[Sca-cooks] Honey Bacon War Siege Cooking review

Raphaella DiContini raphaellad at yahoo.com
Fri Jun 22 08:23:45 PDT 2012

I'm excited about using a method for Siege cooking that I picked up from watching Baroness Fiamma. I think it helps teach more about historical cooking, evens the playing field (all entrants are provided a recipe or recipes and all the ingredients needed), and hopefully helps take the mystery out of interpreting historical recipes. Basically, all the teams assemble at the same time, and "shop" for the needed ingredients in the cooler and dry good provided. I tried to have all of the ingredients ready in individual portions both for portion control (as I had purchased 6-12 sets of the ingredients), and to help keep as tight a control as possible on the safety aspects of the ingredients. All of the teams dispersed back to their own encampments to cook. We all gathered back at the same time, and all of the contestants tried all of the dishes (so everyone got to experience how other teams interpreted the same recipes, discuss what choices were  made,
 etc. ) and then vote on the dishes.   
Here are the recipes from this year's Honey Bacon War siege cooking contest. I had two levels, plus a "bonus" recipe. Two of the recipes included bacon, and the third called for honey, all three were from the same French source: 
Novice (first time entering siege cooking, or first time using a historical recipe)
This is an excerpt from Le Menagier de Paris (France, 1393 - Janet Hinson, trans.)
In new peas cooked to be eaten in the pod, you must add bacon on a meat day: and on a fish day, when they are cooked, you separate the liquid and add underneath melted salt butter, and then shake it.

Experienced (have entered multiple siege cooking contests & / or have experience with historical recipes) please complete this recipe as well as the novice recipe listed above. 

This is an excerpt from Le Menagier de Paris (France, 1393 - Janet Hinson, trans.)
SOUP of SMALL BIRDS or OTHER MEAT. Let them be plucked while dry, then have bacon fat cut into cubes, and put in the skillet and remove the grease from it and there fry them; then put on to cook in meat stock, then take bread browned on the grill or breadcrumbs moistened in meat stock and a little wine; then take ginger,clove, grain and powdered cinnamon and the livers, and grind them; and then sieve your bread and stock and the spices are not to be sieved but ground fine; and put on to boil with your small birds and a little verjuice. .

Bonus (open to all contestants) 
This is an excerpt from Le Menagier de Paris (France, 1393 - Janet Hinson, trans.)
WALNUT PRESERVE. Take, before St. John's Day, fresh walnuts and peel them and pierce them, and put to soak in cold water for nine days, and each day renew the water: then let them dry, and fill the holes with cloves and ginger, and boil in honey, and thus keep them preserved.
Overall, I really enjoy this method. I love that it teaches people how to use specific historical recipes, introduces them to the concept of a single recipe potentially having equally valid, but potentially very different interpretations. 
I hope to continue using, and refining this format. I unfortunately was suffering from both pneumonia and an ear infection the day of the contest, so I missed some valuable points that I plan to incorporate in the future, like having discussion time for each dish, having each team talk about the choices they made in their interpretation. 
Some of the contestants felt strongly that in addition to (or in replacement of) all of the contestants judging that there should be a panel of judges, so I'm pondering how that might work, and how it would impact or be impacted by the experience of everyone having input on all the dishes. I don't think I want to discard contestant based judging altogether so I've got to figure out if some hybrid will work, or if it just needs to be one or the other. I also think more discussion time for each dish may possibly have helped the issue. 
Please let me know what you think of this method, and if you have any suggestions for improvement. 
In joyous service, 
Signora Onorata Raffaella di Contino

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