The Travelling Lunch… er, dinner

Ed Note: This was originally published in a much earlier incarnation of this blog. It’s still useful, and so it is resurrected. I expect it needs a bit of updating, which I will get to in all my copious free time. For now, it stands as it is and is a reminder of what I was focusing on at that point in time. It’s also pretty fitting as an introduction to my own experiments with Actual Period Preserving Recipes.  How awesome is that? …. Well, maybe it’s indifferently awesome to most folks, but I think it is grand.

The Travelling Lunch

by Merouda – April 18th, 2007

One of the people I read on LJ brought this topic up. I have been working on a set of short articles about food for non-period cooks who are interested in at least presenting a bit of a more period table when bringing their own food to an event. This is still in its draft stage, but I’m putting it out now for reference as I see it as something that can be easily supplemented.

As far as carrots go, orange carrots are available in period. There are quite a lot of 16th c. genre portraits featuring lush displays of produce, and believe me, them carrots are orange.

Period-like foods from your grocery store.

Okay. You can’t cook, you need to eat at Pennsic or the tourney, you would like to eat something that is within the realm of possibility for your Persona. The answer: Careful selection in the grocery store.

Of course, there will be sacrifices: these things will all be prepared according to modern practices and tastes, so there will be ingredients or processing that you can’t really control as a part of your menu. But if cooking is not your thing and you’d like a traveling lunch that your persona will likely recognize, consider selecting from the following list of foods available at most mid-end* grocers. Generally speaking, the foods on this list can be eaten raw or purchased all ready prepared, requiring nothing but being put on a plate or into a goblet.

In making this list, I have avoided New World foods; some few New World foods (NWF) did make it to the European table by the end of the sixteenth century, but most of the frequently eaten NWF in the 21st century were not acceptable foods to most Europeans until after 1601; you are encouraged to research what foods were known and acceptable to your persona if you wish to include them. On the other hand, if a food has an Old World origin and was known in period but was not necessarily eaten everywhere on the European continent, I have included it here on the theory that your persona has the possibility of being introduced to it or that it’s sufficiently similar to what was available that it would be recognizable. For instance, cheddar cheese is a late period creation, but there is no reason to suspect that any culture familiar with cheese wouldn’t recognize it as a food source. Remember, the purpose of this list is not to define period foods specific to your persona, but to serve as a general guideline regarding what you can purchase at the grocer’s that will create a meal that might have been eaten somewhere in Europe before 1601.

High Proteins (Meats, eggs, legumes):
Pickled herring, sausages, smoked pork chops, smoked ham hocks, ham, rotisserie chickens, smoked salmon, hummus, canned pea soup, canned lentil soup, canned chick peas, canned broad beans, beef jerky, pickled and/or hard boiled eggs, cold sliced chicken, roast beef, roast pork (from deli; note that deli staff may be willing to slice meat into a chunk rather than individual slices, so do ask them for this service). Pickled pig’s feet. Head cheese/souse/brawn. Sardines in oil. Canned oysters. Cooked crab meat, lobster, or shrimp. If the deli section has no good meats available, canned salmon, canned beef in juice, canned chicken, canned ham will substitute.

Fruits, Vegetables, Produce
(note that most grocery store fruits varietals are not varieties that were available in period, although Golden Delicious may be descended from a late period variety, Golden Reinette. Fresh or dried fruits are easiest for the tourney lunch. It’s typically suggested that all oranges in period were like Seville oranges, but sweet oranges were available in a number of areas, so if you can find seeded oranges, you’ve scored! Vegetables are best purchased raw, pickled, preserved in oil. While modern cans of meat are the closest you can get to some prepared meats, period methods of preserving vegetables are still readily available and are the preferred choice.)

Apples, pears, grapes, oranges, lemons, limes, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, gooseberry, cherries, apricots, dates, raisins, plums, prunes, figs, applesauce. Marmalade, jams, preserves, jellies for late personas. Double crust apple pies from the bakery section.

Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts (especially preserved in an oil dressing, as a substitute for cabbage buds!), olives, cucumbers, leaf lettuces, spinach, carrots, shallots, chard, turnips, parsnips, mushrooms, beets, cabbage, peas, artichokes (limited personas), garlic (please…. pickled, not fresh! and watch for the inclusion of tomato sauce), asparagus, onions, leeks, bagged salads that contain leaf lettuces and herbs (no iceberg lettuce).


Yogurt, milk, cheese–some period varieties are ricotta, white cheddar, Parmesan, mozzarella, brie, emmental, Gruyère, Grana, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Neufchâtel, feta–butter.


rice, barley, pasta, etcetera, are a little hard to buy prepared. You should stick with better breads, such as are obtainable from the store’s bakery rather than from the sliced-loaves sections. Also consider Ry-Krisp and other flat breads, or, if you’re willing and able to heat a cup of water, instant oatmeal or instant cream of wheat. Shortbread cookies–for dessert. Pretzels. Bagels.

Fats, condiments, herbs, spices, sweets
Olive oil. Mustards. Various vinegars, although I find balsamic most useful in this context. Honey. Ground horseradish. Candied ginger root. Salt. Pepper, sage, basil, garlic, parsley, mint, rosemary, thyme. Note that leafy herbs, tossed with leaf lettuce (like Romaine) and dressed with oil or vinegar, makes a nice sallet with minimal prep. Modern pesto sauce works as a medieval green sauce, but the form you’ll find in the store usually derives from a 19th. c recipe. Candied citron and orange peels. Caviar. Pine nuts. Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts.

Apple cider, beer, wine, (buy non-alcoholic beer, sparkling grape juices if site is dry). Herbal teas: Mint, chamomile, lemon balm,

(These are prepared dishes that are approximations and their inclusion on this list should not be understood to imply that they are period preparations. Salads & dips should be mixed in a dairy dressing (i.e., sour cream, cheese sauce, yogurt, white sauce), an oil dressing, or a vinegar dressing. Mayo and most modern salad dressings are post period. Note that if the dish contains turkey, maize/corn, green/red/chili peppers, tomatoes or potatoes, it’s not really what your looking for.)

Hummus. Rice or pasta salads as long as the salad is not dressed with a mayonnaise-based sauce (mayo is created in the 18th c.) and is without turkey, tomato, maize (corn), & potato. Oil-dressed coleslaw, rice pudding, dairy-based spinach dip, macaroni and cheese, mozzarella balls in oil. The deli I frequent makes a terrific “antipasto” pasta salad that can be adjusted for this purpose; it’s oil-dressed pasta, sausage, olives, Parmesan cheese, tomatoes. If I ask them to pick out the tomatoes, I have a reasonable meal; when I serve it to myself, I separate the pasta, olives, and sausage to separate piles and have what looks like 3 separate dishes on my plate.

Frozen Food/Cold Case Section and Partly Prepped Foods:
(This section can be mined for foods if you are willing/able to let things defrost, and perhaps do a little baking if you have something that needs just some time in the oven as a last step. Some of these things will also require careful presentation on your plate if you’d like to create something aesthetically appropriate as well as food-compatible. Like foods from the deli section, these are not necessarily period preparations, and their inclusion here should not be understood to imply that they are period dishes, only that they would probably be recognizable as food to someone familiar with pasta, cheese or dairy sauces, and chicken/beef/pork. Use this subdivision with caution.)

Quiche (minus, of course, NWF). Pot pies, but find one without turkey, potatoes, peppers, corn. The following Stouffer’s brand frozen entrees meet the “No obvious NWF” criteria and are presented as a list for your inspiration regarding foods that will fit even if imperfect: Chicken a la King, Italian Sausage Stuffed Rigatoni, Beef Stroganoff with Parsley Noodles, Salisbury Steak, Swedish Meatballs, Tuna Noodle Casserole, Homestyle Chicken & Noodles, Fettuccini Alfredo, Rigatoni Pasta w/Roasted White Meat Chicken. (Note that I am not endorsing Stouffer’s particularly, they’re just a brand that I’m sure is national.)

Frozen fruits and vegetables as described in the produce section; if veggies are purchased in a sauce, chose a cheese, or plain butter sauce. Cookie doughs: plain sugar cookies, oatmeal cookies. Bread doughs, if you want super fresh breads.

Examples of people eating outdoors. Late period art featuring cooks and a wealth of foods for visual reference. Also good for visual reference for baskets, jugs, barrels, use of cover cloths, et cetera. An English grocer’s period-type recipe pamphlet.

*Mid-end: Not as inexpensive or limited as Aldi’s, but not as wide-ranging as high end stores, and I didn’t even go in to gourmet or specialty shops.

Food folk are invited to add comments to the site, but remember, due to spam issues, nothing will appear until I have a chance to approve it.

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First blog post at this point in time

My current webhost is shutting down after a massively wonderful and long run. As small internet sites go, was long-in-the-wonderful-tooth and I will always be happy to have had UncleMikey host my services for all these years.

I needed to move to a fast home until I figure out what to do, so for now, here I am.



Posted in Junk Drawer

April is poetry month

Times are grim around here. There is nothing more to say about that, though, because otherwise it just seems like staring at your tummy and thinking about the needed tuck.

I will mention that I have been so outwardly-focused that I forgot that it’s April.

Yah, right? I know!

So, in the tradition of remarking upon poetry, let me share a site with you. I did not select one particular poem, I just read through some and decided to offer the link as one where I found some poems I liked and thought that perhaps the poet might prefer a hit or two rather than me citing just one poem, here. Since I have about 2 readers, I can’t share more traffic than that. 🙂

Here is the link.

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Now Harvesting at Marihaus Gardens: Harvest Monday

Well, I fully intended to do a full blown Harvest Monday post last week. I got side tracked. And then I fully intended to do a full blown Harvest Monday today. But I got sidetracked, AND my bread machine died.

But I shall persevere, and at least display samples of what I am lightly harvesting this week.

First harvest 2016: Sorrel, chicory, dandelion, garlic, onions.

Second harvest: Sunchoke, salsify, sorrel, chicory, dandelion, garlic, onions, and kale.

I am exceptionally excited about the kale. I have not had much success in overwintering anything. Here in Zone 5, winters are harsh, and since I decided I wanted to start saving seeds, I have been trying to figure out what the minimal amount of coverage for overwintering actually is. Most years, I can’t get the greens through, because either I did not get enough coverage on them, or the rodents got through the cover and ate everything. This year, the cover was enough for the kale and the collards to make it through, and they are regenerating nicely. I suspect that I did not cover them enough to get them through a typical winter, but they made it through a mild winter, and that is a start. Turnips and beets do not appear to have made it through, and so I will have to try harder next year, or I may have to accept that I will need to lift them and keep them in the fridge for the winter.

Posted in Forest Gardening, Junk Drawer | Tagged ,

In which the historical place of rhubarb is discussed.

Rhubarb is a lovely example of how foodways might change. It shows up in the historical record as a plant with medicinal value during the Middle Ages, but, like maize, is not appropriate on the re-creationists table. Rhubarb did not become a table vegetable until we are past the Scadian’s cutoff: 1600 CE.

It’s also a lovely example of the value of attention. Gerard’s Herbal, so easily accessible these days, pictured the plant in the 1597 version like so:

Gerard’s Herbal, 1597. Rhubarb.

The first time I saw this picture, I was bemused, to say the least. What kind of rhubarb is that?

Turns out, it isn’t any kind of rhubarb.* It appears to be a redrawing of an etching from Universal Cosmology by Andre Thevet (1504-1592), printed in 1575, that claims to show rhubarb cultivation. You can see the picture here, or here, or here.† It reminds me of the elephants drawn by medieval monks who’d never stepped foot more than 15 miles whence they were born: it looks like an animal, yes, and it has a long trunk, but that may be where the resemblance ends.

Rhubarb was apparently an expensive import from China; only the dried root was brought in. The person responsible for the engraving did a lovely job of portraying the root (in a separate engraving), but the plant? Not so much.

Gerard’s Herbal, 1636 edition. Rhubarb.

Thomas Johnson edited and expanded the Herbal in 1633; he frankly states that he removed the erroneous information and engraving from the 1597 version. This engraving is a decent representation of what rhubarb actually looks like.

I’m not digging up my rhubarb for its roots, and the spot it lands in when I move it… well, that’ll be a chip of China. I will save my strawberry rhubarb jam, and my apricot rhubarb jam, and my rhubarb chutney, and so forth, for gustatory pleasures outside the SCA. 🙂

*At least, as far as I have been able to ascertain. I don’t claim exhaustive research here.
†There might be earlier source material that is the inspiration for both these pictures, but the point stands. Somebody drew it as best they could from someone else’s description, and this is what we got.

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In which planting and migraines are discussed.


I’m on day three of the most impairing migraine I have ever had. It’s not the most painful, but it is the most persistent, and it came with a wealth of symptoms I had not previously experienced. I did not recognize them as symptoms, and so I did nothing about preventing the migraine. It started Thursday, and it’s still holding on. It is not as bad as it was when it started (obviously, or I would not be writing this), but I am really ready for it to stop. New to me symptoms: vertigo, nausea, chills, fatigue, and moderate (rather than blinding) head pain. The only visual effect I am having is light sensitivity; you had better believe I am only glancing at the screen occasionally. The keyboard is a lovely, light-absorbing black.

The vertigo and the nausea are what is really impeding my ability to do much of anything.


Carlin Pea in bloom.*

    • Maybe I mentioned this next bit? The garden has grown in such a way, and there are so many things I want to grow, that I can’t quite keep the beds as defined as I might like to. The 16th C Bed does not have enough sun to grow all the things I want, and even if it had enough, it’s not enough room in one bed to Grow All The Things. Crop rotation as a plan has been failing as I keep inter-planting things for square foot gardening. So I am thinking about just having the whole thing be up for planting grabs and pretend that anything not known to 16th C. Europeans is just an awesome and exotic ornamental I am playing with.

      But of course, that thought pattern only matters if I want it to. It’s not like there are English Renaissance Garden Police who are going to look down their noses and sniff if the 16th C. bed spills over in a million ways. At some point, it was going to have to. And that point is now.


    • I’d like to put some Rosa Rugosa in this year, because I want more roses and because they have super big hips. The hips are edible and full of vitamin C. Making room for them along the rose area will require moving some plants. I may just take the Russian sage out all together, as it is merely ornamental. I can move herbs over into the 16th C. Bed, as that bed is slowing turning into a permanent planting bed, at least on the side that is part sun. Tarragon, sage, reseeding salad mixes, a Martha Washington asparagus plant that I grew from seed, some leeks that I treat like chives: it’s pretty well established on that end of the bed and so I may as well work with what I got. No matter what historical gardening ideas enchant me, my ultimate goal is an urban food forest.


    • The thing I have had the hardest time trying to decide about moving is the rhubarb. I’m thinking of moving it into the 16th C bed. Of course, it’s the 16th C. Bed. And they knew of rhubarb, so that is not the issue, as I am willing to grow any plant known in the English Renaissance. But it gets very big, and will take up a lot of space. I have it in a part-sun corner right now, but I am planning on installing central air, and that spot is where it will have to go. So I certainly need to move the rhubarb and the strawberries, and I should probably move the established perma-bed about three feet away from the wall of the house.


  • The thing I am most excited about is the carlin peas. This is a legume that was grown in the Elizabethan era, and I am overjoyed to have gotten hold of some (Go on! Search the internet! Not a single seed company in the States sells ’em commercially, and they are not easy to locate even in the UK). They came without growing instructions, sorry to say, but thankfully, a nice little site called Old Varieties has brief instructions. There are some discussions online that indicate it’s slower to ripen than either sweet peas or snap beans, so I won’t be worried by that. I am actually going to have to pay real attention to succession planting my legumes this year, as I would like to grow the carlin peas, fava beans, scarlet runners, hyacinth, lentil, and the Cherokee Trail of Tears and Turkey Craw.

That’s it for now. This has taken all day in pausing and returning because of the migraine, and I should stop now.

– – – –
*I pulled this picture from a photo found on twitter. I cropped it a bit to make it less nice than the original, and would love to credit the photographer if I knew who it was.


Posted in Forest Gardening, Junk Drawer, SCA | Tagged , ,

Boars Head Handout in the rough.

I am putting together a class on historical gardening, and today will be the first version of it, a round table discussion that will allow me to present some information and learn about what things are most interesting to students. The topic is pretty huge and I am right now leaning towards a description of accessible internet resources to encourage people to go look the information up and a discussion of how the garden can be a metaphor for A&S participation in the SCA. The below is the rough list of links. I’m just going to direct folks to this list, so that I can refine it as the class develops, and so that it is easily accessible to the class participants.

University and Museum Gardens:
The Cloisters:
Santa Clara University:
UMass: and

Colonial Williamsburg is post SCA-period, but the gardener’s blog often has interesting historical and applied gardening information:

Primary Sources:
The Middle English Translation of Palladius De re Rustca:
The book of husbandry:
The Profitable Arte of Gardening:
A perfite platforme of a hoppe garden and necessarie instructions for the making and mayntenaunce thereof:
500 points of husbandry:

SCA Websites:

1. Medieval and Renaissance Gardens, Jadwiga Zajaczkowa (Jennifer Heise)
2. Incorporating Period Garden Ideas in your garden. (same auhor as #1)
3. Karen Larsdatter’s collection of links (look at the agriculture section):

Pinterest boards:

Elise Boucher:
Susan Malovrh:
Ginger Bats:
Prue Batten:
Lady Narf:
Jen Jaros:

Research on Various Aspects of Medieval and Renaissance gardens:

1. Horticulture and Art:
2. Miscelaneous bits I pulled together myself:!952&authkey=!AHlsajlsKytKTSY&ithint=file%2crtf
3. The Cucurbitaceae and Solanaceae illustrated in medieval manuscripts known as the Tacuinum Sanitatis
4. Kitchen Garden Report:
(This last suggestion is a very nice round-up of information. If you only construct a garden from information here and from Jadwiga Zajaczkowa (Jennifer Heise), you’ll be all right)

Simple start to a mixed use garden:

Varieties believed to be an heirloom from or near the SCA time frame:

Carlin Peas – In the United States, currently only available to Seed Savers Exchange Members. This is one of my projects for the AS L/AS LI garden, to grow enough to make samples available to other interested gardeners.

Martock—a variety of Broad Beans also currently available only to members of Seed Savers Exchange. Substitute Windsor fava bean Canadians can buy 2 varieties of Martock at Prarie Garden Seeds:

Crapaudine Beet: Currently available at Baker Creek,

Norfolk Purple Turnip:
Parsley, Hamburg Rooted

Vegetables, herbs, flowers known in period but with uncertain timelines:

These are chosen in accordance with the earliest known date for a plant with a known date for the variety, or, in a few cases, the only variety of seed you can currently get.

Salsify – a vegetable that will produce a beautifyul, tall purple flower in its second year.

Long Yellow Carrots
Possible varieties
Jaune du Doubs

(I did not have time to list ’em all before 5 Dec, so here is a board of varieties appropriate for the Tudor Kitchen Garden:

Plant Lists:

Seed Sellers:

Heritage Harvest Seed:

My Personal Favorites:

Seed Savers Exchange
Victory Seeds

Other Well-recommended vendors:
Baker Creek
High Mowing
Seeds of Change
Territorial Seeds
Hudson Valley Seed Library

And, for folks who want to shop local to Northshield:

St Clare Seeds (Wisconsin)
Vermont Bean Seed (also dba Totally Tomatoes) (Wisconsin)
Prairie Road Organic Seed (North Dakota)
Heritage Harvest Seed (Manitoba)
Mandy’s Greenhouse (Manitoba)
Soggy Creek Seeds (Ontario, but outside of Northshield.)

UDSA hardiness zones for Northshield range from Zone 5 (the warmest) to Zone 3 (the coldest). UDSA Hardiness zones applied to Europe place most of western Europe, including portions of Norway, Sweden, and Germany, at Zone 10 (the warmest) to Zone 6 (the coldest.) You don’t see typical Midwestern winter temperatures until you enter Eastern Europe or the interior areas of Norway and Sweden. What does this mean? The typical countries that Northshielders claim, even the most inhabited parts of Scandinavia, are warmer than Northshield. This can make growing many plants challenging. Summers are shorter and winters are colder.

Choose varieties that are appropriate for your area. Sometimes this means that, even if you can get a hold of a variety of melon that was grown pre-1601 (and if you find that melon, do let me know what it is), your summer may be too short to grow it; pick a variety that looks similar and, if possible, crossed back over the Atlantic from Germany or Russia or wherever.

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