If you’ve just now found this blog based on my kinda ranty last post, welcome and well met! Feel free to explore my research (see the files section) and try out some of my suggested projects in older posts. I’m not a frequent writer anymore, but I’m happy my recent words have resonated with so many people.
Last night I finally let myself say goodbye for real. I have been saying goodbye since the night before that horrible morning, through those hours waiting and worrying with those who loved you deepest. I have been saying goodbye since those minutes spent with what had been you, my brilliant, hilarious, kind friend, but wasn’t anymore, trying to hold myself together to be there for your family however I could. I have been saying goodbye with every second that my heart keeps beating after yours was stilled.
Last night at the Grand Thing, my household hosted a bardic circle to remember Conchobhar mac Muirchertaig. Songs were sung and stories told, dad jokes made us groan, lengths of plaid were distributed to those of great merit. I am so unspeakably grateful to everyone who made it happen; I am pretty much totally disconnected from the Bardic community, and an awesome bunch of people made this a rousing success. Thank you to everyone who organized and participated, seriously.
I spoke some words about Conchobhar. I didn’t write them down before hand (I tend not to, I prefer to extemporize for nearly all situations) and I didn’t think to capture them. But this has been on my mind for a while, so some of it is still batting around and I want to say it here. This isn’t exactly what I said but it will probably have some of the spirit of it.
I’m a Laurel, and I saw the Peer in Conchobhar. He was a master at his chosen art. He inspired others. He relentlessly pursued research and authenticity. He made our Kingdom better, he made our Society better, and he made us better as individuals. I have such strong memories of him during Finals at Kingdom Bardic. I loved watching him perform, and talk about his research and answer questions. I think when he told stories he became this other self, his best self. But for me the biggest moment wasn’t actually when he was telling his story, it was an answer to a question.
Mistress Isolde asked Conchobhar what he would do as Bardic Champion of An Tir, and he kind of squared off and looked indignant and responded “Isolde, I’m insulted! I AM a Bardic Champion of An Tir! Everywhere I go, and everything I do, I promote the Bardic Arts in An Tir!” and he proceeded to list off all the ways he championed the Bardic Arts.
I thought in that moment that it wouldn’t be long before I would be part of Conchobhar’s Vigil.
Although I was given the gift of being present with him for a vigil, it was not in a way that I would have ever wanted. I was unable to bring Conchobhar into our Laurels’ council, so the only way I can make his voice heard is through me. I must carry on as a tribute to him. I hope someday to be half as good a person as he thought I was. Let us all work toward living the memory of Conchobhar.
Among my father’s people there is a custom, to seal a bond with a toast, a boast, and an oath.
I made my toast to Peggy and Karen, Russ’s moms. I thanked them for giving the world their son, and for letting us in the SCA borrow him.
I boasted of all my memories of time well spent with Conchobhar. From that time with the Jell-O shots to that other time with the sangria, we had so many wonderful moments together. I boasted that I have known joy.
Finally, my oath — I made public and oath that I swore to Conchobhar on many occasions in private, in particular when he was ill at the end. I swore that I would always watch out for his kinfolk, for his beloved Errenach and children. In ancient days it was the custom to send our dead off with grave goods, with valuable gifts to take with them to whatever may come next. I can think of no gift that Conchobhar would value more than this, and so it is what I give him to take from me: I will care for his family as my own.
To Conchobhar, with all my love, now and always.
(This is reblogged from my old blog)
I could write absolute digital reams on the subject of spices in medieval cuisine. No, medieval people did not use spices to mask the taste of rotten meat (don’t get me started), but spices are an integral part of medieval cooking. While individual dishes have their own unique spice profiles, there are two indispensable spice mixes that show up again and again in medieval recipe collections from various times and places: powder douce and powder fort. My basic spice kit to take to events contains these two mixes plus salt and saffron. These four items are enough to get me through most dishes I want to prepare. Here’s some more information about each of the blends:
Powder fort: Fort in this case meaning strong. Mentioned in Italian, French, and English recipes for sure, and likely in recipe collections from other places but I am less familiar with them. So far in my reading of English recipes from the 13th and 14th centuries, I have yet to come across an actual recipe for powder fort itself. There is some evidence (mostly from the Menagier de Paris) that these mixes might have been purchased ready-made rather than prepared by a household or home cook, which offers one explanation for the lack of recipes. Additionally, it’s extremely unlikely that everything called “powder fort” was the same. Think of this as a name for a category of related spice mixes rather than a name for one specific mixture. My practical advice is that you experiment with different mixtures of strong / “spicy” spices to find something you like. Possible spices include black pepper, cubebs (tailed pepper), grains of paradise (also a hot, peppery spice), long pepper (the hottest spice known in medieval Europe), cinnamon (either true cinnamon or cassia), clove, mace, ginger, nutmeg, and galingale. My favorite mix combines approximately
- 1 part each:
- Black pepper
- 1/2 part cinnamon
- 1/4 part mace
- 1/8 part clove
Grind to a fine powder and mix well.
I like my powder fort to mostly taste of pepper, with the other spices there for balance and complexity. I tend to leave out long pepper and grains of paradise because I think each has such a subtle flavor that they deserve the spotlight. I also generally stay away from the “weaker” spices — I just don’t think ginger, nutmeg, and galingale can hold their own against the other ingredients.
Powder Douce:Douce meaning sweet, these spices are somewhat milder than those in powder fort and more appropriate for sweet dishes. Additionally, powder douce can include sugar. All of the explanatory notes above apply equally to powder douce, except those about the desired flavor and ingredients. Powder douce is often sprinkled on egg and pasta dishes.
Possible ingredients include sugar, cinnamon (here I would stick to true cinnamon if possible), ginger, nutmeg, galingale, and possible small amounts of mace or clove.
My personal combination, again approximate quantities:
- 1 part sugar
- 1/2 part ginger
- 1/2 part cinnamon
- 1/4 part nutmeg
Grind to a fine powder.
I generally leave out mace and clove as the strong flavors can quickly overpower the other spices. Remember, if you want strong spices, choose powder fort.
I store my powder fort and powder douce in the earthenware jars pictured above, which were made by Mistress Morgaina. As mentioned above, I round this out with saffron and good sea salt. For longer events I often add more to my stash, but these are enough to get me through most camp cooking projects.
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.)
I am enjoying my time at Kingdom Feast. I swore my fealty oath to Their Majesties, as I had hoped to do. It is still surprising to me that one such as I can regularly see her Sovereigns. The foods of Italia are quite different from York — maybe I can try some of them in the shop, I think they’d sell. Yesterday my former Master prepared one meal for the attendees, and I did some work for him in the kitchen (although I am ashamed to say very little).
Many craftswomen had their work out to be seen in the hall; in An Tir there are at least as many women as men working in trades, and they are allowed all the same privileges as far as I can tell. I saw books bound, pots thrown and painted, scrolls and panels painted, all by women.
Right now the other ladies of my house are up early making us a meal before some of us attend a guild meeting. I am dressed already in my fine new gown and laurel jewels, and even have my silk fillet and veil. Our King and Queen will be at the Guild meeting, so I must array myself well as if it were Court. But what a bother to travel without a servant! My companion Anne and I have had to pack and carry our own things, and I had to dress myself this day. There seems to be no one to hire in these lands, so I do not yet know how I might improve upon this.
The weather is foul, heavy rain and wind. I did not bring a hood and give thanks for how hot they seem able to keep these halls.
So it turns out that not having a functional computer at home utterly destroyed my posting momentum. Sorry about that. Of course, it also turns out that I haven’t done anything remotely interesting since getting elevated. Sorry about that too.
But now I have a new laptop at least, so as soon as I start doing interesting things I’m sure I’ll start writing about them!
Transporting pottery and glassware to and from SCA events is a somewhat perilous enterprise. A few years ago at a Cook’s Playdate*, Mistress Tangwystl showed off her brilliant solution: polar fleece baggies in various sizes into which pottery can be safely tucked for a long journey.
I can’t take credit for this great idea, but I can give you a primer on how to make them. It’s dead easy.
First you get some fleece (I made roughly 10 socks of a few sizes from 1.5 yards of fleece), then you decide what size(s) you want, then you cut them out and sew up the edges (use a serger or a zig-zag stitch).
I found that 12″ was a pretty good width for most of my pipkins. For cups, 6-8″ by about the same length (doubled over) works well. I just used half thr width of the fabric for each sock, so each bag was maybe 15″ deep.
Here’s a small sock for a glass:
Experiment with sizes and make some pot socks (the fun socks for fun pots!) You can make them for plates and bowls, too. They’d make spectacular Twelfth Night gifts. Happy crafting!
*At An Tir / West War, cooks from booth kingdoms, plus now CAID, meet and camp and cook together. It’s the best thing that has ever existed.