Amateur food historian and SCA Arts and Sciences Officer, Jennifer Hansen (far right), with her two young assistants in the St. James the Fisherman Episcopal Church kitchen. Kayla Desroches/KMXT
The Kodiak branch of the Society for Creative Anachronism held a festival on Saturday. Members demonstrated their craftsmanship and fencing prowess at lessons that continued between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The group also held a medieval potluck for lunch.
Jennifer Hansen is SCA’s Arts and an amateur historical cook and arranged the potluck. She keeps medieval spices like long-pepper, galingale, and powder forte on her shelf at all times alongside cookbooks with recipes from the Middle Ages.
She turned to her library once again for SCA’s Saturday potluck and settled on Andalusian stuffed eggs, the equivalent to devilled eggs in 13th century Spain.
“You hard cook your eggs and you cut them in half and then you take the yolks out – all this sound familiar – then they want you to put in some cilantro juice, onion juice, pepper, coriander, and then something called murray,” says Hansen. “And this is where go ‘Goodness, what’s murray?’ Someone had figured out how to make something that tastes almost exactly like mild soy sauce.”
For the sake of convenience, Hansen uses actual soy sauce for her recipe.
She and her assistants serve the eggs in halves, but she says people would have eaten the entire egg in the thirteenth century. In one go.
“Back then, chickens were smaller, their eggs were smaller, and to make a neat mouthful, you’d want to put the egg back together. Just BOOP, like that. And it would be a nice, neat little mouthful,” says Hansen. “Well, now we look at this go ‘An entire hard-boiled egg? Are you kidding?’ Well, they’d never seen an egg that big.”
Also on the menu are pasternacks in potage, or stew, and rolls alongside butter and hummus. Hansen says not all common medieval condiments and ingredients are easy to find.
She says the root galingale became popular in the Middle Ages after traders reached the East. She says it’s still common in India, but less so in Kodiak.
“It’s used to add depth to savory dishes,” says Hansen. “It’s a little bitter, kind of earthy. I asked around locally and the only people who even knew what it was were at the health food store and they sold it at that time as a medicine, but it’s all over cookbooks from Europe from 500, 600 years ago.”
Hansen says until the renaissance, cookbooks served as memory aids for professional cooks.
“They wouldn’t be using measuring cups and spoons, or thermometer, or anything like that, or timers,” Hansen says. “They would remember having seen someone else do it, that that’s the color of the chicken when it’s done, and this is what it smells like and so forth. So you’ll have lots of stuff here where it just says, ‘Cook it till it be enough.’”
Luckily for ambitious food historians like Hansen, many modern cookbooks have adapted medieval recipes to include measurements.
Hansen says she hopes to offer a series of classes this summer in medieval skills.
She asks people from the community to offer up their talents and lead a class. If anyone uses natural dyes, sews, or has another unique skill, you can reach Hansen at firstname.lastname@example.org.