Inspiration

As many of you know, even though I joined the SCA in Trimaris, I lived in Meridies for 10 years. My Laurel, my household, and a big chunk of my heart is still in Meridies. My Laurel taught me to cook and her Laurel taught her, and I just rediscovered an article that the two of them wrote together. It’s kind of a mini-handbook for cooking a feast and hits all of the important points, and I’m not sure if there’s ever been a better one written.

The intro pretty well sums up my entire philosophy of cooking feasts:

I believe in period style feasts. This is not to say that I think anyone could or should do a “completely authentic” feast. Not only is this probably impossible, but it would also be unsanitary, unpalatable to modern tastes, and unbelievably expensive. Medieval and Renaissance feasts were extremely long and had dozens of courses or removes. There was no modern concept of a balanced diet or nutrition. Food preservation was limited, and many foods were salted, preserved in vinegar, and dried. Fresh foods were available only in the short growing season–not year round. Cooking methods frequently led to dishes that were overcooked by modern standards. There were few sweets. Furthermore, in period labor was cheap, and there were hordes of servants to help with preparation. [i]

Despite these inconvenient facts, the doughty SCA chef may forge ahead in planning and preparing a “period style” feast. By “period style” I mean using foods found in period and recipes that are derived from period sources. When possible, period cooking methods and presentation of dishes should be incorporated. The feast menu may (and should in my mind) come from a single time and place, and all recipes and foods should be documentable to that time and place. However, certain allowances for our mundaneness must be made. A balanced menu that is nutritionally sound, sanitary methods of preservation and preparation, a shorter serving time, fewer kitchen helpers, a smaller budget, and so on. The SCA chef spans the best of two worlds–a caterer with historical research skills. If this is something that interests you, read on.

Thank you again Maysun and Roz for introducing me to this crack inspiring me to cook feasts!

Maya Research Notes

Oh, the luck of the draw.  The food of the Maya was, of course, the most sparsely recorded of the 3 major central and south american cultures. It’s too bad this event isn’t “Aztec-mas”, I’d have a whole lot more sources available to me. The best source I’ve found so far is America’s First Cuisines by Sophie Coe, with Reconstructing the Ancient Maya Diet, Chocolate in Mesoamerica, and The Food of the Present-Day Maya Indians of Yucatan (1936) as back-up sources. The next set of back-up sources for Mesoamerican cooking techniques (like making tamales) are the 2 modern traditional Mexican cookbooks False Tongues and Sunday Bread and Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen.

This is probably going to be the feast where I push the most boundaries of authenticity. Gainesville, Florida does not have a sufficient population of Mexicans, Guatemalans, or Hondurans to have much in the way of Mayan specialty items. In present-day Mexico, traditional Indio/Mayan foods are considered redneck or hick food. It’s like a middle-class guy in Queens looking at traditional Appalachian food from 50 years ago. I have ordered seeds for some of the specialty herbs like epazote and Tagetes lucida to grow at home, and hoping I can get some other fresh greens shipped in.

Piztle is turning out to be an interesting puzzle. According to Coe, it’s the seed of the Calorcarpum mammosum. When I google that, it’s been renamed Pouteria sapota, which is the Mamey sapote. The fruit of which I can get right now at the corner grocery store. I started getting really excited… the seed is referenced as an important flavoring added to cacao drinks, similar to bitter almond. I would love to have that for an added flavor note. However, a couple chapters later Coe refers directly to the fruit of Pouteria sapota with no reference to the seeds at all. So tomorrow I’ll be buying a couple mameys and digging out their seeds to see if they have any discernible almond smell.  If they do then I might buy all the mameys I can right now and trying to figure out how to preserve the seeds, since I have no idea if they’ll still be available in November.

Another important Maya food is chaya/Jatropha aconitifolia, a common cooking green. The leaves were also used to wrap tamales. I have found a source for young plants here in Gainesville and I already have a space in the yard cleared and ready. I’m hoping I can grow enough chaya before the feast to use the correct leaves to wrap tamales.

A larger issue is the lack of fresh masa. The vast majority of corn grown by the Maya (and all other native American cultures) was dried, nixtamalized and then ground before being cooked. The nixtamalized and ground raw corn dough is called masa. This dough was used to make everything, all of their “bread”. Another result of not enough Mexicans in Gainesville is that no one here sells fresh masa. In larger US cities there are places that sell tamales, fresh tortillas, and fresh masa. I can get dry masa, called masa harina, and reconstitute it, but this is basically the difference between Uncle Bens converted rice and good basmati, or using packaged 50¢ ramen noodles instead of fresh rolled pasta. It’s a last resort. I’m going to have to either make a big detour to the closest city, probably Orlando, on the way to the event, or bribe someone in Orlando to buy a huge quantity of fresh masa and bring it with them.

Another fun “let’s see how far we can stretch authenticity” is going to be breakfast. Y’all know that usually ALL of the meals at my events follow the theme of the feast and are a decent balance between what we as modern Americans find acceptable as foods for dinner, breakfast and lunch and what the medieval person would have eaten in the time/place of the theme. Well, can you guess what the Maya ate for breakfast and lunch every day? They ate gruel. No, seriously. Gruel. Specifically, a wide range of gruels made from masa and mixed with countless add-ins, honey, herbs, chiles, and sometimes mashed root vegetables. Oh, and sometimes they were soured, like yogurt. Would you like some sour corn yogurt with chilis on top for breakfast? Thought not. Me either, frankly. So I think it’s going to be “dinner for breakfast”. I’ll have to get creative to not repeat the limited number of documentable dishes in breakfast and feast.

I love a challenge!

How to do the food for a Known World Party

The Known World Party at Gulf Wars 21 was a complete success. I can’t compare it against previous years since even though this is my 9th or 10th Gulf Wars I have never eaten anything at a Known World Party in the past. In fact, I don’t even remember seeing food at any previous KWP, even though I’m assured that there’s food there every year.

This is the first year that anyone has attempted period food for the Known World Party. This was HUGE. The theme Countess Larissa chose (1001 Nights) made it extremely easy since those stories were written over a huge span of time and geographic region of the medieval Muslim world. Every medieval Muslim cooking manuscript can be linked to a version or story in 1001 Nights so I had a huge range of dishes to work with. I don’t think there could be an easier theme.

I also had the best crew anyone could possibly dream of.

Ceridwen OCahercommaun
Dianna Wyndalan of Kidwelly, called Wolfmom
Anne of Blackthorne
Stefanina de Lucca
Ysabeau Durant
Thalassia Hellas
Christoffer Koch
Gzu
Tymmgard
Ari Tyrbrandr
Berric of An Crosaire
Eithne
Tatiana Heineman
Ian Larsson
Mor & Takashi
Kalika Natani
Angharad ferch Anarawd
Margavati
… and a bunch of people I never got the names of.

I’ve added two pages: one page for what worked, and a page for what didn’t. I hope to add photos soon!

Spinach Artichoke Melts and SCA Food Culture

This has nothing whatsoever to do with medieval food. Really.

It does however have to do with SCA food culture, which I think is plenty important, and Gulf Wars, which I can barely go 5 minutes without thinking about right now.

I love Phil’s Grill at Gulf Wars. Last year my whole family went- me, my heavy fighter husband, my heavy fighter 16 year old son, my 13 year old youth fighter son, and my 10 year old youth fighter daughter. Can you even imagine how much food these kids eat at War? Let’s just say that I’m pretty sure we spent more money buying 2 family lunches and 1 family “just a snack!” at Phil’s Grill than my entire War shopping budget. Yet I wouldn’t have missed it. I actually really like the food there, and there’s one particular dish I actually look forward to…

Phil’s Grill’s Spinach Artichoke Melt.

Part of it is just eating in the food court. There’s something so thoroughly “SCA” about eating in the food court at War. Here we are, sitting around wooden picnic tables surrounded by modern food tents, eating modern food… all in our medieval finery. It’s actually kind of cool.

You know, I started this post because I wanted to replicate the Spinach Artichoke Melt. It’s just me and my daughter going to War this year, and I’m already thinking about easy hot dinners I can make for the two of us in the evenings. Making it myself would be so much less expensive. And it might even taste better.

But it wouldn’t be the same.

I think we’ll be visiting Phil’s Grill after all.

Queen’s luncheon- final menu!

The Queen’s Luncheon Team met at our illustrious Baroness’s home yesterday for a sewing, banner painting and open-fire recipe testing day.

We tested all of the recipes that will be cooked over coals “camp kitchen” style: apple fritters, funnel cakes, pork sausage and beef meatballs. The only touchy part of “primitive” cooking is controlling the temperature. You can’t just “turn up the heat” and have it happen quickly. Oil especially takes a while to come to temperature using charcoal for heat. The funnel cakes were the least forgiving dish, but we will have plenty of other food if the funnel cakes take too long.

Here is the final menu:

Bratwurst (homemade pork sausage)- Sabina Welserin
Balls (beef and herb meatballs roasted on a spit)- Le Menagier
Pickled Tongue, Best Made in January (salted and smoked tongue, thinly sliced)- Sabina Welserin
Cress and Mint in Vinegar (salad)- Le Menagier
Manchet Rolls
Mustard- Le Menagier
Green Garlic Sauce- Le Menagier
Apple Puffs (apple fritters)- Sabina Welserin
Spritzgebackenes (funnel cakes)- Sabina Welserin
Bitter Oranges in Honey (candied orange peel)- Sabina Welserin
Molded marzipan tarts- Sabina Welserin
Possibly sour cherry tarts and some cheeses if I have any extra money.

I’m so excited! We have all of the cooking equipment we need. Now for the master shopping list, the packing lists, and the kitchen plan. And I still need some German garb!

Known World Party- Sweet Wish List

Desert woman with herd of camels from the 13th century Syrian Maqamat of al-Hariri

Desert woman with herd of camels from the 13th century Syrian "Maqamat of al-Hariri"

The previous list was for savory tidbits, and almost all are claimed! Make sure you either comment here, message me on facebook, or email me privately to claim which dish you want to make.

Here are the sweet dishes-

Another Mishash- Lady Ysabeau (An Crosaire)

(Anonymous Andalusian, p 160)
Flaky pastry cookies soaked in sugar syrup rolled in crushed walnuts and sugar

Oven Qahariyya

(Anonymous Andalusian, p 160)
Almond brittle dipped in starch and baked in the oven

Abbasid Qataif- Mistress Roslyn McLaren and Household

(Anonymous Andalusian, p 153)
Fried half-moon shaped dumplings filled with almonds and sugar dipped in rose-scented syrup

Zulabiyya

(Anonymous Andalusian, p 148)
This is the original recipe for modern Indian jalebis. They are exactly the same!  There is an excellent video for making jalebis here. Jalebi/Zulabiyya keeps very well in the fridge if tightly wrapped.

Faludhaj- Baroness Diana of Kilkenny (An Crosaire)

(Anonymous Andalusian, p 171)
Honey-almond-sesame candy

An Eastern Sweet- Baroness Jehannette de Lille (Darkwater)

(Anonymous Andalusian, p 179)
This is the medieval ancestor of modern Turkish Delight for the candy-maker, flavored with pomegranate, apple, pear or quince juice. Fun!

Hais- HL Signy (An Crosaire)

(Medieval Arab Cookery p 88- A Baghdad Cookery Book)
Round “biscuits” of breadcrumbs, dates, almonds, pistachios, sugar, and sweet sesame oil, rolled in more sugar. An SCA classic.

Lauzinaj- Baroness Ceridwen (An Crosaire)

(Medieval Arab Cookery p 418- Description of Familiar Foods)
This is, no lie, baklava rolls with almonds instead of walnuts, though walnuts would be completely okay, and so would layers instead of rolls.

Asabi Zainab (The Fingers of Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra)

(Medieval Arab Cookery p 418- Description of Familiar Foods)
Tiny cannoli tubes, dipped in syrup, then stuffed with pistachios and sugar and rosewater

Nuhud al-Adhra (Virgin’s Breasts)- Kristoff (Darkwater)

(Medieval Arab Cookery p 422- Description of Familiar Foods)
This is literally marzipan mixed with a little ghee/clarified butter, shaped like women’s breasts, and baked in the oven. Feel free to use edible food coloring to make these as realistic as possible.

Irnin- Gwenhwyvar Thredegold (Marcaster)

(Medieval Arab Cookery p 422- Description of Familiar Foods)
These are nothing more than the ancestor of ma’moul, a delicious and easy date-filled cookie.

No Cooking!

If you have no interest in cooking but would still like to contribute to the party please sign up for one or more of the following:
Dates
Figs, dried or fresh
Grapes
Olives of every kind- Umble (Oldenfeld)
Feta cheese, cubed
Queso fresco or farmer’s cheese, cubed

Known World Party: 1001 Nights Wish List

Village scene from the 13th century Syrian manuscript "Maqamat (Stories) of al-Hariri"

We are going to try something a little different for the cooking this year by spreading the work around as much as possible.  Each person volunteers to cook, transport, and deliver 100 pieces of one recipe to me Friday at War. This way no one has to try and deal with a huge amount of food. The more people we get to cook, the better this party will be!

Here is the list of savory dishes for the Known World Party:

Sanbusaj- Crissy Brillant (Marcaster)

(Medieval Arab Cookery, p 379 The Description of Familiar Foods)
Samosas stuffed with finely chopped meat spiced with coriander, pepper, caraway, mastic and cinnamon, dried mint, and nuts

Another Sanbusaq- Vestilia (Darkwater)

(Medieval Arab Cookery, p 382 The Description of Familiar Foods)
Samosas filled with minced red meat spiced with pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves, fresh parsley and mint, and lemon juice.

Hummus Kasa- Mistress Roslyn McLaren and Household

(Medieval Arab Cookery, p 383 The Description of Familiar Foods)
Mashed chickpeas (not pureed!) mixed with vinegar, oil, tahini, mint, parsley, thyme, chopped green olives, walnuts, and chopped preserved lemons, spiced with black pepper, cinnamon, caraway and coriander. A delicious chunky cold salad.

Sanbusak Hamid (Sour samosas)

(Medieval Arab Cookery, p 386 The Description of Familiar Foods)
Samosas made with minced red meat mixed with fresh parsley, onions, mint, almonds or hazelnuts, saffron, lemon juice or vinegar.

Mujabbana- Giric/Geo (Wyvernwood)

(Anonymous Andalusian p 149)
Eggy pastry dough kneaded with cheese and fennel seeds and baked.

Toledan- Giric/Geo (Wyvernwood)

(Anonymous Andalusian p 150)
Puff pastry dough with cheese in the middle, sprinkled with anise seeds and baked.

Stuffed Eggs-Mistress Roslyn McLaren and Household

(Anonymous Andalusian p 52)
Hard boiled eggs, stuffed with the cooked egg yolks mixed with fresh cilantro, onions, black pepper and coriander.

Pickles! Mistress Maysun al-Rasheeqa and Mistress Aillegan (Meridies), Susan (An Crosaire)

No bawarid (cold appetizer) table was complete without a selection of pickles. Turnips, tiny eggplant, cucumbers, eggs, grapes, gourds, plums, carrots… all spiced differently to make a huge range of savory pickles. If you’re interested in making period pickles, let me know!

Guest Post! A Snack Fit for a Qan– Mongolian Dried Beef

Please check out this fantastic recipe from Mistress Ailleagan, Meridies!

A Snack Fit for a Qan – Mongolian Dried Beef

By Mistress Ailleagan nas Seolta, OP

mka Rachel Strange

glenheather@knology.net

Premise

It is an ongoing process of mine to add to my collection of cookery texts from the Dark Ages and the Medieval era. Often, this requires that I borrow books through inter-library loan, as many of the texts I want are far outside my price range. I was especially happy when a copy of A Soup for the Qan (translated from a text written in 1330) arrived in this manner.

I was particularly excited when I saw this recipe:

This recipe is a culinary recreator’s dream – simple, just a few ingredients (that aren’t that unusual or difficult to obtain if you’re already into medieval cooking), and a straightforward preparation method. Best of all, it includes measurements!

Read the rest of the post here.

Looking for a few good Kampfrau

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The Queen’s Luncheon is Wednesday of Gulf Wars. I want to throw down the gauntlet this year by doing the luncheon as a high-authenticity living history experience: cooking some of the food for the luncheon right there on the field in a period camp kitchen by women in appropriate period garb, so that the food, the kitchen, and the people all are from one time/place… a total immersion experience.

Get a tissue, honey... you're drooling.

Now, no high-authenticity event is ever perfect. That’s okay! We’re going to get as close as we possibly can.

What I’m looking for is 3-4 women who have (or can borrow) good Kampfrau garb, are available the day of the Queen’s luncheon, and either have experience with camp cooking or are willing to experiment with it. Only a few of the dishes for the luncheon will be cooked by you on site. The rest will be cooked at another kitchen on site to be determined.

Please share this post with anyone you think would be interested. If you’re interested, please leave a comment here with your email address, or email me directly at jimandandi AT cox DOT net.

Wishlist for the Queen’s Luncheon at Gulf Wars

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Here is my wish list for the Queen’s luncheon. As I test recipes and get prices for all of the ingredients the menu will get heavily revised… this is a list of all of the dishes I wish I could do.

Out of Sabina Welserin:

Good marzipan (molded marzipan)
Bratwurst (hopefully homemade)
Pickled tongue, best made in January (Actually salted and smoked. I think I can get enough tongues for this)
Genovese tart (spinach & cheese tart)
Spritzgebackenes (funnel cakes!)
Bitter oranges in honey (candied orange peel)
Apple puffs (apple fritters)
Sour cherry tart
Cream Tart
Almond Tart (misleading title- this is actually marzipan beaten with egg whites, spread between wafers brushed with rosewater, and baked. A delicate little pastry, tough to do well.)

From Le Menagier

“Little cream tarts well sugared”
“fruit, claret, small pastries, wafers, pears, shelled nuts”
Cress and sorrel with vinegar (salad!)
Balls (meatballs roasted on a spit)
Mustard
Honey-nut sweets
Mushroom pastries
Green garlic sauce
Waffles with brie and wine
Hippocras, without fail

This would be a damn good feast! How am I going to narrow this down to a half dozen dishes? In my wildest dreams I’ll be able to set up a nice German camp kitchen like this, a little simpler, with a few women dressed in good LP German working garb. The funnel cakes, apple fritters, sausages and the meatballs could all be made right there as a living history/ high authenticity display. The pickled tongue, cream tarts, candied orange peel, honey nut sweets, sauces, and fruit tarts could be made ahead. Hmmm.