[Sca-cooks] Redaction (Was: Some recipes that I have redacted)

Terry Decker t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net
Tue Sep 16 14:18:35 PDT 2008

> -----Original Message-----
> It depends on whether I'm experimenting or putting together a formal
> presentation of my recipe adaption.
> I want a copy of the original recipe, transcription or facsimile.  That 
> will
> be the final arbiter for any disputed points.  Next I want a translation, 
> if
> necessary.  From this, I may produce an ingredient list and experiment on
> quantities or just play around from the translation.  If I'm playing, I 
> may
> leave the recipe in this state.  If I am preparing it for publication, my
> adaptation of the recipe will be put in a modern format with a 
> transcription
> of the original and any translation.
> Bear > > > > > > > >
> Bear, I think I see what you are doing there.  How do you balance that
> against what you believe a medieval cook would have done in preparing the
> dish to be served?  Is this a practical versus academic difference for 
> you?
> I tend to daydream/philosophize/guess at what I glean a medieval culinary
> practitioner would have done ina  given situation or type of meal.  That
> means I tend to stay way from exact detailed measures and weights for
> everything, but get a general direction and instructions to follow.
> niccolo difrancesco

A redaction is an edited work, so what we are discussing is not the original 
work, but how we approach the editing.  No one has any way of knowing 
precisely what a medieval cook would have done, but we do have their recipes 
which list ingredients and provide basic instructions.  My adaptation will 
be within the constraints of the recipe.  If there are issues between 
various translations, transcriptions, etc., the earliest original version of 
the recipe I can locate will be the arbiter.  That may be rigid and 
academic, but it also sets a temporal boundary contemporary to that of a 
medieval cook.

In my opinion, medieval cooks were consummate professionals.  They learned, 
they practiced what they learned and they expanded their skills.  My 
approach is that of a cook practicing a new technique.  From the recipe, I 
try to create a dish that I, as a cook, would be willing to serve to my 
patron.  I may not keep much in the line of notes on a simple experiment.  I 
might keep copious notes on something difficult, expensive, or with limited 
time to repeat.  I keep notes on dishes prepared for feasts or where I am 
thinking about an article or column as a practical matter.  The medieval 
cook may not have kept written notes as I do, but I'm certain he kept mental 
notes on points which might improve his art.

For both practical and academic, please consider that while the quantities 
may not appear in the recipe and might be changed on the fly to improve the 
dish, the medieval cook would be required to report on the exact quantities 
and measures of ingredients used to the clerk so that they could be entered 
into the household accounts.  These would be matched against quantities 
released from stores and the number of portions which crossed the bar.  In 
my opinion, the medieval cook had as good a grasp of the basic ratios and 
quantities of ingredients required as any modern chef.  And like the modern 
chef, he knew how to maximize his profit.

The recipes I write down have quantities attached for the benefit of others 
that don't have my experience and want to approximate my work.  In this I am 
not a medieval cook, but a modern person trying to convey historical and 
practical information as clearly as possible to other modern people.  In 
actually preparing the dish for others, say at a feast where I a portraying 
the medieval cook, I will keep to the ingredients, but I may modify the 
quantities (particularly of spices) to get the taste I think is appropriate 
for the dish.  When I prepare my dinner, I'm likely to modify any recipe on 
the fly depending on what's in the kitchen and my mood of the moment.

Can I do this better?  Probably.  Like the medieval cook, I need to 
practice.  I do wish that my patrons had less plebian tastes.


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