Thursday, April 11, 2013


Ladies in their finest
On 9th March, Conroi de Vey had its first banquet. In previous years we've gone out once a year for a meal at a restaurant, but this year we decided to hire a local hall and put on our own feast.

The evening started with a talk by the Friends of Thynghowe about the Thyng site which is believed to exist in Sherwood Forest. Thyng sites are known throughout Northern Europe and are places where local people gathered together to make community decisions and to conduct legal proceedings. Conroi De Vey will be leading Regia Anglorum in the Viking Spring Thing on 18th-19th May 2013 in Sherwood Forest, and this talk was excellent preparation for that.

After that, we cracked on with the important part of the evening: food! Food was a communal affair, with most families cooking at least one dish.

One of the many loaves of bread!
Toki and I provided the bread: all 13 pounds of it. Although that sounds like a lot, it is actually comparatively low for the period, when bread was a staple in the diet. The rule of St Benedict allows a pound of bread per person per day, for example, and in Aelfric's Colloquies, the baker argues for the importance of his craft on the grounds that without his work, all tables would seem empty and all meals tasteless. I experimented with a number of different flours for this, as most flours you can buy today are the product of the Green Revolution in the middle of the 20th century, in which new high yield cultivars were developed. Among other things, this means that modern wheat is significantly shorter than period wheat would have been. Although it isn't possible to buy the wheat varieties which would have been available in our period, I did make an einkorn loaf. Einkorn is a prehistoric variety grown in the Mediterranean which was abandoned in Roman times. That makes it about as far away from period wheat as our modern flour, but it gives a different perspective on what it's flavour and texture could have been.

Although for once all the food was cooked with thoroughly modern technology, the actual meal was conducted with period technology. No forks in this period: the key utensils are the spoon and knife. I'm proud to say that the spoon photographed here was whittled by me during a show in 2012. The knife shown here (made by Toki) is a typical eating knife for the period: ideal for spearing a vegetable or cutting through a piece of meat, it is considerably sharper than your average modern eating knife and can equally well be used to carve the aforementioned spoon. Other points to note are that in our period plates have yet to come into existence, so bowls are the order of the day.

Pork and vegetables

Important as bread may have been in the diet, this was a banquet, and so we enjoyed a large number of additional dishes. On the left you can see the pork, apple sauce, carrots and parsnips. Carrots would have been purple or white in our period, but sadly such carrots are extremely difficult to get hold of.

Chicken and salmon patties

The other photo you can see here is of the chicken and salmon patties made by Miriel de Rouen. Although to us salmon is a very expensive dish, in our period it was readily available. In contrast, chicken is comparatively expensive because chickens were more useful as egg-layers than dinner. This may be why chicken was viewed as being very good for you.  I was too busy eating to get photographs of the rest of the "mains", but they included fried beans, mushroom soup, and a cheesy turnip and leek bake.

For dessert, we had short-bread type biscuits, a cheese-cake style dish, leche lumbard and raspberry bread pudding, all shown in the photograph.

The evening concluded with some old-fashioned entertainment. Mead was consumed and toasts were made. Riddles were told, ferrets were killed,  and small people turned out to be surprisingly good at wrestling. [1]

Roll-on next year for a rematch!

[1] No ferrets were harmed in the making of this blogpost.

No comments:

Post a Comment