[Sca-cooks] serving unusual foods

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius1 at verizon.net
Mon May 11 04:59:20 PDT 2009

On May 11, 2009, at 1:39 AM, Stefan li Rous wrote:

> But do you ever serve some medieval dishes that might strike people  
> the same way? What dishes?  How have you handled it at feasts you've  
> cooked? Have you just expected the feasters to figure it out?  
> Perhaps it's simply the matter of which sauce goes with which meat  
> or food item?
> Perhaps it is the matter of serving a whole, small bird. Not all  
> feasters have been faced with figuring out how to eat such a thing  
> before. Or eating a whole, or almost whole fish with most of its  
> bones intact. Or sending a large chunk of bird or beast to the table  
> and expecting those at the table to be able to portion it out? (Not  
> to mention this is probably not a period way of doing it). How did  
> you handle things?
> In some places medieval foods/feasts have a bad reputation.  
> Sometimes it is because the feasts in those areas have been  
> inedible. Sometimes perhaps it has been something like this, the  
> unfamiliar. What can be done to solve this?

I'm not sure if there's a guaranteed solution, but I've been rather  
sensitive to this problem for many years; it's one of the reasons,  
along with the frequently inherent food waste that sometimes comes  
with improper carving and service, I'll occasionally go for the Less  
Period Option, all other things being equal: which is more grating for  
the period ambience; the [for example] square block of ham or the bone- 
in ham nobody knows how to carve? I'd posit the latter. Not that  
there's a whole lot of baked ham presentations in the SCA (or are  
there? there probably shouldn't be...)

But in general, I try to teach a very basic carving class when I can,  
using both modern culinary-standard techniques and any of several  
period sources on carving and service. The hope is that eventually  
there'll be fewer feast tables with nobody present at them who knows  
how to deal with a whole fish, say, or get eight small servings out of  
a whole roast duck. If you're one of those people who can deal with  
it, it's always nice to take at look at the next table to see how  
they're doing, and offer assistance if needed, or even the loan of a  
better knife. And yes, carrying a decent knife for carving is a good  
thing, too.

As head cooks, taking a minute to discuss course details with servers  
can be helpful in preventing the kind of problems Stefan mentions. And  
then, of course,  presenting food in as close to a plate-ready state,  
in portions with sauces and garnishes as much in place as is  
practicable, is also helpful.


"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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