On Feasting (was: on white and sweet potatoes)
- On Tue, Jan 6, 2009 at 3:13 AM, Katherine Throckmorton
> I've been thinking for awhile about why I object to New World foods atBut this is a problem with any kind of presentation. E.g. How often
> feasts. It isn't the fact that they aren't period. Its more the fact that
> it seems that when things like potatoes, tomatoes, chocolate and turkey were
> served, they would have been a novelty. These foods would have been new and
> exotic and serving them at a feast would have made a statement. Serving
> them as a ordinary part of a feast, with no effort to get people to think
> about how 16th century people would have seen these foods has the effect of
> pulling us into the modern world, where a dish of mashed potatoes is
would English courts have had Middle Eastern cuisine? Heck, I wonder
how often English courts would have served German foods, or French, or
Oddly enough, Chinese and Far East dishes are the only ones that
usually get served as novelties, because they still are for most
people. Yes, you eat them in restaurants, but how many people cook
them at home.
Conversely, though, real medieval cooking is also foreign and exotic
to us. This may be part of the romanticism we have for the age, but
when you think about it, someone of the time would likely have thought
"strawberries in snow AGAIN! Why don't they try an exotic dish like
mashed batata once in a while?" ;)
Finally, there are the goals of preparing a feast:
1) To feed people. Heck, you could bring McDonald's. There is no
requirement that a feast be period, that I'm aware of. It is just an
assumption we make that we will try to do period food. On the other
hand, besides bread, how often do we serve fairly plain, common dishes
(roast beef, pork, or chicken) without trying to make it 'more
medieval'? This is really the most common meal, though, often a
hodgepodge of things from various places and times seasoned to suit
the modern palate so that people don't have to be overly adventurous.
2) To showcase the dishes. Some meals are there as an A&S display of
culinary history. We often choose tastes leaning towards a modern
palate, but not necessarily. There might be dishes that shock people
or take them out of their comfort zones. This is a pretty risky meal,
but can be tempered by throwing in a few things that aren't too exotic
and thus allowing everyone to feel they've had the experience of
different foods as they all go wandering by.
3) To recreate a time and place. Sometimes we try to set a meal in a
given time and place. These are hard to pull of correctly, imho.
There is just so much too it--we usually go for a 'themed' meal
instead of a fully authentic one, because too much pickled X and fish
and you can lose half the diners. These meals tend to work best,
imho, as a smaller group or event where people are coming specifically
for the feast, and are thus willing to be more adventurous in their
Personally, I think that recreating a 16th century colonial meal would
be pretty awesome. I also enjoy option 3 a lot, no matter where the
None of this is to criticize. It is really just me running my mouth
(or my fingers) regarding how different foods work or don't work for
different goals, and that there is not, in my experience One Way to do
> But this is a problem with any kind of presentation. E.g. How oftenBut that presumes that the court and populace is entirely and only English.
> would English courts have had Middle Eastern cuisine? Heck, I wonder
> how often English courts would have served German foods, or French, or
But only a minority of the populace is English, so I don't feel as much of a
disconnect when I, as an English persona, sit down to a German feast... I
feel that I am just visiting Germany.
Even a polyglot feast of period dishes from several places makes sense since
our events have such a polyglot attendance.
I generally don't find offense with any "ordinary" or even "festival"
cuisine that hares to a period cuisine from a European or "European contact"
After all, according to Corpora, the event is supposed to recreate the
milieu of a Medieval/Renaissance feast or festival day.
But I just don't see how you can suppose that serving big dishes of New
World foods, which would have been a remarkable rarity and only in the very
latter part of period --just because a few reports of it winkles under the
1601 (again, Corpora) cutoff-- creates that milieu.
- 2009/1/6 Jeff gedney <gedney@...>
> But that presumes that the court and populace is entirely and only English.I was just about to say that...
Anyway... my opinion is that European regional cuisine didn't vary that
much. I have seen very similar recipes in Nola, Le Menagier and Early
Northern Cookbook. While it's difficult to have everyone have their bit in
such a multi-period, multi-national recreation, I think there's a "core"
that should form the basis of menus, and then occasionally you can have fun
with something odd. The recipes mentioned in the herbal for potato/sweet
potato sounded more like a medieval dish than normal boiled or fried
potatoes people are used to having. So if my persona had to try them, she'd
just probably assume it's some other kind of root vegetable - no big deal!
I think the problem is the one mentioned before - when it's clearly modern.
I'd avoid the roasted potatoes mentioned in the herball for that very
reason, except perhaps at a very special occassion.
Obviously my personal opinion ;)
Leonor / Marianne
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- This reminds me of my time in HI. We attended a tourist luau, where
they served traditional foods in little pleated paper cups, usually
used for relish.... plenty of hot dogs and the like were available.
Then, through connections we attended a traditional luau... an entire
day, with traditional entertainments provide by.... yes, each other,
in the morning the hole was dug, the fire build, and the foods layered
in....... That night, glistening young men danced the whole pig
through the feast of all to oooh and aah over. Great steaming bowls of
food were placed in circles of waiting diners, much that was served
was unfamiliar to unrecognizable, although it was mostly readily
available in the markets... as we drove home, my husband leaned over
"what did they do with the pig?"
- I'm crossposting this to a couple of lists, my apologies if yiu receive it more than once.
Does anyone have any evidence or documentation of the reflector oven being used in period? The earliest I have been able to date it is to a Flemish painting of about 1660.
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