[Sca-cooks] Definition of "Period Cooking" was Re: Substitute for Potatoes?

David Friedman ddfr at daviddfriedman.com
Mon Aug 24 17:10:45 PDT 2009


>Let me clarify my intentions, so that there'll be no more need to 
>create another dead horse just for people like me to beat on. ;)
>1. To provide food for myself, my household if I join or form one, 
>and anyone who signs up for my meal plan.
>2. To make that food in a way that doesn't violate my religious restrictions.
>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, and I'm not going to stop the 
>ongoing tradition of creativity in the kitchen just because I'm 
>choosing to learn about past times and Period ingredient 

This is the part that makes no sense to me. What's the point of the 
arbitrary restriction to period ingredients if you aren't making an 
effort to reproduce a period cuisine? You could easily enough go to a 
modern restaurant, avoid ordering potatoes or tomatoes or squash or 
anything with capsicum peppers in it, and get an equally period meal.

Learning about period ingredient availability should take half an 
hour or so--just read an essay saying what was available when. The 
interesting part is learning about period cooking.

I should add that to me the idea of "I'll be historically authentic 
only if entering a contest" is abhorrent. If there aren't any good 
reasons to choose to be historically authentic, why in the world 
should we have contests in it? If there are good reasons, then one 
might as well take any convenient opportunity.

Incidentally, in case it isn't obvious, these are arguments that some 
of us have been having for years, even decades--one reason why our 
examples are so ready to hand.

In another email, you write:

"If I were putting on a documented Period feast, sure, I'd worry 
about documentation. That's expected. The assumption would be "I'm a 
person cooking for people who are wealthy and of high station, and 
would be able and willing to give books to mere servants doing the 
kitchen work. Therefore, I'll do it exactly as my liege lady and lord 
like it, which must be what's written in this handy book here, 
because they gave it to me and told me to use it.""

There is no reason to think that most, or even very many, cooks who 
were cooking for nobles used cookbooks. It's true that the surviving 
cookbooks mostly represent upper class cuisine. But it doesn't follow 
that if you want to reproduce ordinary cooking in period you can do 
it by just making up recipes that use period ingredients. If an 
American cook with no experience cooking or eating chinese went 
shopping in a chinese market and then made what seemed tasty to him, 
the result would have very little similarity to Chinese village 

To reproduce what people other than the wealthy and high status ate, 
the best tactic is probably to use the period cookbooks but select 
recipes that don't have ingredients that would be expensive in period 
and don't require elaborate preparations. There are lot of such 
recipes. There's even at least one period cookbook I can think of 
that explicitly says something along the lines of "this dish is too 
fancy for people like us--it would be appropriate to a knight's 

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