Writings: Katira al-Maghrebiyya (aka Kay the Innocent of Bel Anjou)
Entering Wooden Spoon, Etc.
By Kay the Innocent of BelAnjou (now known as Katira al-Maghrebiyya)
This discussion represents my personal view and experience in entering cooking competitions at all levels. I welcome other views and tales of trials and tribulations. One never stops eating, I mean, learning. The following describes the process I go through to prepare for a cooking competition.
I always select a period recipe to prepare (unless it is provided as for the Twelfth Night Cook-off). I happen to have a small reference library (see list at end of article) and I browse for something that appeals to me that fits the topic. I also prefer to start with the original text rather than someone else's translation.
How you present the entry to the judges is also important. I start with an appropriate serving vessel. I am addicted to prowling around thrift stores, garage sales & the like, and over the years I have collected a wide variety of wood, metal and ceramic items that are fun to choose from. Some things to consider:
Think eye appeal. Dress up the entry. In the past, I have:
Consider how it will be served/tasted. Perhaps you could provide spoons or a knife for the judges use. Be sure to produce your entry for judging at an appropriate temperature. This may require some extra effort for a timely delivery, but it is worth it, not only for pleasure, but for safety.
Documentation should tell the judges enough to reasonably judge the entry but not so much that it bogs them down. This has never taken me more than 2 pages, although a contest category like "Lenten meal" certainly would require more. I use the following format:
Each contest has a category, such as Lenten meal, apple anything, preserved meat, cook-off, etc. Some are more specific than others. Until now, I have always selected a category that appealed to me, something I would like to prepare and eat. Now that I am comfortable with the contest process, I am looking for more challenging subjects.
Authenticity is important and of course it is worth points. I use recipes from period sources and make only necessary modifications and substitutions. You can also develop a period style recipe based on an existing period recipe, period ingredients and period cooking techniques, but you will need to expand your documentation. I have a wonderful modern recipe for a barley pilaf that feels period but I can't find a similar enough period recipe to document it. Here are two sources of information on this process:
Creating New Recipes in a Period Style by L. Gwen Nowrick, Tournaments Illuminated, Issue #121, Winter 1997 (A.S. XXXI)
A Culinary Reference Manual, edited by Jane Lynn of Fenmere. Madrone Culinary Guild, 1992 (Kingdom of An Tir)
In the beginning I was very intimidated because some recipes called for things that were not available in any store I ever shopped in. I now have in my pantry such esoteric items as saunders (sandalwood), cubeb, galangal (galingale, rhizome, laos), grains of paradise
My sources for these:
Check out your local ethnic and health food markets, and herb shops. But don't despair, glossaries and redactions usually indicate appropriate substitutions for flavor/color.
You've got to do your homework or lose points here. I've always been interested in period cooking and usually prepare appropriate food for events. When I decided to try my hand at cooking contests, I already had a good sized collection of resource materials. my sources for these include:
And Last But By No Means Least
Special thanks to Master Duncan Saxthrope of Alnwick for the opportunity to experience cooking competitions from the judges side of the table and Master Wulfric of Creigull for his excellent recipe redaction class and to both of them for their continuing support and guidance.
A Baghdad Cookery Book, Translated by A.J. Arberry, Islamic Culture 1939. (also known as Al-Baghdadi)
A Miscelleny. David Friedman and Betty Cook (Cariadoc and Elizabeth). Self-published, 1996.
An Ordinance of Pottage. Edited by Constance B. Hieatt. Prospect Books, 1988.
Apicius' Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome. Edited and Translated by Joseph Dommers Vehling. New York: Dover, 1977.
The Best of a Watched Pot. Edited by Yseult of Broceliande. Eugene, OR: Alfarhaugr Publishing Society, Inc., 1988.
The British Museum Cookbook. Michelle Berriedale-Johnson. London: British Museum Publications, 1987.
A Culinary Reference Manual, edited by Jane Lynn of Fenmere. Madrone Culinary Guild, 1992
Curye on Inglysch: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth Century (Including the Forme of Cury). Edited by Constance B. Hieatt and Sharon Butler. The Early English Text Society; London: Oxford University Press, 1985.
Fabulous Feasts, Medieval Cookery and Ceremony. Madeleine Pelner Cosman. New York: George Braziller, Inc., 1976.
Fast and Feast; Food in Medieval Society. Bridget Ann Henisch. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1976.
Food in History. Reay Tannahill. New York: Stein and Day Publishers, 1973.
How to Cook Forsoothly. Mistress Katrine Baillie du Chat, OL. Raymond's Quiet Press, 1979.
le Viandier de Taillevent. Translated by James Prescott. Eugene, OR: Alfarhaugr Publishing Society, Inc., 1989.
The Medieval Cookbook. Maggie Black. New York: Thames and Hudson Inc., 1992.
Pleyn Delit, Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks. Constance B. Hieatt and Sharon Butler. Toronto: University of Toronto Press; 1979.
Take a Thousand Eggs or More: A Translation of Medieval Recipes from Harleian, Ashmole, Laud and Douce mss. Cindy Renfrow. Self-published, 1990.
To the King's Taste: Richard II's book of feasts and recipes, Adapted for Modern Cooking. Lorna J. Sass. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975.
To the Queen's Taste: Elizabethan feasts and recipes. Lorna J. Sass. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1976.
Traveling Dysshes. Patricia O. McGregor (Siobhan Medhbh O'Roarke). Self-published, 1995.
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