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Just-a-Feast-art – 11/2/03


"Just a Feast" by Lady Katherine Rowberd. A report on an SCA event organized around just a feast.


NOTE: See also the files: feasts-msg, feast-menus-msg, Fst-Managemnt-art, headcooks-msg, Run-a-Feast-art, Handwashing-art, fst-disasters-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org

Date: Mon, 7 Apr 2003 16:47:36 -0400

From: Kirrily Robert <skud at infotrope.net>

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Just A Feast report (part 1/2: general report)


This Saturday just past, I had the pleasure of running my first event: "Just A Feast".  I was both autocrat and head cook, which was only possible because it was a small event and I had good staff.


The theme was, well, "just a feast".  No fighting, no fencing, no archery, no A&S displays, no competitions or quests, no court, no meetings... in short, just a feast.


My goal was to provide a really high-class, impressive evening.  We wanted everything to look beautiful, to have a lot of ceremony and pageantry, a heap of tasty and authentic food, and appropriate entertainments.


People arrived from 5pm onwards, to find a small hall lit by candlelight. Banners and wall hangings covered most of the modern stuff on the walls.  The tables were set in a U shape, covered with white tablecloths, sprinkled with rose petals, and set with bread and some of the first course.


Our guests made an effort to wear their finest clothes.  Since they didn't have to change after fighting, or worry about doing anything except sitting and looking beautiful, there were more elaborate outfits than are usually seen.  Although the event did not have a particular time period or place as its theme, the food was all Elizabethan and had been advertised as such, so many guests tried to dress to match that.  Even some of our most resolute T-tunic wearers borrowed something for the occasion.


When most of the guests had arrived, and our Baron had managed to get changed (he always seems to take his time at this), our Marshall of the Hall rapped her staff on the wooden floor and announced a ceremonial handwashing. The servers processed in, bearing bowls of scented water and linen towels, and everyone washed their hands and settled in for the start of the feast.


The first course consisted of mortis of chicken (a chicken-almond-rosewater spread for bread), liver pate (modified from a period recipe for liver pudding filling), pickled mushrooms and pickled dried figs, a sallet of asparagus, and peascods in lent (fried fruit-filled ravioli in the shape of pea pods).


[ It's probably worth noting at this point that although the dishes served were from period sources, the order of service was not... I had chosen a mostly modern way of arranging the first four courses, and I'm not sure how bizarre it would have seemed to an Elizabethan person. Each course we served was announced by the Marshall of the Hall, and brought in by a procession of servers.  The servers made a reverence to the high table, and presented the dishes for their approval, then served the food starting at the top of the hall and working down. ]


The peascods were immensely popular, and it's lucky that we'd made a lot of them.  We kept sending out plateful after plateful.  One of our servers came in, looking worried, and said that she'd been serving a table of mostly new people, and they were almost full already.  Uh oh. She tried to coach them to pace themselves, but they just weren't ready for it.


Second course consisted of boiled chicken with barberries and greens, carbonado of beef, two variations on a quelquechose with peas and with oysters, a cold sallet of cucumber and radishes, and a rice custard dish called a white pot.  The hit of this course was the beef, which was basically a kind of early 17th century barbecue.  We scored steaks in a criss-cross fashion, broiled them while basting with butter, and served them with a sauce containing orange juice and spices.  Also, at least  one marriage proposal was conveyed to the kitchen in response to the chicken dish.  The white-pot and quelquechose, however, were not as much eaten as we had hoped.  We assume that the diners had filled up on beef and chicken, and had no more room.


By this point our guests, even those who had paced themselves, were beginning to complain of being too full.  As they sat there rubbing there bellies, they were entertained by a local lady singing an Elizabethan ballad. In such a small hall, she was heard easily by everyone, and they paid attention without being forced... something seldom achieved at a larger feast.  There were also two dance performances: a Canario and a galliard/volta, by two couples from our canton.  I forget exactly when these dances were performed, but it was sometime during the first half of the evening.


The third course consisted of two plates of light food: one containing a herring salad (pickled herring fillets rolled around onions and herbs, with an oil and vinegar dressing) and hard boiled eggs with a mustard sauce, the other containing a layered sallet.  The layered sallet was extremely tasty, but looked a bit mysterious.  It contained a range of dried fruit (figs, raisins, currants), almonds, olives, capers, sage, spinach, oil, vinegar, sugar, and perhaps some other things I've forgotten.  All were chopped finely and mixed up, and served on a bed of lettuce on which orange and lemon slices had been arranged.  Despite its impressive presentation, the tastiest layer was perhaps just a little too mysterious for some diners.  One server suggested that the candlelight may have made it difficult to tell what it was, and that diners might have been a bit put off by the "black mess".  So we got quite a lot of leftovers of that one.  None of the kitchen staff complained, however, as we all found it really tasty.  And, to prove that we weren't the only ones, those diners who did attempt it declared it to be delicious.


While this light course was on the tables, the centre of the hall was used for general dancing.  The dances were Ballo del Fiore, the Black Almayn, Rufty Tufty, and Heart's Ease.  The latter three were taught briefly for the benefit of the newcomers, and the number of dancers on the floor exceeded the usual number seen at larger events in this kingdom.


The fourth course went out about an hour later, at 9pm.  It consisted of olaves of veal with a cinnamon/currant sauce, apple moye, pie meat (lamb with fruit, served in coffins), a herb tart, a warm sallet of spinach, and onions upon sops.  The veal disappeared almost instantly, and the lamb was also very well received though we did have leftovers.  The tart, spinach and onions, alas, returned to the kitchen with plenty still on the plates.  In most cases we believe this was because of the quantity of food already consumed, not because of any inherent fault in the food itself.  We did receive some comments, however, that the tart would have been better hot than cold. Unfortunately with our only oven dedicated to the veal, this was not possible. Luckily, our servers, kitchen staff, and some of the more discerning and practically minded diners made short work of the leftovers, which were in some cases eaten on the spot and in other cases sent home in ziplocs and tupperware containers.


More entertainments occurred during the fourth course, including a reading of poetry by Christopher Marlowe and two stories.


The final course was a banquet course of various sweet finger-foods, served from a side table while more dancing occurred.  We had not expected anyone to have much room left, but the way the dessert disappeared gives some credence to the theory that people have a separate "dessert stomach" which comes into use only after the main courses are finished.  For dessert we served a large fruit platter with strawberries, grapes, plums and pears; a trifle made with cream/sugar/rosewater/ginger and with wafers for dipping; small balls of marchpane, both spiced and unspiced; a date-leach, which looked like "sugared dog turds" according to one cook, but looked much less so when sliced and served with strawberries; prune tarts flavoured with rosemary; and bisket bread (a kind of aniseed-flavoured biscotti).  We also served a non-alcoholic hippocras, a hot drink of grape juice (soured with cranberry juice to taste more like wine), flavoured with honey and spices.


The trifle disappeared in an instant.  One moment it was there, the next it was gone.  If we make it again, we will make a bucketful, and have a server standing by to slop more into the bowl as it is emptied.  The prune tarts, which I was personally unhappy with because they had kind of exploded and leaked, looked fine in the candlelight and were all eaten.  The marchpane and date leach had only a few pieces left at the end.  The bisket bread was the only dish that didn't get eaten, but then I did put a lot of it out and it is the sort of thing you only have one piece of.  When I went around with the plate and said "if it doesn't get eaten, it'll get thrown out", our Exchequer grabbed a huge double handful to take home with her.


More dancing occurred at this point, with the Belle Qui pavane and galliard, Black Nag, Petit Vriens, and probably some others (I know what was on the dance list, but I'm not sure whether they were all danced.)


At 11pm, as the dancers finished the last repeat of Petit Vriens, we turned the hall lights on and began the cleanup.  We left the hall just after midnight, exhausted but pleased with how the evening had gone.


Early feedback included a report that the Baroness was worried that we've given the newcomers unrealistically high expectations, and they may now expect other feasts to be as good as this one.  The Baron, whose favourite food is KFC and who often has a burger stashed under the high table so he doesn't have to eat that weird medieval stuff, was seen to be digging into our food with gusto.  Some of the canton and baronial officers have warned me that I can expect to be asked to cook for more events in future.  And people I respect have compared my feast favourably with those done by some famous SCA cook whose name I can't remember... trust me, it was flattering at the time :)


So, overall, the event was a success.  We even appear to have made a tiny profit, despite having had a nasty snow/ice/etc storm on the day of the event.  Good thing we made everyone pre-pay!


Downsides: too much food, but not *way* too much.  I can probably reduce quantities by 10% safely.  And I think I should have arranged specific staff for a couple of tasks that I didn't originally think would need it (such as hall cleanup... it was a small hall, and not a very big task, but the rest of the staff were so tired that it would have been nice to have someone with energy in reserve.)


Now there's nothing left but some paperwork, and to start thinking about whether I want to hold another one of these next year.




Lady Katherine Rowberd (mka Kirrily "Skud" Robert)

katherine at infotrope.net  http://infotrope.net/sca/

Caldrithig, Skraeling Althing, Ealdormere



To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Just A Feast report (part 2/2: kitchen detail)

Date: Mon, 7 Apr 2003 18:00:25 -0400

From: Kirrily Robert <skud at infotrope.net>


OK, the second part of this report, just for the sca-cooks crowd who I know will want all the details (and photos).


First, an overall comment... I over-catered this feast somewhat.  We had too much food.  Now in part that was because attendance was down maybe 15% due to a snowstorm.  And it might also have been because we had a lot of newcomers who aren't used to pacing themselves and filled up on bread and stuff too early (I definitely noticed more leftovers coming in from the newcomer-heavy tables).  But I think I can probably still reduce my "gut instinct" catering amounts by about 10%.


And now, on with the dish-by-dish breakdown.  I'll do this in chronological order of service, which is as good an order as any.





Ordered from a local bakery.  Wanted them to do an approximation of manchet and cheat loaves, and the guy I spoke to originally seemed to understand what I wanted.  But in the final 2 weeks, when I called back to arrange the final details, that guy wasn't available and the other guy just kept stuffing around.  Didn't return my calls, raised the prices, and in the end the bread wasn't quite what I wanted.  Not *bad*, but not perfect either. Sigh.  We had about 1/4 of the bread left over at the end, which suggests I should reduce the amount I buy next time.


Mortis of chicken


Straightforward recipe... boil chicken, chuck it in the food processor with some almonds and rosewater, blend to mush, serve.  We served it in little pate ramekin things.  It went over OK, but I had one person who wandered into the kitchen later and asked "what the hell was that? Someone told me it was hummus, but it wasn't!"  She didn't dislike it, it was just that she'd got rather a shock when she'd tasted it.  We had too much of this dish, but we knew that would happen because we gave the precook person 2 whole chickens when we really only needed 1 or 1.5 ... it was one of those "just to be on the safe side" situations, and we were safer than necessary.  So we ended up with 8 ramekins of the stuff, when we only needed 5.


Liver pate


Took the recipe from "liver puddings" from the florilegium. I liked it a lot, but I'm glad I didn't make a whole lot of it because I don't think it would have been eaten.  In general I think the spreads (this one and the mortis) were a little under-eaten because there were more interesting appetizers and people didn't want to fill up on bread.


Pickled mushrooms


Used the recipe from Fettiplace that was posted here a while back. The problem with pickles is that you can't tell in advance how they will turn out.  I didn't like these very much, I found that the nutmeg was rather strong and the wine tasted a bit funny.  But everyone else liked them much more than I did, and I don't think a single shroom came back to the kitchen, so *shrug*.


Pickled figs


I used a modern recipe for pickled dried figs, and just omitted the allspice (I put in some mace instead).  Basically it was a sweet pickle with white wine vinegar and sugar and cinnamon and cloves and mace. Very tasty. Everyone loved them, no leftovers.


Sallet of asparagus


Blanched asparagus with an oil and vinegar dressing.  Used balsamic vinegar; not sure if that's period or not.  Anyone know?  We served this and the figs on one platter together.


Peascods in lent


Little fruit-filled fried ravioli sort of things.  We used a modern pasta recipe intended for fried ravioli, which had basically the same ingredients as the period recipe... it just gave us the quantities.  The filling was dates, raisins, spices, and some OJ to moisten it all.  We fried them in canola oil.  These were *very* well received.  We made plenty and just kept sending them out.  They fried quickly, so this worked fine for a feast of under 50 people.  Had to serve them on a bed of lettuce leaves with some fruit garnish, though, so they didn't look like "a mound of little greasy things" (in the words of the guy doing the frying).


Carbonado of beef


The butcher gave us more meat than we originally needed, but I thought "what the hell, it'll be popular" ... and it was.  Only problem was, I think we filled everyone up with big steaks!  We had a bank of electric frying pans going for this dish, with two people turning the steaks and basting them with butter and stuff.  There were a few leftovers, but not many.  We had originally wanted to make this dish with venison, but it was more expensive and tougher, so we switched to beef instead.


Boiled chicken


The original recipe specified sorrel and barberries, but we couldn't get either so we substituted collard greens and cranberries (see earlier discussion on sca-cooks about this).  We didn't have much stove space, so we boiled the chicken early and stuck it in 3 large crockpots on "low" until it was almost time to serve, then added the greens.  Having it in the crockpots so long meant the chicken was literally falling off the bones.  On the one hand, yum!  On the other hand, ick, all those little bones.  We'd got chicken quarters for 69c/lb and cut them up into single-portion pieces, so there were lots of funny little bones in the stew by the time it went out.  The flavour came out great, though, and it's a very colourful dish too.  Got some compliments on that one.




A rice custardy thing from The English Housewife.  We (the cooks) like it a lot, but we got lots of leftovers.  I think this might be in part because the containers we served it in had lids, and they went out with the lids on, so people couldn't really "see" the dish and it didn't register on their radars.  Note to self: next time, instruct servers to remove lids.


Quelquechose with peas, and with oysters


Made two versions of this scrambled-egg type dish.  Our baroness is deadly allergic to oysters so we didn't serve that one to high table at all. Had a funny incident which we now refer to as "oyster surprise" ... I had been telling everyone for weeks NOBODY TOUCH THE OYSTERS EXCEPT ME!  I didn't want the Baroness dying on us.  The dish was to be mixed in a bright red (for "danger") bowl, and there were all these other precautions so that not the merest smidgen of oyster would get anywhere else.  Anyway, I left the oysters out of the mix til almost the last minute, to reduce the risk.  So I'm almost due to fry it up, and I go looking for the oysters.  Where are they? Are they in the fridge... no.... in a cooler? ... no... so in the end we had about 3 people running around trying to find these two little half-pint containers of oysters, looking under tables where we'd stored stuff, in my backpack, everywhere... we were just at the point of declaring the dish to be "oyster surprise... Surprise, there's no oysters!" when someone found we'd left the oysters in the car.  Sigh.  Anyway, we got some leftovers back but not a ludicrous amount, if I recall correctly.  And one person came into the kitchen at "half time" and took away a tupperware full of leftovers, including quite a bit of quelquechose, so that was good :)


Sallet of cucumbers and radishes


When I'd gone to the greengrocers, they had smallish cucumbers and really nice radishes in bunches.  I put in my order based on that.  But when I went to pick it up, the cucumbers were bigger and they'd given me bags of radishes not bunches.  Well, this meant we had at least 50% more cucumber sallet than originally intended.  But what the hell, I figured, and sent it out.  So of course we had heaps of leftovers.  I took home a big tubful that's approximately equal to that 50% extra.  Good thing I *really* like cucumber salad... though I might change my mind about that by the end of the week :)


Sodde eggs


Picked up the recipe off the florilegium.  We liked it a lot. However, I think I made the sauce and poured it on a little too far in advance, as it kinda congealed.  It wasn't bad, and I don't think anyone minded, but I would have preferred that it hadn't.


Sallet for fish days


This was basically home-made rollmops.  We used pickled herring fillets, sweet onions, and parsley sprigs, and dressed it with a balsamic vinaigrette. Seems we didn't have many herring fans there, as we had quite a few leftovers. I think those leftovers could have been diminished if the servers had distributed them to the tables that had eaten all their herring already.  I have noticed that people who like herring, *really* like herring, and will eat other peoples' servings if given the chance.  Anyway, about 1/4 to 1/3 of what we'd sent out came back to us, and the resident herring fiend in the kitchen was unable to eat them all.  I was shocked.


Layered sallet


I really really liked this one, and it's gone over really well in test dinners and other taste tests.  It's olives, capers, currants, figs, raisins, sage, spinach, oil, vinegar, sugar, and perhaps some other things I've forgotten... all the ingredients are chopped up and mixed together into a dark blackish mess, and then layered in a salad with various other stuff.  Our salad was fairly cut down from the original version, with just lettuce leaves then slices of orange and lemon then this mixture then some more orange and lemon for garnish.  Anyway, I think some people tasted it but overall people didn't eat as much as we had thought they would.  One of the servers suggested this might be because it was a bit too "mysterious"... a black mess, that you can't really see what's in it.  I guess that's fair enough.  I did get some good reviews of it, though... apparently one guy at high table had looked at it kinda funny, and someone said "go on, taste it" and then once he'd tasted it he grabbed the plate and wouldn't let the servers take it away til he finished it.  Anyway, had some leftovers but not a ludicrous amount, and one of our cooks loved the stuff so she was more than happy to take it home!


Olaves of veal


One of the best dishes of the feast.  We served them on long skewers, about 8 olaves to a skewer, on an oval platter with sauce poured over. Disappeared in a flash.  The cinnamon and currant sauce turned out the best we've ever done.  Not much more to be said.


Apple moye


We served this with the olaves of veal because they just seemed to go together well.  It was well-received.  Not much else to say about it, really.


Pie meat


This dish is basically minced lamb with fruit and OJ and spices, served in a coffin.  It went over pretty well, but I think it was rather rich and people didn't eat a lot of it.  I got one of the less experienced kitchen staff to cook it as it was quite a simple recipe, and she put the orange zest garnish into the dish instead of leaving it aside as a garnish.  So it turned out much more orangey than originally intended. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't quite how it was originally meant to be. But nobody knew except me.


Herb tart


Probably the big failure of the feast, if anything was.  It was a perfectly good herb tart, but it seems that nobody was in the mood for it when it went out.  Also, we served it cold, and I think people expected it to be hot, and when they put it in their mouths they were like "eep, it's cold, I wasn't expecting that!"  We saw lots of half-eaten slices in the voiders at the end of this course.  Sigh.


Spinach sallet


The greengrocer gave us bags not bunches, so I think we had about 35% more spinach than we originally planned.  The dish turned out perfectly well, but the amount we sent out, coupled with the diners' fullness by this stage, meant we got quite a bit back again.


Onions upon sops


Again, the dish was fine, but the diners were full.  I think everyone tasted it and most liked it, but by this stage they just didn't have room for much more.  We didn't feel bad throwing a pile of it out, though... onions are cheap.




This is whipped cream with rosewater, ginger, and sugar.  We whipped about 750mL to make a largish bowlful of trifle, and served it with store-bought "pizzelle" wafers.  It disappeared so quickly I was astonished.  One minute it was there, the next minute it had gone.  If we do this again, we'll make a bucketful.


Fruit platter


Well received, no comments really apart from "presentation is everything"... one of our kitchen staff was also the hall decorator, and she really has a flair for making stuff look great.


Bisket bread


Those who'd had it before, knew what it was ang made sure they got some. Those who hadn't had it before probably thought it looked boring.  Had some leftovers, which one of the diners took home with her.  I would have made less, but one batch isn't really very much to make and goes a very long way and keeps well, so I figured what the hell.




We just made little marzipan balls, about 1/2" across.  We had plain marzipan and spiced.  They didn't all get eaten, but most did.


Date leach


aka "sugared dog turd".  Looks much better sliced.  Tastes wonderful coupled with a slice of strawberry.  It was all eaten, especially after people discovered the strawberry trick.


Prune tarts


These were an experiment.  I made tiny little prune tarts in a mini-muffin tray.  The prune filling was basically a jam I'd made earlier, flavoured with rosemary and cinnamon and rosewater.  When I put it into the shells and put them in the oven to bake a bit more, they kind of went all bubbly and exploded a bit.  I was pretty unhappy with them.  But when I got them on a tray with rosemary branches all around in a kind of garnish/wreath, and they were out there on the banquet table by candlelight, they looked just fine.  And they all got eaten up, so they can't have been too bad.


Non-alcoholic hippocras


It took longer to warm than expected, so it went out a little late, after the rest of the dessert dishes.  So we had lots left over.  But those who had it say they really liked it and want the recipe.



More general comments


The kitchen operated pretty smoothly.  We had 1 domestic-style stove, but it was a good one: gas, large, etc.  There were two fridges, one of which had glass doors, which was nice.  Table and bench space was at a premium, but it wasn't *too* bad.  The movement around the sink was a little crowded and chaotic, which was a bit of a pain.


The overall schedule was effective.  Things happened in the timescale they were meant to happen in.  My estimates of how long things would take were mostly correct, give or take a few minutes.


We had some minor staffing emergencies on the day, including a minor car accident on icy roads which led to two pre-cook staff being very delayed, but we worked around it OK.


I had the "Folder of Doom" (renamed "Folder of Destiny" by the kitchen hands) with all the information in it in great detail: recipes, schedules, inventories, serving notes, allergy information, ingredients lists, etc.  This worked out really well.  I was happy with it.



So, yeah, my overall notes and reminders to myself are:


1. reduce estimates by 10%, especially on non-meat dishes


2. never let a vendor sell you more than you wanted... if the cucumbers are bigger, or they give you bags instead of bunches, send some back.


3. delegate a specific person to be in charge of the inventory of the canton cooking gear... it's a pain to do when you're tired and worn out from cooking all day


4. bring more disposable bags and containers for leftovers, so people can take stuff home without having to worry about returning tupperware etc.



Oh, and for those who want photos... here are some from one of the test dinners: http://infotrope.net/album/?dir=/camera/2003-02-15 I'll post some from the event itself in a day or two, when I've got them all in one place.




Lady Katherine Rowberd (mka Kirrily "Skud" Robert)

katherine at infotrope.net  http://infotrope.net/sca/

Caldrithig, Skraeling Althing, Ealdormere



To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org

Date: Fri, 11 Apr 2003 11:06:10 -0400

From: Kirrily Robert <skud at infotrope.net>

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Just A Feast recipes, reports, photos


I've just updated the Just A Feast website with a full collection of

recipes, some photos, and reports of the event.






Lady Katherine Rowberd (mka Kirrily "Skud" Robert)

katherine at infotrope.net  http://infotrope.net/sca/

Caldrithig, Skraeling Althing, Ealdormere


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org