hannah Glasse, author of several 18th-century English cookbooks (short pause for the cognitive disconnect at the words English and cookbooks occurring in the same sentence), “catch your goose.”

           The first year that I lived in England, I was determined that I was going to get everyone at home very unique, specific Christmas gifts. Finding gifts for people has always been one of my favorite parts of Christmas, but going from my limited shopping options in rural MA to the majority of southeastern England (all of the big uni towns, including Oxford, Cambridge, and London are about an hours train ride or so from each other and often their own individual mercantile delights) absolutely thrilled me. Admittedly, I was also getting a little home sick as Michaelmas Term wore on, mostly because it was so clearly becoming the Christmas season, and running all over creation to find gifts made me feel closer to loved ones and let me see some places I otherwise might not have. 

            I was particularly set on getting good presents for the brothers and fathers at the monastery I attended and spent weeks just coming up with a present that would suit each specific interest I knew they had or job they did (admittedly, I papered over some gaps in my knowledge with French chocolate). One of the monks handles almost all of the cooking responsibilities for the entire community, and I thought it would be incredibly neat to get him a truly antique cookbook. To my surprise, and despite visits to innumerable bookshops, that was easier said than done. Finally, only a few days before I was meant to catch the train to Paris and, from there, fly home I found facsimile reprint of an early 18th century pub cookbook in the local bookshop that I frequented far too often. 

           As thrilled as I was with finding what I wanted, I didn’t give it the most thorough looking over before packing it with the rest of my gifts and clothes to go home with. The only thing I saw quickly flipping through was a note in the publisher’s forward, saying that almost all of the recipes, with the quantity scaled down, would be able to be made and enjoyed today. Even better! Upon arrival in Boston, it got wrapped with eight other gifts and put in the bag I handed over to the Abbot. Well, about three weeks later my parents (who don’t attend) and I were invited for dinner at the Abbey, with a few of the monks in attendance. The monk who I had given the book to began describing it and his thrill in getting it to my parents and I heard the youngest monk groan behind me. “I let him look at it after I unwrapped it, and the first page he turned to was stewed sheep intestines. And the instructions for preparing turtle. He’s excited to see what I make from it!” 

    • #23
  24. She Member
    She
    @She

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    She: First, to misquote Hannah Glasse, author of several 18th-century English cookbooks (short pause for the cognitive disconnect at the words English and cookbooks occurring in the same sentence), “catch your goose.”

    The first year that I lived in England, I was determined that I was going to get everyone at home very unique, specific Christmas gifts. Finding gifts for people has always been one of my favorite parts of Christmas, but going from my limited shopping options in rural MA to the majority of southeastern England (all of the big uni towns, including Oxford, Cambridge, and London are about an hours train ride or so from each other and often their own individual mercantile delights) absolutely thrilled me. Admittedly, I was also getting a little home sick as Michaelmas Term wore on, mostly because it was so clearly becoming the Christmas season, and running all over creation to find gifts made me feel closer to loved ones and let me see some places I otherwise might not have.

    I was particularly set on getting good presents for the brothers and fathers at the monastery I attended and spent weeks just coming up with a present that would suit each specific interest I knew they had or job they did (admittedly, I papered over some gaps in my knowledge with French chocolate). One of the monks handles almost all of the cooking responsibilities for the entire community, and I thought it would be incredibly neat to get him a truly antique cookbook. To my surprise, and despite visits to innumerable bookshops, that was easier said than done. Finally, only a few days before I was meant to catch the train to Paris and, from there, fly home I found facsimile reprint of an early 18th century pub cookbook in the local bookshop that I frequented far too often.

    As thrilled as I was with finding what I wanted, I didn’t give it the most thorough looking over before packing it with the rest of my gifts and clothes to go home with. The only thing I saw quickly flipping through was a note in the publisher’s forward, saying that almost all of the recipes, with the quantity scaled down, would be able to be made and enjoyed today. Even better! Upon arrival in Boston, it got wrapped with eight other gifts and put in the bag I handed over to the Abbot. Well, about three weeks later my parents (who don’t attend) and I were invited for dinner at the Abbey, with a few of the monks in attendance. The monk who I had given the book to began describing it and his thrill in getting it to my parents and I heard the youngest monk groan behind me. “I let him look at it after I unwrapped it, and the first page he turned to was stewed sheep intestines. And the instructions for preparing turtle. He’s excited to see what I make from it!”

    Comment of the week!  Thanks for the great story, and the laugh at the end.  Those old cookbooks are wonderful reading.  I have a copy of “Farmhouse Fare,” by no means an antique, but a compendium of recipes from the 1930s and 40s compiled from a British farming magazine.  There’s a recipe for black pudding (AKA blood pudding, and (Eastern European) kiszka) which I’d probably love the end result of, but since it starts out with instructions on how to stick the pig and collect the out-pulsing blood while holding a bowl beneath the stab wound in its neck, I’ve never been able to manage the making of it.  Fortunately, I live in the country, and there’s a local butcher a couple of miles away who makes a very respectable version, and I don’t have to think about “how the sausage was made.”  Sometimes, it’s better not to know.

     

    • #24
  25. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):
    “I let him look at it after I unwrapped it, and the first page he turned to was stewed sheep intestines.” 

    Do you think it would be better to bake them? Or use them as sausage casings? 

    • #25
  26. She Member
    She
    @She

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):
    “I let him look at it after I unwrapped it, and the first page he turned to was stewed sheep intestines.”

    Do you think it would be better to bake them? Or use them as sausage casings?

    It sounds like a variation of tripe to me.  (Not a recommendation.  Just an observation.)

    Here’s a page describing a modern-day equivalent, in China ( . . .): https://liyenfoodmoments.wordpress.com/2016/07/27/eating-sheep-intestine-soup/

    • #26
  27. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    She (View Comment):

    It sounds like a variation of tripe to me. (Not a recommendation. Just an observation.)

    Here’s a page describing a modern-day equivalent, in China ( . . .): https://liyenfoodmoments.wordpress.com/2016/07/27/eating-sheep-intestine-soup/

    The noodles and greens look good.

    Looks like I have a lot to learn before I try to order food that way. We got by OK ordering from Polish menus in places where nobody spoke English, but this would be a lot more challenging. 

    • #27
  28. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    She (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):
    “I let him look at it after I unwrapped it, and the first page he turned to was stewed sheep intestines.”

    Do you think it would be better to bake them? Or use them as sausage casings?

    It sounds like a variation of tripe to me. (Not a recommendation. Just an observation.)

    Here’s a page describing a modern-day equivalent, in China ( . . .): https://liyenfoodmoments.wordpress.com/2016/07/27/eating-sheep-intestine-soup/

    I’m a big fan of tripe (always get it in my pho when I’m home and at a Szechuan restaurant near where I go to school) but from what I remember it sounded horrid. I don’t think it was mixed with any particular spices and was just left to stew for hours, which feels like it would end in the world’s worst combination of improperly washed tripe smell and mushy gelatinous-ness. Living in England I’ll eat almost anything other than English food (they have such a love affair with Indian cuisine, why can’t they see how great spices are?!). Tripe is also on the list of things that I’m banned from bringing into our house, in addition to head cheese, Vietnamese blood cakes, whole fermented squid, and chicken feet. My mom doesn’t…appreciate my slightly less than conventional culinary tastes. I drew a line at kimchi (something I stress eat to an alarming degree at school, I need it) so I’m allowed to keep it in the fridge, but it has to be packed in its own bag and away from everything else. 

    • #28
  29. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    It sounds like a variation of tripe to me. (Not a recommendation. Just an observation.)

    Here’s a page describing a modern-day equivalent, in China ( . . .): https://liyenfoodmoments.wordpress.com/2016/07/27/eating-sheep-intestine-soup/

    The noodles and greens look good.

    Looks like I have a lot to learn before I try to order food that way. We got by OK ordering from Polish menus in places where nobody spoke English, but this would be a lot more challenging.

    There are some cuisines that I think are more forgiving of blind ordering than others. My very kind, older roommate my first year at uni was from northern China and she brought be to a Szechuan place she had been countless times before during my first week of classes, along with her boyfriend and another friend. Everyone picked a dish and she encouraged me to chose whatever I wanted, a generous offer somewhat mitigated by the fact that 85% of the menu was untranslated and what was looked like it had been done by Google Translate high on meth. The random jumble of characters I picked out turned out to be a really lovely noodle dish with chilis and a beef broth. (I had a lot of fun because the first thing her boyfriend ordered was some kind of cut of pork roasted on a stick and slathered in Szechuan peppercorns and red chili powder, and I ate it without issue. He looked at me admiringly and said “you eat spicy better than any other white people I’ve seen, cool.”). On the other hand, I think Russian cuisine throws up a lot of unpleasant surprises, and people fail to realize that home cooking there is impacted by the lack of availability of fresh ingredients. 

    • #29
  30. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):
    “I let him look at it after I unwrapped it, and the first page he turned to was stewed sheep intestines.”

    Do you think it would be better to bake them? Or use them as sausage casings?

    It sounds like a variation of tripe to me. (Not a recommendation. Just an observation.)

    Here’s a page describing a modern-day equivalent, in China ( . . .): https://liyenfoodmoments.wordpress.com/2016/07/27/eating-sheep-intestine-soup/

    I’m a big fan of tripe (always get it in my pho when I’m home and at a Szechuan restaurant near where I go to school) but from what I remember it sounded horrid. I don’t think it was mixed with any particular spices and was just left to stew for hours, which feels like it would end in the world’s worst combination of improperly washed tripe smell and mushy gelatinous-ness. Living in England I’ll eat almost anything other than English food (they have such a love affair with Indian cuisine, why can’t they see how great spices are?!). Tripe is also on the list of things that I’m banned from bringing into our house, in addition to head cheese, Vietnamese blood cakes, whole fermented squid, and chicken feet. My mom doesn’t…appreciate my slightly less than conventional culinary tastes. I drew a line at kimchi (something I stress eat to an alarming degree at school, I need it) so I’m allowed to keep it in the fridge, but it has to be packed in its own bag and away from everything else.

    I am shocked to hear that segregation by country of origin can be so casually discussed in these modern times. 

    • #30
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