Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The journey begins

The journey begins here and now. I have always enjoyed cooking, even from a young age. I remember standing at my great grandmothers gas stove on a step stool carefully stirring apple sauce or patiently waiting to flip pancakes. These were may first forays into the world of food. As i got older i learned not only how to read recipes but how to adapt them and in some cases make up my own. I had many teachers along the way who have imparted to me many tips, secrets and much knowledge. I had already been using cookbooks from the 50's to find many recipes but t wasn't until I was grown and had heard of a group called the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) that I would discover a love for "old" recipes. I started my journey like so many others by using other people's work. Recipes that someone else had redacted from original sources. Now my knowledge base has grown and I am feeling ready to begin striking out on my own. I will start with a story. The story of the recipe that burned my brain!

It was 2003 and the local SCA group I was with was preparing to put together an event. Technically I was the autocrat, the person in charge of the event, but the person in charge of food was a basic beginer so I was helping her out as well. My library of "period" cookbooks was limited (still is) so we had turned to the internet to search out recipes. While hunting one day I stumbled upon a recipe titled "Lombardy Rice Dish". This intregued me so I took a look at what was available. The recipe was another person's redaction. Their source was a cookbook printed in the mid 90's that cited the recipe came from an Italian cookbook from the mid 16th century. This was good enough for me at the time, but as I read the redaction I was disappointed to learn that the man had left out 2 ingredients and only mentioned them to let us know he had left them out. The first ingredient was sausage, left out because he couldn't find the specific type called for in the recipe. The second was eggs. He left these out citing "I don't know how to use them". At this I stopped reading the recipe in frustration. Even if the recipe was non specific in their use there are several ways to have used them. This is a moulded dish and my hypothesis is that they would have been used mixed in with the rice to help it maintain its shape. Later when i got a hold of the recipe and began my own redactions I would discover that would be wrong but at least it would have been an attempt at something. Frustrated I put the recipe aside and thought no more on it. It would be a few more years before I thought about it. It was spring 2008 and again I was preparing to cook a feast for an SCA event. As I looked over recipes I came back to the Lombardy rice. I decided to dig deeper. I was finally able to find a definative answer as to where the recipe came from. I learned it was from an Italian cookbook printed in 1570, written by Bartolomeo Scappi and was called Opera. I searched high and low on the internet and found nothing except that it was the source of the 1996 recipe. I again put the recipe on hold and went to Gianno, who is very knowledgeable, to ask more about Scappi. As it turned out at that time he knew little to nothing but looked into it a little only to find that it had never been translated. Sigh. We now jump to 2010, I was chatting again with Gianno when he happens to mention that within the last year or so the book had been translated. I was so excited that the moment I got home from the event I ordered it and had it in my hands 2 weeks later! This has begun my road. I will post later about my first forays into the book.