“Auntie Em! Auntie Em!”
You remember the scene, the tornado in the distance, wind whipping things around:
Ya, that one (if you can’t load the video, it’s a clip from The Wizard of Oz). Now imagine cooking a feast in weather like that (minus the tornado of course, we’re insane, not stupid). Wind blowing things about at random. Honestly, I’m impressed the only food that ended up in the dirt were a few pieces of vegetables.
I won’t go into the specifics of the recipes I used; I’ll save that for other posts. Here I will discuss my thought process for choosing the recipes I did and a little of the research that went into those choices (only a little though, more to come in a later post).
- Period ingredients and cooking techniques, lack of recipes
- Site/available resources and help
- Availability of ingredients
The Viking culture is a very interesting one, but unlike later cultures they didn’t write much down, instead relying on a rather impressive oral tradition. This poses something of a challenge to a cook seeking to recreate Viking food. Since there are no extant recipes, we must rely on other sources of information to infer possible dishes. [determine the possibilities] Such sources include (but are by no means limited to) other forms of documentation (bills of sale, household records, stories, etc), archaeological evidence (cookware, food remnants and biological matter), later period and even more modern recipes, oral traditions, documentation of other cultures who had interactions, the list goes on. From these alternate sources we can extract information regarding the availability and relative quantities of ingredients, the available cookware and cooking methods, sometimes even general descriptions of dishes or some particular attribute of a dish. As there is quite a bit of information available on this subject available on the internet, I will not repeat it here but simply provide some links I found useful:
There are also books available on the subject. The one that I primarily used is: An Early Meal – A Viking Age Cookbook & Culinary Odyssey by Daniel Serra and Hanna Tunberg. Includes a number of recipes as well as the research used to create them.
For this feast, I relied on recipes other people had created as a starting point. I ended up modifying most of them primarily to accommodate the volume of people I was cooking for. Another source I used for recipes is the Viking Cookbook.
Once we have recipes that are at least not completely out of place, a number of them must be selected for use in the feast. There are many things to consider, including:
- Location – available cooking sources, prep tables, people to help you, what heat sources do you have available,
- People: How many people are you feeding? How hungry will they be? What kind of foods do they like? How much can you challenge their palate? Are there a significant number with dietary restrictions?
- Season: what season is it? What types of food would be available? What kinds of foods could be stored over the winter and how were they preserved?
Ultimately the recipes I selected are: (recipes will be posted separately at some point)
- Barley bread
- Rye bread
- Smoked Gouda – because it’s more familiar and was on sale
- Havarti with dill – Havarti is from Denmark though it is a fairly recent form of cheese. They may have had something similar though.
- Smoked Salmon – from the North Atlantic even
- Honey-Grilled Chicken
- Spinach and Leeks
- Pork and Apples
- Honey Roasted Root Vegetables
- Buttered Turnips
- Skyr – an Icelandic (primarily) soft cheese with a yogurt-like consistency. very good with honey or jam.