Saturday, October 22, 2011

Recipes for a Medieval Feast

Tonight a group of friends are getting together for a medieval dinner. Here are the recipes.


Take rote of parsel. pasternak of rasenns [2]. scrape hem waisthe hem clene. take rapes & caboches ypared and icorne [3]. take an erthen panne with clene water & set it on the fire. cast all þise þerinne. whan þey buth boiled cast þerto peeres & parboile hem wel. take þise thynges up & lat it kele on a fair cloth, do þerto salt whan it is colde in a vessel take vineger & powdour & safroun & do þerto. & lat alle þise thinges lye þerin al nyzt oþer al day, take wyne greke and hony clarified togider lumbarde mustard & raisouns corance al hool. & grynde powdour of canel powdour douce. & aneys hole. & fenell seed. take alle þise thynges & cast togyder in a pot of erthe. and take þerof whan þou wilt & serue forth.

[1] Compost. A composition to be always ready at hand. Holme, III. p. 78. Lel. Coll. VI. p. 5. [2] Pasternak of rasenns. Qu. [3] ypared and icorne. The first relates to the Rapes, the second to the Caboches, and means carved or cut in pieces.


Take peeres and pare hem clene. take gode rede wyne & mulberes [2] oþer saundres and seeþ þe peeres þerin & whan þei buth ysode, take hem up, make a syryp of wyne greke. oþer vernage [3] with blaunche powdour oþer white sugur and powdour gyngur & do the peres þerin. seeþ it a lytel & messe it forth.

[1] Peeres. pears. [2] mulberes. mulberries, for colouring. [3] Vernage. Vernaccia, a sort of Italian white wine. V. Gloss.


Take Loches oþer Tenches oþer Solys smyte hem on pecys. fry hem in oyle. take half wyne half vynegur and sugur & make a siryp. do þerto oynouns icorue [2] raisouns coraunce. and grete raysouns. do þerto hole spices. gode powdours and salt. messe þe fyssh & lay þe sewe aboue and serue forth.

[1] Egurdouce. Vide Gloss. [2] icorue, icorven. cut. V. Gloss.


Take and make þe self fars [2]. but do þerto pynes and sugur. take an hole rowsted cok, pulle hym [3] & hylde [4] hym al togyder saue þe legges. take a pigg and hilde [5] hym fro þe myddes dounward, fylle him ful of þe fars & sowe hym fast togider. do hym in a panne & seeþ hym wel. and whan þei bene isode: do hem on a spyt & rost it wele. colour it with zolkes of ayren and safroun, lay þeron foyles [6] of gold and of siluer. and serue hit forth.

[1] Cotagres. This is a sumptuous dish. Perhaps we should read Cokagres, from the cock and grees, or wild pig, therein used. V. vyne grace in Gloss. [2] self fars. Same as preceding Recipe. [3] pulle hym, i.e. in pieces. [4] hylde. cast. [5] hilde. skin. [6] foyles. leaves; of Laurel or Bay, suppose; gilt and silvered for ornament.

Rapeye.—Take almaundys, an draw a gode mylke fer-of, and take Datys an mynce hem smal, an put f er-on y-now; take Raw Appelys, an pare hem and stampe hem, an drawe hem vppe with wyne, or with draf of Almaundys, or bofe; fan caste pouder of Gyngere, Canel, Maces, Clowes, & caste f er-on Sugre y-now ; fan take a quantyte. of flowre of Rys, an frowe fer-on, & make it chargeaunt, an coloure it wyth Safroun, an with Saunderys, an serue forth; an strawe Canel a-boue.


Take Ryse and waishe hem clene. and do hem in erthen pot with gode
broth and lat hem seeþ wel. afterward take Almaund mylke [2] and do þer to. and colour it wiþ safroun an salt, an messe forth.

[1] Ryse. Rice. V. Gloss. [2] Almand mylke. V. Gloss.

FUNGES [1]. X.

Take Funges and pare hem clere and dyce hem [2]. take leke and shred hym small and do hym to seeþ in gode broth. colour it with safron and do þer inne powdour fort [3].

[1] Funges. Mushrooms. [2] dyce hem. Cut them in squares. Vide quare in Gloss. [3] Powdour fort. Vide Preface.


Pill garlec and cast it in a pot with water and oile. and seeþ it, do þerto safroun, salt, and powdour fort and dresse it forth hool.

[1] Aquapatys. Aquapates, Contents. Perhaps named from the water used in it.


Take persel, sawge, garlec, chibolles, oynouns, leek, borage, myntes, porrectes [1], fenel and ton tressis [2], rew, rosemarye, purslarye [3], laue and waische hem clene, pike hem, pluk hem small wiþ þyn [4] honde and myng hem wel with rawe oile. lay on vynegur and salt, and serue it forth.

[1] Porrectes. Fr. Porrette. [2] Ton tressis. Cresses. V. Gloss. [3] Purslarye. Purslain. [4] þyn. thine.


Take blades of Fenkel. shrede hem not to smale, do hem to seeþ in water and oile and oynouns mynced þerwith. do þerto safroun and salt and powdour douce, serue it forth, take brede ytosted and lay the sewe onoward.


Take wyne and hony and found it [2] togyder and skym it clene. and seeþ it long, do þerto powdour of gyngur. peper and salt, tost brede and lay the sew þerto. kerue pecys of gyngur and flour it þerwith and messe it forth.

[1] Tostee. So called from the toasted bread. [2] found it. mix it.


Take wyne greke, oþer rynysshe wyne and hony clarified þerwith. take flour of rys powdour of Gyngur oþ of peper & canel. oþer flour of canel. powdour of clowes, safroun. sugur cypre. mylberyes, oþer saundres. & medle alle þise togider. boile it and salt it. and loke þat it be stondyng.

95. Crustless "Sienese" Tart

Sienese tart

Take twenty almonds and blanch them thoroughly, and pound them as fine as possible. Then take half a libra of sugar, twelve eggs, and a fogletta [about a cup] of milk, two quatani of cinnamon, and the proper amount of salt, and half a quarto of fresh probatura cheese, pounded until it need be pounded no more. Then spread a mold with butter, and then flour it, and put the mixture on top. And set the mold or pan far from the fire, covered, with a moderate fire. And note that you can put into the mixture a ladleful of lasagne cooked in good broth. And when it is cooked, put sugar and rose water on top.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Watching the Tour de France

Cycling can be the hardest sport in the world. The most beautiful. The most brutal. The most technical. The most exciting. The most tactical. Almost any superlatives will work when describing a bike race. The viewer is in awe at the triumphs and aghast at the mishaps. The flat stages may seem boring but as much team planning goes into riding a flat stage as it does in riding a mountain stage.

Watching the teams with sprinters take control at the end of a race, jostling for position for their lead-out trains is a lesson in management. Marveling at a breakaway and hoping against hope ( as do the riders) that the break will stay away until the end while watching the pelaton gobble up the kilometers, making the catch just before the finish is a lesson in elation and despair. Seeing Thor Hushovd beat out Jeremy Roy at the finish of stage 13 was heartbreaking both for Roy and for the spectators. Even Hushovd's fans must have sensed both the glory and the tragedy of the occasion. Roy did get the King of the Mountains jersey, but to lose the stage win was devastating. I don't ever remember seeing a cyclist in tears coming over the line. I'm sure it's not uncommon, but it struck me all the same.

Today's stage to the top of the Galibier in the Alps was one that could leave you breathless, in awe of riders who take that sort of punishment as just part of the job. Cyclists know what it's like to go on a long ride, climb hills, manage downhills, but most of us aren't racers. We don't do a grueling three-week race once in a lifetime where a professional will ride one-day, one-week, and three-week races routinely throughout the season. Few of the stars try to win more than one grand tour, as the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, and Vuelta a Espana are known. Perhaps part of Alberto Contador's problem in this Tour de France stems from his emphatic win in the Giro. He's tired, he's had some bad crashes, and his knee is bothering him. All this affects his climbing ability when he should be shining in the mountains.

But to get back to the Galibier ... What could have been more stupendous than seeing Andy Schleck powering away from the pelaton on the Col d'Izouard? More courageous than Thomas Voeckler's dogged fight to keep the maillot jaune? More exciting than seeing Cadel Evans tenaciously dragging the pelaton up the Galibier to limit Schleck's time gain? Yes, a bicycle race can be beautiful, brutal and all the rest. But, at it's best, cycling can be inspirational, showing, as Browning said in Andrea del Sarto, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp/Or what's a heaven for?"

Sharon Peter Bilbao

Travel is a funny thing, at least for me. The actual to and from trips form a parenthesis around the whole journey, walling it off from my regular life. This has it's good and bad points. On the one hand, I get back into my daily life pretty easily. On the other hand, I look back on the details of the trip as if through a glass where the detail is never as sharp and clear as I would like it to be. Our time in the Basque country is definitely like that. I can see details but things are more disconnected than I would have expected after a few weeks at home.

When I think of the high points of the trip, one was probably the chance to walk on the Camino de Santiago da Compostella. I was excited to be in St. Jean Pied de Port and I eagerly found the pilgrim office so I could register and get my "passport" and shell. I can't claim any great insights while walking on the pilgrimage road. It was windy and sunny and gravelly and rather up and down. I think I suspected that traversing the whole route was not something I would be able to accomplish. But it gave a connection, however slight, with medieval pilgrims.

Other memorable events were sparse. I didn't have a lot of "wow" moments as Rick Steves calls them. I did love eating more foie gras than I have ever had in my life. Sorry to all my vegetarian friends.

Probably the other "wow" moment was seeing Frank Gehry's Guggenheim. I'm not a huge fan of modern art, but the building is phenomenal. I did like some of the art, but it was the building that really impressed.

The major downside was trying to accommodate my wheat allergy. I did discover where to buy gluten-free foods, but having to supply some of my own breakfast, always worrying about what I could and couldn't eat, were aspects I didn't enjoy. The other downside is the shower problem. It's not that showers weren't possible. As usual, it was obvious that many European hotels just don't understand the mechanics of showering. Why else have a shower and no shower curtain? The variations on the ways to flood a bathroom floor are too numerous to enumerate.

I enjoyed the Basque country, but I didn't love it. If I go back to Spain, to see the south, I may love it more, or I may not. Only time will tell.

Monday, June 20, 2011

In Le Pays Basque

I am sitting in the breakfast room of the Grand Hotel in Bayonne eating corn flakes. The hotel has a very nice buffet so I can appreciate the breads, croissant, and pastries while I "improve" my cereal with yogurt, dried apricots, prunes, yogurt, and applesauce. I am also enjoying cheese and sausage. Last night we ate in Au Bistrot, next to the hotel, where I had entrecôte en point and frites and Peter had a salad with tuna (not the same as a tuna salad). So am I now writing a food blog? Not exactly, but when you have food allergies, eating becomes a disproportionately
large part of your consciousness, mostly in terms of what you can and cannot eat. Travel only exacerbates this, but I don't intend to give up traveling because of food issues.

Today, walking around Bayonne, we found a natural food store that had a selection of GF food. I am now set with croissants and bread for several breakfasts to come. We had lunch in a natural foods restaurant where I was able able to get a complete meal with no problem. When we came out, some sort of festival was going on and there seemed to be all kinds of food. A group of chefs were singing Basque songs with accompaniment on guitar, accordion, tuba, harmonica and maracas.

We have met about half of our tour group. Some had been on other Rick Steves' tours, others had not. Somehow American travelers seem to find each other, probably because we are all speaking English or obviously non-native French.

This brings me to some observations on language or at least on my use of language. French is the only language that I studied for a sustained period of time. So I actually know enough for simple sentences and reading. But, while I find that I can consciously think in French in a kind of simultaneous translation sort of way, that doesn't mean that I can actually get those French sentences out. Instead of boldly trying to speak with errors, Franglais, etc., I can only manage to coax out a few disjointed words, in a practically inaudible voice.

The hotel has a computer, so we were able to check email, etc. I think I might be able to connect to the wireless system if the hotel could give me the settings, IP number, etc. but the receptionist doesn't know how to find them. So I am writing but not, for the moment, posting.

Tonight we had a group get-together including dinner at La Grange--fois gras, duck, sorbet--an excellent meal. French rather than Basque cuisine, buyer will have plenty of opportunities in the next week to sample Basque food. Tomorrow we start the actual tour.

Up in the Air, Junior Birdpeople

DATELINE: Air France flight, somewhere over the Atlantic

Another trip has begun, another voyage of adventure. And like so many trips, this one began with the prosaic. Up at an ungodly hour because I get nervous before a big trip, so I spent lots of time trying to remember to get everything done and packed. That was moderately successful. I think I remembered to pack everything, but I did forget to do a few things.

Lugged our luggage to the bus stop. Took the bus to campus and then the shuttle to O'Hare. Got there early because we didn't want to be rushed. Ate a mostly unhealthy lunch (hot dog and fries). Tried to get some walking in but mostly looked at Facebook on the iPhone and played a game on the iPad. Had several unsuccessful starts on toe up socks and read more of Jasper fforde's One of Our Thursdays Is Missing.

Even boarding the plane didn't give an air of excitement. More the hassle of shoving your luggage around and hoping there is still space in the overhead compartment by the time you board.

And dinner, what can I say? You might imagine a gourmet meal but Air France food is no better than any other airline and their GF meal was pretty poor. I don't understand why GF meals can't be better. You get margarine rather than butter. The vegetables were burned! The regular meal includes cheese so why doesn't the GF meal? There are plenty of GF cheeses. And part of the regular meal dessert was tapioca, which I happen to like and has no ingredients that would cause problems. Unfortunately GF is conflated with no dairy so the choices are even more limited. I'm sure a person who can eat bread but not dairy would be similarly dismayed. The regular meal had an orzo salad but my substitute salad was iceberg lettuce. Couldn't they have used more interesting greens? Anyway, enough whining about the meal.

So now we are a mere two hours from Paris. Then the adrenaline will start to flow as we negotiate our way from Charles DeGaulle to Orly. We won't relax until we are safely transferred. Then it is on to Biarritz and Bayonne, and the adventure really will begin.