Fst-Managemnt-art - 7/22/01
"Feast Management" by Lady Eden Blacksmith.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set
of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at:
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be
reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first
or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris
AKA: Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
Originally published in the Renaissance Web Magazine (www.rencentral.com)
By Lady Eden Blacksmith
In my minds eye I see a large feast hall with a huge fire pit in the middle,
pigs roasting over it, the sweet smell of rushes under foot, the sound of a
harpist in the corner, course after course of phenomenal food served to
delight and amaze, people laughing and talking, political intrigue in each
raise of a glass, as I return to my kitchen the size of a house with a staff
of a 100 to get things ready for the next day when feasting will began
again. Alas, I do not have a such accommodations, instead I like you will
produce a Medieval Feast with modern resources. The Medieval Feast can be
the most period inspiring aspect of what we do. It is the Feast Manager who
uses the realty of today to shape the illusion of the past. By taking a
professional approach to the management of a feast it is easier to produce
your Medieval Feast dream.
Many factors go in to producing a Medieval Feast. Decisions must be made on
to what type of feast it is, budget, theme, menu and overall resources. By
looking at the individual components the Feast Manager will be able to
decide the best course of auction.
Type of Feast -
In Door: A site survey must be done to determine size and resources. An in
door feast will provide the opportunity for better preparation,
convenience, safety (food temperature control, traffic in kitchen...), and
decorating needs. However, careful consideration must be given to size and
or cooking limitations.
Out Door: An outdoor site must be compatible to menu. It offers more
challenges in that all kitchen aspects must be brought to the site. The
important thing is to be able to adapt the menu to outside site limitations.
Buffet: A Buffet is not a feast.
Served: The challenge of this type of serving is having enough servers and
the space to allow the servers to move in and out efficiently.
Mixed Buffet or Family Style: In my opnion this is the best way to go. The
food is brought out on platters and they take what they want. This allows a
maxim number of people to be served with very few servers.
High Table: If there is a High Table have two servers dedicated to it. Serve
High Table same food as populace.
By having a theme menu planning will be much easier, as will entertainment
and decorating needs.
The theme not need be elaborate, having two main colors, or type of flower
will give the Feast Manager an outline to start from.
There are fundamentally three ways a menu can be: Totally period, a mix of
period and modern, not even close to period. My suggestion is to do a mix
bring in elements of period with period style dishes. Eel was a popular
period dish, however having it as a main course would not be wise, instead
serve a smaller quantity so that people can taste it. Have enough non-meat
courses, yet keep in mind that to most people a feast is meat Please,
remember dessert this can truly be a moment to delight and astonish the
populace. Keep in mind food allergies, but you will not be able to appease
everyone so list all ingredients on the menu. It is a great idea to post
menu with ingredients before the feast. By having a variety of courses you
can reduce the amount of each course, have enough different dishes to
appease everyone, and leave your populace stuffed to the brim.
My Exchequer will not approve an unlimited feast budget, if yours will than
congratulations. Many factors go into the budget: cost of hall, food,
non-food items (printing,, trash bags, wood, etc...). Most feasts can be
planned for 100 people. Feast cost is number of people divided by budget,
or another way of looking at it is if you have $250.00 than that works out
to $2.50 per person. If you charge a $5 feast fee than you have about
$500.00 to use for the over all feast cost (including rental of hall, food
and everything else.) When planning the budget determine what your actual
food cost will be after everything else is planned for, this will allow you
to plan the menu. A 60lb sucking pig will cost about $200.00, while 60lbs
of pork ribs will cost about $60.00. By knowing how much you have you can
change the menu to meet the demands of your Exchequer, while keeping the
favor of your design.
Overall Resources -
Look to your group resources while planning a feast, what donations can you
hope to receive. Would other members have items such as pots and pans, white
Christmas lights, ladles, tablecloths, trash bags, a cup of sugar, a pinch
of cinnamon, could a member make breads, or butter dips. The point is let
others play also, most people would love to have the opportunity to help,
but do not know how. Maybe the perfect center piece for the High Table is
sitting collecting dust in somebody garage. Cut cost by letting someone
donate a box of cornstarch, or by having a Household do the dessert. Call
around to Food Vendors asking for a donation or a cost break. We are a
non-profit organization and we have a non-profit tax id number (check with
your Seneschal and Exchequer). A word of caution there is a difference
between a donation and borrowing an item, be sure and have people mark the
items they want returned. Let the children help at feast by taking a around
trash bags (Alms for the Poor).
Some Advice -
One of the best teachers are failure: here are words of wisdom from those
who have been there:
Have the mother of all lists, go to the bathroom to clam down if you start
thinking of poisoning the soup, have a lot of meetings, plan for your death;
the feast must go on, have someone in charge of you making sure you eat and
drink, feed your servers and cooks snacks, have extra money for the day,
plan on it raining, when called up to Court thank your help, do not let
children, dogs, fly away long hair or smoking take place in your kitchen (I
have seen it done), have a thermometer (hot 140 and up, cold 40 and below),
you can never have to much ice, dress to cook, take breaks, first aid box,
do not find out how the kitchen works the day of the event, have a schedule;
enforce it, post the menu, the cooks schedule, the servers schedule, the
ingredient list, the recipes, the entertainment schedule where they can be
found in case you die, let the Royalty know what time feast is, test the
recipe twice, do not store others feast gear, have a place for the populace
to wash up (not in the kitchen) , only people who need to be in the kitchen
should be in the kitchen, do not scream at people who have knives.
The Feast Manager is the director, producer and artist of the feasting
experience. It is the Feast Manager who takes us back in time with the
sites, sounds, smells and tastes of the Middle ages at the same time all
preparation , expense and product must take place in this reality. The
Feast Manager can be compared to the contemporary restaurateur, except for
the fact that the restaurant is not open all the time, no ongoing staff,
limited supplies, equipment and the location changes places. The comparison
lies in that each must have a plan of operation, must be organized, the job
must fit the person and your customers have top priority.
Customers, yes I said customers for the participates of the feast have paid
for entertainment, atmosphere, service and food. The Feast Manager is
responsible for the overall feast experience, it is a large responsibility.
To assist the Manager there are supportive roles that must be filled, having
these positions filled will prove to be an invaluable relief. But, please
remember the right person for the job.
Head Cook -
In most cases this should not be the Feast Manager. The Head Cook is
responsible for securing, training and overseeing their cooking staff , any
preparation and cooking the meal. The Head Cook along with the Feast
Manager works to balance a menu that meets the requirements of space,
supplies, equipment, time and cost of the feast. It is also a good idea to
have a timed Cooks schedule; what time should the roast be put in, be sure
and schedule a break. How many prep cooks the Head Cook as depends on size
of feast, kitchen and cook. A word of caution just because someone is a
great cook for a family of four does not mean there are ready to oversee a
meal for a hundred.
Head Server -
The Head Server is responsible for acting as the go between the cooks and
servers. It can become very confusing and upsetting to have more than one
voice asking for this and wanting that. In most cases the servers are not
from the site and have stepped in a the last minute to help. The Head
Server will know the feast, the site, table arraignments and serving needs.
The Head Server will work with Feast Manger and Head Cook to correlate
serving needs. Work with all parties to make sure that servers do not
interfere with entertainment. I would also suggest that Head Server work
with Feast Manager and Entertainment Director on set-up for the feast hall.
Entertainment Director -
What makes a Medieval Feast a true out of time experience is the atmosphere.
The Entertainment Director schedules entertainers, arranges for lighting,
decoration, background music. Correlate with the Head Server when something
is coming out, plan the entertainers around the food, having a singer
performing while servers are serving is rude. The Entertainment Director
might be in charge of printing menus, advertisement and Heralding the Feast.
Head of set-up and tear down crew -
This person will be in charge of arraigning for helpers to move tables and
chairs and any other labor work needed for set up and tear down. This person
will schedule dishwashers for the Head cook. They will arrange for any other
labor or cleaning needs.
Managing a feast can be fun. All it takes is careful planning, adapting to
the situation as it arrives, letting everyone do their job, maintaining
control, and do not forget to smile. There will be things you would have
done different, there will be things you will do again, but no matter what;
there will be one precious moment when you will see your Medieval Feast
Dream come true.
A Small Reference List -
Black, Maggie. THE MEDIEVAL COOKBOOK. Thames & Hudson. 1992
Buxton, Moria. MEDIEVAL COOKING TODAY. The Kylin Press. 1983
Cinqueterr, Berengario delle. THE RENAISSANCE COOKBOOK. The Dunes Press.
Cosman, Madeliene Pelner. FABULOUS FEASTS. George Brazlier. 1976 (Not the
Hammond, P.A. FOOD AND FEAST IN MEDIEVAL ENGLAND. Alan Sutton. 1993
Renfrow, Cindy TAKE A THOUSAND EGGS OR MORE, VOLS 1 & 2.
Tannahill, Reay. FOOD IN HISTORY. Stein and Day.1973
Wilson, C. Anne. FOOD AND DRINK IN BRITAIN From the Stone Age to Recent
Times. Penguin. 1984.
Copyright 2000 by Eden Blacksmith, 1730 Gates, Kingman, AZ 86401.
<Edenblacksmith at hotmail.com>. Permission is granted for republication in
SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a