Friday, August 10, 2007

Fornication, eating black pudding, and jesting

“For though we should not say that eating of Blood were as great a sin, as Fornication, in every respect, yet we may say, that by virtue of this Decree we are as much bound to abstain from Blood, as from Fornication, as long as they are thus connexed and joined together in one Law, till the equalitie be taken away by a countermand. Thus, Gal. 5. 9,20. Ephes. 5.4. different sins are forbidden, adulterie, fornication, theft, jesting, &c. Now though jesting be not so great a sin as Adultery, yet we must abstain from one as well as the other, because he that hath said, Thou shalt not commit Adultery, hath also said, Thou shalt not jest.

I have been reading the conscientious pages of The triall of a black-pudding. Or, The unlawfulness of eating blood proved by Scriptures, before the law, under the law, and after the law. By a well wisher to ancient truth (1652). Here the learned author weighs up the relative gravity of the offences of fornication, eating black pudding, and telling jokes. Thomas Barlow doesn’t offer many concessions – though at one point he does seem to allow that the Hebrews did consider the eating of the blood of fish and locusts to be acceptable, provided it were clean.

As the title makes plain, Barlow takes pains to show that the absolute prohibition and threat from God in Leviticus is not rescinded in later scripture. The Leviticus passage is here:

(“And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood…)

Black puddings are inherently populist, mirthful foods. They crop up in early modern texts as a cheap dietary item, and are mentioned by Vices like Nicholas Newfangle and Ambidexter in Tudor Interludes. In the prose pamphlet of Friar Bacon (c. 1627?), the learned mage suspects Miles his manservant of covertly breaking his Friday fast with flesh, and when he duly discovers Miles half way through a black pudding, causes it to stick in his mouth, leads him to the hall of Brasenose College, and ties him up to a window, using the protruding and immovable sausage as a tie.

But the Puritan Barlow retains a severe restraint: he will not acknowledge that his topic might be funny: “Neither do we deny, but that it was a great offence to believing Jews, to see men eat Blood, as to see men continue fornication”

His ending is modest and conscientious: “It is no sin in us if we abstain from Blood: It may be sin to us, if we eat Blood. The safest way, the best way: He that maketh no conscience in little things, will hardly do it in greater. The Lord give us grace to practice the Apostles rule … Abstain from all appearance of evill.”

Maybe with my new found learning I should supplement the purely gastronomic article in the Wikipedia

Here’s a complete slip-up by a famous (and very devoutly Jewish) diva’s researchers, as they tried to tune her in to the bizarre customs of the locals in Manchester:

My image is a butcher's stall, River Island Cottage style, by Aertsen. Below and to the right of the spiralling black pudding hung on the post, a prostitute meets a client in a tavern.

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