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The Perfectly Period Feast


The inspiration for our The Big Feast was the Perfectly Period Feast that was planned by Crystal of the Westermark and was put on at the Spring Collegium '08 in the Kingdom of the West.  I thought you all who aren't on the SCA-Cooks list (where the original info was posted) should see what got the rest of us so excited and so I have some links and info about the PPF below.

Pictures of the  feast hall before the Perfectly Period Feast - http://martinorivenstar.smugmug.com/gallery/4934023_QzkVL
 
The Perfectly Period Feast Yahoo Group. Anyone can see the messages but to post or see the files you have to join the group -
 
The collegium web page about the Perfectly Period Feast -
http://www.caldarium.org/collegium/?q=node/3

I am also including below the cut the original e-mail to the SCA-Cooks list from Crystal of the Westermark about the Perfectly Period Feast...


--------------------  Crystal's Letter --------------------------------------

Another member of this list asked a few questions, so I'll start with those. But before we get too far into this, I'd like to say the effort in making the feast as much like the experience of a Englishman in 1480 as we could, it was all about the hall and the experience of our guests/students. I didn't make any particular effort to build a period oven or cook over charcoal.

When pre-registering for the class, we asked the students to read a FAQ listed under http://www.collegiumoccidentalis.org/ > The Feast.

> What was the menu?  How many courses and dishes? 

First Course
1) Frumenty: wheat, water, salt, goat milk, saffron, venison braised in wine, beef broth and goose fat  (Austin pp 6-7 . viij. Venyson with Furmenty)
2) Noodles: spaghetti noodles, chicken broth, and parmesan cheese (Cuenca, pp 31 Pottage of Noodles)
3) Spiced Ale: Ale, Hyssop, Rosemary, sweet gale, spikenard, Honey, cubebs, grains of paradise, galingale, and canel. (Hieatt, pp145 Clarry and Braggot)
4) Spiced Honey Drink: water, honey, cinnamon, cloves; ginger (Cuenca, pp 16 Water Clarea)
5) Stuffed Chicken: chicken, parsley, olive oil, egg yolks, pepper, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, salt, cloves, grapes, pork (Austin, pp 41 .xxxv Capon or gos farced.)
6) White Sauce: almonds, vinegar, water, ginger, salt (Austin, pp 110 White sauce for capons cooked)
7) Cold Cheese Pie: goat cheese, eggs, sugar, butter, salt and crust (flour, butter, water and salt) (Austin, pp 75 Lese fryes.)
9) Fish in wine sauce: whole fish, wine, cinnamon, ginger, vinegar, oil, salt and crust (flour, butter, water and salt) (Austin, pp 103 Sole, boiled, roast or fried)
10) Plum pudding: plums, red wine, rice flour, sugar, ginger, cloves, mace, and cinnamon. Garnished with pears, dates, spice powder (ginger, cinnamon, grains of paradise, cloves, sugar) (Austin, pp 24-25 .Ciiij. Bolas)

Second Course
1) Hot Veal Pie: veal, parsley, sage, savory, basil, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, mace, white wine, egg, dates, ginger, salt and crust (flour, butter, water and salt) (Austin, pp 50-51 .xvj. Crustade.)
2) Roast Carrots and Parsnips: carrots, parsnips, olive oil, salt (Enrique de Aragon Villena Arte cisoria)
3) Almond rice: rice, almonds, water, sugar or honey (Austin, pp 22 .lxxxvj. Rys.)
4) Pig in Sage sauce: pig, sage, egg, vinegar, pepper, ginger, salt, and sage leaves fried in butter as a garnish. (Austin, pp 72 Pigge or chicken in Sage)
5) Sage Sauce: sage, ginger, galingale, cloves, eggs, and white vinegar (Austin, pp 28 .Cxvij. Sage.)
6) Mustard  (Furnivall, pp 164)
7) Lamb roast: lamb, dried cherries, red wine, salt, breadcrumbs, tarragon, oregano, thyme, mint, sorrel, basil, parsley, and rosemary  (Parzen, pp 50 How to prepare a fine roast)
8) Ginger sauce: breadcrumbs, vinegar, ginger, cinnamon (Ancient Cookery in Household Ordinances pp 441)
9) Creme Bustard contains: egg whites, milk, salt, cream, sugar, vinegar (Austin, pp 33 .Clj. Crème Bastarde.)
10) Wafers: unflavored gelatin, cheese, egg whites, flour, salt, sugar, ginger (Austin, pp 39. xxiiij Waffers.)

There was a third course of sweetmeats (sugared ginger, candied nuts, dried fruit and whatnot), served as they would have been served in the lord's chamber after the feast.

> What were the cooking facilities like? 

An ordinary church kitchen. Two domestic ovens/stovetops, a dishwashing station, a reasonable amount of counter space. Too darn hot.

> Did the guests have plates under their trenchers, or just the
> trenchers? 

Just the trenchers.

> What recipe was used for the trenchers,

I do not know. The 140-and-some trenchers were made by Master Wulfric of Criegul.
http://www.whirlwind-design.com/madbaker/demisun.html

> and to what size and shape were [the trenchers] cut?

About 4 inch squares.
 
> How many cups were available for the guests,

About 18, I think.

> and what were [the cups] made of? 

Mostly glass, a few ceramic.
Most were historic reproduction glassware purchased from the Northerner
http://www.northerner.com/html/scg-2_1.html
A few were made by Mistress Cassandra, and some were ceramic beakers made by me.

> Did they keep the cup with them throughout the feast, or did the 
> server wait for them to finish drinking and take it back?

Server waited and took it back to the butler's station where it was washed. We used a chemical sanitizer to clean them between uses.

> Where did you get enough reproduction spoons? 

The labor of many. Master Geoffrey Matthias hammered out some spoons, made molds and organized two casting parties. We finished about 70 spoons for use in the hall.

> What was the price for feast for the guests,

We ran the feast as a class at collegium, so we could limit the number of attendees and not run afoul of the SCA regulations concerning serving wine and ale. Class fee was $15, and included dinner, drinks, and class handout.

> and what was your total budget? 

Because we made or bought all of the tableware, serving ware, carving knives, pitchers, glasses, linens (under-table cloths, table cloths, surnape, napkins for guests, napkins for staff, towels for staff, hand washing towels, etc), basins and ewers for hand washing, and benches any number I give you will be deceiving.  Let's just say this feast has been my only hobby for last two years.

We were fortunate in that we had a generous sponsor for the food costs.

We fed 42 students/guests, staff of about 25 (some of the staff did not eat, hence the "about").

> Finally, how did it go?

Hard for me to say. I was a screaming madwoman pretty much all day. There's been some reviews on LiveJournal and I've asked the people who wrote them to send them to the Florilegium master. I've also sent him the class handout.
I think it went pretty well. The hall looked good, and most of the things I wanted to happen happened.
There were two pieces of furniture that should have been there, but were not. One was quite a disappointment and unfixable, the other we just substituted in another small table. Like a new choreography, our students/guests didn't know what was missing. :)

> Did it turn out as expected?

That's a harder question to answer. For me, the original idea of the feast was all about the table service, and how people in 1480s would have been served a meal. For this we held a lot of classes to teach our carvers the art of carving as we had interpreted it. We tried to figure out how meals were served. I think we succeeded in this goal.

As a secondary idea, I wanted the "stuff" on the tables to look as period as we could make it, so we spent a lot of time reproducing the material culture of the time. We tried for as English as we could get, but ended up filling in with some Spanish and a little Flemish influences. On the whole, I think we were successful here too. But if I had it to do over, I would _never_ ask my volunteers to hem linens by hand. I'm not a seamstress and I had no idea how long it takes to hem things.

Later, we got an energetic volunteer who wanted to make period benches for the guests to sit on. That worked really well and added a lot to the hall. But it required a significant compromise, the benches you see most people eating on are neither padded or backed. I knew from previous feast-hall experience people refuse to sit on backless benches. So while the benches we used were historically accurate, they are not the sort of benches you see in paintings of formal feasts. They are the sort of benches you see before the fire in domestic scenes. They are quite comfy, and break down so we can take them with us to future events.

Then another volunteer was all about clothing, and dressed nearly all of our Servers in appropriate late-15th century clothing. She also made many of the hand-washing towels and other linens. The bench-guy also hosted at least two hose-making workshops.

The feast was an interesting and worthwhile experiment. I hope some aspects of it, such as the hand washing, carving, white linens and one-side seating will be replicated at other small feasts. I do not think table service as we did it would be appropriate for larger feasts with required attendees. But we (as a test) served just the high table at a feast last fall, and that was very repeatable, as long as you have head-table-participants willing to play along.

I hope to write a Tournaments Illuminated article or perhaps a Compleat Anachronist in the next few months. 

regards,
Crystal of the Westermark


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