[Sca-cooks] Non-Pennsic SCA activities?

Dragon dragon at crimson-dragon.com
Wed Aug 6 13:22:22 PDT 2008

Lady Celia wrote:
>Dragon said:
><<On an observational note, I have noticed that the modern versions of
>the recipes from both Pleyn Delit and 1000 eggs tend to be pretty
>light in their use of spices. I've found that when I make them with
>the quantities specified, that they tend to be rather under-spiced to
>my taste. Does anyone else find this to be so? In each of the recipes
>I prepared from these books, I significantly increased the amounts of
>spices and though them much improved from the way they tasted with
>the called for amounts.>>
>I suspect that part of it is that the potency of modern dried spices is
>significantly lower than that which would have been used by our medieval
>counterparts.  That and our taste buds have changed, and are more often
>assaulted with taste bud dulling foods and ingredients.
>That would be my first guess as to why this might be true.
---------------- End original message. ---------------------

I don't think there is any way that your potency assertion could be 
proven, in fact, I'd wager that the opposite may well be true when we 
are discussing whole spices (which I use exclusively and grind fresh 
when needed).

The reason I say this is simple: Time to market. Spice potency 
declines over time. It declines less when they are left whole until 
use but even so, it is generally better to use spices that are 
fresher than those which are older. In our time, spices grown around 
the world can be had in superior quality and freshness in many 
places, often within days or weeks of harvest. In period, it took 
many months for them to be shipped and/or transported via caravan to 
Europe and the weather conditions they encountered in that time could 
be extreme and detrimental to their potency. I'd expect modern spices 
to be no less than the equal in potency and very much likely to be of 
better quality.

Now I didn't say I could not taste the spices in dishes when used in 
the original quantities, I just thought they were way too subtle and 
needed more. I suspect that the fact that the original recipes give 
no guide to amounts combined with the tastes of the authors of these 
books is the prime factor here. I'd also be very willing to bet that 
they erred on the conservative side, we do know that spices were a 
luxury and as such, ostentatious use of them was frequent to show off 
one's wealth. So I am suspecting that in period, these recipes were 
much more highly spiced and because of that and my own personal 
tastes, I have no qualms in adjusting the quantities significantly higher.


  Venimus, Saltavimus, Bibimus (et naribus canium capti sumus)

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