One day, after chasing about trying to kill small animals with a rock, a man sat down and sighed. He had chased game all week and none of the females were interested in having sexual relations with him because he smelled a bit ripe, and well, he hadn’t shaved. Ever. God took pity on him, and gave him an idea in the form of a bee.
The man followed the bee back to its hive, and hungry as he was — and a little stupid to boot — he plunged his hands into the hive, breaking it apart, and stuffed the broken combs oozing honey into his drinking gourd. It still had a little water in it. By the time he got back to his cave, darkness had fallen, so by the light of a fire, he picked out the waxy comb, and left the watery honey to rest against a rock.
In the night, some microscopic airborne yeasts that the man didn’t know existed because he couldn’t see them, fell into the mixture with the breeze. There, they found what they were looking for — a source of sugar — and began eating away like mad, turning the sweetness into alcohol in the process.
The man, upon waking, was so hungry he immediately set out with his rocks to try to kill something for breakfast, and was gone all day. He was so far from his cave, in fact, that he ended up sleeping around a fire he’d made to cook a small bird on. By the time he got back to his cave, the honey and water and yeast had been sitting there, fermenting for days. A scum had formed on the top. He drew this off in disgust, and because he was thirsty, he took a sip.
And another. And another. He sat down. He felt, for the first time in his life, a little giddy, a little warm. An overwhelming feeling of goodwill came over him. He felt like singing. He stood and sang out a song of what it felt like to be a man with a bird in his stomach. It wasn’t good singing, to be sure, but he didn’t care. He was drunk. He had made mead: he felt he knew the secret to life. He was certain women would find him irresistible.
Drawn by the noise, a crone approached. The man saw an angel, a woman in her lush prime, rather than the bedraggled hag before him. He was so confident and happy, he offered her a taste of this sweet nectar that had given him such joy. Curious, she took a swig. Soon enough, she had discarded her filthy animal skins and was dancing naked around his fire. This made the man want to have sexual relations with her. One thing led to another and before long, both were sleeping peacefully, mouths agape, under the stars.
God was pleased with the way man had followed his instincts, but also knew too much of a good thing was … too much of a good thing. So he made the next day dawn with a brilliant sun that struck like daggers into the couple’s eyes, waking them rudely from their slumber. Their heads felt like boulders, like crushed eggshells. They took one look at each other and recoiled, aghast. What had they done? Where did that handsome hunk go? What happened to that babe from the night before?
A hungover Neanderthal and a wizened crone, they both grunted as they gathered their paltry things to hide their modesty. As she retreated, bent and hobbling, the man held his hand up to his ear, eyes squinted tight against the rude daylight that assaulted them, thumb and pinkie stuck out, and croaked, so quietly his words were drowned out by the swish of grass and the hum of bees, “So we’re on for next Saturday, right?”
But she did not turn around. She was already pregnant, the honey having worked its magic buzzing away deep within her. Truth be told, she felt a little sick.
Cooks and Confectioner’s Dictionary, John Nott, 1723
Also from this book: Blood Pudding, Tits, Sugared Plums (Ouch), Scurvy, Scourge Of The Seas, Quackery, Gastropub / Gastropig: Eating High on the Hog, Take Your Lumps, Pigeon à la Française, This Little Piggy...