[Sca-cooks] Spicing was Non-Pennsic SCA activities?
dragon at crimson-dragon.com
Thu Aug 7 08:18:26 PDT 2008
Johnna Holloway wrote:
>I mentioned this question to the author of Take
>A /Thousand Eggs/ or More and Cindy Renfrow wrote me that
>"Off the top of my head...
><shrug> Spices were expensive imports. Except
>for a few notable exceptions in the collection,
>and as far as I recall, spices were used
>sparingly and in a manner that they'd be most
>noticed by the diners i.e. as a final tasty,
>colorful garnish. This was especially true on
>white dishes. Herbs, ginger and saffron, OTOH,
>were grown locally and used in larger quantity.?
Then how does she explain the sometimes enormous
quantities of spices such as cinnamon and pepper
and nutmegs that show up in some household
inventories of the period? (I am at work and have
no direct references handy, I'll try to dig some
up later at home if anyone really wants some). I
can only surmise that these great quantities of
spice were not allowed to just sit unused until
they went bad. I am also convinced that
conspicuous consumption and showing off one's
wealth were just as much in fashion then as they
are today. People have always operated on the
principle of "if you have it, flaunt it".
>I suspect that one reason why our modern working
>recipes are perhaps less spicy than people may now prefer
>is that modern American tastes are shaped by and
>used to amounts of Capsicum peppers, including
>chili (chile) peppers and sweet peppers
>that the medieval Europeans never tasted. Think
>about the salsas, hot sauces, and other products that
>stores like Chili Traditions sell (http://www.chiletraditions.com/index.htm).
This is something I think we will all just have
to agree to disagree on. I think tobacco use has
a far more detrimental effect upon taste than
chilies (I smoke an occasional cigar, so I know
this from direct experience). I love chilies and
eat something flavored with them (sometimes quite
strongly) almost every day. Yet I can very often
identify exactly what went into a dish just by
smelling and tasting it, and this includes very
subtly flavored and spiced dishes. You must
remember that much of what we call taste is
actually smell. The sensations in the mouth and
on the tongue are far less varied in and of
themselves than what we think of when we talk
about taste. I am sure we have all done the
experiment of stopping one's nose while tasting
something and have directly experienced the effect it has.
Perhaps my love of Indian food and other highly
spiced cuisines has really boosted my expectation
for spicing, but when I am talking about adding
more than the recipe calls for, I am not talking
about the same level of spicing by any stretch.
In most cases, I double or triple the amount
called for. 1/4 teaspoon of anything in a big pot
of food is really subtle in my opinion. And
again, this really is all just about opinion.
>One other factor is that while it is somewhat
>easy to Add more spice to a dish, it can prove almost impossible
>to subtract and re-adjust a dish's spiciness
>downward. Can we really blame Hieatt and Butler
>of Pleyn Delit for erring on the side of
>caution in spicing?
I'm suggesting that maybe their own bias (cooking
and taste are subjective in the extreme) and the
prevailing trends at the time they wrote their
books has some major influence upon this. Is it
right or wrong? Who is to say? We have little
concrete evidence one way or the other, what we
do have is very circumstantial and one can only make inferences.
When the food hits the pot, it really comes down
to the tastes of the chef as to what "be enough".
I can also say that I have never had anyone come
to me and say "wow, that has WAY too much spice
in it) when I make one of these recipes and adjust the spice up a few notches.
>Two new books that talk about the spice trade are:
>Freedman, Paul. /Out of the East. Spices and the
>Medieval Imagination/. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008.
>Krondl, Michael. /The Taste of Conquest. The
>Rise and Fall of the Three Great Cities of
>Spice/. New York: Ballantine Books, 2007.
Cool, I will check them out when I can. The spice
trade has been a fascination of mine for some time.
Venimus, Saltavimus, Bibimus (et naribus canium capti sumus)
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