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

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius1 at verizon.net
Tue Aug 25 07:27:21 PDT 2009

On Aug 25, 2009, at 7:53 AM, Judith Epstein wrote:

> Yes, I know all of this. When entering into a contest, I intend to  
> document. When COOKING (rather than just sous-cheffing for someone  
> who died 500 years ago) for MY ENCAMPMENT... Never mind, I've said  
> it a dozen times before now.

You have (I didn't count, but I'll take your word for it). What you're  
saying, though, seems to open up a number of questions, or rather,  
contain some implications that beg some questions.

Among them are, is documentation, which is a simple and extremely  
useful tool in education, to wit, a description of the process whereby  
you learned to do this cool medieval thing, whatever that may be, such  
a bad thing that it should only be used to help win competitions? Some  
would (and do) argue that while shoving paperwork in people's faces at  
inappropriate times is obnoxious, a willingness to share research is a  
gracious act, even when it is not in a standard documentation format  
(whatever that may be). Documentation can take many forms, and it  
needn't be difficult to do, but whether you intended it or not, it  
sort of sounds like you're approaching the subject with a certain  
amount of resentment.

In addition, you seem (again, whether this is intentional I can't say)  
to be rather dismissive of the work of people "who died 500 years  
ago". It might be worth remembering that those people who, as you  
point out, lived 500 years ago, knew more about life 500 years ago  
than we do. And isn't learning about life 500 years ago the whole  
point? These people have left us instructions that indicate what they  
did. Sometimes they're confusing, sometimes they're flat-out  
impossible to follow as written without a certain amount of informed  
interpretation. Deciphering them is part of the fun.

I'm sure Taillevent couldn't care less whether I flour the fish before  
frying it. As you point out, he's dead, and I'm sure if he has  
anything at all on his mind, he's got more important things to think  
than the extent to which I follow his written instructions, or my  
effectiveness as his "sous-chef" -- even in the privacy of my own  
camp. But, see, I've chosen to play this game for fun. In this game,  
one of the main objects is to learn about, and teach others about,  
life hundreds of years in the past. Who better to teach us how to do  
this than the people who actually did it?

Following, or even just trying to follow, the instructions left for us  
by these long-dead cooks doesn't have to be an imposed limitation on  
our creativity as cooks, nor does it imply we're not good enough as  
cooks to create our own dishes. [Speaking for myself, I've been  
cooking in the SCA for 24 years, have been a professional cook at  
different levels in what is arguably one of the most competitive job  
markets on the planet, and served as a Laurel for over ten years, and  
no, I'm not good enough. When the day comes that there's no room for  
improvement, what's the point, anyway?] What it _does_ imply is that  
there's nothing wrong with being told by a professional baseball  
player (even a retired one) that it's better to bring a baseball and  
bat to a baseball game if you intend to play baseball and not football.

The question is not how these long-dead cooks would judge me, or even  
how my friends in the SCA judge me -- it's how I judge myself.

You might try looking at it this way: would you say it's safe to say  
that you have embraced a faith, a philosophy and a lifestyle that you  
find honorable, even though at times it may provide challenges, but  
you feel the rewards are worth the extra effort?

That's really no different from the approach many cooks here have  
taken to learning about and practicing this period art. Nobody's  
forcing anybody to approach it the same way, but it's an honorable  
choice, nonetheless, and a big part of the game we play.

Adamantius, not a football fan

"Most men worry about their own bellies, and other people's souls,  
when we all ought to worry about our own souls, and other people's  
			-- Rabbi Israel Salanter

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