Friday, September 11, 2009

Up and at 'em

Well, I'm going to the Renaissance Festival this year. My daughter e-mailed me this morning asking if I wanted to go. DO I?!? Hooray! Now, all I have to do is start walking a little bit every day to try and build up my stamina. I huff and puff just walking out to the garage and back, for crying out loud!! To get some idea of why I say I'd better start doing some walking, go here. Those grounds are extensive!

I can remember the first time I went. Must have been within a year or two after they first opened. It's been quite a trip watching the festival expand and improve over the years. There was a period of several years - late 70's, early 80's, probably - when I went every year, participating in a different activity each time. Once I even sang with the monks in the open-air church.

Speaking of getting up and at 'em, I received an e-mail from Jennie. Surprise, surprise! At least we know she's sitting up and able to focus well enough to send an e-mail, which is great news. The subject of her e-mail is "Where some phrases originated" and some of these - I have to warn you! - are real groaners. I haven't the vaguest idea how many of them are true. Perhaps none, but they're fun reading.

Back in the 1500's ... ...

They used to use urine to tan animal hides, so families would all pee in one pot and then once a week take the total collected output to the tannery for payment. If you had to do this to survive, you were "piss poor". Then there were the really poor folks who couldn't afford to buy a pot. They were the lowest of the low and "didn't have a pot to piss in".

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly baths in May and still smelled pretty good by June. However, since they were starting to smell just a little bit, brides carried a bouquet of flowers to try and mask any offensive body odor. Thus began today's custom of the bride carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house went first and enjoyed the nice clean water. Next came all the other males in the household, followed by the women and children. By the time it was the baby's turn to bathe, the water was often so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence came the expression, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water!"

Houses had thatched roofs - thick straw - piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small critters (dogs, mice and such) spent a lot of time in the roof. When it rained, the roof became slippery and sometimes the animals would fall off. This is the origin of the saying, "It's raining cats and dogs."

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom, what with bugs and other such - including various droppings - falling onto the bed. A bed with big posts and a sheet draped over them afforded some protection, and that's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, so most people were "dirt poor". The very wealthy had slate floors that would become slippery when wet, particularly during winter, so thresh (straw) would be spread to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, more and more thresh was added until - sometimes - when the outside door was opened, a lot of the thresh would begin falling outside. In order to try and prevent that from happening, a large piece of wood was placed against the bottom of the door. This became known as a "thresh hold".

In those days, they cooked in the kitchen using a large kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they relit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables* - didn't get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence this rhyme: Peas porridge hot, Peas porridge cold, Peas porridge in the pot, Nine days old.

On rare and quite special occasions, pork was obtained. When visitors came over, the hosts would hang up their bacon to show it off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could "bring home the bacon". A little would be cut off to share with the guests and all would sit around and "chew the fat".

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Unfortunately, foods with a high acid content absorbed some of the lead and a few deaths resulted, so - for the next nearly 400 years, tomatoes were thought to be poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom, the family got the middle, and guests got the top (or "upper") crust.

Lead cups were often used to drink ale or whiskey. Sometimes, the combination would knock the imbibers out for a while. Someone walking along the road might take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They would be laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days while the family gathered around - ate, drank and waited to see if their loved one would wake up ... a "wake", as it were.

I left out the "saved by the bell" and "dead ringer" ones ... ... too much even for my somewhat 'out there' sense of humor and sensibilities!

A question ... ... How come everyone seems to pick on the 1500's? Why not the 1600's? 1700's? 1100's, even?

Absolutely wonderful to hear from Jennie and I hope that her e-mail has prompted a laugh or two.

*Chuck told me in an e-mail some time back that the origin of the word "vegetarian" is Indian, meaning "lousy hunter". You knew I'd find a use for this somewhere, didn't you, Chuck? :)


Craig Peihopa said...

What great post. Glad to hear Jennie is up and around, and you go well for training Goldenrod. Get walking!

Arlene said...

I believe every word of it. Truly I do.

Tammy said...

I'm with Craig...get walking!

Just read your bridge article, by the way. ;)

Anonymous said...

Fascinating stuff. Origins of ... Liked this very much.