[Sca-cooks] Leftovers, questions and discussion [long]

Huette von Ahrens ahrenshav at yahoo.com
Tue Sep 7 15:57:34 PDT 2010


I admit it.  I am an authentista.  To me, it is the best fun around to be as authentic as we can be.  I am not above doing speculative research when there is nothing else, like when I did a Viking banquet, and read tons of sagas, eddas, archeology books on Vikings, etc.  When I figured out what I thought that a king might have eaten at a celebratory feast, I then went through much later period cookbooks and picked out much later period recipes that might be included for the banquet.  It was sort of like putting on a 15th or 16th century banquet on what people of that era might have made for a fancy dress banquet.  But I have never claimed that my speculation was documentably period.

Anyway, I digress.  My local barony is having its anniversary tournament this coming Saturday and someone on the local baronial e-list asked first a question about entering a dish for a period recipe cooking contest.  Her question was "Can I enter a speculative dish in a period recipe contest, if I can document that all the ingredients were with period?"

My answer to her was "No.  Because you also have to document that the cooking methods were known etc."  Since there was a non-period cooking contest also, I encouraged her to enter it as non-period.

This of course led to a lot of grousing about what was period and non-period.  Somehow, the conversation then digressed to pasties [the kind of pie dish, with meat inside a pastry crust].  

I answered with what pasties were like in period, but so many others were convinced that pasties were filled with meat and veggies.  I wrote that there was no evidence of this in period.  That the first instances of this were at latest during the 18th century and definately in the 19th century.  Then someone said that pasties were the best way to use up leftovers.  I wrote back and said that I could find no evidence of this at all.

This discussion then digressed into the "lack of evidence was not evidence of lack" argument, with most saying that who knew what the peasants did?  Unfortunately a local duchess popped in an said that it made perfect sense to her that people would eat their leftovers that way.

My contention with this was that peasants had to be better food managers than we modern people have to be because they did not have refrigeration or any way to keep leftovers.  It was my contention that a peasant wife, knowing how many mouths to feed, would only serve enough to feed her family and not have leftovers.  It was my contention that if she had made a mistake, either they would eat the rest, or, if the dish didn't taste good, feed it to their dogs or pigs, or she could use whatever was leftover to make a soup or pottage for the morning, cooking it over the dying hearthfire.  

I haven't really based any of this last argument on anything other than research I had done years ago.  I can properly document how food gets distributed in a royal or noble house, but my knowledge of peasant ways isn't as good.

Although the argument has ceased on the Baronial list, I keep wondering about the concept of leftovers by the lower classes.  Am I even in the ballpark?  Or am I way off base here?  Does anyone have ideas or books I can look at to see how leftovers were treated?




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