Friday, January 18, 2008

Making a Medieval Field Kitchen - Part 2

Foods for Medieval Field Kitchen

In my first post I talked about the furniture and equipment I'd need. Here I'll be looking at the foods. Come to think of it, this is probably my computer science background showing through - first I speced out the hardware, now I'm doing the software.

Italian Kitchen from "Il Cuoco Segreto Di Papa Pio V",
Bartolomeo Scappi, Venice, 1570

As a source of raw data, I used lists of foods I'd pulled out of medieval English and French cookbooks for the section of my website on Statistics from Medieval Cookbooks. Since I know which foods appear most often in the cookbooks I work from, I can ensure that I have the majority of ingredients I might possibly need.

These foods seem (to me) to divide themselves into four categories: Spices, Staples, Fruits and Vegetables, and Fresh Foods.

The Spices

This category is pretty simple to deal with. They don't take up much space, so I should be able to keep them all in a "spice chest" the size of a shoebox. As long as I keep them dry, I don't have to worry about them. The spices are: cinnamon, cloves, cubebs, cumin, ginger, galingale, grains of paradise, hyssop, mace, marjoram, mint, mustard, nutmeg, parsely, pepper, saffron, sage, salt, sandalwood, and savory.

The Staples

These are the foods that I'll need in larger quantities than the spices, but like the spices they'll be fine as long as I keep them dry (or for the liquids, in suitable containers). The staples are: almonds, amidon (wheat starch), cooking oil, flour, lard, nuts, oatmeal, peas (dried), pine nuts, rice, rosewater, sugar, vinegar, wine, and yeast.

Hmm... suitable containers - there's a whole new problem. I really can't have an authentic medieval field kitchen if I have a plastic bottle of olive oil and commercial spice tins sitting out on the table, can I? Obviously I'll need to look into medieval food containers - but that can wait until later on.

Fruits and Vegetables

This is a bit of a mixed bag. Most of these will keep reasonably well for several days (assuming good weather). A few (e.g. apples, onions) have a high enough moisture content that I'll need to keep an eye on them to make sure they don't go all green and fuzzy on me. They are: apples, currants (zante raisins), dates, figs, garlic, onions, oranges, prunes, and raisins.

Fresh Foods

These are the troublemakers. The fruits and vegetables on this list won't keep as well as those on the list above, and some of these foods will quickly become unsafe if kept at room temperature. They are: cabbage, cream, grapes, leeks, mushrooms, pears, radishes, spinach, strawberries, turnips, butter, eggs, cheese, meat, and milk.

Most of these will need to be purchased on the day they're to be used. There are some medieval preservation techniques that could help - especially with the meat - but again, that would be (and will be) a whole separate topic.

No comments: