Bhakail Baronial Yule will be my first SCA run kitchen as head feast cook. This will be the project diary for the process, recipes, and complete documentation.
What is the Event Steward challenge?
The Event Steward challenged the Dayboard Chef and the Feast Chef to work within a common larder which would be “stocked” with seasonal ingredients. The larder was to simulate the types of ingredients that would have been found in a baronial household. From this larder, the menus would be designed for traditional English feast service at Baronial Yule celebration. There are above the salt/below the salt offerings. Recipes and ingredients would have been available in England during the time frame covered by the SCA (circa ~1600). It was requested that dishes be documentable/historically correct.
Menestrellorum Multitudo: Minstrels At A Royal Feast By Constance Bullock-Davies was used to construct our larder. This book outlines the detailed lists of materials ordered and stocked for the Feast of Swans (a feast held in honor of a royal knighting ceremony in England, May 1306).
This unique challenge mimics an English household. The event steward brings in provisions and makes sure that there was minimum spoilage and pilferage of foodstuffs and supplies. The head chefs provide a meal that is well balanced, perfectly presented, and approved by both steward and the Lady (Baroness of Bhakail) of the Household. Additions to the larder go through an approval process to ensure period “compliance” and seasonal availability.
The modern advantage to having a common larder is to cut down on food costs, by being able to buy in bulk and share ingredients across one kitchen. Prep chores can also be spread across the full kitchen staff, rather than having crews for dayboard and crews for feast. Knowledge and capabilities are shared, and in theory, more work can be performed for less effort. This will make kitchen rotatations easier and allow for people to float in and out of shifts.
There are 4 additional showcase chefs, 1 for each course. These dishes will be presented to the above the salt patrons. These dishes have been developed in accordance to the base event steward challenge, but are outside of the control of the Feast Chef. They have been slotted into position based upon ingredient content and course design. These dishes include: Savory Toasted Cheese- course 1; Crown Rack of Venison- course 2; Multi-bird Galytyne- course 3; dessert from Le Menagier- course 4.
What is above the salt?
“Thenne here-uppon the boteler or panter shall bring forthe his pryncipall salte . . . he shall sette the saler in the myddys of the tabull accordyng to the place where the principall soverain shall sette . . . thenne the seconde salte att the lower ende then salte selers shall be sette uppon the syde tablys.”
Mr Arthur Davenport’s MS. How to serve a Lord 1503.
Salt is traditionally the first thing to be served at a feast, and the last thing to be removed from the table. It is a symbol of the wealth of the host.To sit above the salt, is to be in a place of distinction. Persons of distinction sat above the “saler”—i.e. between it and the head of the table; dependents and other guests sat below. In this case patron seated above the salt are the hosts of Yule, Their Excellencies of Bhakail, their guests Their Royal Majesties and guests, and those patrons who make “above the salt” reservations.