Tuesday, June 18, 2019

What good are reports?

Recently I took an opportunity to talk to the Society Minister of Arts and Sciences, Master Etienne Le Mons. I have often been asked as well as been curious as to what the goal of collecting reports was. I understood quite well why a financial accounting is in order but what does the BoD care about the arts and sciences going on. As an officer I see it as part of my job to make award recommendation nd to do such the collection of information is important.

A quick note on award recommendations as an officer. Your words carry weight in your office and while someone may be getting recommended in their local group when a crown sees an outside recommendation it carries a bit more with it. Also in the reports you see what people are doing on a regular basis and can comment, where others who are closer may not be paying attention or think about passing the info to the cron. Really award recommendations will be its own post in the future, as well as my feelings on the role of officers.

Now to the meat of the matter, Why are reports important? Ask and you shall receive.

  • Jessica Page What happens to our reports? What use are they on a society level?
  • Etienne Le Mons
  • Etienne Le Mons Branch level reports that go to the Kingdom Officers are used by those officers to create their report to me. Basically, they're consolidated and streamlined into a digestible format that I can process for my report to the Board of Directors.

    Additionally, should the tax man come calling, MoAS reports would be the first place that we look to prove our 501(c)3 educational non-profit status. Of all the things that the SCA does, A&S is where we do the majority of our research, documentation and teaching of period medieval topics.
  • TL;DR: A&S reports are how we stay non-profit and they're REALLY important ;-)

I went on to ask some follow on questions and instead of boring you with the blow by blow I will sum up the information.

Do you use a form to consolidate your report?
I use a form for the Kingdom Officers to submit information to me, but the consolidation is done
on my own.
I have several different sections of my report to the BoD which are dictated by the BoD
the information from the Kingdom reports help me fill out D, E, F & G and of course I & J
a lot of what I get in the reports is simply stored but there are specific questions that I ask that I address every time
first are 4 numbers....each quarter, I ask the Kingdom Officers to do a self-rating from 1-10 on the state of the KMoAS office in their Kingdom and separately the state of A&S in their Kingdom
I also ask how many warranted MoAS's they have and how many Laurels were elevated in that quarter there is no judgement from me on if these numbers are high or low or in-between.... that's really not what I'm looking at what I'm looking at are the trends over time I also ask if they need anything from the Society Office and I address that every time they put anything there
for the "Known World Summary", I have a bullet point for each Kingdom I read through their report and see what jumps out at me, what they're excited about, what they've spent a lot of time and resources on and those things go into their Kingdom's bullet I also note if they've had a major competition with good turn out or a University with particularly good attendance

Friday, June 14, 2019

Behind the scenes

I've been ruminating on this for a while now. What do we (cooks) do behind the scenes to get ready for a feast? What are the costs in terms of time and energy? Things not normally documented or talked about very much.

First thing we rarely talk about is the actual monetary costs that go into planning a feast. In general the idea is to charge for food what we need to cover the cost of all supplies to cook, clean and present the food for an event but what does this translate to for me at home? That answer varies but in general I would say the average at home output in food costs is around 150€. This does not account for water, cleaning supplies, electricity and maintenance of  pots and pans. This is a rough estimate, I have never actually calculated my costs for redacting. I could be way off but if I am it is because I ballparked too low. In this manner I feel for the scribal community and understand the 'price' that the art that you generously donate comes with. I get it and I'm grateful. Supplies for practice, supplies for finished products, time given to research and technique. I feel you because I do the same thing. I can spend what amounts to hundreds of euros to test and retest recipes, on spices that are used for one thing and one thing only but you need it to get it 'right', just for one feast. For one moment that is sure to pass into memory and blend in with a multitude of other foods, feasts and memories. If you are lucky someone will hold onto that memory and it will stay with them. That is the biggest difference between what you do (the scribe) and what I do ( the cook). My art is fleeting and temporary. It is meant to be consumed but hopefully not to be forgotten.

The planning for my two largest feasts to date, Drachenwald's Silver Anniversary/ coronation and Known World Dance Symposium, the planning stages each started more than a year in advance. First was to decide with the autocrat if there would need to be  'theme' or desired direction for the feast / food to take. Second, if there was no desired direction was to pick a direction. At the time of KWDS I was intent on the study of Scappi and so it became my focus for the feast. The rest of the food, lunches and suppers, I chose to look for period recipes but didn't stick to any one culture or time period. For silver Anniversary feast I wanted to represent as much of Drachenwald as I could reasonably do and so I narrowed the field to 16th century but broadened it to as many countries as I could find that fit the time frame. Both events had me exploring for hours on end but in very different ways. For each of them number of dishes, meat dishes vs vegetable dishes and suitable starches were always in my mind. I detailed my process I use here on the blog once before but my usual start is to choose the resources, read them through, then read them through noting the recipes that peak my interest. I read through again paying more attention to ingredients and looking for that balance I just spoke of. I narrow my field to tests recipes and then I test them.

Testing is more complex than it sounds. Testing involves redacting it first. The first redaction is almost never the final redaction. I have gotten quite lucky with a handful of simple and basic recipes that were fantastic my first try, and only because we have modern equivalents that I am already comfortable making. Of these first tries I begin to weed down the choices. My criteria changes based on the kitchen facilities I am using. I have used kitchens where baking was a dream, with a very large industrial oven, and I have been in others where baking was just not a good option. My criteria changes with the size of the event as well as certain attendees and what their 'station' is at the moment. Silver Anniversary feast was cooked completely without onion, garlic or saffron as the Queen who was stepping up has an allergy. I have cooked for her as a 'participant of events as well and how I plan for each is different.

Once testing is done I review the recipes and usually have to weed down ever further, to have the 'balance' I was speaking of. Now is the review and finalizing the menu. making notes on changes that need to be made or substitutions because of allergies or other dietary restrictions, and testing to make sure they still produce a quality dish with the substitutions. Do I need an extra dish or two? What do I feed the vegetarians? care and feeding of the vegetarians is another previous post but each time I plan a feast it is something I must be mindful of and do.

After I have a menu, and recipes, now starts the lists! I love my lists. Lists of ingredients, multiplication of the recipe list, list of tools I need, list, list , list!!!!! I am not finished until the last item is prepared and served, and even then I am not completely done. I listen around and ask for feedback on dishes to see what still needs work where. I make notes while cooking, on things that I may have changed on the fly or because of issues.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Cook for sale or rent

At the moment my services are not engaged and I find that I am at loose ends. I currently have only one project in front of me that is rapidly approaching and that is cooking over a fire at Summer Bash at the end of June. I will be cooking with Claudia and teaching her about fire, fire safety and helping her get comfortable cooking over a fire. After that I am not sure what lies ahead until next April when Arts in April rolls around again.

Looking for a head cook? Want a menu? Just looking for help? Let me help!

Much cooking experience for groups of 30 to 150. Meal planning for breakfast, lunch, supper, feast, coffee / tea time snacks. Works best with 16th Century Italian, English and German. A bit of experience with 16th Century French, Danish and Spanish as well. Can also wander the centuries in English or Italian cooking.

At this time my resources are limited but if you can help get me to you, and give me a place to stay, I'm all yours!

I have many ideas cooking at the moment and no real place to explore them. Well, I can explore them but no place to actualize them for a larger audience. My art frustrates me at the moment because it really needs a broad audience to be appreciated and to gather feedback to improve. 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Cooking over a fire

I have decided that i will cook over the fire at an upcoming event at the end of June and have offered to teach any who would like to join. I have at least one candidate interested and I look forward to working with her especially as she has a self professed fear of fire. i am hoping I can help her through this. I am hoping to drum up a bit more interest but we will see. The event is a very lazy and relaxed event so I am trying not to push.

The trouble I am having is what to cook!?! I am at a complete loss at the moment, lol.
I always go through a phase when planning a menu where I don't know what I want to cook but this feels beyond that. There is nothing official tying me to this endeavor and maybe that is what is keeping inspiration from me. What's a cook to do.. sigh.. I guess it is time to hit the books again. Not that I mind, I like reading, I like reading cookbooks (even modern ones) I know I'm weird but join me in my madness and you may learn.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Post event thoughts

Arts in April iv is complete (OK I still have receipts to do but that is the last thing, promise).

It is always a pleasure to work with Anna and on this particular event it was a lot of just her and I hashing things out and making decisions.  It is only my opinion but I think we work well together. We have mutual trust, respect and love. These are rare things to find and so hold them fast!

My planning was done in advance and I was all set to go. Things got a little jumbled at times and other plans changed but as with most things it all works out in the end. Budget went over but there were price changes on ingredients that were sudden and unexpected. Specifically the beef for the bresaola It was about double the price I was expecting. It was ordered in advance and because I wasn't present when it was cut I couldn't stop her and say I only needed half the amount ( the pieces were long and could have been cut in half. . They were on the other hand the perfect width and thickness!

Multiplication of recipes is also never perfect and so there were leftovers of something and others went quite well.

I am over all happy with the way things went.

On personal notes: I was awarded 2 awards at the event. The first I was summoned from the kitchen for. And while someone came and retrieved my assistant to bring her in ... the cracked open the door between the hall and the kitchen and just yelled louder for me, lol! Feel the love... actually I did feel the love, all the love of the room when I walked into the hall to kneel before the Baron and Baroness. Everyone laughing and smiling as my hands were dirty, one from rolling meat the other from the batter for frying. At one point a very kind Aethstan came with a bowl and  towel for me to clean my hands, I chose to clean only the meat hand as the other was just going back into batter. To my surprise I was to be the third of the Barony to be given the Golden Book, The Knights Crossing A&S award. I was completely surprised and bewildered. I was in awe of the scroll and just completely overcome with the love.

During feast as is sometimes the want of their majesties to thank the staff, So... Anna and I went up front to represent the staff, as the space was small and all my kitchen helpers would not have fit and some requested not to be dragged into court at all. We were thanks and presented with some kind words and tokens for our efforts over the weekend, However it seemed their majesties had further business with me and so I was given into the company of the ring, the grant level of kingdom awards and as such was given into the company of the swan, the grant level A&S award. Again, Humbled and in awe of the scroll and the honor being bestowed upon me. and in tangent to this...

The award meant more to me in a much larger sense. I have been 'lobbying' for cooking to be taken seriously as an art and not dismissed as service for many years. I get that it is a service. A needed aspect of many events especially here in Drachenwald with the distances we travel etc... I honestly do what I do because I love it. I think those of us who cook especially are ones who do it out of love. If we didn't love it we wouldn't keep doing it, as is proven by the numbers of people who try but don't continue. This/ these awards to me mark an accomplishment not just for myself but for cooks in general. 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Bay vs Bay

I have a recipe that calls for 'sweet powder', and this powder calls for 'Indian bay leaf', so when I first made it I read up on this Indian bay leaf and all descriptions just said it was not like the traditional bay leaf that we find in our grandma's beef stew recipes. Ya know that leaf you throw in and even really sure why except that the recipe calls for it. Most people toss it before serving the stew, but not in my family, in my family the lucky person with it in their bowl did the dishes, lol!

Anyhow, the first time I made it I substituted regular bay leaf for the indian bay life. I mean, close enough right? I couldn't find the Indian bay and looking on amazon did not occur to me. This time around though, this time, I went directly to amazon and found I could get it with little trouble, so I ordered  bit. It arrived quickly and when it did I was quite intrigued to find out what the hubbub is with it.

So, being daring I broke off a piece and stuck it in my mouth, and..... nothing. It tasted like nothing and I was quite disappointed, Then I decided, chew on it a bit, can't hurt. I'm so glad I didn't give up, the flavor is amazing! It was cinnamon and gingery and a little numbing in the mouth the way clove does. The more I chewed the more flavor I got. It was NOTHING like it's counterpart that we use. This stuff was flavorful and delicious. I look forward to making the 'proper' sweet powder and seeing how it enhances the other flavors of the dish

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Medieval chicken nuggets revisited

As said in my previous post I am revisiting some of my old recipes. Cleaning up some things, refining techniques, and just in general seeing when I can improve upon. Today was phase 2 of the medieval chicken nugget.

I had posted a basic recipe with my post about cooking them over a fire at Double Wars. I wasn't 100% satisfied then and I had questions.

Looking over the original I will have to do this again 😏 (oh how my heart breaks 😜 )

Here is what I have learned so far and the recipe I will use for the event.

3 chicken breasts boiled until soft (soft is important! This will take about an hour)
2 (125g ea) balls of mozzarella
35 gm grated parmesan
3 eggs
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/8 c sugar (that's 2 Tbsp) This can be upped to as much as 1/4 cup but I was going for less sweet

Boil the chicken until soft, cut into pieces, beat with an electric mixer. You can break it apart by hand but it is a lot of work!

Add the sugar, Cinnamon and cheese, beat it some more until well blended. Remember ultimately you are looking for  a paste consistency

add the eggs and beat some more! You want paste. If it is too dry add another egg or up to 3 egg yolks one at a time.

I put mine in the fridge overnight because I was tired. Tasted fine.

Portion into 1 Tbsp balls (I have a scoop that helps with this) I got 50! balls from the batch!

You need to have hot oil standing by in a fryer or heavy pan or cast iron. I used my cast iron frying pan 2/3 full of oil as that is what I had on hand. I could fit 10 balls in the pan with space for turning and proper cooking.

You need a batter of eggs and flour:

1 cup flour
4 eggs

This was enough to cover 40! of the balls. So I am thinking the ratio of 1/4 c flour per egg.

Your oil needs to be hot. Lightly coat the balls and put them in the hot oil. You are looking for golden brown all over, no pale spots. turn them as needed. i found that in my pan they would turn themselves! ( It was cool)

Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Serve!

OK, second experiment time. I fried my last 10 balls in the hot oil without coating them, YUM!!! Just fry them until they are deep brown so they are cooked through. This can be done as  gluten free option.

Third experiment: Reheating in an oven.
220c over under if using convection ( which my oven doesn't have, use 200c)

I tested both those that sat on a counter and those put in the fridge:
regardless of which you do 15-20 min in the over perks them up nicely!