Monday, November 26, 2018

A Scrub-a-Dub-Dub

A Little 12V Elbow Grease.

As steward for the Barony of the Rhydderich Hael, I have to, on occasion fix things. The Hael has a number of kitchen related items and sometimes you find something that the Barony can use but aren't up to snuff.

My predecessor, the late Joe the Just, had acquired these four fry pans. They were rusty but, potentially, usable. Fixing them has been on my list of things to do for a while and I finally got around to it, tonight. 

The pans are high carbon steel and just needed a bit of scrubby-scrubby. I attached a wire brush to my cordless drill and went to town on the rust. A good ten minutes on each pan and the rust went away. 

Once the rust had been removed, I hand washed each pan and then coated in a thin layer of canola oil. Then I heated each pan until the oil started to smoke and burn.

Once they cooled off, I applied another thin coat of oil. Now they are slightly cured and ready to be used. As long as they are not put away wet, they shouldn't rust up, again. And, as they are used, they will develop and better and stronger cure. 

Not bad for an hour's work. I feel good that they cleaned up so well. I think Joe spent $5 for all four because of the rust. A good investment.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Weird things you find in medieval manuscripts

Weird things you find in medieval manuscripts.

I was looking through the Luttrell Psalter and found this sexy lady. This is British Library Add MS 42130 f81r and it is not the most unusual grotesque from the manuscript. 

Most of the manuscript contains similar figures They look like LSD induced hallucinations. Was the illuminator just told to go hog-wild and make whatever strange creatures he thought of? Was he smoking hemp and saying, "Dude, dude dude." Only, it was probably a monk, so it would have been in Latin: "Dudus, dudus, dudus. Quid facies puella equo? Et ad aures alas."

Or, perhaps it was something more outlandish?

Friday, November 2, 2018

The birth of New Jersey

What a nice birth certificate.

I was watching a video on who owns the statue of liberty and this Grant was featured. I tracked down a good image of it and, wa-la.

THIS INDENTURE made the four and twentieth day of June, in the sixteenth year of the reign of our sovereign Lord, Charles the Second, by the grace of God of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, King Defender of the Faith, &c., Annoq. Domini, 1664. Between His Royal Highness, James Duke of York, and Albany, Earl of Ulster, Lord High Admiral of England, and Ireland, Constable of Dover Castle, Lord Warden of the Cinque ports, and Governor of Portsmouth, of the one part: John Lord Berkeley, Baron of Stratton, and one of His Majesty’s most Honourable Privy Council, and Sir, George Carteret of Saltrum, in the County of Devon, Knight and one of His Majesty’s most Honourable Privy Council of the other part: Whereas his said Majesty King Charles the Second, by his Letters Patents under the Great Seal of England, bearing date on or about the twelfth day of March, in the sixteenth year of his said Majesty’s reign, did for the consideration therein mentioned, give and grant unto his said Royal Highness James, Duke of York, his heirs and assigns, all that part of the main land of New England, beginning at a certain place called or known by the name of St. Croix next adjoining to New Scotland in America;
See here for the full text.

The text is wonderful, but I am most impressed by the pen work on the charter. Look at that 'T'. I could trace it, but my skill with holding a calligraphy pen at a consistent angle isn't very good. I'm going to try it on some scrap paper using my glass dip pen. Maybe it will turn out nice. Maybe it won't. I'll just have to try it. I am going to have to hunt through the British charters of the colonies and see what I can find. Perhaps I can find some more excellent examples of calligraphy that can be used for SCA purposes. I mean, this charter isn't that far out of period. 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Taking a break

For a little while, not permanently

I'm going to take a little break from scribal work. I will do an assignment, if asked, but I'm not going to knock out a dozen blanks at once. Not only has my arthritis ramped up, making it painful to hold a brush, but I did 62 pieces of illumination, this year. Something like 30 of those were given to AEthelmearc and 25 were given to Deftwood for their big book of blanks, and a handful for the Hael.

While I have joked that everyone on the Kingdom should have one of my scrolls, I don't intend to take work away from my fellow illuminators. I have given away a lot of blanks; enough so that calligraphers will have plenty of paper to make my work look good. More than enough blanks to ease the demand on all illuminators. For a while, they will have more time to work on their painting and layout.

As funny as it would be for a court to be held where every scroll given out was painted by me, it would not be a service to our Kingdom. AEthelmearc has the best calligraphers and illuminators in the Known World and Kingdom and Baronial courts are where we can show off how good our scribes are. I am not so egotistical to think that I am the best illuminator in the Kingdom: I'm not even the best illuminator in my Barony. I am proud that my scrolls are awarded to deserving people and equally proud that they are awarded along side with the work of my fellow scribes. I can only hope that the recipients enjoy their scrolls and that I can inspire others to try their hands at scribal.

On an unrelated note: have you ever noticed that artificial banana flavor tastes nothing like a banana? That is because artificial banana flavor was created to taste like the Gros Michel variety of banana, which was the most popular type of banana in the early 19th century. It almost went extinct due to a fungus and was replaced by the Cavendish Dessert Banana, which was cultivated to be resistant to the aforementioned fungus. I have read that while the Cavendish isn't as sweet as the Gros Michel, it does have a more complicated flavor.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Per Pale Carrots

Per Pale Carrots

This recipe is based on the SCA feast staple: honey glazed carrots. Which I have seen on feast menus for the last thirty years. Usually this recipe:

Glazed Carrots

2 lbs. of carrots
2 Tablespoons of honey
3 to 4 Tablespoons of butter
1 Teaspoon of ground cinnamon 
Scrub carrots then cut in half lengthwise and remove the core. Cut into 1 1/2 in lengths. Put carrots in a single layer in a pan or skillet adding 3 tablespoons of butter, honey and cinnamon halfway. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to very low and cover. Simmer until tender. Remove lid and boil off the rest of the liquid. Remove from heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter and shake to coat.

I have found this recipe listed in the dozens of feast menus that I have saved over the years. But is this a period dish?

Carrots were known in medieval times, although not the carrots that we take for granted, today. The orange carrot, called "the long orange", was invented in Holland in the 17th century in honor of William of Orange. Carrots, in the SCA time period, were not orange but were red, white, yellow and purple. And, not sweet like the long orange. The Ménagier de Paris describes carrots as red roots and advises to cook them like turnips. The Sent Sovi contains a recipe for white carrots in almond milk.

Carrots are often confused with parsnips in medieval European manuscripts. Recipes by Apicius are entitled carotae sev pastinacae (carrots or parsnips). The 1551 edition of the Libro de Agricultura, by Gabriel Alonso de Herrera, has this to say about carrots. "Of carrots and parsnips. Platina puts these two kinds of roots in the same chapter even though they are different in their colors. Parsnips are white like turnips, except that they are thinner and longer. Carrots have the appearance of turnips, neither more nor less, except that some are the color of oranges; others are so red that they turn dark." [1]

Throughout the Medieval writings, carrots are confused with parsnips. Today (since Linneaus created scientific names), carrots are Daucus carota and parsnips Pastinaca sativa.  Fuchs in 1542 described red and yellow garden carrots and wild carrots, but names them all Pastinaca (Meyer Trueblood and Heller1999).  Gerard (1633) likewise uses the name carrot, but calls it Pastinaca in Latin: Pastinaca sativa var. tenuifolia, the yellow carrot and Pastinaca sativa atro-rubens, the red carrot.  Gerard distinguishes parsnips from carrots and calling the parsnip Pastinaca latifolia sativa and P. latifolia sylvestris.  Gerard notes the name similarity and is dissatisfied with it. He gives daucus as a name for carrot in Galen, but notes that many Roman writers called it pastinaca or other names.  I don’t think the plants were confused particularly, but since we have in many cases only the written word, if the medieval writer called his plants "pastinaca", it’s impossible to know if it was carrots or parsnips. [2]

Wild and cultivated carrots were used by medieval cooks, although wild carrots have very thin and woody roots; they were used more for medicine than for eating. Both the root and the leaves are edible. Carrot leaves taste similar to parsley and can be used in the same way. Nicholas Culpeper (1653) said of carrots that "Wild carrots belong to Mercury, and expel wind and remove stitches in the side, promote the flow of urine and women’s courses, and break and expel the stone; the seed has the same effect and is good for dropsy, and those whose bowels are swollen with wind: It cures colic, stone, and rising of the mother; being taken in wine or boiled in wine and taken, it helpeth conception. The leaves being applied with honey to running sores or ulcers cleanse them; I suppose the seeds of them perform this better than the roots: and though Galen recommended garden carrots highly to expel wind, yet they breed it first, and we may thank nature for expelling it, not they; for the seeds of them expel wind and so mend what the root marreth."

"Carret (Daucus carota) is a 16th century word; carrot appeared by 1597, in Gerard. The name comes from Greek karoton.... So it is curious that the first citation of the word by OED is in 1533, as "Parsnepes and carettes" from Elyot’s "The Castel of Helth". However, Turner in 1548 treats then familiarly, saying that "Carettes growe in al countries in plentie," carefullty distinguishing them from wild carrots, so that those who claim that the carrot was not introduced into England until the time of Elizabeth, and even later, are in error." [3]

So, carrots themselves are to be found in period, but is this recipe period? I was unable to find any period recipe for either carrots or parsnips that resemble this project. Martha Washington’s cookbook doesn’t list one. Mrs. Beeton’s cookbook doesn’t list one. [4] The Joy of Cooking doesn’t list one.

I read an interesting story from, I believe, James Fixx. [5] He recounts an exercise given by a professor of thermodynamics which asked at what temperature, and for what cook time, would one have to cook a cut of beef of certain dimensions, and of a certain mass, in order for the center of the roast to be at a certain temperature. Two students managed to provide the correct answer. The first purchased several roasts, and cooked them at different temperatures, and, using a probe thermometer, produced a graph detailing the optimum internal temperature based on the external temperature verses time, all while he was munching on rare cooked beef. The second student called his Mom.

I had a conversation, with my Mom, about my research and she said that she remembered cooking glazed carrots when I and my brother were kids. She pulled out her copy of The Joy of Cooking, the 1964 edition, and there on page 271 is this recipe:

Caramelized Carrots

Skin them. Cut them into halves or quarters. Dip them in:
Melted Butter
Sprinkle them with:
Salt, paprika and brown sugar.
Place them in a heavy skillet over low heat until they are well glazed. Baste them from time to time with a little melted butter.

I discovered the same issue with The New York Times Cook Book. My 1998 edition doesn’t list it, but my Mom’s 1961 edition does.

Glazed Carrots

Cook four large or eight small carrots as above. Drain, then dry. Mix one-fourth cup sugar with one-half teaspoon ginger and roll the carrots in the mixture. Melt three tablespoon butter in a skillet and add the carrots, turning slowly and often over low heat until the carrots are glazed and a deep, appetizing brown. [6]

I think that this is a dish from the 1960s. One of those things that were popular and universally enjoyed, like fondue, and then faded away. Glazed carrots became a popular frozen side dish sold by Birds Eye and Jolly Green Giant by the late 60s. And was also included in Banquet and Hungry Man TV dinners around the same time. I feel that this was a modern dish presented as "period" so that feasters would have at least one recognizable dish on the table. And while it kind of disappeared from the major, American cook books [7] it can still be found in the frozen food aisle at grocery stores. The early SCA really wasn’t the family hobby that it has become in the 21st century, but as the college age kids grew up and had kids of their own, honey-glazed carrots remained on the feast menu so that parents would know that their kids would have one dish of recognizable and tasty food.

Can we find period recipes that resemble our glazed carrots? Are there any period recipes that call for carrots (or parsnips) with honey, or sugar, and spices?

Apicius has a recipe for Carrots with Cumin and Olive Oil, which calls for onions, carrots, vinegar, cumin and salt. [8] Certainly not sweet, but spiced. He also has another recipe for "Carrots and parsnips are fried with a wine sauce" [9] which calls for parsnips and carrots to be cooked with pepper and raisin wine,  which was a very sweet wine: The closest modern wine I would use as a substitute would either be cream sherry, or Moscato wine.  [10]

Duszony Por z Pasternak i Gier (Stew of Parsnips, Leeks, and Alexanders), a medieval Polish dish, calls for parsnips, leeks, cabbage, onion, and alexanders to be cooked with honey, saffron, cinnamon, cumin, salt and vinegar. Usually served with cheese dumplings as a substitute for meat on fast days. The saffron, cinnamon and cumin would have made this an expensive dish, but the book states that this was "typical one-pot meal for a noble family living on a large rural manor". [11]

There are a number of recipes for pottage or compost that call for carrots and/or parsnips as well as honey and spices.  [12]

"The formula for Diazinziberios is given in "Le Livre des Dimples Medicines", is taken from a 13th century French translation of an earlier treatise on parmacopoeia: "take very well cook parsnips, mince them and cook them with clarified honey until all of the honey is absorbed, stirring well so that the mixture does not stick to the vessel; then put in aromatic powders, gimigibre, pepper, nutmeg, and galingall and cook together to a candy." [13] Now, granted, this is for a gingerbread-like desert, but it does show that parsnips were used with honey and spices.

Honey Glazed Root Vegetables, from Vikingars Gästabud (The Viking Feast), calls for cabbage, turnips, carrots, leeks, honey and pepper.

So, while there is no actual period dish that resembles our project, there is enough evidence that carrots (and parsnips, since they were closely related) were cooked with honey and with spices. Our non-period, SCA staple is a product of the modern world but would not have been out of place on the tables of our ancestors.

My recipe:

2 pounds of purple carrots
1/4 cup clover honey
3 Tablespoons of salted butter
1 Teaspoon of fresh, ground cinnamon


I found some locally grown purple carrots and based this project on them. Not only for the pun, but because the heirloom carrots are a better match for a period dish. I scrubbed the carrots clean in the sink but did not peel them as these carrots were quite thin. I chopped the carrots into small wheels, discarding the last inch off of the leaf end, as it was quite bitter.

I used clover honey because that is what I had in the house. I will not take the time, in this paper, to explain my opinion of honey farming in the middle ages, except to say that the bee industry of today, which can move hives from one field of mono-crops to another, did not exist in the SCA time period: hives were near farm lands and gardens and a variety of crops were grown simultaneously. This means that the bees, which collected nectar from every available source, produced a blend of honey, not a singular variety. Clover or wildflower honey, I feel, is closer to period honey, than buckwheat, rosemary, apple wood, sage, lavender or other specific varieties.

I also used more honey than the standard recipe: 1/4 cup versus 2 Tablespoons. This is because orange carrots contain sugar and the heirloom varieties, such as the purple variety that I am using, do not. They are rather starchy in comparison. Hence, the added honey.

I used salted butter because that is what I have in the house.

I broke up half of a stick of good quality cinnamon (Saigon cinnamon, not cassia) and ground it into power using an electric spice grinder. I could have used a mortar and pestle, but the spice grinder did the job in five seconds.  I chose to use Saigon cinnamon because I like the sweet taste of the region and the brand, I that ordered, was USDA certified organic, which not only means that the trees were grown without the use of pesticides or chemicals, but that it is certified to be Cinnamon loureiroi, and not bark from any other tree.

I put the carrots into a frying pan over high heat. My stove is electric and I do not think that, for this dish, there would be a difference between gas, electric or an open fire. Nor do I think that my ceramic-lined cast iron frying pan adds or takes away from any period cooking vessel. I let the carrots cook for a couple minutes in order to soften them a little. Then I added the butter and the honey. Once they had melted, I reduced the temperature to low and added the cinnamon: I did not want the cinnamon to burn. After mixing the spice into the sauce, and making sure that each wheel was covered, I let the dish cook for ten or fifteen minutes before taking it off of the heat and letting it cool.

As I was making this a few days in advance, I had tested this recipe to ensure that it was still tasty at room temperature and when cold (it was necessary to refrigerate this dish prior to the event). In my opinion, this dish is actually better when it is left to chill overnight: the glaze thickens quite a bit.

In conclusion, this is a modern dish that, if using the proper variety of carrots, would not look out of place on the tables of our medieval ancestors.

[1] So, either there were orange varieties of carrots in 1551, or the oranges that Gabriel was referring to were much paler than our modern varieties.
[2] Horwarth
[3] Washington p66
[4] If she did they would most likely turn out mushy. She recommended boiling carrots for 1.75 to 2.25 hours.
[5] I think it was in Games for the Super Intelligent but I can’t find my copy to confirm this.
[6] p371
[7] And I can’t remember the last time I saw it on a menu in a restaurant.
[8] Bouchut
[9] ibid
[10] From personal experimentation and sampling..
[11] Dembinska and Dembinsk, p151
[12] Various published cookbooks and SCA feast handouts and A&S newsletters.
[13] Washington, p343



Beeton, Isabella. Mrs. Beeton’s Book Of Household Management... Published Originally By S. O.
Beeton in 24 Monthly Parts 1859-1861. Exeter Books. New York, NY. 1986.

Bouchut, Jacques. Medieval Recipes: Gourmet dishes by Jacques Bouchut. Translator: Bruce Lee.

Clairborne, Craig. The New York Times Cook Book. Harper & Row. New York, NY. 1961.

Clairborne, Craig. The New York Times Cook Book. Harper & Row. New York, NY. 1998.

Davidson, Linda Kay; Gitlitz, David M. A Drizzle of Honey: The Life and Recipes of Spain’s Secret Jews. St. Martin’s Press. 2000.

Dembinska, Maria; Dembinska, Maria. Food and Drink in Medieval Poland: Rediscovering a Cuisine of the Past. University of Pennsylvania Press. 1999.

Ein Buch von guter spise c. 50. Translated by Alia Atlas.

Fant, Michaël; Lundgren, Roger; Isaksson,Thore. Vikingars Gästabud (The Viking Feast. Danish.) Malmö: Richters Förlag. 1998.

Gerard, John.  The Herbal or General history of plants.  Complete 1633 edition as revised and enlarged by Thomas Johnson. Dover Publications, Inc. New York.

Grieve, Mrs. M. 1971. A Modern Herbal. Originally 1931. Dover Publications, New York.

Howarth, Holly. Carrots by Agnes deLanvallei. Copyright 2009. Stephen’s Flagiorm.

Hunt, T. Plant Names of Medieval England. D.S. Brewer, Publishers. Suffolk, UK. 1989.

Jovinelly, Joann; Netelkos, Jason. The Crafts and Culture of a Medieval Manor. The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc. 2006.

Kiple, K. F.; Ornelas K. C. The Cambridge World History of Food. Cambridge U. Press, Cambridge UK. 2000

Kiple, Kenneth F. The Cambridge World History Of Food, Volume 2. Cambridge University Press. 2001.

Mabey, Richard editor. The Gardener’s Labyrinth by Thomas Hill. (originally 1577) Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. 1987.

McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Simon and Schuster, 2007.

Meyer, F. G.; Trueblood, E.E.; Heller ,J. L. , editors. The Great Herbal of Leonard Fuchs. 1542 edition. Stanford University Press, Palo Alto. CA. 1999.

Platina. On Right Pleasure and Good Health. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies. Milham, M. E. ed, translator. Tempe, AZ. 1998

Pollington, S. Leechcraft. Early English Charms, Plant Lore, and Healing. Anglo-Saxon Books, Norfolk, England. 2000.

Riggs, T.J. Carrots (Daucus carota Umbelliferae) in The origin of Crop Plants. J. Smartt and N.

W.Simmonds eds. 2nd ed. Longman Scientific and Technical Publishers, New York. pp. 477-480. 1995.

Rombauer, Irma S.; Becker, Marion Rombauer; Becker, Ethan. The Joy of Cooking. Boobs-Merrill, Company.1964.

Rombauer, Irma S.; Becker, Marion Rombauer; Becker, Ethan. The Joy of Cooking. Bobbs-Merrill, Scribner. 2005.

Scully, Terence. The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages. Boydell Press, 995. Digitzed by Google Books.

Toussaint-Samat, Maguelonne. History of Food. Translated from the French bu Anthea Bell. Barnes & Noble Books. 1992.

Vaughan, J. G.; Geissler, C. The New Oxford Book of Food Plants. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 1997.

Washington, Martha. Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats. Columbia University Press, 1996.

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This was a project for a heraldry themed, A&S competition at the 2018 Summer's End event. I had dinner with my parents, a month or so before the event, and the restaurant had heirloom carrots as the side dish. They were nice, but they did inspire me to make a nice A&S project out of a very bad pun. The dish wasn't sticky enough to hold together into a divided-shield shape (per pale, in heraldry lingo). I did get a lot of nice compliments on the flavor of the carrots and the quality of the documentation. I also received several smacks for the pun.

Mission accomplished.

In retrospect, I should have only used one pound of carrots as I had plenty left, at the end of the day, to bring home; even though I foisted carrots upon everyone I could. 

One note to anyone who wishes to cook with purple carrots. Purple carrots contain anthocyanin, like beets. And, like beets, juices from purple carrots can stain anything they touch. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

I Have an Idea

Not a good one, I will admit.

This is from the 14th century, Dutch manuscript Der naturen bloeme. I have no clue what is being depicted. It would make a nice scroll for Heronter, though.

I totally want to replace the birds with Big Bird.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Weird things you find in medieval manuscripts.


This is supposed to be a snail, from Den Haag, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KA 16, fol. 109vb.

A vicious snail.

That looks like an aardvark had crawled into a nautilus shell.

What the hell? I need context. I can't find the text that went along with this image. Was someone describing some kind of dangerous snail, like a cone snail or a murex snail. "Dude. There are these snails that live in the water that, like, can bite you. They have, like, sharp teeth. Can you draw me one of those?"

Or, perhaps, it was something more sinister.....