Monday, May 1, 2017

Culinary Symposium, 2017!!!!

I was fortunate enough to attend the Society for Creative Anachronism's West Coast Culinary Symposium this year.  The last time I attended was in 2014, and I wrote about it here.

This time I had a better idea of what to expect and was excited to see that they had planned a Roman feast for the Saturday night dinner.  They also were scheduling a number of interesting classes for the weekend.

The Friday dinner was a Traveler's Feast, which means a potluck and boy, what fun it was!  The hosts provided some soups and bread and the rest of us brought more goodies.  As I learned last time, it was an opportunity to share with our fellow enthusiasts the products of our kitchens.

The time period is pre-1600 and the represented cultures were numerous.  There were medievalists, Roman Empire re-enactors, Vikings, and Renaissance representatives.  And probably more but I was not adept at recognizing them all.

Here is a sample of the Traveler's Feast.

(Above)  Clockwise from the top:  Gravlax, apple tart, whipped cream with fresh berries, pickled cabbage, pickled cucumbers, honey-ginger carrots and parsnips, pickled asparagus.

(Above) Clockwise from the top:  Honey-ginger carrots and parsnips, sausage, pork and apple pie, date ball, chickpeas with cheese, gravlax, pickled turnips and leeks, homemade cheddar with some mustard, quince preserves, apple tart, and a preserved meat.

My Viking friends had made the gravlax to share, and it was wonderful.

There were homemade cheeses, soups, breads, pickled vegetables, and fruits.  Some of the foods weren't "period"  (see the tomatoes) because some people were traveling and couldn't bring something homemade with them.

It was all good!

My contribution to the feast was the dish with chickpeas and cheese.  I'll write about that in another post.

Since Friday was arrival time, people came in throughout the evening and so the food choices changed accordingly.  It was nice to see my friends and meet new ones.

Saturday morning found me up early and hanging out in the dining hall.  I discovered that Master Cariadoc's beverages of julap and sekanjabin were still available.  Julap is basically a simple syrup flavored with rose water and it is lovely.  I discovered it was good to add to my morning tea and was exquisite in hot cocoa.

Sekanjabin is a simple syrup mixed with wine vinegar and mint.  His recipe is found here.

What a delightful way to wake up!

Then the food began to be set upon the serving table.  I loved the drama of this shot:

The eggs were joined by breads, spreads, fruit, and some leftovers from the Friday dinner.

That little jar by the fruit was a very thick, aged balsamic vinegar. I enjoyed it drizzled over the fruit.

Here is the menu for the Saturday breakfast.

A close up of the dried beef.  It was crispy!

My helping, part one.

See the drizzle on the fruit?
This is the broth and sops.  It was a sausage soup and you poured it over bread in your bowl.  The bread is the "sops".

I was surprised to see there were date balls left over from dinner.

After breakfast and clean up, it was time for the classes to begin.  My first class was on Roman Fast Food.

The teacher, Claudia, has a reproduction Roman brazier used in cooking at what were Roman restaurants and fast food businesses.  She had it modified to meet state fire safety requirements; that is, it is higher off the ground.  This also makes it easier to use without straining your back.  Some of the more interesting features of it are listed with the pictures.

The back of the brazier.  Notice the grills are removable.  The rings are for supporting pots that are big enough not to fall through.  She mentioned that tall containers of water could be set inside, too.

The front of the brazier.  The bars above are adjustable and perfect for holding skewers of meat or vegetables.  When not needed, they are moved down to the front (see below).

You can see the adjustable bars moved out of the way.  Here Claudia is using a blowpipe to encourage the coals.

The design is convenient enough to cook the lentils in a pot on a trivet, right over the coals.

We also cooked some meatballs, which we fried but could have placed on skewers.

You can see that the removable grill came in handy to support the fry pan over the coals.  You can see that, had she wanted to, Claudia could have four containers of food cooking at once.  In a very minimal space.

Claudia has done her research, including traveling to Roman sites and viewing the museum collections and archaeological digs.  Here are two books she brought as references:

All the other classes I attended did not give me the opportunity to take pictures as I did with the Roman Fast Food class because they kept my hands busy!  But they were good and I learned a lot. Next up was The Evolution of the Kitchen.  Then came lunch.

It consisted of Roman pickled vegetables, mustard, and preserves.

But wait!  There's more!  The cooks handed each of us our own flatbread plate with different kinds of meats and homemade cheeses.

A clever and intriguing presentation
Why yes, there was a class that was taught on charcuterie, and we were able to sample some of their wares.  Some of the Friday dinner and Saturday breakfast meats were from that topic, too.

So the idea was to add the pickled vegetables and et cetera as accompaniments to the meat plate.

After lunch was a keynote speech (my pictures of her speaking turned out poorly).  I thought the speaker was dynamic and interesting in expressing her support and encouragement of people experimenting and exploring historical cooking.

Then I attended a class called "Redacting Dutch Sauces."  Yes, the focus was on Dutch sauces but the main point was to help you think your way through the steps of redacting, which included getting a clear picture of the goal before you start cooking, considering your options, judging the quantities according to the goal, and (my weakest skill) writing down what you are doing as you are doing it and keeping good notes.

One well-made point was that two people redacting the same recipe using the same ingredients may end up with two dishes that taste very different from each other, just because of the choices they make on quantities and what tastes right to their tongues.

My last class for the day was on making sauerkraut and other fermented foods.  While listening to the teacher's life experiences with brewing, fermenting, and preserving, we prepared our own sauerkraut to take home.  Mine turned out to be tasty and, fortunately, not too salty.  It was fun to see the lacto-fermentation occur and everything get all bubbly.

Then came dinner.  That Roman feast I mentioned earlier.  It was amazing and tasty and intriguing and good!  I was so full from all the other meals and classes throughout the day that I wasn't sure I could do the feast justice.  Fortunately I could take small servings and still get a good taste of everything.

The first course was olives and a cucumber salad.  A pleasant way to get your saliva flowing.  I thought I had taken a picture of them but I can't find it.

Next came the bread salad.  This was feta cheese and herbs in a sauce served over bread that had olives baked in it.  That could have been the rest of the meal for me!

But no, the third course was lentils cooked with artichoke bottoms, and sausage with pine nuts.

The fourth course was chicken with what looked like leeks and herbs in a sauce.  It, too, was tasty.

What I thought was bacon turned out to be leeks (I think).
And when we thought we were bursting and couldn't eat another bite, the fifth course was dessert, a Roman style cheesecake served alongside dried cherries and also dates with honey and a bit of salt sprinkled on it.

The cherries did not make it into the picture.
I enjoyed that the cheesecake was really not sweet but more like a slightly fluffy cheese dish.  The poppy seeds were a nice touch.  The dates reminded me of the recipe I made a little while ago, Dates Alexandrine, except it didn't have the almonds inside.  But I still loved the honey glaze that included a bit of salt.

The rest of the evening was spent chatting with friends, listening to the "Mortal Peril" competition, and getting an impromptu talk on Brewing Monastic Ales.  Complete with samples!

Sunday was a short day.  It started off with breakfast, of course!  Some leftovers from dinner (more bread salad!) and two special hot dishes:  bread pudding and ham-and-cheese strata.

Of course, more julap and sekanjabin throughout the Saturday meals and at Sunday breakfast.

Then off to a class where we created our own Hippocras and learned more about flavored beverages.  Mine turned out quite good and was even approved by my guest taster (at home) who is particular about the wine he drinks.

As I said, I had a lovely time, a fun and relaxing weekend, I loved the food and fellowship, and made new friends.  It was a privilege to spend time with such knowledgeable and experienced people and I was honored that they would share their skills with me.

I came home full of scents and flavors and ideas and am all charged up to explore historical cooking even more.  Success!

The End:

Sadly, it had to end.