The Seven Voyages of Sindbad Feast- Feast Math

The most difficult and tedious part of planning a feast is the math.

You go through the manuscript and choose a handful of recipes. Then you test the recipes, more than once if necessary, writing down every single measurement you used. Then you go shopping to find the prices for every single ingredient in every single dish at more than one store so you can make sure you’re getting the best price for that lamb/fresh mushrooms/saffron. You write down all the prices and make a giant spreadsheet.

Then the math begins. The average human can only eat so much food at one sitting. The math comes in figuring out how much of each dish to serve, coming up with a rough budget estimate based on cost of each item, and then going back and tweaking the menu until it all fits into the budget. And then the real math begins. Taking the amounts of your test recipes and then multiplying them out to feed the number of people at the feast the amount you’ve decided to give them takes time and concentration and often, loud music. When it’s time to go shopping it’s easy to start second-guessing my own math, buy too much, and then cook too much.

Seven course feasts do not happen at every event. I wanted to do a seven course feast to go along with the live telling of the Seven Voyages of Sindbad, but also for feasters to really experience the breadth and complexity of the court cuisine at the time the story of Sindbad the Sailor was written. You are going to be eating the food that the people who wrote the stories ate every day, the food that Sindbad the Sailor would have eaten in his own court.

However. As I said above, people can only eat so much at one sitting. To get everyone through seven courses of food and make sure that you will want to eat every course, the portions at this feast will not look like the portions at a regular 3-4 course feast. These portions will be very small, but there will be lots of them. Small portions add up, especially when five of the seven courses have at least one meat dish. Think of this feast as a long cocktail party with seven courses of fancy appetizers and a show. I promise, you won’t leave hungry.

 

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3 thoughts on “The Seven Voyages of Sindbad Feast- Feast Math

  1. I’d never really thought about the math involved. I think the other challenge faced is that a lot of people are used to larger portions, but we as a society have also morphed into a culture that eats FAST – most people do not linger, slowly eat and enjoy their food, and allow their stomachs to rest between courses. I’m hoping that feasts like this will allow people to re-experience this.

  2. I know that feast math is a thing in the SCA that most feastcrats of any notable experience require/mandate but I must admit that I have been to a few feasts which have been underwhelming due to small portions. The most important thing for me is eating food I can’t get anywhere else/having a unique culinary experience where I can learn things about the period culture and methods – it’s often why I like helping in the kitchen. However, as a fat kid I also have another criterion which determines my enjoyment of a feast. I like to eat a lot (at feasts). It’s perhaps crude to admit this, and it’s also arrogant or unreasonable to expect such from a group of volunteers, but i’m just being honest. Ultimately if a feast is “Generic medieval” I am instantly turned off. I really appreciate the research, intellectualism and attention to detail which accompanies a feast like the one which will be at St Vals.

    • It doesn’t have anything to do with volunteers, it has to do with money. I get $10 per person. For that $10, I have to feed you traveler’s fare (about $1 per person) and breakfast (about $1.50 per person). Then you take out the people who get feast for free- the Royals and the Barons and Baronesses. That means I am cooking a seven-course feast for about $7 per person. There is nowhere else you will get food like this for the amount of money you will pay. The only way I can make this menu work is to make the portions of the expensive dishes small and the inexpensive dishes a little larger, but still the average person can only eat so much food in a setting and I have to use the average for planning. And you may not realize this, but you can ask for seconds! If you don’t get enough of a dish, please send back to the kitchen and ask for seconds!

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