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On Feasting (was: on white and sweet potatoes)

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  • JL Badgley
    On Tue, Jan 6, 2009 at 3:13 AM, Katherine Throckmorton ... But this is a problem with any kind of presentation. E.g. How often would English courts have had
    Message 1 of 5 , Jan 5, 2009
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      On Tue, Jan 6, 2009 at 3:13 AM, Katherine Throckmorton
      <katherine.throckmorton@...> wrote:
      > I've been thinking for awhile about why I object to New World foods at
      > 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
      > commonplace.

      But this is a problem with any kind of presentation. E.g. How often
      would English courts have had Middle Eastern cuisine? Heck, I wonder
      how often English courts would have served German foods, or French, or
      Italian.

      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
      dining customs.

      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
      'setting' is.

      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
      a feast.

      -E.
    • Jeff gedney
      ... But that presumes that the court and populace is entirely and only English. But only a minority of the populace is English, so I don t feel as much of a
      Message 2 of 5 , Jan 5, 2009
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        > But this is a problem with any kind of presentation. E.g. How often
        > would English courts have had Middle Eastern cuisine? Heck, I wonder
        > how often English courts would have served German foods, or French, or
        > Italian.

        But that presumes that the court and populace is entirely and only English.
        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"
        culture.
        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.

        Capt Elias
      • Marianne Perdomo
        2009/1/6 Jeff gedney ... I was just about to say that... Anyway... my opinion is that European regional cuisine didn t vary that much. I
        Message 3 of 5 , Jan 6, 2009
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          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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        • Labhaoise O'Beachain
          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....
          Message 4 of 5 , Jan 6, 2009
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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
            and asked....

            "what did they do with the pig?"

            Labhaoise
          • Hawkyns
            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
            Message 5 of 5 , Jan 6, 2009
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              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.
               
              Thank you.
               
              Hawkyns,
              East


                

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