Sunday, February 14, 2010

Not so modern considerations... eating...

(Dec. 19th, 2009)

More SCA/modern eating considerations with medieval and renaissance themes

For those who are curious, been reading a lot of Bartolomeo Scappi and the post (sca) period Robert May... both to different audiences and countries but both with obvious comparable features. Of course, I have also been mixing it up with various books in-between.

It's got me thinking about the common concern of the cook... time management.

One way to deal with time lapses was to provide entertainment. Not with entertainers, that would not be a concern of the cook, but with the food itself... think back earlier than these books with oddities such as a jelly with live fish swimming about in it's cavity... or even to up the last mentioned with live animals in a pie to provide entertainment and pass the time.
Even full edible food was cause for entertainment... if it looked interesting and was well garnished, people could also feast with their minds as well as with their bodies. Imagine waiting for meat while deciding on what cut you would like rather than just waiting for it to be placed in your plate. This occupies the diner and provides entertainment, especially if they have a skilled carver... I am still trying to comprehend the whole foul carving process.

That is but one way, I thoroughly enjoy the process of not just having cold salads available for the servers to deal with but that of having cold pies... have all this out of the kitchen and on a sideboard waiting for the servers to deal with. This is not my idea, and though I understood the idea of some of these dishes showing up in the first course, it was mainly copying from period menu layouts and reading up on various contemporary writers ideas/takes on the humors. It is just so practical though... I would still do leaf salads fresh but prepared ahead and stored properly, these could be time savers (nice if available premises can handle such a load). All of this directed out of the kitchen, and onto a near-by sideboard (out of the way) as people are setting up for feast, would empty the kitchen of both dishes and unneeded people. It also would give the staff time to prepare the main course while people are busy eating.
Cold dishes would be things like Aspics, cold salads, cured meats and cold pies. Note: salad refers to much more than just a plate of leaves, some might not have any leaves at all. Also: "cold" does not necessarily denote cold as in from the fridge.

Now notice I said "main course", this is in giving to modern considerations. As cool as it would be to get to work, or even attend, something very much based on a period example, we have many modern considerations to keep in mind that our predecessors did not.

Considering people at a typical event (sca):

--there are a number of people who have spent some time traveling prior to arrival

--many people attending are preconditioned to having a breakfast in the morning, small meal at noon and a supper anywhere between 5 and 7 in the evening, usually without wait before or during the meals.

--Many people usually do not typically have more than two courses during their largest meal and some do not even have two.

--People generally will not be staying at the event after the feast, while a few others stay to clean up, this is due to various reasons.

--There is little to no activity during the post feast period

So the question is: Could a feast be just as grand if there are only 3 courses? I think so, in fact it could be even more so provided the work into the quality (rather than the quantity) of the production is given.

Remember, a course is not limited to the modern concept of a course... it can have variety of protein, variety of vegetation, variety of mixed dishes as well as sauces, relishes and garnishes. It doesn't have to dribble in either, it can come in with a bang and go out as such.

When finishing off a meal, do consider that this is a very different type of course... it is about aiding digestion and about eating foods that would otherwise impede it if eaten too soon. This involves items such as nuts, milk products be it drinks or cheeses, olives, fruit in various forms and sugared and spiced things such as candies and drinks. Considering what we are used to, such a course could be served buffet style as the meal comes to an end, but that is likely to be met with waste as people consider things to be over at that time... Or could be plattered and served at once to tables... not a bad time to have toasts and all the usual public chatter and speeches that tend to go on during many feasts.

This is all based from experience while considering historic instruction and the whims and needs of modern folk like us.
(and yeah, am repeating myself a lot here :P)
Oh... and see, see... I am willing to compromise and pay more attention to non-period needs, the trick is learning how to juggle and prioritize. However, I am not overly fond of providing foods that can not be somehow documented to within the sca-period. In fact, if I were ever to volunteer for a *shudder* queens tea *shudder*, it would probably be something very far removed from ones expectations... and I don't think even late sca-period Japanese treats are tomany people's tastes. (but do go well with matcha and the like)

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