[Sca-cooks] Definition of "Period Cooking"

Elise Fleming alysk at ix.netcom.com
Mon Aug 24 13:47:19 PDT 2009

Judith wrote:

 >4. IF I ENTER A CONTEST, at that point I'll use a cook book. Sure.
 >I'll resent the heck out of it, because there's the (entirely un-
 >justified) perception that my cooking's not good enough, and I have to
 >obey some cook who doesn't know me, my diners, my kitchen, or my
 >tastes... but yes, I'll use a bloody book.

I don't see where using a period cookbook to prepare a period dish for a 
contest implies that your cooking isn't good enough.  Where is that 
(angry?) perception coming from?

Using a pre-1600 cookery book doesn't mean that you are obeying a cook 
who doesn't know you, your diners, your kitchen or your tastes.  It 
means that *you* are trying to get to know a period cook whom you 
haven't met or haven't apprenticed with.  It means trying to put aside 
modern conceptions of cookery in favor of trying something that our 
ancestors found that worked.  As an interesting aside on finding out why 
those old instructions were appropriate (when we do something else 
today), there are some comments on the "tudorcook.blogspot.com" site 
where he (Richard) has said that "we didn't think we needed to do this 
but after trying it we found out why the original text said to do it."

Wouldn't the reluctance to follow period cookbooks imply that *we* know 
better than they did?

 >3. To make it, as much as possible, with only Period ingredients, but
 >in MY style, because every single cook that ever lived put their own
 >spin on every dish they made (snip)

True.  Cooks did put their own "spin" on dishes in period.  However, 
they knew, without a great deal of thought, what was right and proper 
for food service and cookery.  They grew up in that culture.  We 
haven't.  What we think is proper today is, in some instances, quite 
different from what a period person would have done to put a "spin" on 

I suppose that I could take my ideas of what constitutes a proper Jewish 
meal service and put my "spin" on the foods, calling it a Jewish meal. 
However, there are a number of things that a true Jewish cook would not 
do that I wouldn't think about.  (We have seen a few examples in some 
recent posts.)  Should I refuse to pay attention to a Jewish document 
because I don't want it/them to "stop the ongoing tradition of 
creativity in the kitchen"?  Or because I don't want to obey some cook 
who doesn't know me...or my tastes?

I've been fortunate to watch some cooks try to recreate historic dishes 
using the specified cooking methods (charcoal braziers, authentic 
roasting ovens and spits) and to see them experiment with different 
variations using period recipes.  Seems to me that is what most of us on 
this list are aiming for - to learn more about what was done pre-1600.

That doesn't mean that we don't (at times and for our own families) take 
a recipe and "mess with it" just because we happen to like (say) olive 
stuffing inside a roast chicken or some other "creative twist".

Off my soapbox and on to dinner...

Alys K.
Elise Fleming
alysk at ix.netcom.com

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