Spice Mixes for an Auction, and an Announcement

When the Queen calls, you answer.

Her Majesty Sha’ya of An Tir laid a challenge on our Kingdom, and in particular upon the Laurels: produce a work to be auctioned off to benefit RAINN during the Knights Auction (all donations are sponsored by a Knight) at 12th Night.

I was moved — this is an incredible organization whose mission I believe in. I wanted to produce something worthy of auction. I found a sponsor, Sir Philip de Mantel, and proposed to put together a set of spice mixes for period cooking.

And I did make a set of spice mixes, a rather nice set if I do say so myself:

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Most of these (4/6) were made using actual period recipes. The remaining two (powder douce and powder fort) are more “generic” spice blends that I have my own versions of. You can see I found cute bottles and a cute basket and even made little labels for them.

Here are the sources for each one, and their ingredients:

  • Powder Fort: Black pepper, cubeb, cassia cinnamon, mace, clove
  • Powder Douce: Sugar, ginger, Ceylon cinnamon, nutmeg
  • Duke’s Powder (Menagier, 14th c. French): Sugar, ginger, grains of paradise, Ceylon cinnamon, nutmeg, galangal
  • Clarée Spices (Two Anglo-Norman Culinary… 13th/14th c English): Spikenard, cinnamon, ginger, mace, clove, nutmeg, fennel, anise, caraway, cardamom
  • Fine Spices 1 (Libro di Cucina, 14th/15th c. Italian): Black pepper, Ceylon cinnamon, ginger, clove, saffron
  • Fine Spices 2 (Livre Fort, 16th c. French): Ginger, Ceylon cinnamon, black pepper, long pepper, nutmeg, clove, grains of paradise, galangal

Fun, right?

But here’s the thing: I didn’t feel like it was enough. I got it into my head that spices are okay, but you need recipes to know how to use them.

So, long story short, I kind of wrote a cookbook.

No, really:

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That’s a screenshot of the cover. I wrote a cookbook, and I got a copy of it printed, and I put it and the spices together as one lot for the auction. The winning bidder currently owns the only copy of this cookbook in existence.

For now.

Yeah, soooo… I’ve given myself a year. I’m going to edit what I have and add more recipes to it if I can (my goal is 1 new tested recipe every 1-2 weeks), then I plan to release it for sale. I’m not planning a big run, and I’m planning to self-publish for a few reasons (although, um, if you work for a publishing house and want to talk me out of that and offer me $$$$ to change my mind and publish through you, let’s talk!)

To get you excited, here is the table of contents so far:

  • Preface    4
  • Brief Notes on Some Ingredients    5
    • On Salt    5
    • On Spices    5
    • On Verjus    5
    • On Vinegar    5
    • On Saba    5
    • On Almond Milk    6
    • On Rose Water    6
  • Spice Mixes for All Manner of Dishes    7
    • Powder Fort    7
    • Powder Douce    7
    • Clarée Spices    8
    • Fine Spices 1    8
    • Fine Spices 2    8
  • Beverages    9
    • Quick Mead    9
    • Hippocras / Ypocras / Clarée / Piment (Spiced Wine)    9
    • Oxymel / Posca (Vinegar/Honey Drink)    10
    • Clarée D’eau / Clarea de Agua (Water with Honey and Spices)    10
    • Rose Drink Concentrate    10
  • Finger Foods, Nibbles, and Snacks    11
    • Pescods (Peas in the pod)    11
    • To Churn Your Own Butter    11
    • Whole Pickled Onions    11
    • Pickled Onion Rings    12
    • Pickled Champignons (Mushrooms)    12
    • Fried Livers with Saba    13
    • Hais (Date and Nut Balls)    13
  • Meats, Fishes, and Their Sauces    14
    • Sour Grape Juice with Fried Summer Fish    14
    • To Dresse a Crabbe (Crab with Butter and Verjus)    14
    • Peiouns Ystewed (Stewed Pigeons)    14
    • Grilled Quail with Lemon Sauce    15
    • Good and Perfect Hens with Sumac    16
    • Roasted Chicken with Orange Sauce    16
    • Limonia (Chicken in Lemon Sauce)    16
    • To Make Stekys of Venson or Bef (Steaks of Venison or Beef)    17
    • Alows de Boef (Herbed Rolled Beef)    17
    • Fresh Lamb Sausage with Cilantro Sauce    18
    • Pork Loin with Peach Sauce    19
    • Cormarye (Spiced Pork Loin)    19
    • Salt Pork    20
    • Mustard Sauce    20
  • Egg and Pasta Dishes    21
    • Erbolat (Medieval English Frittata)    21
    • Sphoungata (Byzantine Omelettes)    21
    • Cressée of Noodles (Heraldic Chequy Noodles)    22
    • Cheese Gnocchi    22
    • Makerouns (Baked Noodles with Cheese)    23
  • Vegetables, Grains, and Legumes    24
    • A Dish of Leeks    24
    • Onion salad    24
    • Asparagus    24
    • Parsnips in Pottage    25
    • Basic Green Salad    25
    • Sprouts of Life    25
    • Carrot Puree    26
    • Chyches (Seasoned Chickpeas)    26
    • Green Chickpeas    26
    • Fresh Fava Beans    27
    • A Dish of Rice    27
    • Almond Porridge    28
    • Oatcakes    28
  • Pies of All Sorts    29
    • Basic Self-Supporting Hot Water Pastry    29
    • To Raise Coffins    29
    • Coffins Another Way    30
    • To Build a Large Coffin    30
    • General Baking Instructions for Coffins    31
    • Richer Hot Water Pastry for Molded Pies    31
    • Paest Royall    32
    • Short Paste for Tarts    32
    • A Formula for Meat Pies    33
    • Crustardes of Flessh (Birds in a Pie)    33
    • Cheshire Pork Pie    34
    • Simple Pork Pies    35
    • Une Tourte (Greens Tart)    35
    • Leche Frys of Fische Daye (Cheese Tart)    36
    • Tarte of Apples    37
    • To Bake Pippins (Elizabethan Apple Pie)    37
    • Daryols (Mini Cream Custard Tarts)    38
    • A Formula for Fruit Tarts    38
  • Sweets and Desserts    39
    • Dulcia Domestica (Candied Stuffed Dates)    39
    • Payn Ragoun (Pine Nut Candy)    39
    • Marzipan    39
    • Nucato (Honey-Nut Candy)    40
    • Suckets 1 (Candied Citron Peel)    40
    • Suckets 2 (Candied Orange Peels)    41
    • Pears in Confit (Poached Pears)    41
    • Quince Paste    42
    • Sweet Dessert Yogurt    42
    • Gingerbrede    43
    • Stamped Shortbread Cookies    43
    • A Jellied Ypocras, or, Elizabethan Jelly Shots    43
  • Assorted Useful Non-Edible Things to Make    45
    • Herb Water    45
    • Basic Lard Soap    45
    • Tooth Powder    46

Next addition will be a chapter on recreating medieval bread in a home kitchen (with a normal oven).

I look forward to posting updates as this project develops 🙂

My Life Philosophy

Last year at Twelfth Night, I had just declared that I’d be entering KASC and was thinking about how I had to learn to be more serious. Then I spent the weekend charging around the hotel hanging toast in people’s showers and pouring cider through a glass funnel into the mouths of excited bystanders. 

And I figured myself out: I am a golden retriever, all full of love and enthusiasm and maybe a little slobber. I can’t help but be excited and bouncy. I love to meet people and learn about them and introduce them to other people and help them when I can. I am goofy, and I like warm hugs.

And these things are okay. In fact, they are better than okay, they’re great! Instead of trying to repress this aspect of my personality and make myself more serious, I began then to accept and embrace it. As I see again and again, I’ve had so many incredible experiences as a result of being this open and enthusiastic.

I actually think my life might have changed with that understanding. Since then I’ve felt so much more loving and kind toward myself; I think I finally crossed the threshold of radical self-acceptance. In the past year, I have come to finally see that while I am allowed to improve and change, I am also allowed to be enough exactly as I am in this moment. That’s a really nice feeling.

The lesson in the heart of this that I hope I can hold on to always is that love makes us glow. When you’re passionate about something, you light up a room (yes YOU!) and are unstoppable (yes YOU!) Honestly, this is why I love the SCA: I get to see people doing things they love, and I get to do things I love, and there’s just so much squee-ing.

I charge everyone to make more of those moments. Let’s let our lights shine when we talk about our research and projects. If you are working on a thing, come sit next to me and talk to me about it.

Also, let’s hug. Like, all the time. (Or as much as you can stand.)

More glass painting, and a new Pinterest board

I’ve continued my glass painting experiments:

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I have to say, I’m quite pleased with this. The glass itself came from Crate & Barrel, who have a pretty good selection of glassware that looks passably historical:

Since the last time I posted about glass painting, I’ve switched paint brands. I got a set of Martha Stewart multi-surface craft paints. They are much cheaper than Pebeo and I personally like the colors better (especially this gold!). I am sure they are not as high quality as Pebeo paints, and time will tell how well they hold up. But they work very similarly in that you paint them on the glass, let them dry fully, and cure them in the oven.

I used a stencil for the quatrefoils, and I think I’m getting better with my stencil technique too:

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Notice that my paint is bubbly. I don’t know if that’s the paint or user error.

Otherwise, the big breakthrough since the last time I posted about glass painting is switching to using more dots than lines. With my skill level and the gloppy consistency of the paint, this has been a much better way to yield something that looks decent.

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This particular design is inspired by some of the patterns on this Italian hanging lamp.

I have started a board on Pinterest for examples of period painted glass — check it out. Unfortunately, most of the really beautiful figural paintings are utterly beyond me (at least for now!), but there are a few examples on there with simpler geometric designs that I’m inspired to try out.

This glass is going to be a volunteer thank you at An Tir’s Twelfth Night. Volunteer and you could be the one to take it home 🙂

Making Your Own Paints: A Beginner’s Guide

The paints I made (plus some modern gold paint for comparison)
Paints I’ve made (plus some modern gold paint for comparison)

Pigments available to the medieval/renaissance illuminator included mineral and organic ones. The typical palette consisted of:

  • Black: from lamp soot, charred bone, other carbon sources (e.g. vine black, made from charred grape vines)
  • White: lead white; Cennini specifically mentions that other sources of white, such as chalk, have limited value to the artist
  • Browns: typically from various earth sources such as umber
  • Yellows: orpiment (arsenic sulphide), various ochres/earths, tin, saffron
  • Greens: verdigris (copper acetate produced via various chemical reactions), some earths, malachite (a mineral that also derives its color from copper)
  • Blues: lazurite (lapis lazuli, which yielded the expensive and desirable ultramarine blue), azurite, some copper compounds (including some forms of verdigris), indigo
  • Purple: turnsole
  • Reds: madder, minium (lead oxide), vermilion (cinnabar / mercuric sulphide), possibly kermes and cochineal

Continue reading “Making Your Own Paints: A Beginner’s Guide”

Recommended Reading: A Selected Scribal Bibliography

These are some of the books and other sources that I consulted for my scribal project for Kingdom Arts and Sciences, and that I recommended as part of the classes I taught recently. Take a look, hopefully you’ll find something helpful. I have put my top picks in bold:

A page from a French book of hours from around 1400.
A French book of hours from around 1400. Pop quiz if you read the last post: what style is this?

Continue reading “Recommended Reading: A Selected Scribal Bibliography”

Major Styles of Manuscript Illumination: An Art Historical Survey

This is adapted from a handout from a class I taught at a Dragon’s Mist Arts and Sciences day in late April. The full handout is available in the Files section of this blog.

This is a broad overview of major styles in manuscript production in Western Europe. It is NOT a comprehensive list of every type of book art practiced in our time period, although I would love to put that together someday 🙂 This is intended as a guide for scribes, especially charter painters, to begin to recognize distinct styles and make their artwork fit more closely within a target style.

Continue reading “Major Styles of Manuscript Illumination: An Art Historical Survey”

Five Tips to Make Your Charters Look More Historical

This is adapted from a handout from a class I taught at a Dragon’s Mist Arts and Sciences day in late April. The full handout is available in the Files section of this blog.

Sketching and inking an image from a period original

  1. Pick a style and stick to it. Look at multiple examples from the same time period and place as the finished piece that you are basing your work off of or what you are aiming for. Choose similar colors and use the same types of decorative elements. For more information, see my post of an art historical survey of illumination styles.
  2. Use historical or at least historically plausible colors. Avoid layering white over green, and spend enough time studying manuscripts and pigments that you have a sense of what colors were actually available. Scribes in specific time periods and places used distinct color palettes. Spend time looking at accurate facsimiles of medieval illuminations to determine what colors and combinations they found appealing.
  3. Use gold paint or gold leaf, not both. I have found almost no examples were gold paint and gold leaf were both used in the same page, although I’m sure they exist. Leaf was more commonly used prior to the 15th century, after which gold paint seems to be more common. (I’m still researching this and welcome corrections.)
  4. Go through the process of creating an illumination from start to finish, including planning and ruling out the page, at least once. This will help you see how medieval artists conceptualized the page: manuscript art is unique in that it blends both textual and visual elements. Your painting on a charter needs to reflect the artistic style of the design and be somehow united with the text itself.
  5. Keep in mind the purpose of this art form. Illuminated manuscripts were used devotionally both within public spaces of worship and by private individuals. The aesthetic of illumination grew out of this context. Arguably, this is why manuscript illumination was more stylized than realistic. The artwork that we produce within the SCA is wholly secular; however, it does follow the same stylistic conventions. Additionally, the charters and scrolls we produce are intended to produce strong emotions in their viewers, and are physical relics that our Crowns and Coronets provide to those they value highly. SCA scribes surely take their work just as seriously as medieval scribes did!