Feast for Christmas Revel
Hosted by the Barony of Axemoor, December 6th, 1997. Head Cook: THL Sigrid Thorbjarnardottir

Being an Attempt at a Grand Chef's Qualifying Feast. The Grand Chefs of Meridies are a kind of guild to which new members are admitted by holding such a feast as this at an SCA event, which is judged by at least 3 Grand Chefs based on documentation, presentation, cooking skill and the general organizational skills proper to a "feast-crat." After presenting this feast, Sigrid was admitted to their company.

First Course - England

Pork Pie | Buttered Carrots | Manchet | Marchpane | A Soltety of Mock Entrails

Second Course - Scotland

Cock-a-leekie | Pickled Salmon | Shortbread

Third Course - Germany

Roast Chicken Stuffed with Apples & Prunes | Spiced Red Cabbage | Potato Cakes

The Presentation of the Boar's Head

Fourth Course - France

Roast Beef with Sauce Poivrade | Mushroom Pasties | Black Porray

Fifth Course - Ancient Rome

Seafood Mince of Shrimp & Scallop | Mushrooms in Wine | Stuffed Dates in Honey

Sixth Course - Turkey

Lamb Kebobs with Yoghurt Sauce | Pide | Bulgar Pilaf with Chick Peas

Sweet Safron Rice with Pistachios & Almonds

Seventh Course - Italy

Macrows | Sweet & Sour Onions | Cherry Tart

The Marchpane, A Sotelty of Mock Entrails, Pickled Salmon, Seafood Mince of Shrimp and Scallops, Mushrooms in Wine, Stuffed Dates in Honey, Macrows, & Sweet and Sour Onions are dishes that were reserved for the High Table and the judges.

Notes on the Feast:

First Course - England: Four of the recipes in this remove were adapted by Madge Lorwin in Dining With William Shakespeare. The Pork Pie is based on a recipe in William Rabisha's The Whole Body of Cookery Dissected, 1661, called "To Bake Pork to be eaten cold." The Manchet is based on a recipe that Lorwin adapted from Gervase Markham's The English Hus-wife, 1615, but I simply had to add a little sugar to the recipe for fear the bread would be unappetizingly heavy. I also formed the bread into more of a baguette shape than a round manchet for ease in sharing out amongst the diners at table. The Buttered Carrots and Marchpane were taken from Robert May's The Accomplished Cook, 1660. The decoration for the Marchpane comes from a reference in Lorwin's book to a New Year's gift Queen Elizabeth received from her master cook, George Webster, a "faire marchpane being a chessboarde" (1). The Mock Entrails are a much earlier recipe taken from Harleian MS 4016, circa 1450 (2), by Cindy Renfrow in Take a Thousand Eggs or More.

Second Course - Scotland: I am aware that simply because a dish is considered "traditional" this doesn't mean that it's pedigree is sufficiently antique to qualify it as period. The dishes in this remove do not come directly from period sources. Cock-a-leekie, a chicken and leek soup, and Pickled Salmon are from an early twentieth century book of traditional recipes and kitchen lore collected by F. Marian McNeill (see bibliography). The ingredients are period and the concepts involved, those of chicken soup and pickled fish, are certainly period. These recipes required adaptation as those in the book do not include measurements of ingredients. This book also contains a recipe for Shortbread, a dish that can be found under various names in a number of variations in English cookbooks of the sixteenth century. Simple recipes for shortbread being quite common in modern cookbooks, I saw no need to reinvent the dish. I simply used the recipe in an old, favorite cookie cookbook of mine.

Third Course - Germany: Roast Chicken Stuffed with Apples and Prunes is a variation on a dish that, according to Esther Arresty, she found in "an early German cookbook" (3). It was a duck stuffed with apples and prunes, but chickens are not only much more inexpensive, they have far more meat and less fat than ducks, hence my substitution. It's a dish still popular in Scandinavia and Germany. The Spiced Red Cabbage is based on a recipe in a modern German cookbook, but Arresty mentions sauerkraut, which is pickled cabbage, as appearing in 16th century German cookbooks (4). Unfortunately, she doesn't reprint any of the recipes for this, but the ingredients I have used would have been available to cooks in period and not, I think, inconsistent with what they would have done. Pickled cabbage may well have changed little over the centuries. The Potato Cakes may seem a surprising inclusion, but it is true that potatoes were cultivated and accepted as normal food in some areas of Europe before the seventeenth century. Recipes using potatoes appear in German cookbooks for the first time in 1581, in Ein Neu Kochbuch by Marx Rumpolt. Cakes of grated potatoes with onions similar in concept to our hash browns appeared in a book written in German and printed in Switzerland in 1598 (5).

Fourth Course - France: That Roast Beef is period requires no proof (6). The peppercorn sauce that will be served with it, Sauce Poivrade, was adapted by Esther Arresty from Le Cuisinier Francois by Francois Pierre de La Varenne, 1651. The other two dishes are redacted from recipes in Menagier de Paris, 1393. The Black Porray, a dish of greens seasoned with bacon, comes to us by way of Heiatt and Butler's Pleyn Delit. The Mushroom Pasties are my adaptation of the recipe as it appeared in Edna Eileen Power's 1928 translation of Menagier.

Fifth Course - Ancient Rome: All three recipes appear in Apicius' De re Coquinaria as translated by Joseph Dommers Vehling. The redactions used are my own. The Seafood Mince With Shrimp and Scallops is adapted from "Isicia," which listed a number of different sea creatures to choose from in making the dish. Shrimp wasn't on the list, but it seemed in the spirit of the thing and many of the choices listed would be prohibitively expensive. The recipe fails to mention how these minces were to be cooked, but other recipes for minces that follow advise one to poach them in broth or liquamen so I followed that method. Mushrooms in Wine appears as "Boletos Fungos" in Apicius and Stuffed Dates in Honey are closely adapted from "Dulciaria."

Sixth Course - Turkey: All of the recipes in this remove are found in Algar's Classical Turkish Cooking. According to Algar, both yoghurt and cooked skewered meats are referred to in Mahmud alKashghari's Diwan Lughat al-Turk, an eleventh century Turkish-Arabic dictionary (7). These are, of course, the main components of the Lamb Kebabs with Yoghurt Sauce. I left out the non-period element of the chosen recipe, a roasted tomato sauce, and substituted a simple yoghurt-garlic sauce. Pilafs made with a variety of grains first made their appearance in fifteenth century Turkey (8), and Bulgur Pilaf with Chick Peas doesn't appear to contain any modern innovations. I feel that I am on safe ground with the Sweat Saffron Rice with Pistachios and Almonds as well. Certainly rice puddings were made in period in Europe (9), and, rice having come from the east in the early Middle Ages (10), it's quite likely that rice puddings were made in the east as well. In fact, Bartolomeo Scappi in The Private Cook of Pope Pius V (Cuoco Secreto di Papa Pio Quinto), 1570, refers to a dish on a feast menu as "Rice in Turkish Style with milk, served with sugar and cinnamon over it" (11). The Pide served here is a version of the flat bread that has been common in the middle east for countless centuries.

Seventh Course - Italy: Two of the recipes used were printed in an article on pre-Columbian Italian food in The Times Picayune-States Item newspaper on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Columbus' first voyage. Cherry Tort came originally from Libro di Arte Coquinaria, first printed in the fifteenth century. The Sweet and Sour Onions do come from a modern cookbook, Mediterranean Cookery by Claudia Roden, but Ms. Roden is always careful to present authentic recipes in her books and the combination of flavors in the dish is one that would not be out of place on a table in period. Neither the ingredients nor the cooking method would place it out-of-period.

(1) Lorwin, Madge. Dining with William Shakespeare. (1976) pp 388-89. (2) Renfrow, Cindy. Take a Thousand Eggs or More. (1990) p 111. (3) Arresty, Esther B. The Delectable Past. (1964) p 41. (4) ibid. p 40. (5) ibid. p 41. (6) Heiatt, Constance B. and Butler, Sharon. Pleyn Delit, Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks. (1976) pp x-xi. (7) Algar, Ayla; Classical Turkish Cooking. (1991) p 4. (8) ibid. p 162 (9) Lorwin, Madge. Dining with William Shakespeare. (1976) p 266. (10) Algar, Ayla. p 161. (11) Arresty, Esther; p 36.


    Algar, Ayla; Classical Turkish Cooking, Traditional Turkish Food for the American Kitchen; HarperCollins, New York, 1991.

    Anderson, Jean and Wurz, Hedy; The New German Cookbook; HarperCollins, New York, 1993.

    Arresty, Esther B; The Delectable Past; Simon and Schuster, New York, 1964.

    Betty Crocker's Cookie Book; Golden Press, New York, 1963.

    Heiatt, Constance B. and Butler, Sharon; Pleyn Delit, Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks; University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1976.

    Lorwin, Madge; Dining with William Shakespeare; Athenneum, New York, 1976.

    McNeill, F. Marian; The Scots Kitchen; Blackie & Son Ltd, Edinburgh, 1929.

    Power, Edna Ellen, trans.; The Goodman of Paris (The Menagier de Paris); London, 1928.

    Renfrow, Cindy; Take a Thousand Eggs or More; self-published, 1990.

    Roden, Claudia; Mediterranean Cookery; Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1992.

    Tannahill, Reay; Food in History; Crown Trade Paperbacks, New York, 1973.

    Times Picayune - The States Item; article on pre-Columbian Italian food for the 500th anniversary of Columbus' 1st voyage, printed in 1992.

    Vehling, Joseph Dommers, trans.; Apicius, Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome (Apicius de re Coquinaria); Dover Publications, New York, 1977.

THL Sigrid Thorbjarnardottir is an 11th century Dane married to a half-Danish, half-Greek merchant from Miklagard (Constantinople), who still spends most of her time on the farm. She is very proud of having learned to write her name and isn't very good at spinning wool.

Feast for Christmas Revel © 1997 Rebecca A. C. Smith. This page © 1999 James L. Matterer

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