Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Resources

I figured I would make a list of the books I use on a regular basis to hunt up the recipes I use and redact. This list will be incomplete and I will update it as I find my books (they are spread everywhere right now!).

The Good Housewife's Jewel, Thomas Dawson
To The King's Taste, Lorna Sass
The Medieval Cookbook, Maggie Black
Platina's On Right Pleasure and Good Health, Mary Ella Milham, Pegasus Press
The Neapolitan Collection, Terrence Scully
The Forme of Cury, Samuel Pegge
The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570), Terrence Scully
Turkey Legs and Scotch Eggs, International Wenches Guild Local 24, This is a cookbook put together by a group of people for a fundraiser. The end section has "medieval" recipes and those I have used that have sources I have hunted down.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Postulation - spices

     I mentioned postulation in my last post and that often I find myself at odds with "popular" opinion. One such place is the idea that spices were less potent in period due to the time it took for them to travel to their destination.

     I admit caravan and cargo shipping were slow but was it really that much slower that modern methods? I mean the process is very much the same; pick / harvest the spice, dry the spice, package the spice and ship the spice. Modernly we use trucks or trains to transport things and this does make it faster in that respect but when shipping in bulk we still very much use cargo which is still a slow process. What difference does a month make to the spices? Also the modern process of getting spices will also include warehousing for indeterminate amounts of time and likely more than once.

     Packaging has changed greatly instead of wooden containers or cloth sacks we plastic wrap things but which is really better for preserving the product? Plastic can promote mold growth if there is any moisture at all introduced to the product while wooden containers and cloth bags can keep keep air circulation going.

     Modernly we tend to process things as far as they can go for the convenience of the consumer exposing a greater surface area to air even if it is in a plastic bag. In period spices were shipped whole and processed mostly by the consumer.This would, in my opinion, preserve the spices better and keep them fresher. Grinding what you need when you need it the outer area exposed to air would be potentially reduced in flavor but the innermost area would still be quite fresh and potent.

     My overall point being that I do not believe that heavily spiced (in terms of amounts used if given a quantity in a recipe) foods were a product of lackluster spices that had sat around for a long time losing their potency. Spices were a way to show off wealth and at times it was all about conspicuous consumption. Another thing to consider is that spices in large quantity usually take on a different flavor than when used more sparingly. Cinnamon, what we associate with sweets becomes spicy and peppery in large quantities, and sage in larges amounts tastes like pine bubble bath. It could be the large quantities used were to draw on that changed flavor.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

What does my way of research look like.. and what have I been learning

     A recent discussion has gotten me thinking about a good many things, like what does a person interested in cooking's research look like, and while I can not speak for others I can speak for myself. To me my research entails a good many things, first of course is my primary sources (even in translation), second discussion, third postulation (I guess also part of the second) and fourth trial and error. 

Primary sources:
     To me it is not enough to have skimmed the recipes but to have read all the little bits as well. Since I work primarily in late period there is usually a lot of "notes" in the sources I have. Small tidbits that help me understand the circumstances in which dishes were cooked. I also like to read all the recipes, just like you would a regular book. This gives me a good foundation on the process of cooking the foods, when they deviated for something "special" and when it was just cooking as usual. Having a breadth of primary sources has really helped me understand the spectrum and evolution of how food was prepared. Multiple sources from the same time period but different cultures gives a good glimpse into how food, like fashion, moved through europe. As well as the spices,ingredients, and methods of preparation. All important aspects when one is redacting.

Discussion and Postulation:
     It always helps to speak with others on a subject if you want a wider view of opinion and as all redactions are a matter of conjecture, it is best to gather as much information as possible. Postulation is important to me as there is too much given and taken as "Gospel". We do not learn and do not grow unless we question the status quo. This may mean forming opinions that people will not like but do not be afraid of this but instead try to embrace it to learn and educate at the same time.

Trial and error:
     This is what this blog was originally designed to be for. My experimentation and musings on redacting recipes to modern form. While many of my redactions have been "on" (in my opinion) with only one or two tries, I have had some that took me many attempts (soup of chickpeas I am looking at you!) and some that I am still not really sure if I am happy with. This is a culmination of many of the above factors. By reading about and discussing methods, ingredients, success and failures, I have been able to learn and adapt my own cooking before I have even laid my hands on ingredients. My background in modern cooking helps I am sure as well. I have been cooking since I could see of the pot. Placed on a stepstool and asked to stir, I was always welcome in the kitchen as an observer or an extra set of hands when I was little and encouraged to experiment on my own when I reached the age to be able to do so. While I have no formal training on a high school class in "culinary arts" behind me I have a desire to learn and try new things.