Thursday, June 4, 2009

Medieval Catering

So here's the fun news: on Tuesday I cooked for the OSU Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

They did an interview with me last year for their newsletter (Nouvelles/Nouvelles) and I'd been in contact with them off and on.

So when they asked if I could prepare some medieval dishes for their end of year get-together I was thrilled. I planned out a menu that would have a good number of dishes so they'd be able to get a sense of medieval French and English cuisine. Here's what I selected:

Kristen was kind enough to make some of the dishes (the bread, wafers, and breny) and also take a day off from work to go to Columbus with me and serve. Things wouldn't have gone nearly as smoothly without her help (especially as my dishwasher died on Sunday in the middle of preparations). She drove down to Cincinnati in the morning, and we loaded up the van and left just after noon for Columbus. It's a two hour drive, with nothing but flat farmland on both sides, ending in a twisting route through OSU's campus. We found the building where the party was going to be held about 45 minutes ahead of schedule. Then it was unload, park, and get to work. We were just getting the last dishes plated and out onto the buffet table when the guests started showing up.

The food was very well received, with a couple of surprises. The stuffed eggs always do well, as do the pumpes, but I'm not used to people being that excited about the compost. The average American just doesn't seem to go for pickled root vegetables. Maybe academics have more adventurous palates than lesser mortals. Maybe the vegetarian students were really hungry. Whatever the reason, they ate more of it than I expected.

Oddly, the big winner was the hypocras. I'd never worked up a proper recipe for it before (don't ask me why), but they'd requested some kind of medieval beverage, and hypocras was the easiest of the alternatives. Because the party was held on campus, I had to make it a non-alcoholic version - essentially grape juice and powder douce with a little vinegar added to make it taste more like wine.

The only glitch in the whole thing was that there was waaay too much food, which made it all cost more than it should. This was due to a combination of things, including an overestimate of the number of guests (50 instead of the 30 that showed up) and my typical tendency to overfeed people. Got to watch that for future events.

And there's the good news: the CMRS director, Richard Firth Green, seemed very happy with how things turned out and asked if I'd be willing to do similar events in the future. I, of course, said "Yes!"


Tomas deCourcy said...

Personally I'm a huge fan of the Pumpes. It's become a staple on the Saturday night of events.

We find that it's easier than most modern dishes. Though we cheat and either do the meat balls up way ahead of time then freeze them, or if we didn't have time to make them we use store bought ones-a fast way to make a mostly period dish.

Bavardess said...

This post has me drooling. In fact, your whole blog has me drooling! I must try the pumpes recipe - I love the taste of spices like cinnamon and cloves with red meat.