[Sca-cooks] BAD sources for historical cooks

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius1 at verizon.net
Thu Mar 13 13:27:30 PDT 2008

On Mar 13, 2008, at 3:27 PM, Nick Sasso wrote:

> -----Original Message-----
> We both have examples of good resources. But aside from my copy of
> "Fabulous Feasts" which i bought decades ago and not for the recipes
> anyway, neither of us owns any really bad recipe sources.
> By bad sources, I don't mean out of period books, but sources which
> appear to present Medieval recipes and fail.
> We plan to show the students these books so they can see why they  
> are not
> good.
> I thank you for any suggestions.  > > > > > >
> I am going to take some heat for this suggestion, but for the above
> definition, "A Drizzle of Honey" is an example.  The discourse is  
> useful and
> documented . . . the recipes seem to be adaptations of recipes from  
> English
> works and made to be more relavent.  "Food and Drink in Medieval  
> Poland" is
> another worth considering.  Both are useful texts, valuable  
> information and
> unique in the US English language, but as actual recipe sources,  
> seem to be
> less than ideal.  Both are mixed bags of info.
> Lest we forget our old friend Joseph Dommers Vehling and his  
> translation of
> Apicius!

I STR the updated/adapted recipes in an appendix to Scully's edition  
of Taillevent were pretty bad; I think perhaps it's just almost  
impossible to be a top-notch manuscript geek and a truly fine cook (or  
more importantly, recipe writer). Karen Hess is probably the best I  
can think of at doing both simultaneously.

Let's see, somebody already nailed Take A Buttocke of Beefe, which is  
second only to Fabulous Feasts as a book not to use the recipes from,  
thinking them period. What about Esther B. Aresty's "The Delectable  
Past"? She also takes a period recipe, and alters it for whatever  
reason or according to whatever aesthetic, leaving it virtually  
unrecognizable: witness her Darioles filled with Cream-Cheese Mousse  
(still what I think of when I hear the word "darioles", just not what  
anybody in the Middle Ages thought of), then using the same recipe  
again (or maybe even "see page 47") for Richmond Maids of Honor Tarts.  
and how she managed to turn Taillevent's Mustard Sops (oil-poached  
eggs on toast with soft-fried onions in mustard sauce on top) into  
Mustard Soup, involving cream, chicken stock and green peas, is beyond  
me. Again, it's pretty good stuff, just nothing like the original.

These dishes constitute ancient and venerable East Kingdom fare. We  
still serve them, but we just try a bit harder to get a place in the  
parking lot next to the ball park of the original recipe, you might say.

I think there are a lot of these early sources whose authors simply  
weren't trying to do what we're doing; they were trying not to  
recreate, but to evoke. It's easy to judge them negatively for this,  
but they were trying to write salesworthy books at a time when the SCA  
and other groups like us either didn't exist or weren't known as a  
possible market sector. We really do have to cut some of these authors  
some slack; as bad as they could be, they still broke ground to some  

Just don't use their recipes ;-).


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