[Sca-cooks] Period substitute for tomatoes?

edoard at medievalcookery.com edoard at medievalcookery.com
Fri Aug 21 08:34:26 PDT 2009

I don't think anyone here meant any disrespect.  I think they were
trying to explain that the question you asked (and which has been
debated here numerous times) is inherently problematic.  If you use
*any* substitute for tomatoes in a modern recipe, the result isn't a
medieval version of the recipe.  Instead you have a modern recipe
without tomatoes.

This means the question you asked was kind of like asking an engineer,
"What's a period substitute for uranium in a nuclear reactor."

I tend to focus on the cuisines of 14th and 15th century England and
France, and I've found that the dishes from that time period have a very
different flavor overall compared to their modern counterparts.  If I
took a group of modern recipes from France and swapped out any modern
ingredients for their nearest medieval equivalent, the resulting dishes
would be very unlikely to have the flavor of France's medieval cuisine.

I understand your time pressures.  I'd suggest trying out the occasional
medieval recipe on some other day of the week when there's less of a
crunch, and working the ones you like into your repertoire.  I don't
know of a lot of period Mediterranean dishes, but I'm sure others on
this list have numerous ones they've worked out and are willing to

- Doc

> -------- Original Message --------
> From: Judith Epstein <judith at ipstenu.org>
> Thanks, everyone who's said don't bother finding a substitute for  
> tomatoes.
> Yes, I'm aware that my areas of interest did without tomatoes for a  
> few thousand years. Yes, I'm aware that there are extant recipes for  
> those foods. And yes, I even intend to use those, most of the time.  
> When I have time to sit and follow a recipe, sure.
> However.
> Normally, on a Friday I wake up around 5:30 AM, and from that moment  
> on, I am working. I'm prepping my menu, heading to the vegetable  
> market, sticking ingredients into the crock pot to make for dinner,  
> cleaning, doing laundry, going crazy. At around 2:00 PM, I go to the  
> grocery store, shop my everloving tail off, and rush home. Once there,  
> around 5:00 PM, dinner is done -- so I take it out of the crock pot  
> and put in the ingredients for the next day's lunch/dinner. In the  
> winter, this is all even more complicated, because I do most of the  
> prep on Thursday instead of Friday, because sundown (and therefore  
> Sabbath) can come as early as 3:40 PM. There isn't a moment to spare,  
> and that's when I've had the whole week to clean, do laundry, pre-chop  
> vegetables, thaw meat, and so on. I don't have to set up my house just  
> so I'll have a place to cook and a place to sleep!
> When I get to an event that opens at five on Friday, though, and  
> Sabbath begins around 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM, that gives me VERY LIMITED  
> time in which to follow someone else's recipe for foods that have to  
> be completely cooked and edible at least an hour before sunset.  
> Subtract the time for finding parking, unloading the vehicle, setting  
> up camp, and cooking... you can see that already I'm well behind. I  
> will need something that I can prepare that takes ten minutes or less,  
> which means (1) nothing complicated, (2) nothing I don't know like the  
> back of my hand already, (3) if possible, something that doesn't need  
> to be cooked. For that, I'm going to need recipes I already know well.  
> For now, that means substituting medieval ingredients in modern  
> recipes, rather than learning new recipes (which I do intend to do,  
> but haven't done it yet -- remember how I'm extremely new, having  
> attended exactly one event as an adult?).
> So, if you could just help a sister out, rather than lecture, I'd  
> really, really be appreciative. If there is a way to get that fresh,  
> flavorful burst (without using eggplant if I don't have to -- I know  
> it's all the rage in the medieval Near East, but I don't actually like  
> it)... I'd love to know what it is.
> Judith / no SCA name
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