Banquet-Stufe-art - 11/17/07
A review by Jadwiga Zajaczkowa of the book, "'Banquetting Stuffe:' The fare and social background of the Tudor and Stuart banquet", edited by C. Anne Wilson.
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Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
Date: Thu, 5 Apr 2007 21:05:31 -0400
From: Jadwiga Zajaczkowa / Jenne Heise <jenne at fiedlerfamily.net>
Subject: [Sca-cooks] Another Leeds Symposium review
To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>, East Kingdom Cooks Guild <EKCooksGuild at yahoogroups.com>
'Banquetting Stuffe:' The fare and social background of the Tudor and Stuart banquet. edited by C. Anne Wilson. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1991)
This is, of course, papers from the first Leeds Symposium on Food History and Traditions. Knowing that the attendees got to consume a banquet in the Stuart style created by Peter Brears makes me retroactively jealous. But reading the book helps.
The Table of Contents:
Introduction: the Origin of 'Banquetting Stuffe', C. Anne Wilson
The Evolution of the Banquet Course: Some medicinal, Culinary, and Social Aspects, C. Anne Wilson
'Sweet Secrets' from Occasional Receipt to Specialised Books: The Growth of a Genre, Lynette Hunter
Rare Conceites and Strange Delightes: The Practical Aspects of Culinary Sculpture, Peter Brears
Bowers of Bliss: The Banquet Setting, Jennifer Stead
So, what, exactly, *is* 'banquetting stuffe'? Stuff to make a banquet. What's that? A banquet, according to the authors, has 2 meanings, one of which is "The special final course of [an opulent meal], comprising a wide variety of sweetmeats" (p.1-2) and often being moved to a separate venue, i.e. a 'banquetting house'. This appears to have developed from the spices, wafers and possibly fruits, eventually called a 'voidee,' provided at the end of 14th and 15th c. high-class meals. By 1600, banquets were served in a separate room from the main meal, to the higher ranking guests, and served a combined function of decorative subtlety and sweets course. Elements of the banquet included:
Marzipan and Marchpane
Sugar Plate items (including, in some cases, dishware)
Spice comfits & Kissing Comfits
Fruits (fresh and dried)
Fruit conserves, including wet and dry suckets, marmelades,
Cookie-biscuits, such as prince-biscuit and wafers
Doucettes and Daryols, and milk leaches & custards
Tarts with decorative covers"
Post-1600 additions seem to include:
Creams and butters of fruit, milk, etc.
Distilled cordials & waters
Wilson gives an excellent introduction to the topic, which is followed by Hunter's analysis of the development of cookbooks with banquetting-stuffe recipes, and the change from 'secrets' to general knowledge of candying and confectionery. For cooks, the heart-- and the stomach-- of the book will be Brears' section, where he discusses the nature of the banquetting stuffes, gives examples and 16th and 17th century recipes of each type, with redactions, followed by dishing instructions for each. Who could resist his description:
"The banquet course provided a unique opportunity for the display of culinary skills, artistic flair, theatrical effect, and sheer wealth. The combination of elaborate sculptural creations in sugar, with sweetmeats, fruit and nuts all highly finished either in naturalistic colours or gilded with gold leaf were the most magnificent assemblies of dishes ever to have been presented on English tables."
For those who like doing subtleties, the marchpanes are key: "In 1562 Queen Elizabeth's 'Surveiour of the Workes' gave her a marchpane bearing a model of St. Paul's Cathedral; while from Robert Hickes, Yeoman of the Chamber, came a 'very faire marchpane made like a tower, with men and artillery in it', and from her Master Cook, George Webster, a 'faire marchpane being a chessboarde'. Brears gives instructions for marchpane collops of bacon, sugarplate eggs, sugarplate ribbons, white gingerbread, and other decorative works. Cast sugar and sugarplate could be made in molds for decorative purposes, or even used for 'Plates, Dishes and Cuppes'. Brears gives a number of recipes for butters and creams such as almond butter, orange butter, pippin-cream, and sack-cream, though most recipes are well post 1600. The Jelly and leach recipes he gives are post-1600 also but we do have recipes for such stuffs from sources before 1600. He notes that decorative tops for tarts might be baked separately, and used to replace the tops the tarts were baked with. Jumbels, cracknels, and bisket bread, wafers and gingerbread recipes are addressed. Preserved fruits of all kinds, dry and wet suckets, etc. segue into plums made of cold-fashioned marmalade, prunes in syrup, and even lemon-skins filled with colored layers of aspic. Though the sweetened, dried cherries recipe he gives is post-period, there are a number of sweetened dried fruit recipes before 1600, and when else should they be served but in the banquet?
Also discussed here are the sucket-forkes and spoons (especially spoons with a sucket-fork on the end of the handle), the painted banquet plates (one ate off the plain back), the order of presentation. Which brings us to Stead's "Bowers of Bliss."
For those who are somewhat familiar with garden history, it's fascinating to find out that banqueting houses were probably used for these decorative dessert meals, and still more to realize that banqueting-rooms also appeared in towers and on roof-tops, especially in the 1600s. The bizarre case of the tree-house banqueting house at Cobham Hall, Kent, is mentioned as well as other garden locations. For Pennsic and other war venues, we could do worse than imitate this one: "Temporary banqueting houses could be made wholly of green and living stuff. Queen Elizabeth in the summer of 1560 gave a tournament for the entertainment of the French Embassy. She had had erected in Greenwich Park a banqueting house 'made with fir poles and decked with birch branches, and all manner of flowers both of the field, and of the garden; as roses, july flowers [gillyflowers/carnations], lavender, marygolds [calendula], and all manner of strewing herbs and rushes' wherein she gave a supper followed by a masque, and then a magnificent banquet." p. 126"
I suspect an experienced Sukkot-booth builder could be employed with advantage in this process, and it could be paired with the temporary garden described in Markham's English Husbandman. Apparently the more permanent banquet-houses might be used as part-time garden sheds, guest rooms, or assignation spots.
Stead also describes spice plates, spice trays, special spoons and forks, before moving onto the late night reresoper. and the sometimes outrageous behavior of the guests, including those at an entertainment in 1606 for the King of Denmark. This masque "ended with Victory slumped unconcious on the antechamber steps, while Peace cudgelled courtiers' heads with her olive branch..." The supposed aphrodisiac effects of the banquet ingredients are also detailed.
Reading about banquetting stuffe makes it plain that that enchanting depiction of a reresoper in Keat's "Eve of St. Agnes" is a type of banquet, so for anyone who's been entranced by
"While he from forth the closet brought a heap
Of candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd;
With jellies soother than the creamy curd,
And lucent syrops, tinct with cinnamon;
Manna and dates, in argosy transferr'd
From Fez; and spiced dainties, every one,
From silken Samarcand to cedar'd Lebanon.
These delicates he heap'd with glowing hand
On golden dishes and in baskets bright
Of wreathed silver: sumptuous they stand
In the retired quiet of the night,
Filling the chilly room with perfume light."
and would like to do something of the sort (like, oh, me) will be attracted to banquetting stuffe like a moth to a very sugary flame. In short, I am inspired to learn sugar-plate and marchpane and make up a banquet of my own.
-- Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, Knowledge Pika jenne at fiedlerfamily.net