Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Starting up the scroll factory

One Scroll At A Time

I've been really.... Not lazy, but just not interested in painting. This is a last minute scroll for our Baronial Champs, to be held this weekend. Well, I got the assignment a couple of months ago. I screwed up the first image and got side tracked by a new job, repairs, and other things. I need to put one last coat of shade on this, then ink it, then do the white work. Then I have to come up with words and do the calligraphy. If all goes well, I should have this done tomorrow night. 

I don't know where I found this image. I used it for our Baronial newsletter about 20 years ago. It might have come from a Dover coloring book, or from a TI, or even from another SCA newsletter. I like the design. I did a scroll based on it eight years ago for my first A&S50 Challenge.

I think I've learned a thing or three in the last few years. I'm using better paint, less paint, and a better method. 

This will be for the Hael archery champion. I haven't been shooting very well, lately, but I'm still going to try to win my own scroll. 

Friday, April 19, 2019


Substitute My Coke for Gin. 

I have overheard, and been a part of, several conversations about cooking and brewing substitutions over the past few months. Mostly relating to cooking, but a few for brewing. The conversations were split between food related allergies and the difficulties of acquiring certain ingredients. In Ealdormere I was speaking to someone about mead making and the lord wanted to know what in the hell long pepper was. I explained that it was an Indian (Indian subcontinent) relative of pepper, that is sweeter than black peppercorn. I had suggested that if he can't find any on the Internets, he can use Tellicherry peppercorns.

The purpose of this article is to discuss the art of substitutions in SCA A&S projects and feasts. When I mean substitutions, I am not referring to creating a new thing (the recipe calls for X, they knew about Y, therefore....) but in replacing one thing for a similar thing because of availability or food allergies. Black pepper can be substituted for white pepper. although it is hotter and darker. It might not be visually appealing for white sauces. Modern, farm-raised strawberries for wild ones, even though modern strawberries are larger and have a more robust flavor. Orange carrots for purple ones, because you can't get your hands on the heirloom varieties.

Replacing one item with something completely different isn't, in my opinion, a substitution. I've had General Tso's alligator, beef, and shrimp. The dish was created for dark meat chicken and while the alligator, beef, and shrimp were tasty, they weren't General Tso's chicken: different flavors and textures. replacing lamb with pike isn't a substitution, it's a new recipe, one which probably would never have been done in period since lamb was considered hot and dry and pike was cold and moist. They require different cook times and, in the minds of medieval cooks, require different herbs and spices.

I am also going to avoid gluten-free substitutions: that is something of which I know very little about. Our goal is to provide period inspired foods and beverages, and while we have access to modern food, we should avoid things that were not available to the time and place where the recipe originated. Unless we have no other alternatives. Shortening is a modern invention, but if you have to create a vegan/kosher/halal dough, you need something to replace lard.  

First, I would like to say that recipes that specifically list a variety of options are not substitutions. Here, from Menagier de Paris:

#39. Seyme' of Veal
Grave' or seyme' is a winter potage.  Peel onions and cook them all cut up, then fry them in a pot; now you should have your chicken split down the back and browned on the grill over a charcoal fire; and the same if it is veal; then you must cut the meat into pieces if it is veal, or in quarters if it is a chicken, and put it into the pot with the onions, then take white bread browned on the grill and soaked in broth made from other meat; then crush ginger, cloves, grains of paradise, and long pepper, moisten them with verjuice and wine without straining this, and set aside; then crush the bread and put it through a sieve, and add it to the brouet, strain everything, and boil; then serve.  

This is not a substitution, this is a recipe that can be made with either veal or chicken. However, if you want to make this and do not want to use veal for conscientious reasons, you could substitute rabbit or venison. Setting aside the humoral theory, which is a different conversation, rabbit and venison, like veal, are lean and delicate in flavor (well, if you are a good hunter, venison is delicate in flavor). A good substitution for the chicken would be a Cornish hen. I would not use duck, pork, or cuts of regular beef, as these would have a different texture, and a stronger flavor, than veal and chicken. For a vegetarian alternative, use eggplant and vegetable broth. [1] If you are planning a feast and you know that you have to have a vegetarian dish, this will give you, the feast-o-crat, an option of making, more or less, the same looking dish for everyone. You could use turkey cutlets, but then we have to talk about did the French know about turkeys when Menagier de Paris was written. Did the French like turkey, in period. Do they like it now? I don't know, so if I were cooking a feast, I would not use turkey unless I got a really, really good deal on it.

The English did know about turkey (the birds) and they were found in London markets by the mid 16th century. I would use a whole turkey as a substitute for peacock or swan. However, peacock is drier and leaner than Butterball and swan has a lot more fat under it's skin. I've had peacock and swan, once each: the peacock tasted more like mild pheasant and swan tasted like mild duck. But if you want a large bird to dress up for high table, go with turkey. Stick a lot of peacock feathers in it's butt and no one will notice.

With access to the Internet, getting spices should not be an issue. Unless you discover at the last minute that you really, really need something that you cannot get locally. There are online resources on how to substitute one spice for another.

Apples will be easy to substitute: there are so many varieties the chances of you having access to the varieties that were available to your original cook are slim to none. Try to pick a local variety that will meet your needs; either a soft, baking apple, or a firm, crunchy apple. Sweet or tart, whichever will work for your recipe.

Oranges were bitter until the 13th or 14th century. If you need bitter, or sour, orange juice, you can substitute lemon or citron juice. If you are looking for the orange flavor, you can always add orange peel, bitter or sweet (bitter orange peel contains more pith). Keylimes cannot be substituted for limes: they taste completely different.

Orange sweet potatoes can be substituted for yellow sweet potatoes. Yellow sweet potatoes come from Africa and were known around the Mediterranean. Orange sweet potatoes come from South America and they arrived in Europe around 1520.

Check online for SCAdians describing the differences between period and modern wheat. Most modern wheat contain a lot more protein than their medieval counterparts. This can affect bread and pastries.

Many period cordials call for tansy (also known as cow bitter): please, do not use any variety of tansy. All varieties are toxic. Tansy was, and still is, used as an insecticide, a de-wormer (it's still used as that for cattle), and for inducing miscarriages. A substitute is difficult to recommend as the taste is described as either bitter or very bitter. Even recipes from the 19th century cannot distinguish the exact flavor. Alan Davidson, in "The Oxford Companion to Food", speculates that the amount of tansy used was relatively small, given its strong taste. In the BBC documentary "The Supersizers go ... Restoration", Allegra McEvedy described the flavor as "...fruity, sharpness to it and then there's a sort of explosion of cool heat a bit like peppermint." I would substitute maror, wormwood, sorrell, or even hops rather than risk anyone's health. [2]

On cordials; they were medicine, not for getting one's drink on. They included herbs that might have toxic properties. If you don't know what side effects an herb might have DO NOT USE IT.

Cubeb is mentioned in cordial recipes and in Arabic dishes. It is related to black pepper but has a sharper flavor. To simulate it, mix freshly ground black pepper and allspice in equal amounts. Or, order it from the Internets.

If you absolutely cannot get your hands on tahini, you can substitute peanut butter, but you might have to deal with someone's peanut allergy. Substituting pistachio nuts for pine nuts in pesto also works. Pistachio nuts are cheaper, easier to find, and are already green. This is what I use when I make pesto; I can barely taste the difference between the nuts [3] under all of the garlic and basil.

Low acid, white-wine vinegar with a little bit of sugar mixed in to it can be substituted for verjuice. It's not the same flavor, but it is close. Sherry vinegar can also be used.  

If you have every used worcestershire sauce, you have used the equivalent of garum. Lea & Perrin did not invent the famous sauce, they were just one of the first companies to market a name brand product. If you don't want to make your own garum, and to be honest, who does.... more than once... worcestershire sauce is a suitable replacement. Thai fish sauce can also be used, but there is a big difference: Asian style fish sauces are made with soy. And, are generally more potent. 

Salted herring can be replaced by tinned sardines. Please, do not substitute pickled herring. Completely different flavor and texture. 

If you cannot find heirloom carrots, you can substitute parsnips. Parsnips and carrots were described as interchangeable in most medieval and Roman cookbooks. Orange carrots have a good deal of sugar in them, that's why carrot cake contains orange carrots. heirloom carrots (purple, red, yellow and white) do not contain sugar and have a starchier flavor.

Speaking of carrots, carrot leaves can used in place of parsley. They taste very similar.

Iceberg lettuce is a modern invention, and should be avoided for A&S projects. However, it is easy to find, year round, and I don't care if it is in a salad served at a feast.

Mountain cranberries, or cowberries, can be substituted with lingonberries. Lingonberries can be found at Ikea. [4] American cranberries can be used, but they have a tarter flavor.

Many dishes call for rooster or capon (a castrated rooster) which are not easy to get outside of a farm. Several cooks (Julia Childs, Alton Brown, Clarissa Dickson Wright) have written, and discussed on their cooking shows, that roosters lived until they could no longer perform their roosterly duties, so they were well into old age when they were killed, and have a richer flavor. Most chickens sold in the markets are pretty young, or were when they were dispatched. Capons were fattened up for eating and have a gamier taste than normal chickens. A free-range, stewing hen would be a good alternative for a rooster or capon, but they are about half the size, so you might have to change up your recipe. [5] I have had capon once; it doesn't taste like chicken. It tastes like what chicken should taste like.

If you can't find salt port, fatty bacon will work.

There are many recipes for porpoise. I don't know about your fish market, but mine doesn't carry porpoise. Partly because it is a mammal and not a fish. But mostly because no one wants to eat Flipper. [6] One book, I think that it was the "Good Housewife", has a recipe for porpoise and peas. At the end of the recipe it says that if you do not have porpoise you can use bacon in its place. But, what type of bacon? Modern bacon is leaner and "healthier" than that of twenty years ago. Most bacon isn't fully cured (it has to be refrigerated) and you will be hard pressed to find nitrate processed bacon, these days. I would go to a meat market and ask for slab bacon; as fatty as they have. Keep in mind that bacon is meat [7] and porpoise is fish, you cannot substitute one for the other during lent.

Lamb can be substituted for mutton, but remember, mutton has a much stronger flavor than lamb, which, in this country, is a young sheep. Mutton is at least two years old. There's not much call for mutton in the USA, even though it is delicious. When substituting lamb, make sure that you test your spice rub, gravy, or sauce so that you do not overpower the lamb. Goat can be substituted for mutton, as well, and goat is as strong of a flavor as mutton. [8]

There are recipes in 16th century, French cookbooks for mock venison made with mutton, red wine, and bouillon. Perhaps these recipes were for people who would never encountered actual venison because I have never had venison that tasted anything like mutton, and there is not enough red wine in the world to make me confused between the two. Clarissa Dickson Wright, in her documentary, "Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner" did talk about how in the middle ages, venison was reserved for nobility (and poachers) and that lean pork was used to simulate venison.

Many period sources tell us that during Lent, almond milk could be substituted for animal milk; oil could be substituted for butter (almond milk can also be churned into a butter like thing); vegi broth for meat broth. Eggs? Almonds to the rescue. The Harleian manuscript lists a recipe that calls for an empty eggshell filled with an almond jelly.

Eyroun in lentyn [Eggs in Lent].
Take Eyroun, & blow owt þat ys with-ynne atte oþer ende; þan waysshe þe schulle clene in warme Water; þan take gode mylke of Almaundys, & sette it on þe fyre; þan take a fayre canvas, & pore þe mylke þer-on, & lat renne owt þe water; þen take it owt on þe cloþe, & gader it to-gedere with a platere; þen putte sugre y-now þer-to; þan take þe halvyndele, & colour it with Safroun, a lytil, & do þer-to pouder Canelle; þan take & do of þe whyte in the neþer ende of þe schulle, & in þe myddel þe ?olk, & fylle it vppe with þe whyte; but no?t to fulle, for goyng ouer; þan sette it in þe fyre & roste it, & serue forth.

Austin, Thomas. Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books. Harleian MS. 279 & Harl. MS. 4016, with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1429, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS 55. London: for The Early English Text Society by N. Trübner & Co., 1888.

Gode Cookery translation: Take eggs, and blow out that is within at the other end; then wash the shell clean in warm water; then take good milk of almonds, and set it on the fire; then take a fair canvas, & pour the milk thereon, & let run out the water; then take it out on the cloth, & gather it together with a platter; then put sugar enough thereto; then take half of it, & color it with saffron, a little, & do thereto powder cinnamon; then take & do the white in the nether end of the shell, & in the middle the yolk, & fill it up with the white; but not too full, for going over; then set it in the fire & roast it, & serve forth.

Lent substitutions are an entire article on their own. I might have to spend some time rambling about them, in the future. What I covered, here, was just what I could think of while I typed up this stream of consciousness. If you, my dear reader, has any SCA food related substitutions, please feel free to post them in the comments. 

[1] Eggplant was known in France from the 16th century.
[2] Note: wormwood is also toxic, but only in very high doses. The opinion that absinthe caused madness and blindness because of the wormwood, used to flavor the cordial, is wrong. One would die of alcohol poisoning before suffering from wormwood poisoning. Absinthe gained the reputation of madness and blindness because of "bathtub" absinthe, which was often made from wood alcohol.
[3] Giggity.
[4] Some assembly required.
[5] You can order capons online, but they are not cheap: pheasant is cheaper.
[6] Yes, Flipper was a dolphin, but all dolphins are members of the porpoise family.
[7] Bacon is not a vegetable.
[8] I'm not kidding.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Just a little pen work

 Just a little pen work

A new scroll blank. Red ink on Fluid 100% cotton paper. Inspired by BM - ms. 0008, f.172. Well.... not so much inspired by than copied from. All I did was trace it on a light box. I was planing on coloring it in but I think that it turned out well.

I might go back and add some more shading. I'm going to leave it as a pen drawing, but another scribe might color it in. It has happened before.

I knocked this out while watching TV, after tracing out some line separators. My local Cook's Guild is making a new cookbook and has asked for some art work. I went through my archives and selected a good handful of separators that I can paint at the next Scribal meeting. I have several sheets of Fluid filled with larger versions of what I had selected. I'll just paint them and scan them, like I would a regular scroll. Once I can them, I can digitally remove each image and paste them into an individual image file and E-mail them to the guild master. 

Yes, I did use good Fluid paper. No, it's not a waste of paper. Paper is cheap and I wanted a good result. I didn't want to use construction paper or copier paper. Even though they will never be turned into a scroll, I still want them to look nice if they are ever used in the cookbook.... Or our local newsletter.

Monday, March 4, 2019

This made me laugh

This made me laugh

My Mom clipped this out of the New Yorker magazine and sent it to me. (The New Yorker, Feb. 18 & 25, 2019, p61).

My question is this, would having the skills to use a claw machine make you a better king than knowing how to pull a sword out of an anvil? (Arthur knew to lift with his legs and not his back.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Something weird

I Don't Mean 'I Before E Except After C'

Ever come up with wording for a scroll that you feel kinda guilty about writing down. Not evil. Not mean. Not insulting. But something that will make the herald hate you for making them read it out loud. Like slipping in a really bad pun. Or a tongue twister. Or using language that you know will make the herald laugh while they are reading it.

I bring this up 'cause I made a scroll from an unusual inhabited initial..... No. Oh, god no! Not the cannibal depicted above. I have a humorous streak but I wouldn't use a cannibal on an award scroll. Maybe a tourney scroll.... No, better not.

Where was I?

Oh, yes. I made a scroll with an unusual initial with an idea for certain words to go along with it. Unfortunately, as an award scroll, it would be for a very limited set of people. Like, if you were to make a scroll depicting period ice skating; how many people could you use it for so that it would be relevant? But, I was handed a last minute scroll assignment and my mind added up 2 and 2 and got blueberry pie as the answer. So, I took my idea for funny wording for an unknown award for an unknown person and turned it into a tourney scroll and cranked up the wording to 11.

I won't post it here: I want it to be a surprise. See y'all at that event that you might be at.

By the way: don't put a cannibal on an award scroll.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Some kind words

Remember To Tip Your Waiters.

Today, I received a very nice E-mail from Robert of Ferness: the Honorable Lord Robert. I had done the scroll commemorating his induction into the Noble Order of the Fleur of AEthelmearc (GoA level award for Arts and Sciences). In the E-mail, he thanked me for the nice piece of work, and for the silly joke on the back of the scroll.  

Scrolls are freely made and freely given. It is nice to get comments from the recipients of the scrolls that I make. I do like the "Ooohs" and "Aaahhs" when one of my scrolls is held up, but I don't make them for the audience; I make them for the person who will be taking the scroll home. 

I've had several people, at the last few events, come up to me saying something like, "You're Caleb? You did my AoA scroll. Thank you, thank you, thank you." I don't want to sound like a jerk, but most of the time I have to find a nice way of saying, "Who are you? I do so many assignments and blanks" Which is true. Most of the scrolls I did last year were scroll blanks: someone else did the calligraphy and wording (and made my work look great).  I try to do some cold reading and question leading in order to figure out which piece ended up going to that particular person. Sometimes they have a picture on their phones and then I can give them some details on where the image came from.

I hope that I can inspire people to keep doing that thing that they did to get the award, or win the tourney, that earned them the scroll. And I hope that if you receive a scroll, take the time to hunt down the scribe and thank them. THL Robert's E-mail really, really, really made my day.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

More fencers

This Challenge Is Taking Years

12 pages into my I.33 challenge. I want to make a scroll based on all 64 pages of I.33, the world's oldest, known sword-fighting manuscript. At this rate, it'll take me another ten years to complete. The image, below, will be one of the scrolls for this year's Ice Dragon two-person melee tourney. This will be for person A and person B will get a scroll inspired by another page of the manuscript. 

I am doing each page using the same color combination, although I have been using less paint, so the images look different. Less intense. 

I've used this manuscript for mostly tourney scrolls, although I have done a couple of AoA level award scrolls. The images are easy to draw and I like how they look. I have high-res copies of the original pages. To keep from duplicating any pages, I have a folder with all of the pages, and a sub-folder with the completed pages. Once I print out the page I wish to work on (so that I can trace it) I move that file into the sub-folder. This way I know what I have done and haven't done. I don't do them in order: I just pick a random image. Also, several of the pages have damage to them and I think that I will save them for last.