Not Your Usual Biscotti

Three years ago this coming October we were in Berlin and visiting the Island Museums; I mentioned at the time that I found the Bode the most interesting of the lot particularly their Renaissance collection.  Late last week I was reminiscing about that trip and going through pictures that I had taken on that visit. I also unpacked a box of books and came upon a little book that had a serendipitous if slightly tenuous connection with a few of those pictures.  The following February we spent a few days in London and at my friend David’s suggestion spent a glorious Saturday morning at the V&A basking in their new Medieval and Renaissance wing.  And at their bookstore I picked up a fascinating little book: Renaissances Secrets by Jo Wheeler.  It contains all sorts of wonderful – you guessed it – Renaissance Secrets.   Illustrated with rarities from the V and A collections it includes recipes and closely guarded secret formulae for a myriad of concoctions once used to create medicines, cosmetics, printing materials, even amulets meant to ward off the plague.  Lip balm, rare paint pigments, stain removers; they are all there as are, of course, aids to the noble art of love making!  And just so you don’t think the Renaissance was all Adoring Magi, Breast-feeding Bambini and Virginal Assumptions here’s an easy to follow cookie recipe (if you can find or afford the ingredients) along with a few of the more “specialized” works from the Bode Renaissance collection.

This lovely ivory carving is an innocent representation of Adam and Eve covering their nakedness in shame.  Or is it?  The look on their faces isn’t exactly one of chagrin and a closer look reveals that their “communal” loin cloth can be removed to unveil heaven only knows what sort of salacious display!


Morsels to excite Venus.
Proven many times and which increase sperm. They do not cause any harm.


  • 3 drams each of walnuts, pine-kernels and pistachio nuts;
  • 3 drams each of powdered seeds of rocket, onion and knotgrass (also known as swine-grass or bloodwort)
  • Half a dram each of cloves, cinnamon and ginger
  • 1.5 ounces of skinned skinks (saltwater lizards) – four should suffice with heads and feet removed and ground to a fine powder
  • 1 ounce of Indian nut (coconut)
  • 1 dram each of long pepper, galangal, seeds of wild asparagus, chickpeas (the red variety)
  • 3 ounces of diasatirion*
  • A dram of ambergris
  • Half a dram of musk
  • 12 ounces of sugar dissolved in rosewater

Make morseletti in the normal way.
*also known as “wolf’s testicles” it was a concoction based on the bulbous roots of an orchid.

And it would appear that after ingesting these biscotti Venus embarked upon a rather elaborate voyage if this little “Triumph of Love” is to be credited. (A left click will enlarge the picture for a closer look)

These biscuits apparently packed quite a punch with most of the ingredients guaranteed to excite lust, particularly the pistachios.  They were known to be “wondrous for stimulating sexual desire” if fattening! But then plump wasn’t a problem in the Renaissance, in fact it was thought of as erotic. Florentine apothecary Stefano Rosselli (whose recipes this is) also stocked a rub which was to be used in the event of impotence.  Rosselli obviously gave the customers what they wanted – or needed!

It would appear this Satyr is in no need of Dottore Rosselli’s magic morsels – and one wonders where these naughty putti’s mothers are. Shouldn’t they be home in bed rather than helping the horny old bugger (litterally) in his depravity?

There is one secret that Mr Wheeler doesn’t divulge in amongst his treasury of formulae and concoction – he may let us in on how Venetian woman turned their hair golden but the oft sought secret of how to turn base metal into gold remains untold.  Given its price on the market these days I was hoping it would be revealed – no such luck!  

01 settembre/September – Sant’Egidio abate

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Author: Willym

A senior with the heart of a young'un

2 thoughts on “Not Your Usual Biscotti”

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