[Sca-cooks] Search Techniques

David Friedman ddfr at daviddfriedman.com
Fri Oct 5 12:02:26 PDT 2012

My previous response was mostly about what I now do, but after reading 
other responses it occurs to me that since I've been doing period 
cooking now for about forty years, the question of how I searched at the 
beginning may also be of interest.

When I started, nobody else I knew of, in the SCA (then quite new--this 
would have been about A.S. 5) or elsewhere, was cooking from period 
recipes, but it seemed to me that if we were doing medieval feasts in 
medieval clothing we ought to have medieval food.

I think the first source I came across was a small book of recipes, I 
believe from /Two Fifteenth Century/, illustrated by the same artist who 
illustrated the Narnia books--Pauline Baynes. I don't remember how I 
found that, but I had a copy. I was a graduate student (in physics) at 
Chicago at the time, so had access to a good university library; I think 
my next source was /Two Fifteenth Century/, probably from the library. I 
then came across Claudia Roden's recipe for Rishta in her modern middle 
eastern cookbook. It was a modern recipe (although a T.I. article on 
period pasta later presented it as a period one), but she mentioned that 
a period recipe existed, and she gave a reference to the Arberry 
translation of al-Baghdadi, which had been published in a scholarly 
journal in the 1930's. The U of C library had the journal, so I 
photocopied it, and that got me started on period Islamic cooking. I 
wanted other people to be able to do period cooking, so made up a 
collection of all the source material I at that point had, reduced it to 
fit four pages on a page because I wanted it to be inexpensive enough 
for poor college students in the SCA to afford, produced it and sold it 
at about cost.

Many years later, I got a letter from someone saying that she understood 
I was the source for Charles Perry's translation of the Anonymous 
Andalusian cookbook, and asking how she could get a copy. Signed Claudia 
Roden. I sent her a free copy of the collection that included it, with a 
thank you note for getting me into doing period Islamic cooking.

I got my doctorate, moved to the East Coast, moved to Virginia, moved to 
Los Angeles, moved to New Orleans, moved back to Chicago as a faculty 
fellow in the law school, and discovered that the U of C library had a 
rare book room that contained several period or near-period cookbooks. I 
think that was the point at which I paid to have photocopies made of 
several, including Rumpolt. Earlier than that I had gotten a number of 
people to do translations, including Perry's translation of the 
Anonimous Andalusian, and made a second volume of the cookbook 
collection out of them, which expanded as additional translations were 

So at the beginning it was printed sources mainly out of a good 
university library, then expanded to include translations I got people 
in the SCA to do, and eventually included some material from photocopies 
from a library's rare book room.

On 10/4/12 8:38 AM, Johnna Holloway wrote:
> This may seem a bit offbeat, but I thought maybe this list might like the topic.
> For a talk I am scheduled to give at a cookery conference down the road,
> I have been looking once more into the larger question of how people go looking for information on historical Medieval and Renaissance cookery, foods, and/or recipes.
> Where do you look for information and ideas on medieval foods and feasts in 2012 as opposed to say back in 2002 or 1992? The web and lists first?
> Have the lists of yesteryear been supplanted by Facebook?
> If seeking information, do you post the query before attempting to look on your own?
> Or do you Google first? Is this being driven by use of cellphones and not computers? Is it easier to post the query than to search
> on the smartphone? Do people also not respond to a query now because it's harder to do so from a smartphone?
> How about Resources at home? Do you buy fewer books?
> How about using Resources/databases through a library? Do you ever look through a book at home first?
> How have your search techniques changed?
> Medieval recipes? Do you look at books at home first or turn
> to the web?  Which sites do you use and trust?
> Have you dropped out of researching ? After an N number of years, you no longer care to keep up with the field. You've retired.
> I was told recently that someone did all of his/her medieval cookery research for an SCA "cookbook"
> by using Yahoo and the term "medieval". The author didn't check the validity of the sources.
> Yahoo was good enough! "All of the information [needed] is just there!"
> When questioned if this was good enough, the author was of the opinion that everyone's research was equally valid  and ok because this
> was the SCA.
> Johnnae
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David Friedman

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