At the end of the Mists Bardic Competition 2002, which i had Head Cooked, the winner, Sir Colin McLear, asked me to cook for the Mists Bardic the following year, for which he would be Autocrat and at which his successor would be chosen.
We discussed possible themes and Sir Colin was open to any of my suggestions. I really want to cook a Mongol feast, based on A Soup for the Qan by Paul D. Buell and Eugene N. Anderson. A detailed reading of the text, and tests of some recipes lead me to believe that i would need to do a lot of additional work in order to feed the vegetarians who attend our feasts - in my experience, about 10% of the diners.
ASIDE: Some other local feasts cooks with whom i've talked haven't noticed so many vegetarians. Perhaps it is because several of my friends are vegetarians that i notice who is. And perhaps because vegetarians know they will be able to eat most of the food at my feasts, that my feasts have a higher percentage of vegetarians attending.
Eventually i decided to serve a Greco-Roman feast.
I faced several challenges in planning and executing the feast.
A typical traditional Greek or Roman meal had three courses. Because of the nature of the Principality of the Mists Bardic Competition in relation to the feast - there are five contests, one between each course - Sir Colin asked for six courses, so i made two of each course.
The Prince at the time, Dimitriy, keeps kinda Kosher, so
(a) I made Lucanicae of lamb rather than pork, and served them in a course with ham
(b) for any dish that contained dairy, we made a dish without for him (except for cheese and cheesecake).
The Princess at the time, Jimena, is deathly allergic to all tree nuts except pine nuts, so
(a) I eliminated from the menu several dishes I had wanted to make that featured almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts
(b) I made a nut-and-mustard sauce, making it with the pine nuts - setting aside a dish for the princess - then adding the ground almonds so there would be no cross-contamination.
Princess Jimena is also deathly allergic to raw honey, so I made sure to only use honey that had been heated - I personally use raw honey and have bought it for feasts, but this time I just got "Sue Bee". There was a moment in the kitchen when I had used up all 10 lb of honey and needed more and one of the cooks who lived nearby brought in a 5 lb bottle of raw, so I had to nix it.
I used less fish sauce than my taste prefers, because a number of folks were vocally squeamish while i was in the planning stages.
Also, because close to 10 per cent of feast diners here are vegetarian - and in this case there were 2 or 3 diners allergic to fish - I substituted soy sauce in dishes for them. To acheive this easily, we made all the food without fish sauce, then when finishing the dishes, I set aside 10 per cent (one serving platter) to which we added soy sauce, and put fish sauce in the rest.
Because I know that vegetarians are friends with meat eaters, I had one server dedicated to serving them - she wandered the hall bringing servings to them, whereas the other servers each served whole tables.
Because I wanted a display/sotiltie type dish, and I never got around to making a fake pig out of which to pull the hams, we - actually my co-conspirator Gianetta del Bene - made very non-Greco-Roman faux peach pits, served in sugar paste Roman chariots.
Additionally, September is generally the hottest month here, so we (again, actually Gianetta) made two fruit ices and served them as "palate cleansers" between some rather "savory" courses.
And finally, Sir Colin expected to serve around 72. But my experience led me to assume that I would more likely be feeding 80, so that was how many i planned to feed. Then several days before the feast the Autocrat called and said all the tickets were sold out, and more people wanted to attend. "Could I feed 100?" he asked. Of course, I said, "Yes." All I did was buy more chicken and more salad. Since there were about 26 dishes, I knew i'd have enough food.
Sources and Research
Anonymous. Translated by Barbara Flower & Elizabeth Rosenbaum. Apicius, The Roman Cookery Book. Peter Nevill, Ltd, London & New York: 1958.
Andrew Dalby. Siren Feasts, A History of Food and Gastronomy in Greece. Routledge, London & New York: 1996.
Andrew Dalby. Empire of Pleasures, Luxury and Indulgence in the Roman World. Routledge, London & New York: 2000.
Andrew Dalby. Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices. University of California Press, Berkeley & Los Angeles: 2000.
Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger. The Classical Cookbook. British Museum Press, London: revised edition 2000.
Patrick Faas. Translated by Shaun Whiteside. Around the Roman Table: Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome. Palgrave Macmillan, New York and Hampshire UK: 1994, 2003.
Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa. Translated by Anna Herklotz. A Taste of Ancient Rome. University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London: 1992.
Grant, Mark. Roman Cookery: Ancient Recipes for Modern Kitchens. Serif: London: 1999.
I didn't buy a copy of this until after the feast, in early October at the Known World Costume Symposium, from Devra of Poison Pen Press. Heck, she was one of the reasons I went to Denver!
I made feast booklets for every diner. There was a title page, then one page for each course, and the back page was the bibliography. I did not include recipes, but for each dish - named in Latin or Greek and in English (or in Italian for the ices) - i included a complete list of ingredients as well as its historic source(s).
Because there were some empty spaces in the booklet following shorter courses, I included stories about spices from Herodotus and other Greek and Roman writers, with which i was familiar, since I had taught a course on early spice routes back in late July or early August.
**** Ab Ovo Ad Malum ****
- - - Promulsis - Hors d'Oeuvre - - -
- - Panis : Fresh Bread
- - Caseum : Fresh Aged Cheese
- - Epityrum : Chopped Seasoned Olive Relish [Cato the Censor, de Agricultura, 119]
- - Ius cum Ovis Hapalis : Boiled Eggs in Pine Nut Sauce [Apicius, Book VII, Chapter XIX, Recipe 3]
Hors d'Oeuvre Recipes
- - - Gustatio - Appetizers - - -
- - Panis : Fresh Bread
- - Moretum : Garlic, Herb, and Cheese Spread [The Ploughman's Lunch, anonymous Latin poet]
- - Aliter Carduos : Herb Marinated Artichokes [Apicius, Book III, Chapter XIX, Recipe 2]
- - Ius in Cordulla Assa : Grilled Tuna with Date Sauce [Apicius, Book IX, Chapter X, Recipe 5]
- - - Intermezzo Primo - - -
- - Granita di Limone : Lemon Ice
- - - Primera Mensa, Cena Prima - - -
First Course, First Table
- - Ius cum Pullo : Chicken with Plum Sauce [Apicius, Book VI, Chapter V, Recipe 1]
- - Acetaria : Mixed Greens Salad
- - Hypotrimma : Cheese Sauce [Apicius, Book I, Chapter XIX]
- - Boletos : Another Mushroom Dish [Apicius, Book VII, Chapter XIII, Recipe 6]
- - Erebinthoi Knakosymmigeis : Saffron Chickpeas [Piloxenus, The Dinner, quoted in Anthenaeus (circa AD170-239), The Partying Professors]
First Course Recipes
- - - Intermezzo Secundo - - -
- - Granita di Melograno : Pomegranate Ice
- - - Primera Mensa, Cena Secunda - - -
First Course, Second Table
- - Pernam : Ham with Figs in Pastry [Apicius, Book VII, Chapter IX, Recipe 1]
- - Lucanicae : Smokey Sausages of Lamb [Apicius, Book II, Chapter IV]
- - Sinapim : Mustard Sauce with Nuts [Columella 12, 57]
- - Cuminatum in Patina de Persicis : Peaches in Cumin Sauce [Patina: Apicius, Book IV, Chapter II, Recipe 34]
- - Cabbage in the Style of Athens [Mnesitheus (4th c. BCE), quoted by Oribasius, in Medical Collections, Book IV, Chapter 4, part 1 (4th c. CE); another version in Cato (c. 234-149 BCE) and quoted by Pliny the Elder (24-79 CE)]
- - Pulentium : Barley Polenta [Pliny, Naturalis Historia, 18, 73]
First Course Recipes
- - - Seconda Mensa, Cena Prima - - -
Second Course, First Table
- - Conditum Paradoxi Compositio : Spiced White Grape Juice Surprise [Apicius, Book I, Chapter I, Recipe 1]
- - Patina Versatilis : Pine Nut Patina - [Apicius, Book IV, Chapter II, Recipe 2]
- - Mustei : Sweet Must Cakes [Cato the Censor, de Agricultura, 121]
Second Course Recipes
- - - Seconda Mensa, Cena Seconda - - -
Second Course, Second Table
- - Savillum : Roman cheese cake [Cato the Censor, de Agricultura, 84]
- - Almond Paste Peach Pits in Sugar Plate Chariots
- - Fresh Fruit
Second Course Recipes
Thanks and Appreciation
My team of cooks did a great job. And i want to thank them publicly.
First, i want to thank my co-conspirator, Gianetta del Bene, who had some great ideas, and who made at least 80 "peach pits" - which is a lot of fiddly work, as well as several sugar paste Roman chariots in which to serve them.
Next, the cooks who took my recipes and made them at home, Euriol of Lothian and Gianetta. And Cordelia Toser who made a large number of delicious baked custards based on her interpretation of the Patina Versatilis, which was devoured wholeheartedly by diners and cooks.
To Wulfric of Creighul, the Mad Baker, who made the bread for the first two courses, and to Eibhlin nic'Raghailligh, who was making fresh cheese, and when it didn't turn out, brought us some fabulous Gorgonzola.
Also to the kitchen helpers - i no longer remember who all was there, but among them was Aelia Apollina. And the redoubable Justin who washed pots and utensils unstintingly during the feast preparation and serving. At the end of the feast several men came in to wash, and i apologize for not remembering your names, but be assured that your service was deeply and enduringly appreciated.
And to those who loaned us serving dishes, among them His Grace, Duke Cariadoc and Mistress Betty Cook.
And i want to thank the servers who worked hard on a very hot day.
And finally, if you don't see your name here, because my brain has failed to dredge it up, please e-mail me, so i can add it.