[Sca-cooks] Period Ingredients, was Historical Apples
lilinah at earthlink.net
Tue Oct 28 13:37:56 PDT 2008
> if the documentation does not at least
>mention that they are using non-period apples (a caveat similar to what has
>been previously mentioned) then I too would mark the individual down.
> Even for a novice?
I am flabbergasted that some people think that apples in our dishes
must be guaranteed period or we get points off. Well, Bunky, if this
applies to apples, it applies to EVERY SINGLE ONE of our ingredients.
And the idea that we have to explain just how period or non-period
each and every one of our ingredients is riling me up!
Now, i love doing research. And i do make an effort to replace
obviously modern ingredients with something a bit less modern. But i
just don't believe that it is possible for every ingredient.
Take my Rock Cornish Game Hens. I know they're not period. But i also
know that the chickens sold in the supermarket today in the US are
not period either.
Now, it was mentioned by someone on this list (Daniel?) that if i
didn't mention that my diminutive fowl were not period, i should have
had points taken away. But what i want to know is, if i had used a
standard chicken from the supermarket, should i have also have had
points taken away if i neglected to mention that it, too, is far from
Because, lemme tell ya, when i was a kid the chickens really did NOT
have such big bazoingers as they do now. I would eat a chicken breast
and it was a reasonably sized piece of meat. But nowadays, i cut each
breast in half again because they are just farkin' HYOOOG!
I've judged a lot of cooking competitions and rarely, if ever, does
the entrant track down the history, pedigree, heritage, and
provenance of every ingredient used. And it has NOT been expected of
I think if someone "goes the extra mile" to get some "perfectly
period" ingredients, they deserve props (and we have a place on our
form where judges can add up to 5 additional points). But i don't
think this should be required, and i think that people should not get
ding'ed for using chicken, turnips, or salt that they buy in the
Do we know the breeds of the chicken, beef, lamb, goat, pork, or any
other domesticated animal we buy in the market? There have been
intensive and extensive breeding programs throughout the world,
including even bringing modern animal breeds into developing
countries, to replace their traditional breeds, which are rapidly
Do we know the heritage of every herb and spice we use? Can most of
us say with certainty that such things comes from stock that has not
been somehow improved or changed over the course of the intervening
500 years or more? Many spices are grown today far from where they
were grown "in period". Does this disqualify them? Should we get
points knocked off for not knowing the provenance of the seasonings
How about fruits and vegetables? Do we trace the heritage of the
seedless raisins we put into a dish? Were seedless raisins even
common in period? In the 15th c. Ottoman cookbook, for example, there
are frequently instructions for taking the seeds out of raisins. Same
goes for turnips, celery (which we all know is totally unlike period
celery), spinach, chard, cabbages, mushrooms, cherries, strawberries.
Heck, most commercially grown strawberries today (in the US and
probably most everywhere) are a hybrid of 2 New World strawberries.
So should people enter dishes only if they grow their own fraise du
bois (Fragaria vesca) or fraise hautbois (Fragaria moschata)? Should
their points be decreased for using modern strawberries?
What about rice? wheat? barley? Do we know to what degree what we buy
has been hybridized over the past 500 years? Do we know just how
close or far it is from what was used in our recipes?
How about milk? Most commercial milk in the US is from Holsteins that
have been intensively bred to produce mass quantities of milk (can't
speak for other countries, but i'm sure you have your own issues).
Yet most of us know that milk has different characteristics depending
on what breed of cow it comes from and what the animals have been
Same is true of butter, cheeses, yogurt, and every other dairy
product. How does it differ from what would have been produced in the
time period and place of the recipe we used? How much of this do most
of us know? Do we use "Philadelphia Brand" cream cheese (a detestable
execrable product) as a fresh cheese? Do we mention all the additives
in it in our docs? (i'm fortunate, i can get *good* cream cheese,
Gina Marie brand)
And before we enter a competition with a recipe using a dairy
product, are we required to determine if the animal whose milk was
used was eating a period diet?
In the USA, at least, there's hardly a commercially available food
plant or animal that hasn't been altered in some way by selective
breeding or hybridizing. Do we need to state this about each and
every one of our ingredients in all our cooking entries?
I think it is ridiculous to expect entrants in SCA cooking
competitions to know just exactly how "period" every ingredient is
that they've used, and to document it!
Again, the only exceptions i can think of are when entrants have gone
out of their way to very actively track down "period" breeds or
plants, and mention this in their documentation. Then they get extra
So i absolutely do not expect someone to mention whether or not their
apples are period. But so far only one person on this list has
mentioned a very very expensive way to get some apples that might
sort-of be kinda period - or at least one or two hundred years out of
period, other than growing one's own, which is just not an option for
many of us.
I was recently reading about how different modern SALT is from
historical salt of the recent past, of the 19th century - not just in
the way the salt is dried, but in the various methods now used to
produce very white salt, not to mention added anti-caking agents, the
removal of all trace minerals and the addition of iodine.
Those who have said that the entrant should have mentioned if they
weren't period, do you note in your docs that your salt is not
period, or go out of your way to get the same type of salt that would
have been used in the time and region of your recipe? Do you mention
whether your salt was from evaporation pools or from mines? What was
the size of the salt crystals? Was the salt of the time and place of
the recipe pink, rust, tan, yellow, green, grey, black? Did you buy
impure salt and purify it yourself at home? Or, if not, did you add
those directions to your documentation for your dish?
Heck, i've been marked down more than once for having 3 pages of
documentation, because certain judges are convinced that cooking
competitions docs should be only 2 pages long. I enjoy doing research
and often do so to learn about period plants and animals, and i make
an effort to at least not use blatantly modern ingredients. Now how
long will my docs be if i have to give the breeding, heritage, diet
or fertilizer and water type used for every single ingredient in my
Yes, i understand that it is good to know what sorts of items are
obviously modern (Fuji or gala apples, for example). But there's just
no getting away from the fact that, for those of us who live in
cities or are otherwise without plots of land or the appropriate
weather to grow all our own fruits, vegetables, grains, herbs, and do
not have endless time to track down the provenance of every single
ingredient and a bottomless budget to special order and have express
shipped ingredients from far way - well, most of us ARE using modern
ingredients and we can't always get the most historically accurate
Should we all be marked down for not mentioned in that we using
modern, and not period, salt, wheat, beef or chicken or pork, etc.?
Urtatim (that's err-tah-TEEM)
the persona formerly known as Anahita
More information about the Sca-cooks