[Sca-cooks] Period Ingredients, was Historical Apples

Lilinah lilinah at earthlink.net
Tue Oct 28 13:37:56 PDT 2008

Daniel wrote:
>  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.

De responded:
>  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 
we use?

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

My LibraryThing

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