Recipe of the week will begin focusing on mead recipes originating with Dioscorides. Background on the author(s) and text will be split up and presented each week with a different recipe. This background will be intentionally brief, hiding much of the rich tapestry of interconnected threads of the story.
The recipes and background topics are as follows:
- Dioscorides the man – Adynamon
- De Materia Medica the book (summary) – Melitites
- Medicine and Mead – Oenomel
- Manuscript History – Melicraton
- Barbaro and Baptistae – Hydromel
- Dioscorides’ mead recipes – Thallasiomel
- Oxymel-a conundrum – Oxymel
- Printing and reprinting Dioscorides – Vinum Melomel
- Commenting on Dioscorides – Vinum Hydromel
- Dioscorides eclipsed – Omphacomel
- Translation and date assignment – Vinum Apites
- Variance in recipes – Rhodomel
Dioscorides from the Vienna Dioscorides (c.512)
Dioscorides (20-70 CE) was from Anazarbus, a city northeast of Tarsus in Cilicia (currently Turkey). He is believed to have been educated in Tarsus, which housed a noted pharmacology school. He claims to have travelled extensively living as a soldier; some cite the ‘local’ nature of the plants featured in his writings to suggest he may not have been as well travelled as he claims. His treatise ‘De Materia Medica’ was written in the last 20 years of his life in his native Greek.
Today’s recipe is Adynamon. Adynamon is defined variously as ‘weakened wine’ or more generically ‘without strength’ or ‘diluted’ in various dictionaries. This description does not appear to match the recipe well. Also the first and second recipes in this sequence have little evident connection. Both of these items suggest there may be more to the story of Adynamon than is obvious.
1516 Baptista/Barbaro Dioscorides Book V Vinum Adynamon DCCCLXII
Eodem usu erit quod vocant Adynamon. Mustum equa portione aquae molliter ferveat leni carbone. Donec mensura excoquatur aquae. Deinde Refrigeratum picato vase conditur. Alii marinae ex alto petite, Itemque pluviae & mellis & musti omnium tantundem miscentes diffundunt, & in sole torrent quadraginta diebus. Anno post ad cosdem effectus promitur.
TRANSLATION(Laura Angotti): The same will be used and is called Adynamon. Must and an equal portion of water are kept over gentle charcoal [fire]. Until the measure of water is removed. Then cool it and put it in a small pitched vessel and store it. Others ask the sea from on high, as well as rainwater, and honey, and must all mixed in the same amount and then poured out and set in the dry sun for forty days. A year later the same effects are come forth.
The interpretation of sea water based on my somewhat rocky translation is based on other translations for this recipe from multiple other sources. For example Pliny (the Elder) in his Natural History says “… “adynamon,” and is made in the following manner. Twenty sextarii of white must are boiled down with half that quantity of water, until the amount of the water is lost by evaporation. Some persons mix with the must ten sextarii of sea-water and an equal quantity of rain-water, and leave the whole to evaporate in the sun for forty days.” (Bostock, 1855) This recipe echoes Dioscorides, but has several notable differences, including no honey. Other Dioscorides editions clearly call for seawater in this recipe.
I made this. Yes, I did (something about having a bit of wine must left after another test batch and noting that it was just the right amount to make this). It wasn’t as disgusting as I thought it would be (my husband would disagree, but an oenophile friend says he could see drinking a bit on a hot summer day). This is not a recipe I can truly recommend. But it is a mead recipe, and it is new. It has aged about a year, as recommended in the recipe, time to try another bottle for tasting.
Author Portrait from the Vienna Dioscorides. Public Domain. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ViennaDioscoridesAuthorPortrait.jpg