The Feast at Agincourt

The Agincourt feast this year is based on the Canterbury Tales. I have taken a few liberties with the menu to ensure proper balance and variety of dishes. We will be doing a few things differently this time around and hope that you will enjoy the experience.
When you enter the hall, you will see that the tables have been arranged in a “U” formation. The Royalty will be seated at a table located at the bottom of the “U”. This is an approximation of what may be seen in medieval illuminations.

picture-one

picture-two

The tables will be covered in white linen and a small pitcher, bowl, and a linen towel will be placed every few feet. This is for handwashing prior to dinner.

In accordance with period practice, seating will be done by precedence. When you sign up for dinner, we are requesting that you provide your title to facilitate creating the final seating chart. This is not something that we do often and there may be some concerns because it’s new to most people. When we organize the seating, we will be keeping families together so that small children are not seated separately from their parents. Seating by precedence gives you the opportunity to spend time with old friends and acquaintances as well as meeting new people and sharing a meal with them.

Because of the available seating in the hall, we will be seating people both on the inside and outside of the tables. It will look something like this:

agincourt-seating

A Herald will announce the diners, including High Table. As each person is announced, they will then be lead to their seats by a server. Once everyone is seated, diners are encouraged to take advantage of the water, pitcher, and towel and wash their hands before dining. Handwashing before a meal was done before feasts during our period of study in order to assure their fellow diners that their hands were clean (diners were expected to come to the table with hands and nails clean). Handwashing would often be done at a separate basin or the pitcher and basin would be brought to each guest in turn based on their rank.

The handwashing water is the handwashing water described in Le Ménagier de Paris using the recipe created by Christianne Muusers.

Pour faire eaue a laver mains sur table mectez boulir de la sauge, puis coulez l’eaue et faictes reffroidier jusques a plus que tiedes. Ou vous mectez comme dessus camomille et marjolaine, ou vous mectez du rommarin, et cuire avec l’escorche d’orenge. Et aussi feuilles de lorier y sont bonnes.

To make water for washing hands at the table. Boil sage, strain the water and let cool to a little more than tepid. Or take camomille and marjoram in stead [of sage], or rosemary, and boil with orange peel. Bay leaves are also good.

Once handwashing is complete, the feast will commence. Before each course, there will be a reading from the Canterbury Tales. The reading will be from the introductory poem for the character whose tale the course is based upon. This is entirely done for time considerations.

Here Begynneth the Book of the tales of Caunterbury
(read by Master Morien MacBain)

When April with his showers sweet with fruit
The drought of March has pierced unto the root
And bathed each vein with liquor that has power
To generate therein and sire the flower;
When Zephyr also has, with his sweet breath,
Quickened again, in every holt and heath,
The tender shoots and buds, and the young sun
Into the Ram one half his course has run,
And many little birds make melody
That sleep through all the night with open eye
(So Nature pricks them on to ramp and rage)-
Then do folk long to go on pilgrimage,
And palmers to go seeking out strange strands,
To distant shrines well known in sundry lands.
And specially from every shire’s end
Of England they to Canterbury wend,
The holy blessed martyr there to seek
Who helped them when they lay so ill and weal
Befell that, in that season, on a day
In Southwark, at the Tabard, as I lay
Ready to start upon my pilgrimage
To Canterbury, full of devout homage,
There came at nightfall to that hostelry
Some nine and twenty in a company
Of sundry persons who had chanced to fall
In fellowship, and pilgrims were they all
That toward Canterbury town would ride.
The rooms and stables spacious were and wide,
And well we there were eased, and of the best.
And briefly, when the sun had gone to rest,
So had I spoken with them, every one,
That I was of their fellowship anon,
And made agreement that we’d early rise
To take the road, as you I will apprise.
But none the less, whilst I have time and space,
Before yet farther in this tale I pace,
It seems to me accordant with reason
To inform you of the state of every one
Of all of these, as it appeared to me,
And who they were, and what was their degree,
And even how arrayed there at the inn
And with a knight thus will I first begin.

The First Course

The Franklin’s Portrait
(Read by Count Thomas Byron of Havorford)

There was a franklin in his company;
White was his beard as is the white daisy.
Of sanguine temperament by every sign,
He loved right well his morning sop in wine.
Delightful living was the goal he’d won,
For he was Epicurus’ very son,
That held opinion that a full delight
Was true felicity, perfect and right.
A householder, and that a great, was he;
Saint Julian he was in his own country.
His bread and ale were always right well done;
A man with better cellars there was none.
Baked meat was never wanting in his house,
Of fish and flesh, and that so plenteous
It seemed to snow therein both food and drink
Of every dainty that a man could think.
According to the season of the year
He changed his diet and his means of cheer.
Full many a fattened partridge did he mew,
And many a bream and pike in fish-pond too.
Woe to his cook, except the sauces were
Poignant and sharp, and ready all his gear.
His table, waiting in his hall alway,
Stood ready covered through the livelong day.
At county sessions was he lord and sire,
And often acted as a knight of shire.
A dagger and a trinket-bag of silk
Hung from his girdle, white as morning milk.
He had been sheriff and been auditor;
And nowhere was a worthier vavasor.

The Cook’s Portrait
(read by Meesteres Odriana vander Brugghe)

A cook they had with them, just for the nonce,
To boil the chickens with the marrow-bones,
And flavour tartly and with galingale.
Well could he tell a draught of London ale.
And he could roast and seethe and broil and fry,
And make a good thick soup, and bake a pie.
But very ill it was, it seemed to me,
That on his shin a deadly sore had he;
For sweet blanc-mange, he made it with the best.

First Course Menu

Barley Water (as we can’t provide ale and there’s no alcohol allowed on site)
Bread: Locally-made white bread. A gluten-free bread will be available.
Sowpys dory: Minced onions fried in oil with rice milk ladled over trenchers.
Hennys in bruet: Chicken and pork with salt, pepper, and cumin colored with saffron.
Tarlett: A pork tart with saffron, eggs, currants, powder douce, salt

Presentation

The Summoner

“A buckler he had made him of a cake”

Second Course

The Manciple
(read by Baron Brandubh O’Donnghaile)

There was a manciple from an inn of court,
To whom all buyers might quite well resort
To learn the art of buying food and drink;
For whether he paid cash or not, I think
That he so knew the markets, when to buy,
He never found himself left high and dry.
Now is it not of God a full fair grace
That such a vulgar man has wit to pace
The wisdom of a crowd of learned men?
Of masters had he more than three times ten,
Who were in law expert and curious;
Whereof there were a dozen in that house
Fit to be stewards of both rent and land
Of any lord in England who would stand
Upon his own and live in manner good,
In honour, debtless (save his head were wood),
Or live as frugally as he might desire;
These men were able to have helped a shire
In any case that ever might befall;
And yet this manciple outguessed them all.

Second Course Menu
Berandyles: Chicken simmered in beef broth flavored with ginger, sugar, pomegranate seeds, and cloves.
Sawce madame: A sauce with a chicken broth base flavored with quince, pears, garlic, grapes, galingale, and poudre douce.
Perrey of pesown: White beans with vegetable broth, onions, oil, sugar, salt, and saffron.
Blomanger: Rice, cow’s milk , chicken, and saffron.
Tart de Bry: A tart of eggs, cheese, sugar, saffron, salt, and ginger. A gluten-free version of this dish will be available.

Final Course

The Miller’s Portrait
(read by Maister Liam Mac an tSoir)

The miller was a stout churl, be it known,
Hardy and big of brawn and big of bone;
Which was well proved, for when he went on lam
At wrestling, never failed he of the ram.
He was a chunky fellow, broad of build;
He’d heave a door from hinges if he willed,
Or break it through, by running, with his head.
His beard, as any sow or fox, was red,
And broad it was as if it were a spade.
Upon the coping of his nose he had
A wart, and thereon stood a tuft of hairs,
Red as the bristles in an old sow’s ears;
His nostrils they were black and very wide.
A sword and buckler bore he by his side.
His mouth was like a furnace door for size.
He was a jester and could poetize,
But mostly all of sin and ribaldries.
He could steal corn and full thrice charge his fees;
And yet he had a thumb of gold, begad.
A white coat and blue hood he wore, this lad.
A bagpipe he could blow well, be it known,
And with that same he brought us out of town.

Final Course Menu
‘Spiced Ale’: Because of the alcohol-free site, we will be serving spiced apple cider.
Wafers: Thin cookies made in an iron. A gluten-free option will be available.
Honeycomb: Squares of honeycomb.
Honey: Local honey.
Cheese: A fresh-made ricotta-like cheese.

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Tuesday Night Dinner

Dinner_Party

I have been thinking a lot about the importance of communal dining and its value not only to families, but to friends and community as I write up business plans and think about the various things that I would like to do in the future. Something that I realized is that I’ve been participating in my own experiment in communal dining since 2001 and never really thought of it that way before.

I was considering what I’d make for dinner tonight as my husband and daughter have been ridiculously busy with school commitments and I wanted some family time together. It took a lot to not phone a bunch of people because they’re my family, too, and because of a number of things we’ve not seen them for about two weeks now and we won’t see them for another week – the regular Tuesday Night Dinner group. The idea of not inviting them was difficult as they have become aspects of my chosen family and seeing them is just as important to me as seeing my husband and daughter.

Some time in 2001, I discovered Buffy the Vampire Slayer – yes, in its second-to-last series. I had too many people telling me that I should like it that I feared disliking it and disappointing them, so I just didn’t watch it for six series. Then I ran into a day long marathon on cable and was hooked. I am of a mind that television shows are not much fun if you can’t watch them with friends and I decided to invite my friends over on Tuesdays to watch Buffy with me. Figuring it was easier to head to my place after work than just before Buffy, I asked folks to come up to the house after work and bring a dish to pass. Thus was born “Buffy Night”. It was nice to spend time with people and we got to yell at the television together and generally emotionally support each other through what were two lackluster seasons of what had been a truly great show (except for Nathan Fillion, he’s never lackluster).

The true value of having created this habit didn’t reveal itself until Buffy ended and there we were, six people who had been eating dinner together every Tuesday for nearly two years. We figured, what the hell, let’s just keep having dinner together and find other activities to do afterwards. So, here we are, fourteen years later, still having dinner together most Tuesdays. Yes, the make-up of the group has morphed and changed over time as people’s lives changed or people moved (we still miss you, Chris). It is the thing that defines my week and I miss it when it doesn’t happen. I miss the hell out of everyone right now.

My solution? I’m making a giant pot of Tex-Mex Shredded Chicken soup and I’ll freeze a bunch for when we meet again so that I can hand it out to everyone because I love them. So, you can keep your Sunday dinners. I love my Tuesday nights of dinner and random games with the family that I chose. That’s why the communal sharing of food is important to me, and to others. It develops and strengthens social bonds through a shared experience of eating. All of this because I wanted to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer with my friends. I’m glad that we’re still doing this and look forward to many more years of sharing Tuesday Night Dinners.

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Coffee is a business

Antique Grinder

Peet’s Coffee just bought majority share in Intelligentsia coffee and acquired Stumptown Coffee earlier this year. So, the bitching has begun about “selling out” and how Peet’s is “just in it for the money”. Yes, they are, because every business is in it for the money. Intelligentsia and Peet’s weren’t handing out bags of roasted beans for free on the street, they were selling them with the intention that selling their coffee would make enough of a profit to cover their costs and make a modest living.

Intelligentsia brought a lot to the table as far as how they perceived coffee as a business and pioneered fair trade and environmentally responsible growing along with their artistry in roasting those beans so that the best flavor was achieved from them (they started as only roasters and grew into the coffeehouse business). When Intelligentsia started in 1995, there were lots of coffeehouses, the idea of “thirdspace” was relatively new, and coffee was not being described in numbered waves. Intelligentsia was able to build a reputation for excellence slowly over time and is properly credited with one of the driving forces behind the start of what we now call “third wave” coffee.

Peet’s Coffee and Tea was founded in 1966 by Alfred Peet, who brought his experience of Dutch coffee to America and essentially started the idea of gourmet coffee in America. Peet’s was influential enough that Starbucks used them as a business model. Peet’s has changed hands a couple times since 1966, but has managed to maintain a very good reputation since then, even through their stumble in 2001 after they took their stock public, the business remained stable and their stock has showed progress ever since then. Generally, the opinion of Peet’s coffee (as a product) is positive and has been consistently so throughout its history.

So, we have two major coffee roasters and purveyors who have merged together to some extent in a business deal (controlling stock is not a merger). Both are known for quality coffee and have shown longevity in an industry where most new businesses go away within the first three years. Their success is, in part, attributed to their business acumen, and this latest business decision was calculated to be beneficial to both business entities. The customers have stood by each individual company (well, as much as any group of chronic complainers can — yes, I count myself among them) through years of business decisions and actions and held with them because they loved the product.

Yes, we will find stuff to bitch about, but the fact is that we threw our cards in with a business that exists to make money. We got lucky that Intelligentsia and Peet’s made decisions unrelated to coffee that we liked (or at least tolerated). The fact is that Intelligentsia still maintains control over its stock, just a minority share of it. Since Peet’s has been navigating changing markets in coffee for nearly half a century, I have a degree of faith that the decisions that are made in the future will be good for the environment, good for the coffee growers, and good for coffee snobs like me.

Stop complaining about “selling out”, when you exchange money for goods or services, that’s business. Business behaves in ways that is beneficial to itself and will always seek improved profits. Expecting it to do anything else is naive at best. Frankly, I am hopeful for the outcome of this merger and hope that more people will be introduced to the complexity and joy of coffee in a way that makes them want to know more and, more importantly, drink better coffee. The quality is unlikely to worsen and there are even opportunities to bring smaller roasters back into the game as people become more used to high-quality coffee.

As a consumer, you vote with where you take your dollars. Don’t buy Peet’s or Intelligentsia if you don’t like what happened with their business. In most major cities there are roasters and coffeehouses that will fill your need and it puts dollars directly into your local community. If you don’t live in a city where you have that kind of access, considering learning to roast beans — the equipment and beans can be had for cheap and you can make what you like. Building a skill set is never a bad thing.

Businesses either make money or fail if they make too many bad business decisions in a row and we all move onto the next thing…like consumers always do.

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Historical Feasts

Illumination depicting a medieval feast

The mystery project that I’ve been working on is all of the paperwork to start an educational non-profit that focuses on historical feasting culture. What the hell does that mean? I hear you ask.

What it means is that there will be an organization that has a particular interest in how formal settings effect how we approach food and community. For example: The difference between cooking dinner every Wednesday and cooking dinner for Christmas. There are traditional foods belonging to both the culture that you are in and family traditions that either come from the culture that they came to America with or that have developed organically (my family’s Perfection Salad — never eaten, always present).

In sharing the experience of a formal (or somewhat informal, ex: Street Parties in the UK), it’s easier to understand the culture that it came out of, and allows for a deeper understanding of where our families came from and perhaps why we do things the way that we do now. It is taking the face that sharing a meal is as much about community as it is about nourishment – understanding the food brings you closer to understanding the culture by making an opening to discuss that history and culture. This is very much the basic philosophy of ““Conflict Kitchen”, but applied to the past rather than the present.

While the signature event for HF is going to be the Perfectly Period Feast, which focuses on Spain in 1526, it is my intention that other periods of time and places will be explored and re-created. Right now, I am in the basic planning stage and making sure that everything is properly documented and written up so that Historical Feasts as a non-profit will be successful.

I’m excited about the possibilities that Historical Feasts offers for teaching and learning about history, food, and culture. There will be more information provided as I move things forward.

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Aethelmearc’s Perfectly Period Feast

Everyone has experienced it, that moment at an event where the modern world just melts away and you are completely surrounded by and enfolded in another time and place. Creating an environment where it’s easier for this to happen is part of what each of us strive for – from our clothing to our feast gear to the décor of the location of the event. The Perfectly Period Feast Project strives to create as authentic an environment as possible by focusing on a complete re-creation of a feast in a specific time and place.
The Perfectly Period Feast Project was started in the Kingdom of the West in 2005. Its mission was to focus entirely on the “artifacts (linens, furniture, ceramics, cutlery) and historical practices of table service and entertainment”[1] of a specific place and time during our period of study. Since then, the PPF has taken place three times in the West and just this past spring, the Kingdom of An Tir hosted their first PPF. Each PPF has focused on a different time and year; 1480 England, 1420 Catalonia, 1580 Ferrera, and 1487 Tuscany. The Aethelmearc PPF will be focused on Spain in 1520.
Planning for a PPF takes years, in this case, several months of planning went into determining whether or not appropriate facilities were available and just how much planning and coordination would be required to hold just such an event. Once that was determined, choosing a time frame far enough in the future to allow for the creation of the more complicated aspects of this feast like the tables, chairs, linens, and glassware/crockery. Because of the all-encompassing nature of this kind of enterprise, there is something that nearly every discipline can do to contribute. Are you interested in medieval furniture? Are you interested in medieval decor? Are you interested in pottery? Are you interested in table textiles? How about medieval glassware? There is something that you can do to contribute to the Perfectly Period Feast.
There is a facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/520839491402946/) where the various workgroups are being put together. Please join and let us know where your interests lay so that you can be part of this amazing event. If you have questions or would like more details, please contact Meesteres Odriana vander Brugghe at jenn.strobel@gmail.com.


[1] Kingdom of the West, Perfectly Period Feast Project, https://sites.google.com/site/perfectlyperiodfeast/home/history-of-the-ppf

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#foodhistoryfriday

#foodhistoryfriday has been inactive for a while, and I wanted to resurrect it as I’ve been compiling links and information the entirely off time and found that it was more useful to put these out in the world, rather than keeping them in my Pocket.

Bente Philippsen and Rasmus Rørbæk . Fish based diets cause archaeological dating problems . Past Horizons. March 25, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/03/2013/fish-based-diets-cause-archaeological-dating-problems

From “Researching Food History”, “Selling sand in Regency London – for the kitchen, and more”.
-The many uses of sand in the kitchen (and elsewhere). This is during the Regency era and it makes me wonder if there is evidence for sand sellers during earlier time periods. It seems logical, but now I have to do some reading.

Background reading for “Teaching the Food System” at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. Food supply chain information. It’s important to understand the food supply chain as it will help your understanding of what food would have been available in a particular area and why. This will help your educated guesses.

A Brief History of the Food Supply Chain. More food supply chain history.

While this isn’t food, I’ve been asked a number of times about documentation and writing up research. I have an affection for it and tend to seek out additional information to improve my process and to share with others so that they can either improve or create a process of research and writing that suits them.

Academic writing: my habits and rituals on Julianne Nyhan’s blog is a very good outline for creating an academic writing discipline. She mentions “Pomodoro” technique, which is what I use and have found it very useful with keeping myself focused and on task with my work.

Happy #nationalpieday and have a fantastic weekend.

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Cast Iron Pieroghi Pie

I learned something important this Christmas, I am unable to cook for fewer than 25 people, even when there are only 8 people expected for Christmas Dinner. I am left with an obscene amount of leftovers and I’ve been doing what I can to re-package them and re-imagine them so that they’re not just leftovers.

For New Year’s Eve, we were planning a family evening at home and I wanted to do something kind of special – so I created a pieroghi pie based on the leftovers from my fridge.

You can also make this fresh, if you want, I’ve included approximately how much you’d need of each thing to get the amount needed for the recipe.

Cast Iron Pieroghi Pie
Preheat oven to 425°F (218C, gas mark 7)

1 1/2 cup mashed potatoes
1 1/2 cup mashed parsnips and swede (rutabaga)
2 medium onions, sliced
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
a couple of tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil

Put the oil in the cast iron and stick it in the oven while you’re prepping the onions.

Pull the pan out of the oven and press in the potato/parsnip/swede very carefully, just like you’d press in a cracker crumb crust for a pie.
Make sure that you get the mash into the spouts on either side of the pan.
Dump in the sour cream and coat the inside of the “crust” with it. You can use the back of a spoon to make this job easier.

IMG_0343

Top the sour cream with the sliced onions

Put the onions in the center of the pie.
Put the onions in the center of the pie.

Cover the onions with cheddar cheese..lots of cheddar cheese.

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Stick this in the oven until the cheese begins to get brown and bubbly on top. This took about 25 minutes in my oven.

When you pull it out, it should look like this:

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There should be a bit of a crust on the bottom of the potatoes/swede so when you slice it up, it should be pretty easy to serve. We ate this with a little bit of leftover turkey gravy and cranberry relish.

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SCA: Documentation

This weekend I was supposed to be teaching in Ithaca, NY but both of our cars had other plans and I was unable to even leave Pennsylvania. I wanted to make this information available to everyone so that it could be used.

Clearly, this was written for an audience within Æthelmearc so there is some information that may be more particular to that area. If you have any questions or would like some specific assistance with documentation that you’re currently writing, please use the email address in the pdf file to get in touch with me directly.

As always, my work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Link to the PDF: Documentation-Class-November2014

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84 English Heritage archaeology monographs free to download

From the Past Horizons Website: English Heritage (EH) and the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) have made available 84 EH Monographs covering a wide range of subjects, periods and specialisms.

EH has a long tradition of producing highly illustrated archaeological monographs about key sites and topics of importance to the understanding of the historic environment in England. Many of the past titles have long been out of print and yet are still of value for reference purposes.

Here’s the link: Past Horizons: Adventures in archaeology.

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