[Sca-cooks] Substitute for Potatoes?

David Friedman ddfr at daviddfriedman.com
Mon Aug 24 16:13:40 PDT 2009

>On Aug 24, 2009, at 1:49 PM, David Friedman wrote:
>>>On Aug 23, 2009, at 11:13 PM, Solveig Throndardottir wrote:
>>>>Noble Cousin!
>>>>Greetings from Solveig! Potatoes are from Peru. However, there 
>>>>are a number of old world tubers available such as yams Dioscorea 
>>>>species which originated in West Africa and Asia.
>>>>Yes, and I fully intend to use yams in my Period cooking.
>>Off hand, I can't think of any recipes in either the period 
>>European or Islamic corpus that use them.
>The part I think is amazing is that people need BOOKS just to COOK.

The question is not how to cook but how to cook a particular cuisine. 
We don't have the option of growing up in 13th c. Baghdad. So the 
only practical way of finding out what that cuisine was like is to 
use the surviving cookbooks. If we simply make up what we think will 
taste good, using ingredients they had, we are very unlikely to end 
up with their cuisine, since ingredients don't determine a 
cuisine--my earlier point about Chinese and American.

>If I were putting on a documented Period feast, I would worry about 
>that, because I'd be assuming I was in charge of feeding royals and 
>nobles -- people who could afford to give books to their servants 
>(cooks). But for the general populace, good grief. I never owned or 
>used a single cookbook till I was about thirty and someone gave me 
>one, thinking it was such a shocking thing that I didn't own any 
>cook books. I assure you, though, I did cook, I never went hungry, 
>and to this day it doesn't occur to me to consult anything in 
>writing if I'm cooking for my family. I really find it hard to 
>believe that I'm THAT different from our ancestors.

You aren't. But you weren't trying to cook in a cuisine from seven 
hundred years ago. You were cooking in the cuisine you had grown up 
eating. We don't have that option for period cooking.

You can certainly invent your own recipes. But if that is all you do, 
you will have not much more reason to think you are eating what was 
eaten in period than if you go to MacDonalds.

If you cook enough period recipes, or eat enough that others have 
cooked, you might end up knowing enough about the cuisine to invent 
your own--but that's the end of the process, not the beginning. And 
if we have no period recipes using a class of ingredients, we have no 
way of knowing how those ingredients would have been used.

Do you think bluejeans are period garb? They are, as I pointed out in 
another post, made from period ingredients.

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