[SCA-AE] Feasts - Thinking about peas
dani at pobox.com
Mon Oct 24 18:51:28 EDT 2011
The feast at Agincourt was excellent (thank you, Elss). It got me wondering
about feast authenticity. To be clear up front, this isn't a "were the
dishes authentic?" post, but a "how do we balance authenticity with modern
sensibilities?" post - because a feast that's as authentic as we can make it
wouldn't be much fun for most of the attendees. (There have been feasts
that were specially designed and designated as authentic, but that's very
different from surprising the diners.) Take the peas, as a starting-point
Would they have eaten that? I don't think they were cultivated in period,
but substituting period equivalents introduces three problems. 1. Peas
cultivated in period were starchy, rather than sweet, and would not have
worked as well as a side dish. People aren't necessarily going to like the
results if they restrict themselves to period alternatives and period
combinations. 2. Peas were what poor people ate when they had no choice.
(Literary - as opposed to culinary - sources sometimes refer to vegetables
as famine food.) Should we restrict ourselves to class-appropriate
combinations? 3. Eating peas with a knife...
How would they have eaten that? The introduction of the dining fork (as
opposed to a fork used for serving or as a kitchen utensil) revolutionized
dining. Without a fork, you can eat with your fingers and/or a knife, with
a spoon, or on bread. (Much of what we read about period table manners is
about eating with your fingers without dripping the sauce on your clothes.)
I'm not saying that feast-goers shouldn't use forks, but that the
availability of forks lets us us serve dishes and presentations they would
not have used.
Should they have eaten that? Our feasts tend to incorporate period recipes
into a framework of what we think a reasonably-healthy meal should be.
Period feasts are, by modern conventions, a short trip to the grave, if you
live long enough. For purposes of comparison, here is the bill of fare for
a dinner given at Oxford in 1452 (taken from Source: MS. Cotton. Tit.B.XI.
fol. 21, vo.):
Primus Cursus, A suttletee; the bore hed and the bulle. Brawne
and mustarde. Frumenty with venysoun. Fesaunt in brase. Swan
with chawduen. Capon of grece. Herunsew. Poplar. Custad ryalle.
Graunt fflaupat departid. Lesshe damask. Frutor lumbert. A
Secundus. Viant en brase. Crane in sawce. Yong pocok. Cony.
Pyions. Buttor. Curlew. Carcelle. Partriche. Venysoun bake.
Fryed mete in past, Lesshe lumbert. A ffrutour. A suteltee.
Tertius Gely ryalle departid. Haunche of venyson rostid.
Wodecok. Plover. Knottis. Styntis. Quayles. Larkys. Quynces
bak. Viant in past. A frutour. Lesshe. A suteltee.
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