View Full Version : A strange question about parchment

06-29-2014, 01:13 AM
It feels odd to write this, but does anyone know what parchment (the kind made of animal skins used in the Middle Ages) would taste like if you put it in your mouth?
I have also read that if you soak parchment, it reverts to raw animal skin because it isn't tanned. Can anyone confirm this? If so, how flexible does it become while wet? How long would it stay wet before drying out and turning to rawhide?
Thanks in advance for any answers.

06-29-2014, 04:33 AM
Old parchment from the middle ages stuck in your mouth today?

Or new parchment recently made?

the hides are soaked in an infusion of lime (calcium hydroxide) to remove the hair. That's later re-soaked in water to remove it, but some taste might remain.

Yes, if it gets very wet it will become soft again and slimy. Go buy a rawhide dog bone and give it a chew. Practical research!

06-29-2014, 04:47 AM
Recently made. I meant of the style produced in the Middle Ages. Sorry if I was unclear.

Now that's a thought. I may have to pick up a bone chew to experiment.

06-29-2014, 02:46 PM
It is also likely to curl up a bit if saturated with water then allowed to dry without it being pinned down or stretched.

Suspect that you might be able to buy a bit of parchment from re-enactors supplies (google) but under the annals of testing the taste - you might want to talk with suppliers of either parchment or dog chew as to what the health impacts on you are.
I'm all for research, but remember that the meat production chain for humans is under a lot more health and safety control than that for parchment...... (Don't know about dog chews.)

Wet finger says that the lime put on the animal hide to clean off the hair will kill most bugs but... I'd want to be sure the animal wasn't a diseased cull but that the skin in question is a side product of the human food chain.

06-29-2014, 05:24 PM
Recently made. I meant of the style produced in the Middle Ages. Sorry if I was unclear.

I think I was unclear. I meant to ask if you were setting your story in the past and thus the parchment would be recent, or if you were setting your story in the present and thus the parchment would be old.

Or, are you setting your story in the present with modern parchment?

If this is in the past, and the parchment has been illuminated, some of the pigments that used to be used for painting are toxic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illuminated_manuscript#Paints).

King Neptune
06-29-2014, 07:39 PM
It wouldn't taste likt much, because the flavor would have been soaked out of it. You could try the experiment with a dog chew; soak that in lime solution for a while, then soak ot in plain water. Even better would be boiling it for a while.

06-29-2014, 07:53 PM
You ought to be able to go to a fancy stationery store and find out what parchment tastes like for yourself.

06-29-2014, 08:45 PM
Flavor of parchment: Pour some Elmer's glue on wax paper and let it dry. Taste it. Same stuff.

Keep in mind, parchment is not leather. It doesn't become rawhide. The process of leaching the skins and using lime changes the texture and composition of the skin itself. Dried parchment that was wet will often lose the writing simply because the writing material was water-based. It will dry based on the standard issues of relative humidity that any other object would.

What do you need for your story?


06-29-2014, 10:45 PM
Thanks for these great answers, everyone. My story is set on a made-up world, so the parchment would be fresh and would not be illustrated. Basically, in my story, I have a character who needs to craft a cord but she is trapped in a situation where she does not have access to normal cloth or leather. She only has access to parchment. I am trying to determine if the parchment was shredded and gotten wet what physical properties it would have. Also, she puts some in her mouth, which is what started the original question.

As a couple people have suggested, I may want to buy a piece of parchment to reenact my scene, but I'm concerned about the health risks of tasting real parchment myself. As someone with fine art training, I know a lot of art supplies can have seriously toxic effects if you're not careful.

06-29-2014, 11:37 PM
Not sure how strong a cord from parchment would be. You might want to twist strips. Also you could just give her reaction to the taste rather than describing it - bleh for example. :)

06-29-2014, 11:46 PM
The cord doesn't have to be too strong, just flexible. It would be woven and twisted. I could have her gag on the taste, but if it doesn't taste like anything, as some people have suggested, then that won't be accurate.

06-30-2014, 01:18 AM
Alternative reaction would be the feel in her mouth. You could get a reasonable idea of that from wet fingers on the parchment. Don't know if it would be slimy, but for example some people hate anything approaching slimy.