Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It's really not that hard ...

I'm more than a little conflicted when it comes to "Medieval Times" - no, not the period of history but the chain of theme restaurants.  On the one hand, it generates interest in medieval European history.  However they present a version of the middle-ages that is notably less accurate.

One of the areas where they stumble rather badly is the food (no surprise that I latch onto this aspect, eh?).  On their website they have this to say about their dinner. 

With clockwork precision, legions of serving wenches and serfs deliver four courses to hungry guests in minutes. The meal begins with savory garlic bread and a steaming hot vegetable soup ladled into pewter bowls: then come roasted chicken, spare rib, a seasoned potato and pastry of the Castle. Two rounds of beverages are included with the feast. Cash bar service is also available throughout the show. To the special delight of the guests, the feast is served "medieval style" - without silverware, but with plenty of extra napkins.

Let's go over this point by point:

  1. Describing this as a four course meal is really silly when a typical course in a medieval feast contained four to six dishes - and that didn't include bread.  

  2. The vegetable soup might be ok, depending on what exactly is in it.

  3. Seasoned potato?  Potatoes are new-world ... hello!

  4. What the heck is a pastry of the castle?  Ah, another site lists it as an apple pastry. Apples are good, pastry is good, the name is dumb.

  5. Medieval style means no silverware?
    "There were no utensils in medieval times, thus, there are no utensils at Medieval Times. Would you like a refill on that Pepsi?"

So how could they fix this to make it more authentic, while still appealing to the masses?  It wouldn't take much in terms of time or money.

The first step is to go through their menu and recipes and get rid of all the new-world ingredients.  Tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, chocolate, vanilla, tea and coffee are the ones that most often sneak into a pseudo-medieval menu.

I suspect that this would effect the soup.  If so, then find a new recipe that is actually medieval.  There are hundreds of medieval soup recipes out there, many are quite good, and almost all of them are cheap to make.  Pick one or two.

Replace the potato with the old-world equivalent - the turnip.  They're just as easy to cook, and there are medieval turnip recipes that just about anyone would like.

Beverages are pretty easy too.  Serve the kids grape juice, and give the adults the added option of beer, wine or mead.

Finally, for Pete's sake give them spoons and knives!  The medieval serving manuals clearly state that all diners should be furnished with spoons and knives.  We're talking the middle-ages here, not the stone-ages.

Do I actually expect Medieval Times to do this?  No, not really.  I can dream though. It's not like I want them to do a proper four or five course feast with around 30 different dishes, complete with different menus for meat and meatless days. I just want them to get a few very basic things right. Kind of like how people expect a documentary about Pearl Harbor to be set in Hawaii instead of Des Moines, Iowa.


Anachronista said...

There ARE restaurants that serve up a more authentic Medieval experience, but they are few and far between.

I once thought this would be a good theme for a new restaurant. I say, toss out the corny scripted fight scenes and focus on the food and accuracy of environment.

Yeah, Medieval done right for a change.

If I ever win the lottery...

Doc said...

Hi Anachronista - Love your Blog!

I've also had the medieval restaurant/lottery pipe dream. And if you got rid of the horses and such, would it be that much more expensive than any other restaurant? ... well, I would use a lot more saffron than most places, so that'd cost a bit more.

I did find a nice critique of the Medieval Times sort of place while looking for something more historically accurate.