redacting-msg – 10/8/08
Redacting period recipes into modern recipe format with measurements, cooking temperatures and times.
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).
Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
Date: Thu, 26 Feb 1998 15:52:27 -0800
From: "Crystal A. Isaac" <crystal at pdr-is.com>
Subject: Re: SC - Redacting
donna_m_smith at icpphil.navy.mil wrote:
> <snip> This leads to obvious questions for a newbie like me, such
> as, how does one learn to redact? How does one redact?
> Meadhbh ni hAilin
If you live near a university, try there, although some county libraries
have medieval cookery cook. You can also check the various on-line
bookstores such as amazon or bibliofind to find more books. Borrowing
depends on your neighbors and how trusting they are.
Learning to make medieval food is a combination of many things. Being a
good guesser is one. Having some competency in the kitchen is also a
good start (perhaps I do not need to say that in this forum, but there
are people whose parents did not teach them to cook). Getting a medieval
reprints with a good glossary or footnotes is really one of the best
things you can do. There has been a lot of times I've read through a
medieval recipe and thought "good heavens WHAT is this supposed to be?"
When I redact a new recipe I follow a couple of basic steps. I read the
recipe (several times). I look up all the words I do not know. Sometimes
I look up the words I think I know just to be sure. [Many words that
look familiar are deceiving. For example in an unrelated dessert recipe
is the line, & after frie hem which looks like "and after[wards] fry
them" but is glossed by the editors as "and after[wards] cool them" frie
also looks like freeze, but only if you know what you are looking for.]
Then I rewrite the recipe in my own words, listing the ingredients and
approximate amounts. I've been cooking for a while, so most of time my
best guesses are ok. Sometimes, if it something that has a modern
equivalent, like and apple pie, I look in The Joy of Cooking for
something similar. Reading the preface of the book and the authors'
notes can be very helpful. Then I throw caution to the winds and just
make it, writing down what I do along the way. That's about it. If
there's someone in your area who redacts, ask them to let you help next
Crystal of the Westermark
Date: Thu, 26 Feb 1998 21:34:42 -0800
From: david friedman <ddfr at best.com>
Subject: Re: SC - Redacting
At 2:44 PM -0500 2/25/98, donna_m_smith at icpphil.navy.mil wrote:
> Where does one get ahold of these books? Or does one borrow them, or go
>to the library to use them (because, for instance, they're huge or expensive
>or hard to get)? This leads to obvious questions for a newbie like me, such
>as, how does one learn to redact? How does one redact?
1. Both of the books I mentioned are published by the Early English Text
Society. Amazon.com lists Curye at 39.95, with 4-6 week availability. They
list _Two Fifteenth Century_ as out of print with no price given. But ...
2. _Two Fifteenth_, being long out of copyright, is included in Volume I of
the collection of sources I sell. Current price is $12 including postage. I
am, however, about out, so orders will probably have to wait for my next
printing, which should be in a week or two. Also, I should warn you that
Volume I is reduction copied, four pages of source to one 8 1/2 x 11 page,
so not always easy on the eyes. It has something around a thousand pages of
source material. Volume II ($9) is shorter, only two pages to a page, and
consists mostly of cookbook translations I have organized.
One learns to redact by redacting. One starts with a period recipe and
tries to make it, keeping track of what you do (period recipes rarely
contain unnecessary details such as quantities, temperatures, or times) and
using trial and error. For more details, come to the class Elizabeth and I
will probably be teaching at Pennsic on cooking from period sources.
Date: Sat, 23 Jan 1999 22:39:42 -0500
From: Philip & Susan Troy <troy at asan.com>
Subject: Re: SC - Salt in Period recipes
LrdRas at aol.com wrote:
> To my knowledge there are few recipes from the middle ages that list salt as
> an ingredient. I am of the opinion that this does not mean it wasn't used but
> rather that it was assumed that the cook would add it to taste. There are a
> couple of instances where this idea is intimated in period text but,
> unfortunately the post to the list that spoke of this seems to be lost in
> the jumbled file called SCA-cooks. :-(
I'm not sure if this is what you were thinking of, but I vaguely recall
Ein Buoch Von Guter Spise is full of cautions not to oversalt things, in
recipes that otherwise don't mention salt at all. I suppose in some
cases these could be recipes calling for fish or meats that may be used
in salted form... .
Date: Fri, 27 Aug 1999 23:10:55 EDT
From: LrdRas at aol.com
Subject: Re: SC - What's a "redaction?"
oftraquair at hotmail.com writes:
<< I managed never to see Ras' complaint about it.
Actually I have no complaint about it. I like the word redaction and think we
are using it appropriately.
re*dact (verb transitive)
[Middle English, from Latin redactus, past participle of redigere]
First appeared 15th Century
1 : to put in writing : FRAME
2 : to select or adapt for publication : EDIT
[French redaction, from Late Latin redaction-, redactio active of reducing,
compressing, from Latin redigere to bring back, reduce, from re-, red- re- +
agere to lead -- more at AGENT]
First appeared 1785
1 : an act or instance of redacting something
2 : a work that has been redacted : EDITION, VERSION
I fail to see where we are using it incorrectly.
Date: Mon, 30 Aug 1999 22:16:59 EDT
From: RuddR at aol.com
Subject: SC - Re: "Interpretation" vs. "Redaction"
I've been following this thread with interest; I've often wondered who came
up with "redaction" to describe what we do to primary sources. It is an
accurate term for the act of editing recipes from medieval sources into
standard modern recipe form. I'd always used the term "adaptation" before I
met SCA cooks.
I was curious as to the terms used to describe the recipes of published
medieval culinary artists:
Scully & Scully (Early French Cookery, cover): "Sources, History, Original
Recipes and Modern Adaptations"
Redon, Sabban & Serventi (The Medieval Kitchen, flyleaf): "Expertly
reconstructed from fourteenth and fifteenth century sources and carefully
adapted to suit the modern kitchen."
Sass (To the King's Taste, cover): "Richard II's book of feasts and recipes
adapted for modern cooking."
Black (The Medieval Cookbook, flyleaf): "This mouth-watering selection of
eighty recipes has been drawn from medieval manuscripts and adapted for the
McKendry (The Seven Centuries Cookbook, p 8.): "They have been tested and
interpreted in terms of modern quantities and methods. . ."
Interestingly, Hieatt and Butler don't really call their redactions anything
other than recipes they've "worked out". They use "adapted" to describe the
work of predecessors in the field:
"A third and slightly overlapping category is that of the historical
cookbooks which present a selection of medieval recipes 'adapted' for modern
tastes . . . frequently so drastically adapted as to be along way from
authenticity." (Pleyn Delit, p viii)
Date: Tue, 14 Dec 1999 06:48:07 -0500
From: Philip & Susan Troy <troy at asan.com>
Subject: Re: SC - redacting
Peldyn at aol.com wrote:
> I totallly understand! I have often wondered why one cook will make a choice
> in a recipe that I wouldn't have made. I usually put it down to them having
> more experience, but sometimes I wonder! (smile)
Bingo. Keep wondering. I think Lorna J. Sass was the first author I
questioned in this way, but the best of the secondary-source cookbook
authors are medievalists and not necessarily cooks, and often make
decisions based on some historical supposition which may or may not be accurate.
For example, Constance Hieatt and Sharon Butler include breadcrumbs in
their adapted recipe for sambucade in the first edition of "Pleyn
Delit", ignoring the fact that the instruction to "put in the crust" is
pretty likely to be because the recipe is for a PIE!!! Then there is
their claim that an instruction to stick a pen into the skin of a bird
and blow it up means to baste it with a feather.
With the possible exception of Karen Hess, who seems to know her hind
quarters from her humeral/radial/ulnal joint , most such authors are
specialists in reading and interpreting the language of medieval
manuscripts, and are no more qualified to make decisons of a purely
culinary nature than you or me.
Date: Tue, 14 Dec 1999 17:54:31 GMT
From: "Bonne of Traquair" <oftraquair at hotmail.com>
Subject: Re: SC - redacting
>Peldyn at aol.com wrote:
> > I have often wondered why one cook will make a choice
> > in a recipe that I wouldn't have made. I usually put it down to them
> > having more experience, but sometimes I wonder! (smile)
>Bingo. Keep wondering. I think Lorna J. Sass was the first author I
>questioned in this way,
I was very new to all this when I read "to the Queen's Taste" a recipe in
which the original clearly said to cook chicken carefully so that it didn't
brown, and the redaction said to brown the chicken well. Right there and
then I lost any fear of redacting!
Date: Sat, 18 Dec 1999 16:18:22 -0500
From: Christine A Seelye-King <mermayde at juno.com>
Subject: Re: SC - Hi
On Sat, 18 Dec 1999 06:59:03 -0500 (EST) cclark at vicon.net writes:
> Joachim Von Schwabia wrote:
> > ... I don't think it will take to much for me to transfer my
> skills in the Culinary Arts to Medieval recipes. ...
To which Alex/Henry (I have such a hard time keeping them straight) responds:
> That's probably true. You seem to be more experienced than most SCA
> cooks. But there is one thing to watch out for. Experienced modern cooks
> are sometimes tempted to substitute modern methods for period ones (e.g.
> replacing bread crumbs with roux in a sauce).
This is very true. I think the biggest challenge is to try to get into
the situation of the period cooks and their arenas (to borrow an image
from "Iron Chef"). Reading period texts for recipes is a multi-layered
experience. Once accustomed to obsolete language and the lack of
measurements, you must begin to really delve into the actual verbage to
discover the author's intent. Then you have to remember whether or not
the author was the cook, or the transcriptor. Researching period cooking
techniques and food will take you to the most unexpected places, you will
find yourself peering behind the corners of museum cases, just you watch.
For these and many more reasons, no small part of which is the
background and tastes of the individual cook, given the same recipe and
the same ingredients, each one of us will probably redact and recreate
each dish somewhat differently. This provides us with no end of fuel for
conversation here, which you are most welcome to join.
Mistress Christianna MacGrain,OP Meridies
retired mundane professional chef
Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2000 00:30:04 -0500
From: Philip & Susan Troy <troy at asan.com>
Subject: Re: SC -Redacting?
k&t Radford asks:
> What in the world is redacting??????? I have seen that term many times and
> it always throws me for a loop.
Strictly speaking, redact means to edit, or to frame or arrange for
publication. It really doesn't mean what we use it to mean, but it's one
of those examples of SCA jargon that just sounds like English, but isn't.
When somebody in the SCA uses the term, it means to adapt a recipe to a
more modern format for cooks who are more comfortable with modern-style
recipes, which specify things like quantities, cooking times, and temperatures.
A medieval recipe will read something like, "Boil your chickens in water
and wine until they are enough, take them up and quarter them and then
fry them, then toast brown bread and steep it, with some powdered pepper
and cumin, in the same broth; draw it through a strainer into a pot,
boil it a little and pour over your chicken on a dish, and sprinkle
fried almonds on it, and serve."
Doesn't sound too bad, huh? For a fictional recipe, I mean.
A "redaction" of the above would be a recipe like this:
Chicken in Cumin Sauce
3 cups white wine
3 cups water
3 slices dark-toasted whole wheat bread
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 Tbs. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup sliced blanched almonds
2 Tbs. lard or olive oil
1. Quarter the chickens, or have the butcher do it. In a five-quart
saucepan, bring the water and wine to a boil, add the chicken, and
simmer 15 minutes over medium heat.
2. In a large deep skillet, fry the almonds briefly in the lard or oil,
until just slightly brown. Remove almonds and keep on the side,
reserving the fat in the pan. Drain the chicken quarters, reserving the
broth. Brown the chicken in the fat, turning frequently, then lower the
heat and continue to cook slowly until nearly done.
3. While the chicken is cooking, steep the toast, the pepper and the
cumin in the hot broth until soft enough to pass through a strainer.
Puree it using a strainer, food mill, food processor or blender. Return
the sauce to the pot, simmer until it reaches the desired thickness,
then season with salt to taste.
4. By this time the chicken should be done; place on a serving dish and
pour the reduced sauce over it, garnish with the fried almonds, and serve.
Now, I prefer to call this adapting or reworking; using a word meaning
"to edit" implies something is wrong with the original recipe, which is
not the case. But many people use it anyway.
Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2000 17:43:43 EST
From: RuddR at aol.com
Subject: SC - Re: Redacting ?
> And I am in complete disagreement that 'redaction' is inappropriate or
> 'nonspecific' in the way we use it. Certainly, it is inaccurate if you pull
> out any single meaning as they are currently found in the dictionary but when
> viewed in the total concept it is very accurate and correct. Within the field
> of cookery there is no need to find a period term for either the formatting
> of period recipe into a modern style or for a kitchen steward since neither
> activities were done by anyone in the middle ages so far as I know.
> As I stated in a previous post, the word 'redaction' has been used by enough
> people for a sufficient amount of time to mean what we do to period recipes
> that a far better course would be to point out to the writers of dictionaries
> their error of omission in not documenting this usage of the word. Arguments
> for 'purity' of language are, IMO, totally irrelevant. How many people use
> the word 'nice' or 'fool' in their original meanings?
> Redaction is a fine word for what we do and I, for one will continue to use
Speaking from a non-SCA point of view, I think Ras has a point. I think he
is wrong, however, when he says: "Certainly, it is inaccurate if you pull out
any single meaning as they are currently found in the dictionary . . ." In
fact, the Random House College Dictionary's first definition for "redact" is:
"To put into suitable literary form; revise; edit." This is exactly what is
done when a medieval primary source recipe is rewritten in modern English and
in modern recipe form. The written recipes we come up with are, literaly,
It's meaning is limited. A redaction is merely the literary form; the
written recipe, not the process of turning the recipe into a prepared dish in
an attempt to recreate medieval cuisine; the actual preparing of the food.
Correct usage would be: "This potage you are being served was prepared from
my own redaction of a recipe in Harleian MS 279." Incorrect usage: "This
potage you are being served is my own redaction of a recipe in Harleian MS
In the mundane world, I have observed the term that seems to be used most is
"adaptation", or "modern adaptation", and, when speaking to or writing for a
non-SCA audience, those are the terms I use. I feel that "adaptation" speaks
to the process of food preparation as well as the rewriting of the source
material. Using "redaction" in these contexts feels overly academic; a
However, as insider jargon, it's great; it's not only an accurate
description, but it's a nice word, too. I hope that it is retained.
Date: Fri, 07 Apr 2000 19:08:09 -0400
From: "James R. May" <robmay at home.com>
Subject: SC - Spice quantities
To be able to spice by taste and still be able to write down an exact
quantity, start with a measured amount of the spice in question that is
several times what you may need. Add pinches (or whatever) until you have
the taste right. Measure what's left and subtract from what you started
with. The difference is the quantity that you write down
Date: Mon, 10 Apr 2000 01:08:34 EDT
From: LrdRas at aol.com
Subject: Re: SC - Re: following faithfully
kareno at lewistown.net writes:
<< The good Lord Ras know hows to
cook & make us swoon from envy with his skills. But, is your rendition
of a period recipe (without ratios/numbers/cooking methods) more
"correct" than mine? Just wondering if I am missing something . . . . .
Still learning and asking questions
No. Your recipe redactions are just as accurate as mine or any other
rendering of the manuscript done by any other cook, IMO.
I think this is a good point and one that should be emphasized to any budding
historical cook. if there are no given amounts then any rendering of the
recipe which uses the techniques given and the closest approximation of the
ingredients listed should be considered equally valid if no listed amounts of
ingredients are given. The example I gave recently of the chicken recipe I
redacted for a newsletter article many years ago was a good example. From
that recipe I was able to render it as a soup, a casserole or a meat loaf. Of
the 3 renderings none could be said to be more accurate than any other
rendering that others might produce.
What I was referring to was specifically substituting cooking techniques
(e.g., leave out parboiling) or roast instead of grill, etc.). Or
substituting a totally different ingredient (e.g., carrots for parsnips)
unless the recipe itself specified what substitutions were appropriate for
that specific recipe. Such substitutions would make the recipe a period-like
rendering as opposed to a period rendering at the very least if based on
supposition. Actually, they would make a modern recipe based on the
inspiration of a period recipe more accurately, IMO.
A case in point is the Bukkanade recipe, it can be rendered equally tasty as
a savory dish and, IMO, as a sweet dish. Which is more accurate? I don't
think we have the resources or information to make a blanket judgment there.
What is important is that whichever method is chosen the dish tastes good.
The recipe is after all from a manuscript which was used by the cooks of
royalty for the most part. And if the rendering of the dish can honestly be
said as to be fit for a King then I would laud it as a good rendition. All
the renditions posted so far regarding that recipe sound extremely tasty so
all are can be said to be equally 'period.' We simply have no way of knowing
which is the accurate rendition unless we discover the dish frozen in the
perma frost somewhere or find a detailed description in period writings from
the actual time the recipe was written down in the manuscript regarding its
actual nature. I don't know that such a description exists.
I found your comments to be valid regarding the sugar issue and agree
completely but I also see another possibility as equally valid. Developing a
style of cookery uniquely one's own and then applying across board to any
particular period cookery is what individual cooks are all about. You have a
distinct style as do I and every other cook. Using that style within the
bounds of a particular time frame produces dishes that are unique to that
individual. It does not validate any particular rendition as more accurate
Yours in Service to the Dream,
Date: Wed, 7 Mar 2001 15:05:12 -0800
From: david friedman <ddfr at best.com>
Subject: Re: Redacting ( was Re: SC - losenges fryes/potage of beans boiled)
>Or to broaden the question further, how do you decide on sizes,
>measurements, etc., when working with an original recipe that
>says something vague like "thin" "small" or "enough"?
There are a number of different ways. Sometimes we find a modern
recipe that is similar enough to give us a first guess. For example,
when I was working out Hulwa, the crucial question was to what
temperature you were boiling the sugar syrup (which is then stirred
into beaten egg whites to give a thick white cream called "natif,"
which is in turn combined with chopped nuts etc. and then rapidly
hardens). I don't have much experience with candy making, so I went
through a modern cookbook and discovered that the process for making
divinity was very similar. So I tried the temperature that the
divinity recipe called for and it worked.
On other occasions, it's trial and error. I've done gingerbrede with
a range of ratios of breadcrumbs to honey. What we have listed is
about the lowest amount of breadcrumbs that yields a reasonably solid
product after it cools.
You should not assume that the instructions in our recipes are the
only way that works, or the best. Most of the time, we stop when we
get one way that works reasonably well. That's probably true of many
other people's worked out recipe as well.
Date: Fri, 4 Jan 2002 10:07:26 -0800 (PST)
From: Philippa Alderton <phlip_u at yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] ...thoughts on period-style food?
To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org
Where they were very different is that they used
spices and herbs we tend to catagorize as "sweet" in
savory dishes, and "savory" in sweet dishes. Much of
this had to do with humoral theory, but I have no
doubt much had to do with simple availability as well.
Considering the cost of such items we use without
thinking about, such as salt, sugar, and basic black
pepper, they would use generally less of these things
than we would. When we throw a feast, and advertise
seats as "below the salt" or "above the salt" we are
reflecting the fact that folk above the salt were
grand enough to be given the luxury of extra salt if
they wanted it- it was too expensive to be given out
to mere servants, other than what might be already in
Now, I'll tell you what I did, to learn about these
spicings. Very simply, I started making modern dishes
with which I was quite familiar, but instead of using
my usual blends, I used ingredients as described in
some of my Medieval cookbooks. That way, being very
familiar with the original dishes, I could determine
what the effect was on the foods, and what I might get
if I cooked period dishes using similar ingredients.
But, I didn't fool with calling things "perioid" or
"period- like", I just called them "stew with
cinnamon" or "cornbread with almond milk" and left it
Date: Mon, 25 Aug 2003 08:46:26 -0400
From: "Sharon Gordon" <gordonse at one.net>
Subject: [Sca-cooks] Unredacting
To: <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>
A cooks guild did an interesting exercise in UNredacting and redacting
recipes. What follows is a description of the events as best I can figure
out. I have not been able to reach the person in charge of the process, so
if I get more or corrected info at a later time, I'll update the list.
Likewise if someone is on the list who participated, please feel free to
correct info or add anything.
The main purpose of the exercise seemed to be to see the challenges we face
when we are redacting recipes and the next best thing to having a time
1) Someone (or perhaps everyone did one of these) selected some recipes
which have detailed ingredient amounts and cooking instructions. (I don't
know that they did this, but if I were choosing, I'd pick a variety that
would make a nice varied potluck meal in addition to having components that
would affect the dish. I am not sure if this would be most effective by
picking recipes where people are really familiar with what it should be like
or only mediumly familiar. I realize that many medieval cooks would have
been familiar with about how much of some ingredient was added to a dish,
and what it was supposed to look and taste like. For example, we know about
what a large pepperoni pizza should look and taste like, so this would help
us if we were redacting a recipe for one. However Chicken with September
Vegetables is a more vague concept.)
2) The recipes were then rewritten in a medieval style without measured
amounts and with minimal instructions. I don't know if they were also
written with medieval language and spellings. They dubbed these
3) Then only the rewritten recipes (unredactions) were then given to
volunteers from the cook's guild.
4) The volunteers then each took one unredaction and worked on redacting it
and developing a recipe.
5) They then cooked the dish and took it along with their unredaction and
redaction to a guild meeting. I don't know if they made copies of these for
everyone, but I think this would be helpful for discussion.
6) At the guild meeting they were given a copy of the original recipe which
they could then compare to their redaction. I don't know if they made copies
of these for everyone, but I think this would be helpful for discussion.
7) The group then discussed the redactions and got to sample the results.
If you were choosing recipes for this sort of exercise, what sort of things
would you pick? And what sorts of decison making would you try to
highlight? I haven't been able to zero in on any recipes, but have thought
of a few decision making concepts that I think would be helpful to
1) Vague water amounts. Is it a soup or a side dish or the insides of a
meat-vegetable pierogie-like food?
2) Several herbs or spices where changing the balance really alters the
character of the dish.
3) Lack of cooking instructions for something that would taste really
different if grilled/roasted, baked, boiled, or steamed.
4) Lack of proportions for 2-3+ main ingredients. Is it Sesame
Wheat-Oatmeal bread or Onion Oatmeal-Wheat bread or Seven Grain Onion Bread?
gordonse at one.net
Date: Sun, 07 Sep 2003 10:20:51 -0400
From: Alex Clark <alexbclark at pennswoods.net>
Subject: [Sca-cooks] I'm back! (Be afraid? :-/ )
To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org
Hola! I'm back after several years' absence. I don't know how long I'll be
on the list--as usual, it seems that while it's for SCA cooks, it's not as
often for SCA cookery.
When I unsubscribed, I sent a reminder that has seemingly been forgotten.
I'll restate it (at more length) so that it can be forgotten again.
"To redact" means to give composed form to content, either by giving a new
form to content derived from one or more pre-existing compositions, or by
putting one's thoughts into a composed form (typically a written document).
It specifically does not mean to create any kind of content whatsoever,
including interpretive content. One may both redact from other sources and
give interpretations thereof within the same document, but if that document
is supposed to be a "redaction" then the redacted parts should be distinct
from the interpretations.
"Redact" (and words derived therefrom, especially "redaction") as typically
used here are ill-chosen and nearly useless jargon, and no number of
instances of misuse will make them correct. These are among the few words
(such as "irony") that should not be messed with. These words belong to the
literati, and are nothing but buzzwords to the many who don't know their
correct meanings. Since it is interpretations of period recipes (even if
those interpretations are not yet written) that are being called
"redactions" this word is in effect being used as a substitute for a more
correct word: "interpretation." You can only really redact a period recipe
if the changes that you make are in its form rather than in its content. So
in _Curye on Inglysch_, where variations from different MSS of _The Forme
of Cury_ are given in the footnotes, *that* is a redaction of period
recipes. When (as usually happens in interpreting period recipes)
measurements or methods or cooking times/temperatures, etc. are added, the
resulting interpretation is no more a redaction of a period recipe than a
dog's tail is a leg. When written, it is only a redaction of the modern
So please, for the sake of clarity and especially accuracy, let's call
interpretations what they are, and not bandy about words like "redaction"
that are not really in the vocabularies of most SCA cooks. Especially since
redacting period recipes is far more than modern cooks really accomplish
with most of their interpretations thereof. In these cases, using a word
like "redact" lends a false semblance of authoritativeness to something
that actually contains a significant amount of guesswork.
I don't mean to say that the word "redact" doesn't have some importance on
this list. It does have one real use: as jargon, it's a way for people to
proclaim their conformity with the in-group. That's okay as long as one is
being misled by the rest of the group. But for now I'm here to say (with
occasional reminders in the future) that most modern cooking and
recipe-writing from period sources is interpretation, not redaction.
Please don't be misled by those who don't yet know this.
Henry of Maldon/Alex Clark
Date: Sun, 7 Sep 2003 21:58:09 -0400
From: Daniel Myers <doc at medievalcookery.com>
Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] I'm back! (Be afraid? :-/ )
To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>
On Sunday, September 7, 2003, at 10:20 AM, Alex Clark wrote:
> "To redact" means to give composed form to content, either by giving a
> new form to content derived from one or more pre-existing
> compositions, or by putting one's thoughts into a composed form
> (typically a written document). It specifically does not mean to
> create any kind of content whatsoever, including interpretive content.
> One may both redact from other sources and give interpretations
> thereof within the same document, but if that document is supposed to
> be a "redaction" then the redacted parts should be distinct from the
Language is not constant, but is continuously evolving. Webster's
online dictionary defines redact as "to put in writing" or "to select
or adapt for publication." Both of these definitions are rather
broader than the one you gave, and both could be applied to the
activities of the cooks on the list.
Your post derided jargon as something that serves only to make the
discussions of those on the "inside" more incomprehensible and
impressive to those on the "outside". While this may sometimes be the
case, it is certainly not always true. Jargon serves as a sort of
"shorthand" form for a concept that is used frequently by a group.
There are a number of words used by medical doctors which describe
things like diseases or procedures which either have no meaning or a
very different one outside of the medical profession. This is not
(normally) an attempt to confound the patients or to impress other
doctors, but is a more efficient method for communicating specifics
Also, jargon can afford a finer degree of precision in speech and
writing than would normally be present. Consider the various terms for
snow used by skiers (or surfers). They allow one person to clearly
describe environmental conditions to another to a very specific level.
In the SCA cooking community, the word "redact" and all of its variants
has a very specific meaning -- one that may differ substantially from
what would be understood by other groups (e.g. translators, librarians,
etc...). Here the word would seem to mean (allowing for differences in
opinion) the conversion of a period recipe into a modern form suitable
for sharing with the rest of the community. There is (to me) a
distinct difference between a "redaction" and an "interpretation".
Interpreting a recipe allows for a wider range of variation. For
example, the person doing the interpretation might be trying to create
a dish which is pleasing to a wide audience, and may take substantial
liberties with the source recipe in the process. Whereas the same
person may redact the same source recipe in order to come as close as
possible to what would have been cooked in period so that they could
better understand the tastes of a particular time and place.
In short, I disagree.
Edouard Halidai (Daniel Myers)
Date: Mon, 22 Sep 2003 00:32:09 -0700
From: Edouard de Bruyerecourt <bruyere at jeffnet.org>
Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Redaction - a little anthropology
To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>
Pulling off lurking cloak and pulling on anthro hat....
First, as another example, this discussion over the meaning of redact
reminds me of an ongoing argument in an anthropology course in magic and
witchcraft. Strictly it's own internal discussion , anthropology needs
to clearly distinguish between such activity to help another (healing
ills, protection, blessings, etc) and similar activity to cause harm
(hexes, curses, etc). Again, strictly for internal clarity, the general
use is "healing" for beneficial magic (since most practitioners simply
refer to themselves as just 'healers') ,and "witchcraft" for negative
intention. This offended almost all the followers of Wicca in the class,
who responded to what they thought was anthropology labeling them as
evil and bad. This wasn't the case. Anthropology refers to what Wicca
does, or claims to do, as 'healing" while what a Satanic cult might try
is referred to as 'witchcraft." Within anthropology, "healing" and
"witchcraft: are almost arbitrary labels to refer to a category of
behaviour. It's only that Wiccans call themselves (witches) a term which
as a different meaning to anthropologists. Same word, two meanings (and
both legitimate internal to each); same activity, two labels for it.
We're arguing over which word is best for that activity we perform on
very old recipes: redaction, interpretation, adaptation, translation.
For myself, each is related to the others, but each has a distinction as
well (as well as they all have multiple meanings for different contexts,
like many English words).
Adaption usually means _changing_ it to fit better. My idea of
adaptations are substituting ingredients from those difficult to find to
similar and available, simulating meat roasted on a spit before a wood
fire by roasting in a electric over plus a trick or two, or increasing
or decreasing servings. I'll point out that a _translation_ is in a
sense an _adaptation_ to a different language.
Translation, as I usually assume it means when used in our context, is
changing from one language to another, either culturally or
historically. This could be from German to English, or Middle English to
Modern English. Or even from an old arcane unit of measure to a standard
Interpretation for me, since I come from a anthropological background,
deals heavily with _meaning_, but it is a close cousin to translation
(notice the use of both 'translators' and 'interpreters' for the United
Nations, and for ASL during speeches and plays). Generally, I think
'translation' is more unidirectional: one translates a book into a
second language rather than a back-and-forth exchange. And translation
may be more literal, word-for-word, rather than actually convey the
original meaning. Best example of that I can think of is a USAF pilot
using the phrase "flying by the seat of his pants." The Russian
translator came out with some description of operation the planes
control panel by sitting on it.
I see redaction, as we use it on this list, and within the SCA cooking
community in general, to primarily mean taking a historic document
(recipe) and turning it into a usable form for our use. And this
involves translation, interpretation, and adaptation sometimes, either
individually or collectively. First, we have to translate the old or
foreign language form to (usually) modern English. And sometimes, the
meaning of a particular word many have various interpretations for a
choice of a modern word. At this point, we hopefully have (or can draw
from the translation) a list of ingredients and a series of
instructions. We may at this point need to adapt an ingredient for
availability or adapt a technique to modern kitchen equipment.
I think were the significant difference for 'redaction' is when we
assign quantities for the ingredients where they did not exist before. I
dislike referring to that process as providing 'missing information' to
the recipe. It wasn't missed by historic cooks, or it would shown up
more often, in the same sense that Comedia del'Arte scripts aren't
missing: they never existed and the performers had neither need or
desire for them. Having been raised by a woman who eyeballed amounts a
lot, and know to myself to cook by opening up the cupboards and looking
for inspiration for what to throw into the mix, I like to think that
historic cooks performed their avocation more by a well-practiced feel
and a conceptual sense of cooking than many novice or household cooks
today have. I've met enough modern cooks to just assume that all
ingredients are inert and standardized, and thus can't respond to a
variation in an ingredient by changing a recipe midstream.
In that sense, we are using our own personal experience and
understanding of handling food to 'interpret' what medieval cooks did
from an existing historic recipe that never included certain information
and 'adapting' that recipe to a modern cooks expectations of a recipe.
This is after we translate it into modern English.
Yes, translation, interpretation, and adaptation could all be used in
place for 'redaction', but I think generally we use two or three of
those concepts/activities when we 'redact' a recipe and choosing just
one would refer to just a part of what we generally mean when we say
'redact.' Translation could mean nothing more than translating the
language. Interpretation, probably the closed to 'redaction' in how we
use them, still leans on meaning, which as not much to do with
experimenting with quantities to find one we think works best. We can
suggest (based on our personal interpretation) that the author meant how
do something, but it's awkward to say that they meant "1 3/4 cups"
Adaptation involves change towards a better fit, and there are times
adaptation to modern ingredients and cooking methods don't seem to be
necessary. We may also be inadvertently adapting a recipe by different
physical properties of medieval ingredients compared to modern ones. It
may take a different amount of water to make a paste of the same
thickness from stone milled wheat grown back then and there, and modern
flour in the USA.
Anthropologically, words are merely symbols with a collectively agreed
upon _assigned_ meaning. Within our context, we generally agree what
meaning is meant with 'redact' even if the broader context of modern
English speaking society as a different primary meaning. It wouldn't be
the only word with a different primary meaning depending on which group
is using it. "Period" is an excellent example. In the SCA, it's used as
an adjective, to describe something that either existed in our own
groups defined time of study or a modern artefact or behaviour that
bears a close enough resemblance to something that did exist back then.
I imagine the word is used by historical reenactment groups much like we
do, with their own more narrow and precise time definition. But ask most
people in US society "Is that period?" and they won't even understand
the grammar/syntax, because it's not commonly used as a adjective.
With a swirl of the lurking cape, disappears...
Edouard, Sire de Bruyerecourt
Date: Mon, 12 Jan 2004 10:33:22 -0500
From: "Phil Troy/ G. Tacitu Adamantius" <adamantius at verizon.net>
Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Looking for Crab recipes
To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>
Alo sprach Daniel Myers:
> "Chargeaunt" means thick, as compared to "Stonding" which shows up
> in similar context and which I interpret to mean "like mostly set
Yep. "Thykke enow" means thick [enough]. Yes, a subjective term.
"Chargeaunt" is thicker, prolly thick enough to leave tracks.
"Stondynge" is in a range from thick enough to hold stiff peaks, to
supporting a spoon standing up in it.
Adamantius (who always prefers the recipes that say to loke that yt
be thykke enow, because he can make them relatively thin)
Date: Thu, 8 Mar 2007 11:16:34 -0700
From: James Prescott <prescotj at telusplanet.net>
Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Redactions...credit where credit is due or
To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>
At 08:19 -0600 2007-03-08, Ysabeau wrote:
> I don't have access to a lot of direct sources for period recipes, mostly
> because I'm lazy. I like to cook and I'll go surf the net and find period
> recipes with redactions out there or get them friends...or from this list.
> I'll take the recipe and the redaction and use it as a starting point.
> Usually the first time through I'll stay as close to the actual redaction as
> possible. Then I'll start fiddling with it based on my own interpretations
> and tastes. I have always been very careful to give credit where credit is
> due when I use someone's redaction. At what point should I not say "this
> period recipe was originally based on a redaction by Lady P but I've
> modified it based on my interpretation and tastes"? Should it be as soon as
> I've deviated from the original redaction? Should it be only if I make a
> substantial change like using chicken and lemon instead of chicken and
> orange? At what point does it become ~my~ redaction and not a variation of
> someone else's?
If you started from their redaction, then it is always "based on
It would only be yours if you went back to the original, and created
your redaction from scratch. Even then, if you remembered and used
any significant ideas from the other redaction (ideas that weren't
obvious from looking at the original) it would be proper to say
something like "inspired by" or "using ideas from" or whatever.
If you would like to be able to say that it is your redaction
without having to add any qualifiers, then cover up the other
redaction without even reading it, and work directly from the
Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2008 16:18:35 -0500
From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>
Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Redaction (Was: Some recipes that I have
To: <grizly at mindspring.com>, "Cooks within the SCA"
<sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>
It depends on whether I'm experimenting or putting together a formal
presentation of my recipe adaption.
I want a copy of the original recipe, transcription or facsimile. That will
be the final arbiter for any disputed points. Next I want a translation, if
necessary. From this, I may produce an ingredient list and experiment on
quantities or just play around from the translation. If I'm playing, I may
leave the recipe in this state. If I am preparing it for publication, my
adaptation of the recipe will be put in a modern format with a
transcription of the original and any translation.
Bear > > > > > > > >
Bear, I think I see what you are doing there. How do you balance that
against what you believe a medieval cook would have done in preparing the
dish to be served? Is this a practical versus academic difference for
I tend to daydream/philosophize/guess at what I glean a medieval culinary
practitioner would have done ina given situation or type of meal. That
means I tend to stay way from exact detailed measures and weights for
everything, but get a general direction and instructions to follow.
A redaction is an edited work, so what we are discussing is not the original
work, but how we approach the editing. No one has any way of knowing
precisely what a medieval cook would have done, but we do have their recipes
which list ingredients and provide basic instructions. My adaptation will
be within the constraints of the recipe. If there are issues between
various translations, transcriptions, etc., the earliest original version of
the recipe I can locate will be the arbiter. That may be rigid and
academic, but it also sets a temporal boundary contemporary to that of a
In my opinion, medieval cooks were consummate professionals. They learned,
they practiced what they learned and they expanded their skills. My
approach is that of a cook practicing a new technique. From the recipe, I
try to create a dish that I, as a cook, would be willing to serve to my
patron. I may not keep much in the line of notes on a simple experiment. I
might keep copious notes on something difficult, expensive, or with limited
time to repeat. I keep notes on dishes prepared for feasts or where I am
thinking about an article or column as a practical matter. The medieval
cook may not have kept written notes as I do, but I'm certain he kept mental
notes on points which might improve his art.
For both practical and academic, please consider that while the quantities
may not appear in the recipe and might be changed on the fly to improve the
dish, the medieval cook would be required to report on the exact quantities
and measures of ingredients used to the clerk so that they could be entered
into the household accounts. These would be matched against quantities
released from stores and the number of portions which crossed the bar. In
my opinion, the medieval cook had as good a grasp of the basic ratios and
quantities of ingredients required as any modern chef. And like the modern
chef, he knew how to maximize his profit.
The recipes I write down have quantities attached for the benefit of others
that don't have my experience and want to approximate my work. In this I am
not a medieval cook, but a modern person trying to convey historical and
practical information as clearly as possible to other modern people. In
actually preparing the dish for others, say at a feast where I a portraying
the medieval cook, I will keep to the ingredients, but I may modify the
quantities (particularly of spices) to get the taste I think is appropriate
for the dish. When I prepare my dinner, I'm likely to modify any recipe on
the fly depending on what's in the kitchen and my mood of the moment.
Can I do this better? Probably. Like the medieval cook, I need to
practice. I do wish that my patrons had less plebian tastes.