I'm starting this project by focusing on the cooking aspect and, for now, I'm not worrying about connecting the cooking to medieval art-making practices, but am focusing on getting familiar with medieval techniques and tastes. Focusing on the cooking allows me to integrate this work into my everyday life, by simply making one of the meals I prepare each week a medieval recipe. This should allow me to make progress on this new project even while I keep up on my work as department chair, teach, and put finishing touches on the book.
Since I am integrating this aspect of the work into my regular cooking, it is being shaped by my preferences and practices when it comes to food. To set some of that out: I do eat meat and I eat a broad range of meats - chicken and beef but also pork, lamb, veal, duck, and occasionally rabbit. Sorry if that bothers anyone. I don't eat much fish, but I do like shellfish. I try to avoid carbohydrates, only because if I don't try to avoid them I'll end up eating mostly carbs. And I have a problem digesting dairy, although I really like cheese. I will sometimes put up with a bellyache for a good cheese and sometimes will remember to take a "milk pill" first. I typically cook more elaborate things on Saturday and Sunday nights and I look for recipes that will reheat easily later in the week. I live alone so I half most recipes to get 2-3 servings.
For a first medieval meal I picked "Chykens in Hocchee" and "Cariota" both from Pleyn Delit. The original recipe for "Chykens in Hocchee" is: "Take chykens and scald hem. Take persel and sawage, with obere erbes; take garlec and grapes, and stoppe the chikenus ful, and seep hem in gode broth, so that they mey esely be boyled therinne. Messe hem and cast therto powdour douce."
I chose this because it didn't seem so strange and so seemed approachable, but it ended up being stranger than my first reading suggested. Making it required first stuffing a game hen with a mixture of grapes, herbs, and garlic; then sealing that shut; and then poaching it in broth. You are supposed to add some lemon juice in with the grapes to compensate for the grapes available today being sweet and medieval grapes sour. I forgot to do this and so added the lemon juice to the poaching liquid insead.
Poaching isn't my favorite way of cooking a bird: the flabby white skin doesn't appeal. That's probably why Pleyn Delit suggests removing it. My biggest surprise in cooking this one was that the grapes didn't break down at all, but stayed whole and firm.
Before the serving, the meat is sprinkled with "powder douce," a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, sugar, and salt. It's not a combination of spices that I associate with meat - more with baked goods. It's not bad, just, strange. It makes everything smell a bit like Christmas. I boiled the poaching liquid down to create some sauce. To go with it, I made "Cariota," roasted carrots mixed with some chopped herbs. I kept my carrots whole for the visual appeal.