[Sca-cooks] Food Trade, Conquests, and Documentation

Sandragood@aol.com Sandragood at aol.com
Wed Oct 4 13:47:28 PDT 2006

The one thing that amazes me when discussions take a I believe, you believe  
direction, it seems like very little guidance is given on how to present new  
found documentation to people that are strong in their beliefs of what is or 
is  not period.  I'd like to offer some comments.  

In the discussion of New World foods, a lot of focus was placed on  "general" 
consumption, and this is where the period, not period debate comes  in.  But 
it also seemed that someone wanted to know how to justify the use  in an SCA 
feast or demo.  I agree that leaving the controversial  items out of a demo 
would be best.  Most people attending a demo will  take what's at the demo to be 
the norm for the whole SCA.  They're  soaking in all this information and 
could easily misinterpret the "foods in  period" scenario.   Now as a game or 
contest at a local event,  that would be cool.
As for feasts...this is one of the reason's I really love to see feasts  tied 
into the theme of the event.  Even if the event doesn't necessarily  have a 
theme, i.e. Kingdom level events (Crown, Fighters Collegium, A&S,  etc.), put 
enough effort into the feast so that people know the Feast has a  theme.  
Feasting was an enjoyable thing with subtleties and  entertainment.  A theme can 
easily be created through the  entertainment, complimented by the dishes served. 
 If you've documented  something that has had questionable origins and you're 
afraid the "authenticity  police" are going to call you on it, fit it into a 
theme.  Even  including a tidbit of the documentation with the dish as it is 
served would be  neat.  Some people even go so far as to have feast booklets  
printed.  A Spanish event during the Age of Discovery would be an  ideal place 
to serve tomatoes, provided they were served in the manner  documented.  The 
same can be done for Arabic and Asian cuisine.  These  are not what most 
SCAdians consider to be SCA Period.  However, European  history was influenced or 
impacted by these outside regions.  That's not to  say I would appreciate 
attending an Elizabethan event and find the feast to be  Middle Eastern/Arabic.  Now 
if the event were like the recent All Things  Middle Eastern event, I would 
expect the feast to be Middle Eastern.
Let's also not forget the influence of conquests on a regional  cuisine.  A 
perfect example is the Muslim conquests between 711 and  1492.  I recently 
taught a class on Medieval Arabic Cookery.  I  started the class by asking "what 
do you think of when you hear the term Arabic  Cookery?".  Most people named 
things that you would associate with  modern Middle Eastern.  While there are 
some similarities, I pointed out  that it depended on the when and where.  At 
the peak of Muslim rule, they  controlled a good majority of the Mediterranean 
waterways.  Andalusia is a  great example of how hundreds of years of 
occupation can influence  everything, and for this discussion the cuisine.  What makes 
the  Muslim influence so prominent is that their control of the waterways and  
ports allowed their ability to bring in foods and spices usually only 
associated  with the Levant and Arabian Peninsula into the European countries.  
As one who loves all aspects of food research including recipe  redaction, 
and from the standpoint of a judge for Arts and Sciences,  here are some things 
to consider.
It's best to use recipes/printed techniques as your source of  documentation. 
 If there is a manuscript, household recipe/receipt  book, herbal or 
medicinal book that includes an ingredient in a  recipe and the source falls prior to 
1600 (I know there are a few groups  that go beyond) then this would be an 
acceptable source for a dish within that  country, not necessarily outside that 
country or region.  In the event of  receipt books where it is more an 
inventory, I'd like to see any notes that may  pertain to it's use.  Many herbs were 
used for medicinal purposes, not  necessarily general seasonings.
If you can justify that a food/ingredient was eaten through substitution,  
i.e. New World beans substituted in place of a European variety, that's  
acceptable.  I would accept this but be sure that you can justify the  availability 
to the country for which you are citing the dish.  In regards  to this example, 
Spain would have been more likely to substitute New World foods  than say 
Ireland or the Rus.
Justifying availability of an ingredient or dish through the above example  
of conquest would be acceptable provided you can document the use of  the 
ingredient or the dish for the country you are citing.  I.e. serving a  13th c. 
Arabic dish for a 13th c. Andalusian event.  If you want  to get real technical 
you could go as far as making sure you can justify the  availability of the 
ingredients for the Arabic dish.  Would they have  survived the transport to 
If you don't have an actual recipe, but can justify the existence of a dish  
through any of the above, to me, that is fine, but show me your  
justification.  Justifying a dish using archeological data, i.e. you  find excavation data 
that shows x-specimen of fish was found in great quantity  in the kitchens of 
yadayada land.  However there are no recipe sources for  the use of said fish. 
 We do know that they prepared b-specimen fish  in suchandsuch fashion.  To 
me, serving x-specimen as a  substitute ingredient for the suchandsuch dish can 
be justified.  Hope you  got that...
Modern substitutions for period foods.  I think it was this list that  
someone mentioned the white carrot, which are not available today, so most  everyone 
accepts the modern equivalent.  This would apply to other foods as  well.
Paintings are another source, but can sometimes be misleading or  
When redacting your own recipe, try to stay as close to the original recipe  
as possible.  
>From a competition standpoint, don't substitute ingredients that won't  yield 
similar results.  Substitutions are fine, but make sure they are as  similar 
to the original as possible.  Don't add ingredients not found in  the original 
recipe, i.e. adding jam as a thickening agent for a recipe that  obviously 
did not include it.  Don't omit ingredients that are easily  available, i.e. 
vinegar for a dish that is supposed to be sweet and sour.   Don't omit 
ingredients because "I didn't know what it was..." (I actually saw  this excuse for rose 
water.)  Do the research, find out what it was.   If it's not available any 
longer, you can use that as your reason, not the "I  didn't know" plea.  If 
it's poisonous, that's a good reason for omission,  but what was the purpose of 
the original ingredient?  In both cases, what  was it for?  Flavor, color, 
thickening?  Instead of totally omitting  the ingredient, can you use a suitable 
Just my thoughts.
In Service,
THL Elizabeth Donnan
Secretary, Grand Chefs of Gleann Abhann

Sandra  Good
Independent Consultant with The Pampered Chef ®

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