[Sca-cooks] Drizzle of Honey

Judith Epstein judith at ipstenu.org
Thu Oct 29 09:04:41 PDT 2009

On 29 Oct 2009, at 10:48 AM, Susan Lin wrote:

> I am a firm believer that the "creative" part of our name should not  
> be discounted.  It is not easy to find period sources (many if not  
> most of which have already been discovered) and much of the food  
> history of the world was passed down without written  
> memorialization.  I love finding period recipes or redactions from  
> which to cook but not everything that was available or done will  
> ever be found because as we all know many things were not written  
> down they were just "known".

As a person who cooks with an open book and/or the recipe on the back  
of the package of whatever, I would have to argue vehemently against  
that point of view. However, I am not that person. I am the person who  
will taste a food, decide I like it, perhaps ask "I'm tasting cumin  
and...?" and wait for more information that I can't guess right off  
the top of my head. Then I go home and cook a fair approximation of  
the dish. I can't recall my grandparents ever having a recipe for  
their biscuits or cornbread, but somehow my parents learned to cook  
those things, and so did I. They don't come out the same, but they  
never come out bad.

I'm not a recipe person. I'm a person who cooks what she wants to  
taste. Sometimes that frustrates people. "Can I have the recipe for  
this?" Um... no. At my first SCA event, I fixed a pot of chicken soup  
and a pot of Persian cherry chicken. About a dozen people wanted to  
know, "Is this a period recipe?" No. They were just what I wanted to  
taste. I'm sure that the cooks in a big manor house had recipe books,  
but a single family on a farm? Probably not.

If I ever cooked for an organized feast, I would make the effort at  
period or period-plausible recipes, because I would feel myself to be  
the equivalent of a cook in a manor house. I'd cook according to what  
the house's master or head cook thought was right, since the recipes  
were designed partly to be satisfying, and partly to use their own  
available food stores in the correct amounts and proportions. When  
cooking for a competition, I'd probably do the same, because that's  
how you earn the right to be there. Again: I'm the cook in a manor  
house, cooking according to the house recipes because I interpret my  
role as that of a domestic servant or employee, not as an independent  

But when cooking in my own camp, I WILL use period-plausible  
ingredients (unless we don't know what they were, or they're not  
available, and then I'll use my best judgement), but I will not be  
using a recipe. In my own camp, I interpret my role as that of an  
independent mistress of her domain, her own home and kitchen, and the  
cooking gets done MY way. Instead of having to constantly think of  
myself as satisfying the recipe creator(s), I AM the recipe creator.  
I'm the boss, not the servant.

Judith / no SCA name yet
Master Albrecht Waldfurster's Egg
Middle Kingdom, Midlands, Ayreton, Tree-Girt-Sea (Chicago, IL)

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