Thursday, November 10, 2011

Parsley Merkin

Do not scoff at the idea of a pubic wig, the venerable merkin.

While used rarely today due to the ascendency of the bikini wax, they once provided an invaluable service to humble women suffering from the scourge of the middle ages, pubic lice. The only way to avoid the beasties was to give them no place to hide. In order to protect her modesty, she resorted to a bit of crotch fluff, a bit like a sporran worn inside her skirt.

Crabs were the least of a prostitute’s problems, however. The average medieval john left her with more than coin in her purse, so she employed a merkin to hide a litany of pustules, open sores, genital warts, and every kind of venereal disease you can imagine lest she be forced to retire from the world’s oldest profession through lack of customers. Add to her misery, the treatment for syphilis — mercury — caused hair loss, which meant she couldn’t use her natural assets to cover up.

Merkins are offered today to actors who may find themselves excessively depilated for a role set during a hairier time, or to guard against revealing too much flesh and earning a higher MPAA rating.

Food stylists use parsley for pretty much the same reasons: to add allure with frothy vividly colored curls, or to disguise a bare plate or deflect from a problematic area which has been rendered unappetizing.

Any likeness between a medieval prostitute and the caption offered alongside this Ten-in-one Sandwich Loaf is purely accidental and should not be interpreted as an unfortunate instance of sexual innuendo. In order not to be offended, do not look up the word “spunky” in a dictionary of British slang. You have been warned. Have a nice day.

Cooking With Cheese, Better Homes and Gardens, 1966

Also from this book: Fondue? Fondon't
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