[Sca-cooks] My Frankish dinner Saturday night

Laura C. Minnick lcm at jeffnet.org
Tue Sep 7 17:30:31 PDT 2010

  On 9/7/2010 4:01 PM, Volker Bach wrote:
> Salve!
Hi, Giano!

>> It turned out that Their Highnesses of the Summits, who
>> were to have been guests, were in court at the time we began
>> serving. (I found this out about an hour ahead of time.) So
>> their dishes were sent out by runner. I don't know if things
>> got there warm enough, but they got there.
> It does appear the primary purpose of royalty is to make the lives of cooks and stewards interesting, doesn't it?

Yes. Grr. This particular coronet is really sweet though, and I was very 
happy to try to accommodate  them.

> Certainly sounds like you did an excellent job under very challenging circumstances. Just last weekend, i was privileged to watch my apprentice pull off something like this, without much help (my injuries unfortunately still make it impossible for me to actively work in a kitchen). Her problems were nothing like this bad, though.

I was feeling quite lucky though- a camp mate tipped me off Thursday 
about the lack of water on site. It could have been a Very Bad weekend 

And just to make things more fun- one of the diners was vegan, and I 
hadn't known. Everything but the salad had something animal product in 
it. I felt REALLY bad.

>> The food was conjecturably Frankish, roughly Carolingian
>> era. I found huge lists of what plants they were growing and
>> what livestock they raised in a number of cartularies from
>> Charlemagne's reign, and I tried to use foods only from that
>> list, adjusted as per what is available seasonally. I also
>> poked through my copy of Anthimus- he doesn't have recipes,
>> per se, but general guidelines for food preparation. He's a
>> couple hundred years early, but still useful, in my
>> opinion.
> There is a copy of Anthimus in the late 8th century Lorscher Arzneibuch that deviates from the (assumed) urtext in several places. I'm guessing these reflect changes made by active users of the text in the Carolingian era.
It appears that Charles' doctors had access to Anthimus' texts, so I 
felt fairly comfortable getting ideas from him.

>> The cabbage soup should have been done in broth, which I'd
>> forgotten, so we added a bit of the bacon grease from
>> breakfast (never throw it away in camp- it is too useful!),
>> some spices, and a half-bottle of beer. It was actually
>> pretty good!
> Thebacon grease may be taking you close to period practice. At Kootwijk, excavators found that pigs' lower jaws were routinely chopped up in a specific fashion to open up the marrow cavity, presumably in preparastion for boiling in soup. Cabbage is certainly in season around slaughter time. I haven't been able to find a pig jaw yet, but I've used por marrowbones, tails and cheeks to produce a soup like that, both with cabbage and lentils. It tends to be appreciated in winter more than summer.
I thought about marrow, but the roast was boneless and the chicken was 
not yet cooked. I decided that the bacon grease would add a bit of 
flavor if nothing else. Last time I made a cabbage soup I used beef 
broth. I may experiment with cabbage recipes over the winter. I won't be 
camping again until Memorial Day weekend.

>> The frumenty also should have been done in broth, but I put
>> some saffron in with the milk and eggs, and that actually
>> came out really good. Bright yellow.
> Milk may actually be more period - the Waltharius (tentatively dated anywhere between the 9th and 11th centuries, but likely of late Carolingian date) mentions spelt porridge with milk and meat (lardatam de multra farreque pultram) as a treat a warrior returning home could look forward to.
I've found that if I cook the grain (wheat or barley) until it's plump, 
and _then_ add the milk and eggs, it's a lot less likely to scorch. It 
did anyway, but not as badly as it has before.

Last spring I cooked the wheat in the broth left from soaking some dried 
mushrooms (meant for a mushroom tart) and then added a couple of 
chopped-up shrooms with the milk and eggs. It was very tasty, and I was 
pleased with myself for finding something to do with the mushroom broth. 
Hate to throw something like that away.

>> The chicken dish had originally been slated to be a boiled
>> chicken (in broth with wine) but that takes a lot of water,
>> so I did sort of a saupiquet-like thing, with sauteed
>> onions, white wine, and some spices. Again, should have had
>> broth.
> This sounds very nice. BTW, chickens were ampong the rations issued to imperial officials of Charlemagne at estates of the royal fisc. There is no record of how they were prepared, though.
There's a variety of poultry listed in the various documents. Chickens 
are the easiest for me to obtain. Someday I'd like to get my hands on a 
brace of quail...

>> The pastry for dessert was... ok, not *exactly* period,
>> but. The apples I cooked in spices and sugar.
> Was that a cost consideration? Apples go great with honey. In my experience, honey and walnuts obviate the need for spices.

Two of the campmates are allergic to walnuts and pecans, so that was 
out. Honey is a little more expensive and takes up more space (when 
loading a Volvo wagon and having to be extra economical to allow for 
carrying water in). And I used to keep a small container of honey in the 
pantry box, and it went solid over last winter. Never did manage to 
re-liquify that one...

The princess' husband (he's not he prince) sought me out later to tell 
me how much especially liked the pastry, because he doesn't like apples, 
and was amazed at how much he liked this stuff. Filed that one away for 
future use. :-)

>   I'd forgotten
>> square pans, so I laid the sections of puff pastry (the
>> not-period part) in them, smeared the apples on the pastry,
>> and then folded the corners over. It worked ok. Slit the
>> pastry, popped it in the oven. The bottom was a little dark,
>> but it was very tasty. Next time I attempt something like
>> that, I might try a sweet yeast dough. The bread dough I
>> used last May didn't work so good, but a thinner sweet dough
>> might.
> I've had good experiences with enriched yeast doughs - sweetening isn't necessary, just add a good dab of butter, milk, and/or eggs.
I might try that- but it has to be something I can make up ahead, 
because I won't make up dough in camp. Too many variables and 
opportunities for things to go wrong.

>> The ypocras was good, and as the Romans did spiced wine, I
>> think that it is plausible that the Franks did. The wafers
>> probably weren't appropriate to the 8th c., but I need to
>> look through the roman sources more. The cookies were,
>> however, tasty.
> Sources from the reform orders take /claretum/ and /nebulae/ to within a century or two of the Carolingian epoch. This isn't a great stretch of the imagination. What kind of cookies did you make?
IIRC there's a remark in Einhard about Charles liking spiced wine.

The cookies- I cheated. I spent the week sewing (again for the P&P) and 
didn't have time for pre-cooked stuff. I bought some thin almond cookies 
and some wafers at Trader Joe's. I especially like their wafers.

>> Overall, not my best experience, but not too bad. I plan on
>> trying again next tourney season.
> It really sounds like you've had to deal with a lot of technical problems and did so very well. I'm not sure I'd be able to cook feast on a site with no regular water supply.
The water thing was a major PITA. I'm just glad I wasn't doing a vigil 
bath for someone- that takes many gallons of water and Zippy the Wonder 
Volvo was already overloaded.

> Well done, I'd say

Thanks! I appreciate that!


"It is our choices Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."  -Albus Dumbledore

~~~Follow my Queenly perambulations at: http://slugcrossings.blogspot.com/

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