Monday, 9 June 2008

Historic Food Out-dated?

Was having a visit with some fellow historic re-enactors last Saturday, well, a work weekend actually. But after the smelter was built, and we were sitting around, post-work, and pre-dinner, the topic of historic food came up.

There has been a discussion recently on a re-enactor list about food allergies, and how to work around them for feasts. Several times I almost made my own contribution to the conversation, and then deleted it. On the one hand, I tend to only be willing to go as far as denoting meat and non-meat dishes in a menu. I’m far too afear’d of the complex issues of food allergies to even feel comfortable giving assurances about something I’ve prepared by myself in my own kitchen, let alone in a rented kitchen with other helpers. Particularly true, as I learn more and more about all the variations of allergies. And unexpected links and molecular similarities… Eek! It just gets way too tricksy.

But that led us both to comment how on the one hand it becomes very difficult to try to reproduce any of the food from varying periods in history with any kind of attempt at veracity. And on the other hand, how it seems that not many people are even trying anymore.

In fact, I’m starting to wonder if historic cooking is becoming a thing of the past! (Now doesn’t that start to sound like something Carrie Bradshaw would be typing?)

When I first started in this whole re-enactoring thing (long, long ago and reasonably far away) we didn’t have a lot of resources. There was Pleyn Delit. And….hmmm… maybe there was Pleyn Delit. Certainly that was one of the most available books.

It wasn’t even till I’d been in Ontario for a time that others even crossed my path, though I was already on the lookout for them. But perhaps we would have been excused for using the same recipes again and again. Or filling in gaps with something conjectural, just to flesh out the menu.

But there are so many new places to turn to now for easily available information. I ended up having to move my historical cookery book collection out of my kitchen bookshelves because they take up so much more room now. And I don’t can’t afford to collect even a fraction of what is out there.

But it seems we were doing more historic cooking when we had fewer recipes to choose from. Instead, it’s appeared over the last few years, that ‘ethnic’ cookery has replaced any use of historic cookbooks. (Where once we could have pointed that finger at ‘traditional’ recipes as standing in for real history.) And recently, even ethnic food seems to be giving way to what more resembles fairly ordinary restaurant food. ???

So…is period food old-fashioned?