Warners-art - 6/29/98
Warners by Honour Horne-Jaruk (Alizaunde, Demoiselle de Bregeuf). (Warners are disguised food. Sotelties are sculptures made from edible ingredients but not always intended to be eaten or even safe to eat)
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Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
From: una at bregeuf.stonemarche.org (Honur Horne-Jaruk)
Date: Sun, 09 Jan 94 19:55:17 EST
Summary: list of suggestions for disguised foods
So. Lyndeboro, N.H. 03082
This is about warners (disguised food), as opposed to
sotelties (Sculptures made from edible ingredients, not always
intended to be eaten or even safe to eat.)
If it doesn't look like (or at least doesn't look much like)
what it is, and you can eat it, it's a Warner. Some Warners look
like other foods, some like nothing even imaginably terrestrial.
Mine aren't even close to as weird as they get. Go wild; it's
harmless, fun and cheap (Or at least, no more expensive than it
would have been to serve the same ingredients in modern guise.).
Just remember- If it SMELLS Blue-plate-special-at-the-local-
diner normal, they'll try it even if you make it LOOK weird; the
stranger it smells, the more normal it has to look. Pay attention
to the basics, they matter too. Hot things HOT, cold things COLD,
bread ROUND, pies RECTANGULAR.
(Those last act like Warners in the modern eye, though to
our personae they would be perfectly normal. Bread used to be
round because Iron-poor europe didn't bake bread in pans, and if
you stick a plain lump of yeast dough in an oven it just
automatically goes round. Pies were rectangular-- which explains
the funereal `make a coffyn of paste ' you keep seeing in the old
receipts-- because with the thick walls necessitated by panless
pies, a long, narrow shape cooked more evenly. Round pies appear
to be colonial US in origin; supposedly, some harried lady got
sick of the fighting over the end crusts and baked a round one in
a spare skillet. No ends, no argument. Bread pans seem to be even
Don't worry too much about the Royals, they're worrying
about court, and not paying attention to more than 1/3 of the
feast, and won't be back anyway; play to the Pigman- he's staying
around. (We hope. And the more he likes what he sees, the
The above is not intended to insult Royals; it's meant to
emphasize the importance of rank-and-file. Anyone who really
needs to find it insulting may, of course, do so.
One critical serving piece needs to be made (Don't think it
can be bought, sorry!) ahead; the Great Big Tray (GBT). Make it
slightly narrower than a door- buying a door with one damaged
side from a lumberyard, then cut two inches off the long edge,
works well. Don't use Marine Plywood- Very nasty chemicals!
Whatever you start with, add a one-half inch raised edge all
around the top. (To stop drips. You knew that, right?)
Buy or make holders to bolt underneath, two by two by two,
sized for oak closet poles. You have to be able to slide the
poles in after you get the GBT through the kitchen door.
Paint all surfaces the food will touch with FOOD GRADE
polyurethane. The label has to say `Safe for Kitchen counters' or
some equivalent thereof. Satin- finish looks least plastic, if
you can get it.
In no order whatsoever except main-ingredient groupings:
1:Bone them out from the inside- it takes about twenty tries
to become competent, so practice at home every time you need
poultry for anything boneless. (Joy of Cooking, available at most
large libraries, has detailed instructions.) Then shape them with
stuffing so that they look like normal roast chickens. Great fun
if each table carves its own; they go NUTS...
2:Or re-shape them so they DON'T look like chickens...heh
3:Drumsticks cooked standing up and served in some battle
formation- especially good for fighter-type Kings. By the way,
round slices of very large turnips, parsnips, et al. make good
shields for these fellahs, though I would only bother with the
side and front ranks. A sufficiently deft pastrycook could make
`helms ' to be added for the last twenty minutes of cooking...
4:Boneless breast sliced paper thin and simmered as "Chicken
noodles"-AWFUL pun when it's soup, takes them several minutes to
get it. Good make-ahead dish.
5:Boneless breasts baked overlapping to form `scales ' over
an upside-down oval steel- change the sauce and it's the back of
a dragon, an anteater from Africa, or something mythical (don't
call it Mermaid's tail, though; you'll never hear the end of it
from obnoxious single fighters. Live and Learn.). Good only for
big ovens, and don't nest different-size bowls for cooking,
because parts won't. NEVER try to `cheat ' by using hardware-
cloth or chicken-wire frames, either; giving your guests heavy-
metal poisoning effects your reputation.
6:You can do this with pre-cooked breasts for any recipe
that tastes good cold; but there'll be meat wasted by trimming
the `scales ', so plan someplace to use it. It does allow for
much bigger beasts, though...
7:Boneless thighs tucked tightly into flat pans so they have
round tops make a convincing cobblestone road. They work well with
drumstick soldiers for marching scenes.
8:If you have one planned , skin-on necks make great sea
snakes for a nautical Warner. Do cook them, some starveling
always eats them.
9: For a candlelit feast: make a Cockentrice. Buy the big-
gest, brightest live rooster you can find. Have the live-poulterer
`stick ' it instead of wringing its neck, so that the feathers
aren't damaged. Cut off the entire tail assembly when you draw
and clean it and have your children's guild make the archers a
popinjay. (They used the tail for a second Warner; but then, they
Also buy a whole, headless Boston Bluefish. Have the fish-
monger scale it for you; by candlelight the skin looks fine and
you don't need the hassle. Use coathanger wire threaded up the
windpipe to pose the rooster as if it were crowing. the tail
armature has to be REALLY sturdy.
Nestle the cut end of the bluefish under the feathers so it
looks like one continuous animal. Pose on the GBT with the tail
flipped nice and high. Use greens to make `water ' and hide the
slit where they gutted the fish. If you ordered the fish for Sat.
morning pickup and transported and stored it on ice, it's fresh
enough to be boned afterwards and served as Fyshe in a Paste; use
lots of Hyssop and seal that fish TIGHT. If no air gets in there
will be no fishy smell and people who barely tolerate canned tuna
will eat it.
The chicken backs are fit only for soup.
10:Not a Warner exactly but great theater- pile the birds
all steaming on your Great Big Tray (GBT) and haul 'em to high
table in a heap. More visual impact and they stay warmer. Also
works for hams, roasts, anything that looks impressive grouped.
(Pies don't, and I don't know why.) Portioning meat into one-
table servings in the kitchen should be reserved for things that
can't be portioned fairly by the servers, it's not how they
normally did it and the food gets cold faster in small lots.
11:Even if you cook little chickens/gamehens in the oven,
consider serving them on swords. The crowd goes wild. Clean the
As above if you're that rich, but who is?
12:Empty out bones as for chicken #1, then stuff with a
boned duck, stuffed with a boned capon, stuffed with a boned
chicken, stuffed with a boned guineafowl, stuffed with a boned
Everybody I know who's had this fail made one of three
mistakes-- Didn't bone them (argh, how gross); Cooked them at
350 degrees F(they're too dense- outside burnt, inside raw. Use
275 F and baste like h---.); or forgot the Theater of it. All that
work does no good if nobody can tell you did it. You're putting
spices in this, right? And it gets cooked slowly, so all the
spices mingle before it's done cooking, right? Divide your spices
by color and rub each bird with a different color before nesting
them. Then, when your carver unlaces it (On a small table in
center hall, down at the Commons level though facing High Table)
everyone sees the layers color-coded and knows just how clever
you've been. Heh Heh Heh...
13:Another cockentrice: suckling pig is tougher to make than
it looks and not as impressive as you hope. Save it for a King
who specifically asks, and then get the youngest, smallest one
you can. Clean it through the neck hole after removing the head
and forelegs; damage the anus as little as possible. Scrub
piggy with soap and water and a little bleach both before and
after cleaning, and keep it buried in ice in the fridge till
the last second.
Prepare a rooster as in #9, above. Assemble the same way.
Carry it out first thing first course as soon as the
lights are low, trot the Cockentrice around the room and
disappear it. In summer the rooster makes cock-a-leekie and the
Piglet's rear gets boned and simmered for meat pie. The risk,
even though it's slight, that the handling has raised the
bacteria count makes roasting either half unsafe. Kingie gets
the head end.
14:See numbers nine and thirteen, above. Combine techniques
from both to produce a Sea-boar-- Pig front, fish back. It's much
harder to hide the join; do some research ahead and you can
choose a fish whose (scaled) skin is colored similarly to your
chosen piglet. If you're serving 500 and they LIKE fish, do all
three for a no-waste triumphal procession of Warners Rampant.
Bone-in: Use your sturdiest servers and pile 'em high,
especially for a dark ages bunch. The worst that can happen is
they'll start looking for Obelix.
15:Cooked cold ham is excellent carving material for winter
feasts- do the work outdoors and refrigerate immediately, of
course. Have your carver wear butcher's gloves (welded steel
mail! Yeesh!) because he'll get clumsy fast, and have him wash
his hands every three-four minutes; he's probably touched his
nose and his hands need warming up anyway.
There's something so endearing about watching the Royals
'reduce' a ham castle...
16:(If the ham is served at lunch, or in the first course)
Since the small end bits get dried out in the oven anyway, trim
them beforehand and simmer them separately. Add the scraps from
the carver. Grind them up with some ham fat- this is a judgment
call, it should just barely stick together- and spices. Use to
make pinwheel bread. Until they take that first bite, they'll
think it's grandma's cinnamon buns... Heh Heh Heh
17:Somebody suggested buying a spiral-cut ham to pull out
into a ham slinky and stuff with soft filling (ground cheese-and
boiled-onion?).Don't know if it's period but those It. Ren. Types
did get peculiar sometimes, it might be.
18:Haven't tried it; I think I'd use all those lovely thin
slices as shingles on an onion-bread guildhall, cemented on with
spiced mustard... Hmmm... Great Big GBT?
Doesn't carve worth squat unless it's oldstyle block salt
beef, and then what do you do with it afterwards?! But it's the
best for molded chopmeat (hamburger, ground pork, ground lamb,
etc.) things. If you order ahead or haunt the sales you can get
20% or less fat and it's worth it, any higher fat content and it
slumps out of shape in the baking. Don't do anything with narrow
little stick-out bits, they turn to leather. You need to baste it
anyway so color the sauce and double the fun.
19:This is a dumb one and MUST be done ahead. But it's fun
dumb. I did it to a Knight who I knew for a fact could not carve.
Have someone slice into lovely thick restaurant pieces a really
big, very rare, stone cold roast. (Now you know why you do it
ahead.) Reassemble it into a whole roast and hold it together
with cheesecloth. At the Hall reheat and baste like crazy. For
some reason, once it's hot it sticks back together enough that
you can remove the cheesecloth VERY CAREFULLY (you did put the
open edges of the cloth on the bottom? Good!) and hustle it to
your intended victi- carver. Have the herald announce so
everyone's watching. He touches the knife to the roast and it
'slices itself '. heh heh heh...
20: This is the real budget-breaker and you may need two
GBTs- that's twelve people just to carry, be warned. Buy a saddle
(the entire ribcage!) of beef, one of pork, one of lamb, one of
piglet, one of turkey (OK you buy the whole turkey and carve out
the saddle yourself, same for geese and duck and capon and
chicken and...) Skin them and cook them all absolutely drowned in
red sweet basting sauce (red oranges being rare hereabouts, I
used honey, frozen OJ and food coloring; should have been beet
juice but my guests...) If you got the sizes right you assemble a
"dead dragon" (He's on his back and cut open, with 'entrails'
made of appropriate colors of sausages.) The pastrycook does the
head and legs, dyed red, and displayed by candlelight it's a
marvel to be spoken of in whispers. I only got up to the piglet,
but it was a hire feast long ago- a Coronation could do the
whole-ah-Worm? Only problem is I can't imagine any way to have it
hot when you carry it out, we took it back and dismembered for
21:there's a way to prepare beef so that it looks and smells
like redder, ranker horsemeat, but even for a Pagan Irish King
I ain't touching that. (People eat my feasts and I want it
to stay that way.) Here goes: sanders, wild leek and aesofeodita;
cut the beef in fist-sized chunks and simmer. I've never tried it
and have no opinion, good luck.
(Baroness Arastorm the Golden says she would serve
(Aesofeodita, according to Balian FitzGilbert, is
appallingly rank and could ruin moonrock, leave be food. He also
claims grass-fed horsemeat is sweet and tasty.)
22:Cook a whole (but skinned and gutted) weanling lamb in
`sleeping' pose. As soon as it's out of the oven grab the shaker
of lightly toasted, white-pepper spiced flour you had ready and
dust it white before serving. (If you wanted you could add any
other white spice, I guess.) I'm allergic to sheep meat and
obviously haven't tried this but I think you'll want to add
pastry ears, or a whole face even. The skull would look gross
elsewise. This would be good for an Easter or Passover theme
23:Eagle's nest sallet: shred greens so they look like hay,
pile on your GBT in the characteristic volcano shape of an
eagle's nest, fill with peeled boiled eggs and drizzle liberally
with mustard & cream dressing- Yup, the sticky yellowish dressing
looks like just what you thought it would...heh heh heh
You can add peeled carrots as 'branches', or even use
licorice-root if some madman in your group likes the stuff, they
know who they are...
24:For a crusader feast in Aug.-Oct., use zucchini to make
'ships'-dhows, pilgrim transports, whatever. This is the only
time I don't serve part of a Warner; nobody wants to eat Zucchini
up here, and we get them free anyway. If you paint the inside
with egg white JUST before serving you can fill them with hot
soup- use a gooseneck funnel so as not to disturb the rigging-
without getting an unwanted zucchini taste. You could use any
other Old World `gourd '- check your origins carefully- but other
types you'd have to pay for and should therefore plan to use.
(Throwing the zucchini isn't wasting food, I never thought it was
edible anyway and it goes to my liege's compost heap.)
25:Raddichio, redtop broccoli, regular broccoli and the
other heading-floret things make good forests, get your local
crazy to make the base (of nails through a foodsafe plank) and go
to town. (You may want to make the base so the nails come out for
storage; why take chances?)
26:Sort of an extension of above to non-broccoli season-
beet tops, celery leaves, any other EDIBLE greens. (Not rhubarb
or potato leaves) Combines well with chicken-leg soldiers for an
attack on Dunsinane... heh heh heh
27:If you can get old-variety parsnips, the big ones are
hollow centered. Make an aqueduct. Could be done by pithing large
'burpless' (Turkish originally but now called English, you
figure) cukes if you can't.
28:Take the middle out of a cabbage and fill with almost
anything except more cabbage. The books usually say `tie top
leaves together before steaming ' but I recommend cheesecloth.
29:For a lunchboard fill burpless cukes with cooked
forcemeat and stick the ends back on with egg white, but serve
over a second tray filled with ice. For dinner you can put it out
with the nummies before first course, along with the ham
pinwheels and the plates of-
30: Flower sallet: homegrown or organic sources only,
please! (Can you spell Dioxin, boys and girls?) Rose petals,
nasturtium, violet, chive flowers, daylilies, sorrel... Warn the
High Table ahead of time, they'll think it's either a really dumb
centerpiece or a finger bowl with the water forgotten...
31: For any Spring thing make decorated eggs. No, it doesn't
matter what Spring thing, they're a Pagan custom the Christians
took over. Nice for a Passover or Equinox event dayboard, and
(Yea!) great make-ahead . Bring the kids into cook's guild stuff
32:Okay, maybe it's cheating but I had a pro cook make
Hanony Champignon (Mushroom Omelets- he volunteered and it was
only thirty people, honest!) and served them as 'sunset clouds '.
A little saffron on the edges (I do believe in candlelight, I do
I do I do...)
Endore is made of spiced whipped egg yolk and produces
beautiful gilding, especially on pastry, but ONLY USE IT ON VERY
HOT FOODS!!! Salmonella is not your friend. Make it as the timer
goes off for that particular item and paint it on at once.
Cracked eggs are for throwing at seagulls. Even if you
'know' it was cracked 'only a minute ago '. SALMONELLA IS
33: Rose jelly- use the recipe on the plain Knox box to make
lemon-juice jelly, but color it with rosepetal juice (Organic
source only!) and punch up the scent with rosewater. The first
time you serve it, that's all. Once most of the Barony is used to
your Wicked Ways- you fill the pans half-full, then make Five-
petaled "tudor roses" by painting rose petals with cool sugar
syrup and arranging them upside down on the cooled jelly. Finish
filling the tray so the "roses" are suspended inside. You can use
a drop of apricot jam to make centers for added realism. When
unmolded it's downright disturbing. The King will get up the
nerve to try it about the time the Baron takes seconds.
34:Molded Jelly- Oh, I know it's been done, but with a
`damsel' trapped inside (made of fruit by my choice) and molded
in a clean sandcastle mold, it really doesn't look like Elks
banquet and it's a great make-ahead. (Maybe a ghost? Or Merlin,
in a tree?) Try violet or orangeflower flavors. Just don't use
Jell-O, Please? Coal tar dyes neither look nor are period. Stick
35:(If you need instructions on the use of cakes!) There are
great molds available out there rental from larger cooking
equipment shops. Doesn't cost to look; check them out. Relatively
few people like fruitcake, try out other low-crumb period recipes
and use whichever one your Non-SCA twelve-year-old nephew asks
for seconds of.
Design cakes with as much frosting left plain as possible,
because food colors really do effect the taste. Better still,
use period edible colorants like sanders, turmeric,
powdered roses and/or violets, mints (There's thirty of them out
there, with flavors like geranium and lemon, don't use spearmint
because they'll think the frosting's toothpaste...) saffron (NOT
egg yolk, even refrigerated it's a risk, salmonella is not...)
and while they effect the taste too, at least the effect is
period and pleasant.
36: Make Gingerbread-house gingerbread with holes in it the
shape of windows and fill them with sugar-candy 'glass '.
Everybody always says bake the panes in place, but one mistake
and it's ruined, I make the panes separately and glue them in
with a little boiled frosting.
37: Make a big pane of plain sugar-glass and paint on it
with color-spices boiled into medium crack syrup. Tricky and hard
to transport, but worth the work: I especially recommend this if
you have a good, skilled cook who can't work with people; they
can do it ahead all alonely-o and still get their moment to
38: Buy ground almond meal, preferably defatted (General
Nutrition Center sells three-pound cans) or make it as a sideline
of almond milk production (You weren't going to "throw out" the
grounds, were you?) and mix it with crystallized honey for lots
of relatively cheap marzipan- only 1/2 the cost of supermarket
stuff, and it can be used outside on hot days because there's no
egg white in it. It is a little grittier than the commercial kind
(Well, sometimes a lot grittier ) but my guests actually seem to
prefer the richer flavor.
39: Oldest trick in my repetoire- Bake honey or ginger
cookies in Heraldic colors and have the kids turn them into
people's arms with patissieriste's tubes of colored boiled
frosting. You'll lose about 1/3 to your "assistant cooks". DON'T
tell them they can eat the broken or ill-done ones, it encourages
poor work. Have them compete for the High Table's arms. Make sure
they get the credit.
40: Sweet pastry to be served hot is standard. For cold
just remember the bottom crust should be a little heavier than
usual so the liquid doesn't soak through while it waits for
Beowabbit to be recited...(You only wait a cold sweet; you only
wait a cold ANYTHING. Hot things HOT.)
41: Use lard for pork pie crusts, suet for beef, schmaltz
(rendered chicken fat) for chicken. You paid for it anyway, and
it really does taste better. Use oil for the Veggie types- They
had 'em (Remember Lent?) and they did. Shallow cake molds make
great pie pans if you have GBTs enough to flip them onto. Tray on
top of pie upside-down then flip as a unit, remember- and have
your servers practice first. A lot.
Well, it's a start. Remember, almost no one in the SCA is
poor enough that they'll enjoy ugly food just because it's
filling; looks count. Looks count at least as much as taste does,
and often more. Halve the budget and double the Warners and
people will rave about your "delicious" feasts. Get crazy!
This may be reprinted once by any SCA publication, provided
my SCA and legal name are both listed as Author, and a courtesy
copy of the publication is sent to me at: 2 Shadow Lane, Apt.#2,
Peterborough NH 03458. All other rights reserved.
KSA:Alizaunde, Demoiselle de Bregeuf(COL,etc.)