Hyunsuh Kim, Ruth Brickland

Amorphous Amor

Aphrodisiac #2 - Bloody Mary's bedtime jelly undergoes transformation

Recreation of Queen Mary Tudor's aphrodisiac, quince marmalade, with a selection of herbs that heal and give strength, and a Mediamatic twist of fermentation.


Amorphous Amor Concept Illustration - Hyunsuh Kim

Amorphous Amor is one of the aphrodisiac recipes in our "Seafoam" series, in which we attempt to queer the traditional aphrodisiac. We cordially invite you to embark on our odyssey of love— where crew members across species interact with one another in transforming adventures of various forms. Keep a loving eye on our blog as we update experimentation and taste testing of the recipes.



Although nowadays when thinking of "marmalade" the first thing that pops into our mind is a jar of orange peel jam on the breakfast table, the word originates from marmelo "quince". Furthermore, for Queen Mary Tudor, one of the earliest consumers of marmalade, the jelly was more than a condiment— it was an aphrodisiac. It may be unexpected that one of the monarchs most known for being ruthless is also known for using the recipe for love. However, 'love' in Tudor family necessarily overlapped with politics, if not, was the indispensable tool for politics, and was everything but private. The means to begetting heirs was precisely controlled by the Church's recommended regular abstinence, attendants who stood by and affirmed that consummation was successful, cooks who concocted aphrodisiacs of bizarre and exotic ingredients ranging from ants to quail testicles. We often find that love in the form of eros messily intertwines with power, exoticization and death of the Other throughout history. The linear narrative of history imagines love as such: greedy and all-consuming. We ask ourselves: can we turn the tables around, so that love is not subordinate to any other purpose before itself? What would love without a telos look like? Perhaps reminding of a lover's cheek as it transforms from pale yellow to ruby red when cooked, perhaps inspiring bouquets of flowers with its heady, heavenly scent, the quince was an intuitive ingredient for an aphrodisiac and also served as a natural gelling agent. Though it was not the Tudors' intention, we find that jelly is an ideal form for our aphrodisiac. It is amorphous— not being solid, it can transform into all kinds of shapes at all times. Easily spreadable, it becomes a nourishing "balm" for the lips and the stomach.



We will follow the traditional recipe in cooking the quinces with the spices and herbs under low and constant heat until they blend into one another and begin to congeal. It should be done with patience— the warmth is nurturing as opposed to a quick, consuming fire of passion.

Once the mixture is cooled, we add kombucha (can be substituted with kefir, grains or liquid) to let the jam undergo further transformation as it lacto-ferments. The microbes begin feeding on the natural sugar and add to the jam's delightfully refreshing tartness, light fizziness and increasingly complex honey-like aroma.



The quince has gathered every pleasing taste,
Thereby the queen of fruits she has been crowned.
Her taste is wine, a waft of musk her scent.
Her hue is gold, her shape, like the moon, round.

- From The Arabian Nights

Dwarf quince is the symbol of fertility, love and life. Ancient Greek poets used quince as metaphor for young breasts, while some imagined it to be the forbidden apple in Eden. 

Cinnamon was used by the ancient Egyptians to embalm mummies, by the ancient Greeks as offering to gods, and was brought into the Netherlands from Sri Lanka when it was a Dutch East Indies colony. It is symbolic of forgiveness and healing of injuries. The smell of cinnamon evokes a sensation of heat in the trigeminal nerve.

Ginger, also brought from India to the Netherlands during colonization. Like cinnamon, it adds warmth. It is considered a stimulant and symbol of rejuvenation, strength, courage and love.

Lemon balm — inhaling its gentle aroma, it is not surprising that its flower meaning is empathy, femininity, rejuvenation and relaxation.

Rosemary, Aphrodite's floral symbol, is also the gift of remembrance from Ophelia to Hamlet. It arouses, awakens, and improves encoding of memory. 

Kombucha, also called tea fungus, consists of a symbiotic culture of acetic acid bacteria and osmophilic yeast (SCOBY). Thought to have originated from China, its name reveals a multicultural interaction where the English mistook how Japanese called the tea (kocha kinoko) for how they called kelp tea (kombucha). Those of us who have grown kombucha SCOBY know that such misnomer is quite fitting, considering its gelatinous texture.



Greene, Mary. "Tales from the Tudor bedroom: Strange potions, bizarre rituals and even an audience in the bedchamber. A new series reveals Henry VIII's sex secrets." The Daily Mail. June 3, 2016. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3623578/Tales-Tudor-bedroom-Strange-potions-bizarre-rituals-audience-bedchamber-new-series-reveals-Henry-VIII-s-sex-secrets.html

The Arabian Nights. Translated by Husain Haddawy, 1995. W.W. Norton and Company.

Kasper, Lynne R. “The quince: The fruit that started the Trojan War?.” The Splendid Table. November 18, 2010. https://www.splendidtable.org/story/2010/11/18/the-quince-the-fruit-that-started-the-trojan-war


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