[Sca-cooks] Central Regional 12th Night - Post mortem (LONG!)

Michael Gunter countgunthar at hotmail.com
Sun Jan 6 21:23:43 PST 2008

Okay, since my DEAR lady let it out of the bag I'll go into what I hope is a
rather unemotional dissection of the feast.
I've mentioned this feast a couple of times on the list as well as where to get
recipes and such so I won't go into that again.
It was a bit difficult to design because there wasn't much of a kitchen on site
and I'd never been to this partcular site before as well.
So I figured the best way to do it would be to use my wonderful Seal-A-Meal and
make food that can be frozen and reheated well. Cook it ahead of time and seal
it then boil the bags in hot water heated over big turkey fryers.
I'd also had a lot of success with a meal I'd cooked as an entry into the Laurel's
Prize tournament so I figured it would be fun to show some of the dishes to a
wider audience. I also knew those dishes froze and reheated well. 
So I played with the menu a bit and came up with something that sounded decent
and filling and mainly fit into the category of what I was looking for. 
One worry was that it wasn't particularly fancy and also there were a few too
many "gloppy" dishes. Yes, this feast would certainly go by Cariadoc's statement
about Medieval food as brown glop. This had pottage, boiled spinach, mashed
beans and frumetty. Lots of multi-colored glop. I was worried this would be forever
known as the "paste feast". 
But I also tried to make stuff that people weren't used to as being "homemade" and
added items to provide crisp and bright along with the thick parts.
I wasn't happy with the menu but it was the best I could think of.
So most of the food was prepared ahead of time, sealed and frozen.
A plea was sent out to the barony for stock pots, cookers and propane.
Things were set.
Elizabeth and I got to site around 8:30 am on Saturday with a trailer filled with frozen
The cookers were set up in a little enclosed area just outside the kitchen.
The kitchen only had one stove and a double fridge so frozen food was set out for
defrosting and we got to work on getting the onions carmelized and tarts made.
We realized the tarts would take to long to bake so we put the dough on the top
and made little cobblers instead.
Things were pretty relaxed for most of the day since a lot was made. But we were
busy with the peasen, cobblers, onions and such. Still not much stress.
I was kind of out of it since I'd gotten very little sleep the past few days finishing up
dishes so it was good that I had some experienced heads to help me make some 
Two hours before feast we went out, hooked up and fired up the stoves and put
stockpots of water in them. About an hour before we put in the first bags and got
the serving dishes ready.
The feast was set up to be served by a couple of people coming from their table to
pick up the dishes as set in the window. It was total chaos and there seemed to be
more tables than we'd counted. The good thing was that people from smaller tables
served themselves and brought back the extra food so that everyone got served. 
Still I was stressed.
I was also stressed because I tasted the dishes and they were all totally wrong.
Tasteless, dry and awful. I didn't want to send any of it out but it was too late.
I was one very unhappy Cook.
But the first course eventually went out. We prepped the second course. One
problem we found was some of the bagged food felt hot but was still cool in the
center. There was also an air conditioning duct right above the prep table. So I
heard a couple of people mention their food was a bit cool. Grump.
Problems were handled. I do wish we'd had big boards or platters so the food
could have been taken out at once instead of in parts and pieces.
The period drinks weren't pushed as much as I wanted so a lot of people didn't
get them. But at 12th Night, most folk bring their own drink anyway. Still,
a lot of hard work got wasted.
There were a couple of incidents of water boiling too hard and one or
two bags rupturing. This wouldn't be bad for things like sausage, but for
beans or egredouce. Well, it's a good thing I usually cook for a lot more than 
The second course went out with a bit less confusion but I was unhappy because
the food tasted bad. I was assured it was fine but I hated to send it out. 
More people said good things but I'm sure they were just being nice. 
The second course was completed and trays brought back. Then desserts
were sent out on the serving window and a table at the back of the room. The
populous was told that it would be out all night and they didn't have to rush
up to get it. They could get some at their leisure. But people still came up
and stood in line. Sigh.
I was told several times about how good it was. We had a lot of leftovers because
I'd cooked for over 160 and we sold 130 feasts. Nearly everything was given
away. Even the jars of mustard were given out. I didn't understand it and just
figured they were being nice.
But I did get a lot of compliments on how it was the best 12th Night feast in
years and people thanking me for making tofu versions of the venison and
egredouce. I was asked for recipes even though we put them on the door
of the kitchen.
My staff worked like crazy, Elizabeth split duties as both kitchen staff and
Head of Entourage for the Baroness and was still in the kitchen all day and night.
Pro: Making all the food ahead of time and freezing it is a good way to serve
a large feast with little to no kitchen.
I was told by many people how much they liked the feast and even heard
from my "spies" that folks weren't just being nice to me.
Egredouce is a major crowd pleaser.
Folk really appreciated that I made dishes as substitutes for people who don't 
eat meat or pork or venison. I made a vegetarian egredouce, used firm tofu
braised in the same sauce as the venison and chicken sausage to replace
the pork heavy bratwursts.
Kitchen cleanup is easier when you aren't cooking a lot in it.
Be careful when using boiling bags because they may split in heavily boiling
water. Don't make the bags too large or they are too heavy to take from
the pots.
Get large platters so tables can be served more dishes at once.
Don't serve the meats before the vegetables if stuff does have to go out
in pieces.
The Steward really screwed up the announcement of who had reservations for
the feast. People thought it was sold out when it was nowhere near being sold
Have a dedicated table platter coordinator to walk the hall to make sure everyone
is fed.
Overall it was a good feast. I worked my tail off in prepping it and then poor
Elizabeth stepped in for a few dishes and is equally fried.
The barony came through like a champ in loaning cooking materials and even
with the donation of the venison. 
People were full and happy.
A tired Gunthar
Addendum: Elizabeth and I went out for Mexican food tonight. I could barely taste
it. Even the salsa was bland. From the comments of people saying they enjoyed my
food and tonight's experience, I think the fact the food tasted bad to me wasn't the
fault of the food.
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