Feeding the Masses: Food for the Common Folk During the 16th Century

Feeding the Masses: Food for the Common Folk During the 16th Century

This is a class structured for both a discussion and a hands on demonstration of a selection of dishes the typical yeoman farmer would have eaten throughout the agricultural year.

 

If you are looking for this class after the Myrgenfeld Cooking Collegium, thank you for taking my class! I’m still working on getting everything up and written out for this one, so your patience is appreciated. Check back for a completed class later. Good Day.

 

The Context:

Within the Society for Creative Anachronism, we enjoy experimenting with medieval recipes and trying out the flavor pallets of the many times and cultures that existed throughout the period of time we study. Often, we look at various manuscripts that have been written by head cooks within either a royal court or noble household. These are foods rich with exotic spices, meats, and desert subtleties. They make a fantastic basis for our own feasting within the SCA, but what about the rest of medieval society? What did the other 97% of society eat at any given time? This class seeks to explore that question on a generalized level. What did the average medieval person eat?

For the sake of this class, we will base our discussion around the lifestyle of a yeoman farmer sometime after the 14th century in western Europe. This places our family among the vast numbers of peasantry, but with a comfortable status above common laborers as well as land to farm that they are most likely renting from the local nobility (either minor or major gentry) or the nearby monastery (who had vast holdings and rented out land to be farmed/grazed/etc.). Our family most likely has a decent house and employs several farm laborers (some permanent, some temporary for harvest times), it’s not a bad life. They have fields of cereal crops (wheat, barley, oats, and peas depending on the region); large gardens for herbs and vegetables; as well as an assortment of livestock that provided meat, dairy, hide/wool, and cash income. While it sounds like times of plenty, everything that they grew not only had to feed their own family but also the laborers under their employ every single meal all year long – without any sort of modern preservation methods or failsafe. Cyclical patterns of starvation happened, and people did quite literally starve to death. One bad harvest, and you might not make it. But enough about that.

A Note About The Food:

The recipes prepared during this class partially reflect the highly seasonal nature of food within the agricultural year, the regional differences of medieval cuisine, and what I can successfully cook and talk about within two hours over an open fire/brazier. It is worth noting that while we have a stable supply of fruits, vegetables, and meat year around within our modern society, we have less variety of foods within our diet than the typical medieval person. Some of these, let’s call them, heritage varieties, are now becoming more available in seed form within the US. Which means that the medieval minded gardener can now grow exciting vegetables like skirret, angelica, and rocket….

To be continued with pottage…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Oh 2017,

When I began this blog a year ago, I had zero clues that 2016 held all that it did in store. Re-reading my new year’s post from last January, I had a lot of good intentions – some even paned out! I did make a lot more cheese (aged rounds I’ve lost count of and at least 14 quarts of yogurt cheese between the Rose Tournament, the Pennsic Party, vigil tables, and personal obligations). Some new blog posts made their way to being posted, but unfortunately there are several drafts still sitting abandoned. A lot more 16th century happened, including a dream dress that I had been planning for a while. Some back-logged projects were finished, but not nearly enough. Health wise, I’m 20lbs down from the initial goal of 50, so that’s something. And most excitedly, I learned new things. So, yay.

And now its a new year, with some old goals. Some willing, some now looking forced. ((((((((And here our intrepid blogess hangs her head in shame.))))))))) Confession time, most of my elevation dress was hand sewn. In an effort to keep seams looking tidy, linings supporting the way they should and constructed in a period manner, all while being able to get a closer fit and retaining my sanity with a sewing machine I usually give the side-eye to  –  I chose hand sewing. In addition, 15 of the afore mentioned 20 lbs decided that leaving between Pennsic and Kris Kinder was a good time; this meant I was a tailor’s/seamstress’s worst nightmare. Hence why I chose to make my elevation outfit, because I love my friends and realized that I would have been giving them as much joy in the project as a pair of properly applied thumbscrews. Where am I going with this? Oh yeah, hours and hours of handsewing, with wonky joints, and me being an idiot. That’s where I was going! For about a month after Kris Kinder, I couldn’t pick up a sewing project for more than 5 minutes without having something akin to tennis, hedger’s*, or apparently now stitcher’s elbow… Clearly! you laugh as you read, I would have learned my lesson! Clearly,,, not. I thought it had gotten better. I was progressing to do some super slow embroidery on thank you presents for ~20 min at a time, then a couple of nights of 30 min hand sewing on the yellow Rus dress I wore at Coronation; but, apparently after the last night of 45 min hemming – I’m back at square one. Which means, now, those much needed modifications to my elevation gown aren’t going to happen for Clothiers. So please, take a moment to wipe your eyes from the tears of laughter, there is no rush to continue. However, do take note of the moral of this story which is to take care of yourself.

Back to the goals bit….. Less hand sewing and embroidery, sadly. I had hoped on making a couple of Elizabethan wall hangings this year with embroidered slips and various applied work, that has been moved to the back burner. Even more sadly it means that some of the thank you gifts from my vigil and elevation that I had started, will have to be delayed longer. And more Elizabethan garb on the back burner, and, and, and, I could go on in a very grumpy fashion. Positive things that will happen are more past classes and book reviews *actually* making there way on here. With a fairly strange looking spring in terms of scheduling things, events are sadly looking sparse for the first half of the year (fall is looking good though!). Time spent at home, means more time for projects. I still have way too many unfinished projects laying around, so a goodly amount of energy will be prioritized in finishing those. Possibly, a garden might happen this year, with some exciting 16th century foods – but that will have to be a wait and see.

In terms of more exciting new things, after not touching clay for 10 years, I’m playing with it again – thanks to some not so subtle prompting (I’m looking at you Gwen). That in itself is a really good feeling, especially when you feel other artistic avenues have been temporarily blocked. Honestly, I didn’t realized how much I missed it. I’m not expecting anything miraculous to come from the endeavor, but I am looking forward to having a substantial amount of fun while being stupidly excited to attempt to reproduce some of the late 16th century household ceramic finds.

And now to focus on that class bit, I have a class to finish up for Clothiers this weekend!

 

*hedger’s elbow: a joke made by Alex in either the January or February episode of Tales from the Green Valley, likening the elbow pain from cutting and forming hedges to that of tennis elbow. Yes, the Ruth Goodman prescribed historical medicine of sage oil was used. No, it didn’t cure it; however, it didn’t hurt it, and it felt nice.

 

So a lot of things have happened since the last post…

That’s as good as it gets as a header, and more true than any other. Indeed, a lot of things have happened since the last post. So many, that I had to go back and re-read the last post to even see what was going on then.

July and August were busy with Pennsic Prep. My goal was to do a late 16th century Pennsic: re-work my stays, petticoats, skirts, and doublet jacket. (This didn’t quite pan out for the entirety of the event and I’m thankful that I threw in a couple of Norse underdresses and HE Mistress Gwen threw in some extra clothes which I borrowed.) Initially the goal was a couple of petticoat bodies, but after several mock ups – I just couldn’t get it right, and I need to do some more work on the fitting at a later time. The stays did get re-worked, and felt great when I tried them on at home. Unfortunately, at Pennsic, the stays didn’t work at all for an extended time. The pattern they are based off of is similar to the stays seen in the portrait of Elizabeth Vernon. Once the stays were brought up to my actual waist line and altered to a more period fit, they hit me at a trouble spot I have across my back which in turn caused me to subconsciously try to inch away from that area; that then caused me to tilt my pelvis in a funny way to ‘rest’ on the front of the stays that had bowed out in the front (there was no stiffened busk) and additional less that fantastic back issues occurred. As it turned out they were also too loose. Once when I laid down to try to get the pressure off my back, I found that I could stretch and nearly move my stays around several inches – that explained why things weren’t feeling all that supported…. So let this be a cautionary tale of corset fitting and the extensive road testing of a pair of stays before you take it to an event – a couple of hours around the house doesn’t cut it. Due to my weird body shape, I’m going to be trying the effigy stays next with the hope that the length that goes over the hips will work better. ——————-But enough about corsets. The skirts and petticoats over the roll worked marvelously. I had my own personal arm rests – it was awesome.

Along with clothing prep for Pennsic, there was also food prep for Pennsic. I had volunteered to run the Calontir Pennsic Party with the theme of Norse foods in honor of Their Majesties. So that meant lots of cheese making, yogurt making, pickling, and baking. More about that later.

Attended events were scarce between Lilies and Pennsic, Lilies took a lot out of me and I’m realizing I’m not the nineteen year old that did living history tours in full mid-19th century for the NPS in 100 degree Ozark summers like I used to – I just can’t do heat anymore. Which is also impacting what I’m planning for clothing for hopefully next Lilies, but that’s another blog post. I was able to make it up to Coronation in the Barony of Coeur d’Ennui, and had a lovely time catching up with everyone. To my utter shock, I received a Queen’s Endorsement of Distinction for upholding the Ideals of the Society from HRM Elena before stepping down.

Then Pennsic arrived. It was an experience. I had a lovely time. It did not feel cooler than Lilies – even though it was. Wow, the people, but also wow, the infrastructure and organization (yes, I’m the daughter and granddaughter of engineers). I’m so thankful that HE Mistress Catalina put up with my exuberance with getting to help 4th Company and aid the waterbearers on the first and last days of battle at Pennsic. We were honored with an invitation to attend both the Boast and Brag at TrothHeim, which was an amazing medieval moment. We also had fantastic neighbors throughout the war, and much hanging out time was accomplished.

I also had a total fan girl moment(s) when I got to see the Attack Laurel. It was a bit like a celebrity sighting, not going to lie. One time, she even smiled a bit at me – I’m pretty sure she was being polite since the grin I had on my face was of someone who wasn’t all there. In retrospect, kind of embarrassing. But I saw her!

The Pennsic Party went extremely well. (We will casually forget about the unfortunate smock that decided to finally die a very visible dry-rot death of tearing between my shoulders and down my back all night.) I had marvelous food donations of delicious baked goods, lovely nut and dried fruit nibbles, as well as some really fantastic skyr. I’m so very thankful for everyone who donated things to the party, as well as my amazing volunteers who helped during set up, tending the tables, and during clean up. There is no way I could have done this thing without you all. To top it all off, Wolgemut came by the party and played a set or two. It was amazing. Really amazing.

But rewind about three hours, Calontir Pennsic Court. Thank heavens I made the good life choice to change from my gross wine and food stained food prep tunic into something decent and 16th century-ish. Before court, I was given the super secret job of standing at the back of court, waiting for the secret eyebrow raise and nod to motion a group from TrothHeim into court, where they would then start some super secret surprise. So that was fun, the super secret surprise ended up being an elevation for Sir Halvgrimmr to the Order of the Laurel for Norse studies – which was super cool. And then they did a call for fealty, which my Laurel Fionnuala went up to since this was her first event this reign. And then she stayed up there. Huh? Well her and TRM have known each other a long time, maybe she is doing some business about the upcoming event her group is having. Context, I’m on the far side of court under the shade-fly where party prep was happening, which means that I can only hear people when they are projecting well or shouting – I can’t hear anything she is talking about. People are looking at me, I catch something about baby bird leaving the nest. TRM say something. I’m really confused, it hits me, I start a blend of hyperventilating and ugly crying; I’m frozen. Thank goodness for Kate, I somehow make it up to the thrones, kneel, a hanky is thrown my way, reassuring pats on my back, TRM being incredibly kind and understanding to someone who is now shaking and exhibiting the early signs of shock. There are hugs, I’m thankfully herded out of court, more hugs. Then the party. It really didn’t sink in until the next day. I was afraid it had all been a mistake, or a really big joke. Or one of those super realistic dreams…. But it wasn’t, and my vigil and elevation to the Order of the Laurel are happening at Kris Kinder.

 

pennsic-boon-begged-1

Here I am attempting to make it into court, a sobbing mess. Photo courtesy of Charles of Westermark.

 

 

 

pennsic-boon-begged-2

Their Royal Majesties Logan and Ylva being very kind and understanding to someone only capable of communicating in shaky nods and blubbery gasps. Photo courtesy of Charles of Westermark.

 

Needless to say, since then things have been super busy and will continue to be busy with all of the things that need to be done -both SCA and non-SCA things. This autumn brings some very necessary home improvement projects as well as some family things that require me to stay close to home. What I’m getting at, is that I’m pretty bummed that my event schedule is looking bleak until Toys for Tots, and then Kris Kinder after that. Hopefully things will calm down after the holidays and normality will resume.

Hygiene and Cosmetics in the 16th Century

Below is the write up for the Hygiene and Cosmetics Class that I taught at Lilies War 30.

Hygiene and Cosmetics in the 16th Century

Getting Clean:

In the Early Modern Period there was still a pervasive idea that disease and bad humors entered the body though open pores of the skin as well as through the nose through smells (I’ll get to that in a minute.) We see this in various sources, one of which being the 1545 book by Thomas Moulton, “This is the Myrrour or Glasse of Health”, where he counseled people to not fully submerse themselves in water or bathe (as we do today) due to the risk presented by opening up your pores and thus body to infection. We also see this idea as the rational behind closing the public baths in London mid-century. You might be asking yourself, if people were so against bathing, why were there public baths? Well, people did in fact still bathe; however, public baths were seen as centers for the worst sorts of 16th century society: sick, poor, and physically diseased who sought out the baths to 1) get clean and 2) perceived possible therapeutic properties. This hot and wet environment with ill people in a constricted environment did breed more illness, but not through bad vapors as believed in period. Public baths were also often gateways for obtaining prostitutes, which introduced another disease vector into the public bath perception.

Men, usually laborers or agricultural workers, sometimes bathed in a pond or creek to get the worst of the grime off. For the more refined an occasional steam bath of herbal waters would be used as a medical cure, but not as a tool for everyday hygiene. Sensible people continued to shun bathing as we know it, and were cautioned to only wash their faces, hands, and feet in cool, clean, or perfumed water. The body was cleaned with a dry linen cloth rubbed on the skin to remove surface dirt, dead skin cells, and “toxins”. This strikes me as almost a period equivalent of modern day dry brushing. Both methods are used to try to slough off dead skin and cleanse the body of perceived toxins.

Most people with long hair balk at the idea that hair was not washed on a regular basis in period, however the Early Modern Person had several other tools to keep their hair clean and free from vermin. Looking at shipping records from London in 1567, at least 90 thousand (yes, thousand) combs of various cost and quality entered the port in a given year. This points to the ubiquitous use of combs through most levels of society, maybe only the beggar poor could not afford a half-penny comb. These combs were often two sided, one side had wide teeth for large tangles and the other side had fine teeth like a flea comb you would use on your pets. Only the 16th century person wasn’t using these combs exclusively on their pets, they were using them on theirselves to remove fleas, lice, dead skin cells from the scalp, and move beneficial natural oils from the scalp to the ends of the hair to keep it soft and moisturized. We also see references to hair powders, rinses, and perfumes. In an experiment at Lilies 2015, Mistress Aline Swynbrook and I used the hair powder recipe from Trotula and enjoyed the smell throughout the war (while originally a 12th century text, it was published in written Latin editions popularly through the 14th and 15th century and then in a printed edition in 1544).  Such hair powders can be seen as part medieval dry shampoo, part perfume. I also made an herbal water to use for washing and hair rinsing; it was met with mediocre success, however if properly prepared using the herbal water distillation method I feel like it could have gone better.

 

Hilleke de Roy and Four of Her Orphans

“Hilleke de Roy and Four of Her Orphans”, Anonymous, 1586. Showing the double sided combs and act of combing hair.

 

Tooth care was also an important part of everyday hygiene. It included everything from simply picking one’s teeth and rinsing the mouth with water, to using expensive clove powders or distilled Imperial Water made with wine, ginger, nutmeg, and a host of other herbs and spices to cure stinking breath according to Gervase Markham in “The English Housewife”. Most people generally fell somewhere between the two and used a small cloth to polish their teeth and physically remove any offending items. Candle soot, chalk, salt, and rosemary wood ashes all were used as physical cleaners and deodorizers. Barber surgeons could be utilized to remove teeth that became rotten. If you are looking for a modern equivalent of medieval tooth paste, Toms has a toothpaste in a cinnamon clove flavor that is quite lovely.

Barber surgeons chest

The Barber Surgeon’s Chest from the Mary Rose. Containing various ceramic jugs thought to contain wine for disinfecting wounds as well as smaller apothecary jars for medicinal uses or to hold his tools.

 

Staying Clean:

In the eyes of the Early Modern Person the steps one took to stay clean were just as important as getting clean in the first place. Earlier I mentioned that illness could enter the body through both the pores of the skin as well as the nose through foul smells. The notion that clean and sweet smelling air could prevent illness was an important part of most people’s understanding of hygiene. If you smelled sweet and clean, then you were clean. That is one reason why we have so many recipes for distilled herbal waters, perfumed oils, and perfumed soaps.

Starting from the skin out, herbs like lavender, rue, wormwood, ladies bed straw, and other sweet or bitter herbs would have been put inside of or laid between the mattress of your bed. This would have attempted to keep your sleeping environment smelling clean and bug free. Next, ideally, each day you would wear a fresh linen shirt or smock next to your skin after you washed for the day. The linen would serve to absorb sweat and dirt throughout the day, keeping the environmental toxins from seeping into your pores. After its wear, the linen smock would be laundered in a lye solution, beaten in fresh water, and then laid out to dry in the sun to bleach. The clothes that you put on would have been hung to air out after the last wear, or would have been stored in a chest with more sweet smelling herbs. Either perfumes would have been applied or pomanders worn by both sexes to keep the evil vapors at bay. Pomanders could be as simple as herbs worked into a bit of wax, or very elaborate affairs made with exotic spices, scented oils, and musk. Men wore pomanders around their necks, while women wore suspended from their waists.

pomander

A silver plated pomander from Germany, ca. 1486-1500. Only a wealthy person would have used a pomander such as this.

 

Hair would have been kept contained and away from the skin of the face or neck – places where it would pick up dirt and excess oil. Men would have kept the same care with their hair as women did, although coifs had fallen out of favor with men as the century progressed. A man’s place in society could instantly be recognized how he dressed and kept himself, so he would naturally attempt to look his best. Women generally kept their hair covered with various linen coifs or headrails. This would not only have protected their hats or hoods from the oil of their hair, but also would have absorbed any excess oil as well as kept unwanted environmental pollutants (such as chaff from domestic grain preparation) out of the hair.

Tools of Hygiene:

While all over bathing wasn’t a part of everyday life, people still used soap. Soap in it’s most basic form is a combination of lye, a strong alkaline solution made from straining water poured through wood ash, and fat that has been rendered to remove any impurities. The two substances are heated together, stirred until saponification starts to happen, and then poured into some sort of mould to cool. The soap usually must cure and harden before use. Some of this soap was lovely and was made by artisans who used properly devised proportions to get a soap with a rich lather and easy on the skin. Some of the finest soap coming out of Castile was made with olive oil, needless to say it has had lasting popularity. Some soap was not so lovely. Some soap makers were like my great grand mother and made highly alkaline soap that included a sizable amount of ash grit from a less than stellar straining of the wood ash. If you could not afford the best soap, you had other options. There were many ways in which to improve the soap you had, as purported by the writers of various Renaissance cosmetic recipe books. One out of Giovanventura Rosetti’s “Notandissimi secreti de l’arte profumatoria” or “Remarkable Secrets of the Art of Perfumery”, provided a recipe involving soaking the soap in rosewater for two weeks and then grounding it with expensive spices and oils to remove the foul smell of the soap. A person not as affluent could combine simple herbs, cheaper spices, and dried flower petals with their soap to make a more appealing product. Soap either sold in bars or balls could have been made at home by housewives who followed the recipes found in the  prescriptive literature of the time or sold as a cottage industry. One of the woodcuts from Samuel Pepys’ “Cries of London” series, features a woman advertising her basket of washing balls crying “Buy by fine wash balls”. Recipes for these washing balls can be found in easily available literature such as Gervase Markham’s “The English Housewife”, as well as Hannah Wolley’s “Queen-like Closet or Rich Cabinet”, the latter downloadable for free with the Kindle app. Many other recipe and prescriptive literature books abound.

soap seller

 

Perfumes in their many incarnations were seen as vital to good health. Scented oils were a luxury and throughout most of the period were generally only available through import from Spain. Later in the 16th century more options open up, as well as a surge in domestic production. These scented oils were most similar to our essential oils today. They were made by very gently distilling a highly infused herbal water and either catching just the oil in the distilled liquid, or distilling enough of the herbal solution to have a sizable oil float that could be poured off. Needless to say, it was a specialized craft. The expense of perfume oils matched the immense amount of resources needed to make them as well as the expertise of the distiller. Distilled herbal waters were cheaper, but not as potent. Like the soap recipes, such for the scented waters could be found in many books by the end of the period as well. Different scents had a special place in late period society as well. Lavender was generally accepted as a scent conducive to sleep, rosemary for memory, marjoram and rose were popular perfumes, whereas frankincense and other heady incense type scents were reserved for religious needs and had a strong connection with Catholic Mass.

Cosmetics:

The look of the 16th century, especially for the elite, was all about fair skin. It symbolized freshness, youth, as well as reinforced that the socioeconomic ability to stay out of the sun made a woman attractive. Unfortunately, the majority of ways that women attempted to achieve the alabaster complection were highly toxic. Lead oxidized in vinegar then crushed into a powder, called ceruse, was applied to the face, neck, and hands. Sometimes artificial veins would be drawn on to simulate translucent skin. The harmful effects of ceruse were not unknown, however some still chose to use the toxic products. Even the products that were formulated lead free, still contained caustic alum and tin ash (used by potters to make white glaze). The safest way for the modern reenactor to achieve that most sought after pallor is to wear sunscreen, find a foundation that is lighter than your skin tone, and use a pale powder. Seriously, wear sunscreen! I recommend a natural SPF physical block such as zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. Cera Ve makes a nice SPF 50 that works well for sensitive skin. Chemical SPF’s like Avobenzone, Octsalate, Octocrylene, Homosalate, and Oxybenzone will oxidize in the wash (and even sometimes with your own sweat while wearing) and turn your beautiful white linen shirts/smocks yellow and orange where the sunscreen had contact with the white linen. The stains are a bear to try to get out, so I recommend going with a mineral based physical block to begin with. Also, another perk of using a physical SPF is that you can get a bit of a pale look even with just the sunscreen! If you are looking for more coverage, a BB cream lighter than your current complexion will give you a bit of a lighter look without looking overly done up. If you are going for a full on Elizabeth I look, then I recommend a very light full coverage foundation with a heavy powder of the zinc oxide on top.

jar with cat

A Drug jar or albarello decorated with a spotted cat c. 1550 Italy. Cosmetics or perfumes could have also been sold in such apothecary jars.

jar

A plainer apothecary jar from the Netherlands, 1550-1600.

 

 

 

To complete the 16th century ideal look, light colored eyes, fair hair, coral red lips, and flushed cheeks were a staple pretty much through the period. Within an English context, the idea could be exemplified through such famed beauties as Elizabeth Woodville and her daughter Elizabeth of York, Mary Tudor (sister of Henry VIII), Jane Seymour, Elizabeth I, and Lettice Knolly. While women who were not born with naturally fair hair could lighten it, it didn’t come without risks. Hair lighteners and dyes were toxic and could be highly caustic, much like the cosmetics, the safest being honey or lemon juice and sunlight that was most available to women in the Mediterranean regions such as Southern France and Italy. A strong solution of lye or urine (most likely approaching the ammonia stage) could have been used for bleaching as well. While there was nothing that could change eye color, there are some accounts of kohl being used to accent the eyes to make them appear wider; however, I personally have not seen visual evidence of any sort of eyeliner in period portraiture – further research is needed though.

Italian woman bleaching hair

From “Facing Beauty” by Aileen Riberiro, “A Venetian Courtesan Bleaching her Hair”

 

Red lips and cheeks are two of the beauty ideals that are much more accessible to the weekend Elizabethan that does not require significant hair or colored contact modification. Vermillion (cinnabar or mercury (II) sulfide) was the go to mineral for creating the coral red shade so desired. Lucky for us, the same vermillion shade was also popular in the 1940’s-50’s and is marketed today as a retro color. Be careful of your shades when shopping for red lipstick though, most modern reds are either on the blue-red spectrum or of the lighter pink-red type. You are looking for a true red, or a more orangey red. For a red lip with a sheer coverage, I recommend NYC: City Proof Twistable Intense Lip Color in Roosevelt Island Red, it runs about $3.50 at Walmart. For a full coverage matte lipstick when doing high court paint, my favorite is Matte 8, by Makeup Forever in their Rouge Artist Intense lipstick line found at Sephora. This one is pricey, but it is highly pigmented (you will need to wear it with a moisturizing lip balm), the perfect shade, and lasts forever – as in you and a couple of friends could go in on one tube, split it in little tins, and still probably have enough for the rest of your time in the SCA. An appropriate blush can be easily obtained at the drugstore or supermarket. I prefer powders because they work best for me, but the period choice would be a crème. Look for a blush that is more on the warm/orange/coral side and not they typical pink. I’m very pale naturally with a fairly ruddy complexion in the cheek area so a buildable blush like L’Oréal True Match Blush in N3-4 Innocent Flush, works well for me – your mileage may vary.

 

 

The Goodie Bag Ingredients:

Mattress Sachet to keep the insects at bay: lavender, wormwood, mugwort, and meadowsweet.

Washing Ball in a scent profile of a Tudor pomander: marjoram, rose petals, rose oil perfume (rose absolute oil, jojoba oil), clove oil, orris root, orange peel, clove, cinnamon, grape seed oil, castile soap.

Hair Powder by Tortula: Rose petals, clove, nutmeg, watercress, ginger. Can be dusted in hair or mixed with rosewater and sprinkled in. Comb or brush thoroughly through.

Sage Oil for the aches and pains associated with camping: sage leaves, olive oil.

Face Whitening Powder: Zinc Oxide powder to mix as you please with your moisturizer of choice or use as a dusting powder.

 

 

A couple of recommended readings if you are further interested, though not an exhaustive list:

“The English Housewife”, Gervase Markham

“How to be a Tudor”, Ruth Goodman

“Elizabethan Make-up 101”, Drea Leed (available at Elizabethancostume.net)

“Renaissance Secrets, Recipes, and Formulas”, Jo Wheeler (published through the V&A)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lilies Decompression

Back from Lilies War 30, and already planning ahead for Pennsic.

Instead of a clueless packing spree before Pennsic, I decided to try something new, and you know, actually keep track of what I used, what I never touched, and what I wish that I had. I’m already working on amending packing lists and realistic expectations to reflect these things.

So the attempt at all 16th clothing for Lilies went reasonably well. For six out of the seven garbed days, I wore peasant class Elizabethan (right off the hay field look). Monday, my stays had failed to dry the night before, my feet had swollen a full size larger so no shoes, and I was feeling less than fantastic that day – so a Norse underdress and veil pined to a headrail it was. Tuesday night, I sat and took the majority of bones out of my stays and they fit much better for the remainder of the war. The commercial pattern that I had altered to make them already required me to raise the waist about 2-3 inches, turns out I need to raise it about 2 more in spots…. The lovely Verena, who also did Lilies in 16th century (1570’s German to be exact), had a fabulous kirtle and petticoat bodies that I want to try out for myself for Pennsic. I’m hoping that they work better for me (and be a lot more accurate to boot).

The attempt at historical 16th century hygiene went less than stellar. I had to abandon the dry cloth cleaning method fairly early due to my skin being too sticky with salt and other ickyness from a day of sweating in 100 degree temps – so basin bathing it was. The historical washing balls were lovely to have and did a fine job at removing the dirt from the day. The clean smock each day thing had a lot of merit as well; my smock smelled worse than I did after the end of each day – yay linen. My hair had difficulty drying out over night, which made the combing difficult. Even with a thorough combing in the morning with both a wide tooth wooden comb and a fine plastic flea comb (I really need to invest in a bone one), the roots of my hair were beginning to smell quite sour and the ends which are still damaged from the past bleaching a bit dry. I failed to have my hair powder properly prepared until Friday morning before the hygiene class, so none of that was used. Also, in trying to keep with the historical thing, I abandoned my normal skin care routine which I am sorely paying for. In order to not burn, I used a strong zinc oxide and titanium dioxide sunscreen. I forgot just how drying those ingredients were to already traditionally dry and sensitive skin, and since I wasn’t using all of the moisturizers had some less than pleasant eczema reactions on my face and neck as well as a lovely case of what looks like hives on my face too due to what I’m guessing was from too much heat ( like seriously, it looks like someone hit me on the face with a hot meat tenderizer)…. So it looks like I’m going back to using modern hygiene at events for the time being…

My classes went well at least. Both the Elizabethan Home Textile Class and the 16th Century Hygiene Class seemed well received. I’ll have the classes posted soon if you missed them.

The first run through of Tudor Tavern Night went fairly well. It felt like feast prep in my kitchen the week before, and we were eating lamb stew and rice pottage in camp for a while afterward due to substantial leftovers. Had some great feedback as well and looking forward for having it at the end of a Day in the Life of: 16th Century edition for Lilies next year with some exciting modifications.

I was honored by HE Gwen with providing food for the Ladies of the Rose Tournament this year. I had a lot of good intentions regarding cooking food on site, but the high temps saw those good intentions go to IKEA for meatballs, flat bread, and cookies. Of the things I did cook, the hard cheeses were salty and went fast as did the olive oil cured yogurt cheese that I tried out. The rose hip lemonade seemed to be a hit as non-alcoholic drinks go, and the candied walnuts were thoroughly nibbled as well. The Lady Aisha (sp?) provided some lovely Tudor Rose stamped butter cookies and some of HE Gwen’s Elizabethan orange marmalade made a tasty appearance as the night progressed. All in all, I’m calling it a success.

This Lilies was fairly jam packed with things: TTN, gate shifts, classes, and the Rose Tourney. I’m hoping that Pennsic will entail not such high temperatures and much more hanging out with people that I missed spending time with. It will be my first real foreign war, and I’m pretty excited to start the event prep over again!

Countdown to Lilies: 17 Days and Panicking…

If I wasn’t panicking before, I am now. Being myself, I was panicking, but now I’m in panic hyper drive. My brain feels like someone has launched a super bouncy ball into a large concrete box, and it’s flying all over the place.

Needless to say, I should be sewing. I really should. But, maybe (just maybe) if I can center my thoughts on what I have done and what is left to do – I can stop feeling like I’m two breaths away from hyperventilating… …So here it goes…

The good news on the sewing front is that the corset that went in the FML pile after it was too big in July after finally finishing the construction of it, now fits… Not really good news, because I’ve gained 10 pounds since then, but as the scale went up the problematic digging in at the waist has decreased by about two inches and the corset (Elizabethan pair of bodies) is much more comfy. So somehow my bust/back measurement increased as my high hip measurement decreased…. Have I mentioned how funky my body is and how much I bitterly hate attempting to fit anything to it? No? See above… But still, this is good news, because it means that I can pin on a pair of sleeves, add a skirt, and put on an apron and I have a serviceable lower class Elizabethan outfit – that I can plausibly wear for the entire war while switching out various aspects…. So yay. Now to finish up the mile of lucet lacing cord, partlet, sleeve options, skirt options, and hopefully a waistcoat – as well as the other late period paraphernalia needed…   I do have my body linens done, so that is a positive. Right now I have a fresh shift for every day, including a couple of new linen ones and some older cotton ones that are on their last leg and will have to be replaced before Pennsic. New coifs are made too (still need cording to tie), so those will be lovely over a headrail and under a straw hat. I have a couple of finishing touches to put on two aprons, then they will be done.

Linen tub

Linen tub for Lilies War, fresh headrails for each day, shifts, coifs, and socks. All freshly ironed and folded.  

 

In the sewing process, I decided to recycle an old loose kirtle that never fit well anyway into a viable gown and doublet. We know that clothing was recycled time after time, and can document a booming second hand clothing trade in the late 16th century – so I decided to put an unusable garment (let’s pretend grandma’s old kirtle) to use to create an “in style” outfit for myself. Because the process was pertinent to previous discussions with HL Annora regarding recycling clothing and why we find certain odd shapes when other shapes would have worked just as well, I actually documented the process for once – and look forward to her take on it. Starting with the partially lined kirtle, I took it completely apart, performed various color removing and bleaching to get to a fairly light neutral color, dyed the kirtle (I was going for brown, but had to add black too), ended up with a lovely period shade of “poor black”, and now have the pieces laying on the floor…. So here we see the back sides going together at a diagonal to form a square.

dress layout

Now the sides are together, I’m trying to get the largest rectangular measurement I can to use for skirt panels. And apparently standing at a funky angle to boot…

dress leveling

The rectangles have been cut, re-cut to even out, and additional panels added from the shorter lining pieces to give the skirt additional bulk. The length is approximately 3yards-ish, and box pleated it should give a decent skirt. There is a very good chance that I will be adding a black linen guard to the bottom of the skirt as well as a thick vertical guard up the front opening to give another 1/4 yard to work with. I also have enough left over of the old kirtle to make a sleeveless doublet; more on that when the stays are totally finished since I will need to measure and fit over them.

dress in pannel

Realistically I’d be far closer to being done, however I ran into this problem of wanting to make sure that visible seams were hand sewn. Granted, they look nicer, but time is fleeting. I’m also in the process of making sure that the husband has clothing. Prototype 1 shirt was mostly finished last night, now to replicate that two more times, fit his pseudo-Venetian pants, one doublet, and one jacket he should be good to go – and a statute cap, we can’t have him getting fined…

 

Then I had the bright idea to use up fleece scraps to make a mattress pad for my camp bed. In Ruth Goodman’s “How to be a Tudor” book***, she mentions sheep’s roving being used to stuff a sort of duvet or mattress pad type thing. Bits of the sheared fleece that were of a substandard nature and couldn’t be used for cloth production were cleaned up, carded, and then laid out in a large rectangular shape. More and more roving (it is roving at this point right? or still fleece?) is laid on, alternating directions in big fluffy layers, almost like you are getting ready to felt a giant rectangle. Instead of felting, a heavy cloth or canvas is used to sandwich the fleece and sew it in a quilt like fashion into a heavy winter duvet or mattress pad. Obviously I was far too clever for my own good, because while I lacked sheep’s fleece I did have a huge tub of polar fleece scraps… Now I have a twin sized mattress pad made of puns…. 13 layers of puns in fact. Now to get them quilted/sewed/basted together into a cohesive and usable item. Some day, when I have sheep, I will be able to actually use and create the real thing instead of a substandard imitation…

 

fleece blocks

Probably close to the most intricate panel.

 

 

 

 

Lilies Food…. I was honored with the task of putting together the Ladies of the Rose refreshment table, and the menu finalizing is occurring this afternoon on that. I’m looking at trying out several of the Norse recipes that I’m prepping for the Calontir Party at Pennsic. Included in that is the yogurt cheese that I was going to try out that doesn’t need refrigeration (the Norse could have plausibly encountered it in Byzantium region). Good news, is that the concept of the yogurt cheese was a success; bad news is that it has received mixed reviews ( I love it, the husband hates it), my mom’s opinion this weekend will be the tie breaker. It is a very strong cheese, with a similar flavor profile intensity of an herbed goat cheese or blue. Before its minimum week long ferment in the olive oil, the strained, salted, and partially dried yogurt was rolled in a combination of thyme, sesame seeds, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, paprika (not period I know, but it gives such a lovely color), dried lemon peel, tarragon, and rosemary. Every day for at least seven days, the jars need to be gently turned so that the olive oil re-coats the cheese. Cheese balls are slightly delicate, so if you have experience with making Southern style chicken and dumplings (the old way, we aren’t talking bisquick here friends) and gently shaking and swirling the pot to keep the dumplings from sticking – then you have the right skill set ready developed for making these… The lemon peel gave the cheese a lovely and prominent citrus burst while the sesame seeds and partially whole rosemary leaves gave a nice texture. Like I said, I liked it and think it holds promise. Here is the yogurt cheese on the day 1 and day 10.

Yogurt day 0

Yogurt Cheese Day 1

 

 

Yogurt day 10

Yogurt Cheese Day 10

 

 

Yogurt cheese cut

The yogurt cheese ball cut to examine texture and yumminess factor.

 

 

Should a person not like the yogurt cheese, hopefully they will like the second cheese option. I’ll either be making some fresh herbed cheese the morning of, or I’ll have time to do several rounds of a red wine soaked cheese. Below is a round of cheese that was soaked in a red wine and red wine salt mixture for five days, then dried off, rubbed in more red wine salt and aged for three/four more days. The ending texture before being put up to age until Lilies was… interesting. Almost a sort of springy pickled feel? I’m looking forward to eating it at Lilies….

Red wine cheese

This weekend I received a request from my husband to make some cheese for his work potluck. Oh, this also might be a good time to mention that the previous cranberry and nocino cheeses didn’t make it to the aging process, because the looked far too good – and were in fact. So, I made three rounds of cranberry cheese. Two with my normal presses, and one small one with the awesome Roman cheese press by HE Gwen.

Cheese in presses

Cheeses in the presses!

 

They turned out yummy. Definitely not an aging cheese. But, very yummy all the same.

Cranberry cheese small

Cranberry cheese made in Roman style cheese press.

 

Now I really do have to get back to it. Too much to do, too little time left!

 

***You know I had to mention Ruth Goodman at some point in this blog post, right?

 

Getting Back into the Cheese Making Groove

I should be sewing right now, I really should. Or, I could be constructing a hat making tutorial that I made myself promise I would write out when I finished up two previously unfinished gowns earlier this month for KA&S. Instead, I’m experimenting and writing more about my cheese adventures – some of which at least count for Lilies prep so at least I have that going for me…

Plain Ol’ Salted cheese: An Homage to Ruth Goodman, and I mean that with as much fangirl as I can summon. This cheese is based off of her discussion of the Tudor and later Stuart dairies in “Tudor Monastery Farm” and “Tales from the Green Valley” as well as basic historical cheese making practices. It’s a simple farm cheese, aged for a minimum of a week, salted and flipped each day, and can be stored for the year  – as long as it stays cool, doesn’t dry out, and you keep an eye on the rind. It’s a hardy cheese. Salty and simple.

cheese 3

Plain farm cheese, this has the final salt rub still on it, happily defending against bacteria.

 

cheese 2

Plain farm cheese with the rind buffed to remove the loose salt as well as the salt that had formed a hard coating in some areas.

 

This round is destined for my personal consumption at Lilies and should be able to last me the week without refrigeration. The aging and rind reached a state I was happy with, and I wanted to play with alternative preservation techniques beyond waxing. I brushed the rind with a tablespoon of olive oil (which would have been available for my persona, although a luxury good) and have high hopes for its future aging into June.

cheese1

Plain cheese with olive oil to seal the round and promote a more controlled aging process with less (hopefully no) drying. I may need to build it up with the oil; it will be an experiment to see how the rind does.

 

Black Truffle Cheese, these two rounds are destined for friends and labeled as such. This time I mixed the black truffle sea salt with the cheese before pressing instead of using it as the aging salt.

FullSizeRender (2)

Black truffle cheese, this batch was alternatively salted or wiped with brine. These have the salt rub still on them.

 

I’m happy with the results, and hopefully the recipients will be as well. One round is going to HE Gwen as a thank you for a Roman cheese press prototype and the other is going to her student Uji who will be using it in a German sausage recipe that called for a crumbled rich cheese to be mixed into the ground meat mixture pre-ageing.

FullSizeRender (1)

Black Truffle: Cheese Noir. Being silly and messing with photo filters after the rind had been wiped down and wax melting.

 

Beeswax was used to seal the rounds to guarantee the consistency remains appropriate until eaten. Rounds were labeled to guarantee they are only claimed by the intended recipients…

IMG_1014

A light coating of beeswax to seal the rounds to keep them creamy and labeled to make sure that there are no tragic cheese mix-ups!

 

 

Cranberry Cheese, farm cheese mixed with dried cranberries and pressed. I’ve read tutorials stating that no organic material should be present in aged cheeses, yet I’ve eaten aged cheeses that contain organic material, and have read other cheese making tutorials about cheeses that include additional yummy things. So, I figured that I would try it out. The curd density went sideways during the process and I ended up with a pretty slimy cheese goo, and I figured that this was the perfect time to try out a few new things. Salt and dried cranberries were added, and after the first pressing today the crumbs were very very tasty. After a desired firmness is achieved, it will be washed in a brine daily (I have some red wine sea salt around here somewhere), flipped daily for seven days, and then likely waxed. If all goes well, it should make it’s debut at Lilies.

IMG_1018

Tasty tasty cranberry cheese. The deep ruby color of the cranberries don’t come through in the photo, but this cheese was really pretty.

 

 

Nocino Cheese: going out on an experimental limb. This concept was developed at Kingdom Arts and Sciences between HL Eynon and I after his comment that the nocino was so acidic that it instantly curdled the cream in a commercial cream liquor. I mentioned cheese, and the next thing I knew a bottle of the brandy version had been sacrificed to science. After having a walnut flavored parmesan years ago, I thought I might attempt something similar with the nocino – developing a veining with the cordial by coating the hard curds before pressing. Unfortunately, the batch of intended cheese was half of the batch from the cranberry cheese, so I had to alter things. Instead, I went with a port wine type swirl approach. The first pressing turned out gorgeous with really nice marbling and the crumbs had an interesting smoky flavor. It has been flipped and is back in the press for another night.

IMG_1016

Artfully marbled nocino cheese. This cheese was so pretty, I think that it would be lovely as a fresh pressed cheese to eat. Cinnamon bagel chips would go nicely with this. Hopefully, the marbling stays consistent through the aging process – if it lasts that long. 

 

I realize that there are going to be some weird things going on with the high sugar and alcohol content of nocino, but hopefully with ample salt the additional bacterial concerns should be under control. Additional research occurred today, and I’m feeling pretty confident in my next batches and getting back on track with intended results.

 

Speaking of additional research, I finally got a chance to extensively go through the posts from Waldetrudis von Metten at http://medievalcheese.blogspot.com/.  She has a wonderful site that I recommend to anyone interested in making cheese, especially some of the more interesting regional cheeses of the medieval period. It was here that I fell down the research rabbit hole today and learned the life changing information that I can make even more cheese ( or “cheese” similar in concept to “krab”) from whey. Actually there are a slew of whey cheeses, some are described at [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whey_cheese] to get a quick synopsis.

Not only that, but apparently it is super easy to make your own yogurt at home and with the surplus make cheeses out of the yogurt! I feel like that person from the infomercials stating that a certain product has changed their life…. But seriously, the yogurt and yogurt cheeses are next on the docket. Waldetrudis described a Mediterranean yogurt cheese that was pressed, lightly dried, rolled into balls, spiced, and then stored in olive oil to age. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like the perfect spreadable cheese for flatbreads – and the possible perfect soft-ish cheese for the Ladies of the Rose Tournament table at Lilies (that I wouldn’t have to make the day before).

More cheese experiments are on the horizon and I’m super excited to get to them!