Friday, November 25, 2011

Medieval Feast Rhetoric History Presentation

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Presenting Anna of Byzantium (my daughter), John, the longbowman from the Battle of Crecy (my son) and Mary of Burgundy (me).

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My daughter was Anna, whose father was ruler of Byzantium in the 11th century. During the first Crusade, she met many knights who came through on their travels. As a result, she wrote a history book of the First Crusade. The Byzantium culture was a blend of east and west (Rome). The garments were Roman in form (tunic and toga) but the materials and decoration were Eastern.

My son was a longbowman from the Battle of Crecy, in the early 14th century. He is wearing a gambeson, a quilted jacket that was worn under chain mail, to help protect him from the blows of swords. He wears a bracer on his left arm (not sure of the name) to hold back the fabric so that it won't get in the way when he shoots the arrows.

Let the Feast begin!! (By the time we began, the sun was setting, so I never got the lovely full shot showcasing the feast and lit "stained glass as I had wished. I had planned an earlier feast with a 12 pound turkey, but the guys insisted on a 20 pounder, that despite several days of thawing in the fridge, I spent most of the morning trying to dig out ice and giblets from the cavity. You know, they only recommend 1 pound of turkey per person. I have hungry guys! It's to help them maintain their energy levels, since they are my men-in-waiting.)
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My son played the Surveyor, blowing the trumpet, then announcing each of us as we took our seats. (That boy loves to make noise and he was in his element.) My husband was introduced as Sir Galahad. We had to explain to him who that was. We told him he was on the search for the holy grail. He had no idea what that was so we told him. He had no idea where that was. Now he's getting into character!
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Then he blew the trumpet to announce that Lady Anna would give us the history of Thanksgiving (in Medieval context).

After the Surveyor announced the prayer, my husband said a prayer of Thanksgiving.

Yet again the Surveyor blew the trumpet, to announce that Lady Anna would remind us of proper ettiquette from the Babees' book.
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Then we had the Wassail ceremony. (Lots of info here at the Colonial Williamsburg website.)
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Next came the presentation of the salt.
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Then the Upper Crust Ceremony where Lady Anna presented the bread to me. I cut it in half and offered the upper crust to our most important and distinguished guest, Sir Galahad. He said to send the salt shaker to his side of the table too because he was important!
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Then we had the laver ceremony, where we washed our hands in water full of herbs and spices.
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Then we had the presentation of the food! After each presentation we clapped! Feasting was more about fanfare and presentation and eating was secondary. Food items were presented in quite a fanciful manner and I did the best I could to try to accomplish this.

Presenting Roasted Peacock a l'Orange...
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Our feast was actually our Thanksgiving dinner. I compromised a lot in blending the two. There were no turkeys in Europe in the Middle Ages. Instead they might eat peacock. (I disguised our turkey to look like a peacock, because medieval cooks liked to make their cooked meats look like their original condition.)

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Please forgive my feeble attempts at French. I don't know much French but an item or two had a French name and I wanted to disguise modern food names, so one late night when I was tired, I went sort of crazy with the French. The kids helped add their ideas (they know less French than me) during a break this morning. The bill of fare is a blend of French and merry olde English. Appropriate, no?

Presenting Array D'Sallat. (I had read that a vegetable tray would be part of a feast, with the food in the form of a coat of arms. My son chose this coat of arms, which he found in a few of his Osprey books. He had me julienne and chiffoned the vegetables and he placed them artistically on the silver tray.)

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Presenting Coup a Fruits...
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Presenting Frosted Sallat with Forest of Mint, with Stained Glass Sallat embedded in snow...
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Presenting Bundles of Haricots Verts with a touch of truffle oil (we found an $8 bottle at Wegman's versus the $600 per pound truffles in their produce section. Now that I've smelled it, I think it's over rated. At least now we know why the chef judges on Food Network insist on proper application.)
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Presenting Sauce Aux Canneberges...
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Presenting Pumpkins Stuffed with Ciabatta herb Dressing (there was a European form of pumpkin in the Middle Ages)...
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Presenting Trio D'Pommes...(my husband loves potatoes and he always wants the traditional two, then we found a unique one at Wegmans, read on...)

Blanc...
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Amethyst (no dyes are artifical additives, these are truely purple potatoes) ...
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l'Orange with Honeyed Mallow from the Marsh of Egypt (sweet potatoes topped with homemade marshmallows, which stuck to me the day before, check previous post. The marshmallow might have stuck to me but they tasted spot on.)...
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Presenting Aus Jus...
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Presenting Delicacy of Peacock (Giblets were a big deal to my son a year ago. I never include them on the table because I do not like them. Last year he talked me into cooking some up to set aside on a small plate just for him. At the last minute I decided to tease him with it but I guess his curiousity in it has now passed.)
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Ta da!

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(Some of these dishes were very heavy and still hot. I suggested walking around the table to select our food like a buffet but my son wanted to pass the dishes. I knew my daughter couldn't manage all that. My husband served us, just like we see at Colonial Williamsburg's Under the Redcoat.)

During dinner we talked of all things Medieval. John, the longbowman, took the charge by asking Lady Anna questions. She talked about herself, mentioning that she was highly educated. The longbowman started talking to her about the difference in universities in Italy (where the students weren't learning enough so they took charge, demanding stricter classes) and northern Europe (where the professors needed to reign in the unruly students). I pondered the near future of Italy in light of such industrious students. John, the longbowman, predicted a rise in the arts.

I talked about the hostess, Mary of Burgundy. She had commsissioned a Book of Hours be made for her. Despite the considerable time invested in working on the project, the monks have not yet finished it. John, the Longbowman, related where all the colors come from (which he first learned from one of the carpenters at Colonial Williamsburg.)

(my daughter's...)
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(my son's)
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(They are unfinished because they truely are a time consuming task. I told the kids we'd just play it up because we read all about the intensity of the work and the laboriousness of the task.)

John, the longbowman, started talking about his bow and the Battle of Crecy. Even though his bow was 7' long before being strung, it was simply called a bow. He thought the term "longbow" quite appropriate. He was so chatty that he fell behind in his eating. While he finished his food, Lady Anna regaled us with selections from "Song of Roland."
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(We got the following idea from one of the Playbooth Theater interpreters at Colonial Williamsburg. I asked him for ideas for our last two history presentations. He remembered, asked me about them then VOLUNTEERED information for the next one. Huzzah!=) He suggested magic. Despite his fascinating specific ideas, we didn't have the means to pull it off. But I got to thinking we could pull out some science experiments and I knew my son would have a blast with it. Also we read in all the GA Henty books that the hero knows everything about everything, which sounds just like my son. In the one Henty book of the era, the hero's father was an alchemist and the book had a hilarious chapter on scaring the bejeebers out of the enemy with some chemical puffs of color.)

When John, the longbowman, finished eating, he regaled us with a bit of magic he learned from an alchemist. When asked about this, he explained that an alchemist's goal was to make gold out of an object. Even though they haven't figured out how to do that, they learned a lot of other tricks. He showed us how he could turn air into lead. (I missed the photo on that but saw the trick.)

He changed the color of water by adding clear liquid to purple to get...
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blue!
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He added more clear liquid and got red!
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Then we watched him add powder to another container of clear liquid...
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which resulted in fizz...
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Then he attempted to make an egg go inside of a bottle without pushing it in. He put fire into the bottle...
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then quickly placed an egg on top, then left the egg there. The egg did try to slip in, but didn't work. John, the longbowman, said the cook needed to find smaller eggs from the chicken.
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Then we sang music from the era. "Be Thous my Vision" is an Irish hymn, written in 8th century AD. "All Glory Laud and Honor" was written by Theodulph of Orleans while he was imprisoned in a French monastery in AD 820. "All Creatures Great and Small" was written by St. Francis of Assissi in AD 1225.

We ended the evening with dessert. This was the one and only
completelyalmost accurate medieval recipe. Can you guess? The night before I was busy with this...
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so that I could make this...
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I made mincemeat from scratch on Wednesday so that I could make mincemeat pie. My mom always makes this for the holidays, but by using "none such mincemeat" from a jar. I also use this in a very light and not too sweet fruitcake that my mom always made too, so I knew what type of flavor I was aiming for. I used a Colonial Williamsburg recipe for the base, except I could not bring myself to use suet. Besides, where would one buy suet? I found a gourmet website that recommended coconut oil in lieu of suet. After much research, it looked as though I had to use a fat of some sort. I experimented with the coconut oil. The taste was very close. I used beef, fresh apples and some candied fruits, but no alcohol. I'd like to try this again with dried fruits, no fats, and preferably no beef but my son is voting for the beef. Must be the Texan in him. We'll see.

All this was a result of all our resources in the last 10 weeks.
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My son additionally used these Osprey books, a $60 value for which I paid a sum total of $4. He has been looking for time to read the books and told me he truely enjoys them. Wow! They are his now. Osprey books were first suggested to us by our favorite interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg. Many, many thanks to him. They were a great wealth of information for my son's character and for the first time, we had an easy time figuring out his costume, props, history, and interpretation.
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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Autumnal Descent upon Colonial Williamsburg

Before attending the Burnley and Trowbridge incredible Breeches and Buttons weekend workshop with the Colonial Williamsburg tailors, I had a couple of hours to enjoy in beautiful autumnal Colonial Williamsburg. Being a cold and windy day, I let my husband and son take all the pictures...
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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Breeches and Buttons Workshop with the Colonial Williamsburg Tailors

I'm home from my very first Burnley and Trowbridge workshop. Even though I had successfully sewn a few pairs of breeches for my son, I wanted to improve my technique. I learned a lot!

Also I got to take the class with Ashley, a friend of mine from A Fashionable Frolick. She, her sister Rebecca, and my family all stayed in the same hotel. So we ate together, stitched together at night in the lobby (there was lots of stitching homework!) and then Ashley drove me to and from the classes and we sat next to each other. What fun! Many thanks Ashley for driving me down those gorgeous streets!
Oh the drive to the workshop is BEAUTIFUL! It held the most stunning display of color I've seen yet in all of Virginia. (sigh) Years ago we drove down this street to return to historic Williamsburg from a sidetrip in the summer and even then I was wishing myself in a house on that very road. I want to live down there so badly!

I also got to meet a whole new group of people in the workshop, some of whom are from my part of Virginia. Who knew there were 18th century types up here? When I first moved here two years ago I asked but was told that no one around here is interested in "that 18th century stuff." I've been told the 18th century stuff can only be found in CW and states to the north of us because the focus around here is only Civil War. Surprise, surprise!

Here is my project thus far, that I came home with. These are the breeches and 4 of many buttons I learned to make. I have two fabric covered silk buttons (on the bottom) ready to attempt a woven thread pattern. I'm pretty good at fabric covered except I still use a bit too much fabric. The large dark brown button is a deathhead, review from my CDC button class (along with the fabric covered one). The smaller one is started for an button that has a cool reversible star technique. The star button and woven button will be my new learning attempts.

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Close-ups of all the amazing hand stitches! I've been drooling over these stitches for years in the tailor's shop, never dreaming I'd ever get to learn them myself!

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We even made buckram, 18th century style, to be used in some of the lining.

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I could be a bit neater than this but I had to hurry, hurry, hurry! Also my stitches are too tiny! I kept working at making them bigger.

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Burnley and Trowbridge offers not only the workshops throughout the year but also period supplies. These workshops are incredible! I learned a volume of highly researched information from the tailors that will take me a long way in my historic sewing journey. My son's current breeches are splitting and patched, so he can't wait for his new snazzy pair of 18th century breeches!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Daniel Morgan and the Shawnee and More Revolutionary City

After visiting Napoleon, the Costume Design Center and Bassett Hall, we went to Revolutionary City where I took pictures of all the newest costumes. Everyone looks so nice on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday programs, when they portray CW before the war.

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In between scenes we visited the Milliner Shop to see their latest offerings. She is working on a cap and on the table are mitts waiting to be sewn together.
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a stomacher...

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We left the milliner just in time for my son to be recruited into the militia! (gasp!) Oh no! I knew this day was coming! He's been waiting to join the war for years, but he was too young. He has recently turned 16. The recruiters say they want men "between the ages of 16 and 60." I asked my son if those ages are inclusive or exclusive? He didn't know what I meant. As I recall from my algebra days, inclusive includes the ages of 16 and 60 whereas exclusive excludes the ages of 16 and 60. He happily insisted that they include the age of 16 and merrily joined. Alas, my son is going off to war. (sniff, sniff)

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Then we went to one of the newest Revolutionary City programs where the emotionally charged program about Daniel Morgan and the Shawnee began.    
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