Monday, December 28, 2015

Video Games: A Year in Review

I love video games, I wish I had more time to just sit back and enjoy them but my life often takes me away. 2015 has been a great year for gaming for me, and I would just like to talk about some of my experiences this year in gaming. These are not everything I've played this year, just some of my favorites.



Fallout 4 - I have sunk WAY too many hours into this game already, and it just came out in December. I love everything to do with this game, I've made 4 distinct characters already to explore different character builds and ways to explore the game. Another Bethesda classic, the open world style of game play for me never gets old and continues to shine. There have been some great improvements in the game from Fallout 3 (love the physics, improved combat mechanics and cool gun customization's), but also some negative changes I'm none to pleased with (dialog system anyone?). I think the hidden gem of this game is the surprise settlement building mechanics, it's a great start and I hope that the DLC coming soon will expand and improve on the basic system in place.

I rate Fallout at 4 power armor suits  out of 5.


Bloodborne - Dark Souls/Demon Souls never really appealed to me as a gamer, the mechanics are unforgiving most of the time and not conductive to my style of enjoyment. When I heard of Bloodborne I was like "Oh great, another hard ass game I have to be told I should enjoy if I'm a real gamer". It was this review here that changed my mind on the game, I am a sucker for a good story and I love Victorian Horror and Lovecraft Horror styles. Yes the game is grueling and yes the game is very unforgiving at times...but the lore and story of this game have me hooked. If you love good horror, and don't mind some crazy difficult game play, I cannot recommend this game enough.

I rate Bloodborne at 3 gibbering madmen ranting about the Old Ones out of Gralphfil'agi



Destiny: Taken King Edition - I purchased a PS4 just to get Destiny when it first came out in 2014, and I was super disappointed. I'm not the biggest shooter fan, but the story alone attracted me to this gem and I had followed its development for years. The finished product left me underwhelmed at best, and I traded it away and moved onto other games. When the Taken King edition came out (with the original game + all the expansions and DLC to date), my wife purchased it for me because she remembered how much I wanted the game in the past. I have to say...all the changes have been good. The DLC and expansions fill out the game, re-balancing has been nice. The game controls better, and I do have a more enjoyable time with it overall. The story still feels lacking, and I'm still frustrated with the whole Bungee website thing, but as far as a shooter goes it's the most fun I've had this year.

I rate Destiny at  2.5 ammo clips out of 4 randomly generated wooden crates somewhere on the f^&king map.


Until Dawn - Dude, this game rocks. It's a video game that plays like a classic 80's/90's horror film, the butterfly effect/choice system is cool and its some of the tightest acting/writing I've seen in a game to date. There isn't much to the mechanics sadly, it's a very story heavy game so many action-style gamer's may find it boring. But it's the perfect game to play when you have a bunch of friends over and wanna feel involved in the telling of a great horror story.

I rate Until Dawn 4 jump scares out of AHHHHH!


Pokemon Alpha Sapphire - 7/10, too much water. Sorry, I couldn't resist the joke! This is a remake of the Gen 3 Pokemon classic, and its a fantastic upgrade. New look, new Pokemon, new styles, it's just great. If you've ever played Pokemon you know what you're getting, but that hasn't stopped me from putting in hundreds of hours into the game. If you like Pokemon, you should play this.

I rate Pokemon AS at 675 Pokedex entries out of 712.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Fiction: Listen

Have you ever stopped and spent a few hours in silence to listen to the sound coming from your house, and I mean really stopped to listen? All houses have those sounds, those creaks and groans as metal and wood settle on foundation or the wind blowing through the gutters that rattle against the dirty window pane. Your feet will crinkle carpet as you step your way into bed, shoes will click against the fake wood linoleum when you walk in the kitchen. Door hinges will softly sigh when new, or creak and whine with age, and the soft hum of the a/c unit as it breathes out to chill your home. Your house has a voice, a life, a unique sound that you can only hear if your very still and quiet.

A friend of mine suggested I try meditation the other day, to relax as well as align myself with my environment in my new house. I don't really believe in much of that new age mumbo-jumbo, but I do understand the value of some peace and quiet. To be honest I had never really ever had it, there's always music or TV playing to distract me. Modern life, right? The price we pay for our advances, that constant hum of electricity and artificially created sounds. I decided to turn everything off, unplug all my electronics and even turn off my modem. I set the A/C to off and made sure everything in my house that could create an artificial sound was off, finding a quiet room far from my kitchen and resting in the center. I sat down on the floor and closed my eyes, focused on my breathing and just...listened. I listened for the sounds in my house.

I heard what I expected at first, the creaking in the wind and the brush of branch on wall. Then I heard a different sound.

The sound still haunts me. I can't be alone in my house anymore without something on, which annoys my roommates but they don't understand. The TV hides the sound, the a/c blasting distracts me, the hum of electricity drowns out any other noise. I can't sleep without music, I can't find peace without something to distract me from the sound I can never unhear. I will never be in my home alone in silence ever again. I can't ever handle that moment. I thought I was the only person to ever hear that sound, to listen to what I should not, but when I looked online I saw I wasn't the only one. Thousands, all around the country, had heard the same sound when alone. All of us are afraid to ever be alone in silence again. What if its in every home, what does that even mean? Why doesn't anyone hear it, anyone listen?

If I was really alone, then how did I hear that sound?

Don't believe me? Sit down in a room away from the kitchen. Turn everything off that might produce a sound, wear comfortable clothing and sit with your eyes closed and listen. LISTEN. Don't even think, clear your mind and just LISTEN. LISTEN.

Hear that?

I did.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Why Thanksgiving is not real

This post is gonna be a bit ramble here, excuse it please. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the basic ideas I put together in my head.

I decided to spend the day in silence, enjoying the company of my own mind and thoughts. These days are rare, and I enjoy them whenever I can. While I was taking a nice drive, on the radio I heard a Christmas jingle begin to play. I began with my usual grumbling response of "why can't Christmas stay in its own season" and then I paused, because Thanksgiving really doesn't have a "season". Thanksgiving has nothing big, it's an artificial day we created just like Christmas or Easter. Why do I suddenly care if it gets overshadowed?

An hours worth of rushing thoughts and whirling memories (and math) later, I was shocked with the only observable answer I could find: Thanksgiving wasn't real.

To give you some context...another life ago I played a game as a character obsessed with all things Christmas and the Christmas season. To better play as this character, I began to study Christmas and winter traditions all around the world and through time. One thing that I discovered that made me uncomfortable was the uniform way we celebrated these winter holidays. 

All around the world, humanity as a shared species has decided that there needed to be a winter ritual, to inspire the mind and bring the community together. This ritual was based around local spiritual beliefs, but always had the same purpose and context. No matter the time, the culture or even the date; humanity had a shared "winter" ritual/holiday that was incredibly vital and important to us. As I studied this one holiday, to better understand the cycle of progress I discovered that we had done very much the same for a Fall/Summer/Spring holiday as well. It was if at those times we decided this was important, and it shaped our cultures. 

But we still needed to define ourselves individually as well. (Again) In almost every culture I studied there was an additional 4 other holidays around the year that were important, but these were important in idea but not in ritual. For example it was always important to our ancestors that we honor and celebrate our dead and remember them, but how that is done differs not just culture to culture but even town to town. So this happens through all our lives, we seek out and celebrate these events.

What does this have to do with Thanksgiving I'm sure you're asking. Well funnily enough in the Gregorian calendar system that was designed for Western calendars, no ritualistic holidays fall in November. No holiday or ritual of importance to Western culture falls in November.

That's weird right? Especially because the holidays/rituals seem to fall in a pretty set pattern. That's where things start to go deep.

The human mind seeks patterns, it seeks ritual and understanding like no animal alive on Earth. We created these rituals and holidays because we needed them, and not just the celebration but the regularity. These celebrations have anchors to our lives, marked the year. The lunar calendar was always unreliable, because of the fewer day count than the solar year it meant that months would slip seasons. What was a winter month was now a summer after a few years, so the holidays themselves acted as more of a calendar marking system than the written in many early cultures. The spring festival was always around the same time every year, as was the rest. The summer was always roughly the same distance apart from the fall and spring, which meant the holidays all fell together in a nice pattern. We, that is to say humans, like patterns because they make sense. So we were happy with that for a VERY long time.

Fast forward this to the start of modern American culture. In the 1800's as the world was changing due to the industrial revolution, humanity was changing with it. Our patterns changed, our behaviors and every way of life was affected by this change. But we still needed these rituals, these holidays we had created. They were a part of who we were as inheritors of Western culture, and had to find some way of expressing them. I believe we did adapt and change them, and that is the problem.

All around the world we have four major holidays: a spring, a summer, a fall and a winter. Americans have adjusted and changed their lives by moving to a more mild climate than what they left in Europe, and so our major holidays have changed as well. The easiest to point out is Christmas, it's firmly placed in the calendar and its morphing from a religious holiday to a secular one is more evident as the years go on. The Spring holiday is also undergoing a shift, that I feel is more due to again the drifting of Christian dominance in politics/holidays in the country. Valentine's Day is our major American spring holiday, not only does it encompass the beginnings of new love and new life but as the years have gone on its taken a larger consumer focus and begun to incorporate some other spring features like cute baby animals (representing new livestock) and flowers (representing new/blooming life). Easter still has a strong grip, but each year I see it losing more and more generalization and becoming more and more rigidly Christian (which is totally fine!)

Summer was, for a long time in old Europe, given the holiday of Beltane to celebrate...here in America we have Memorial Day. It is the "unofficial" start of the summer, it is celebrated with large group gatherings involving fire/food/drink, stories and deeds of past gathered are told and memorialized to learn from them and be like them. Students are let out to work the fields, trips are planned and happen (hello former season of war) all across the nation. Memorial Day is rooted in the ritual itch that Beltane scratched, which is why that weekend has so many important holiday traditions surrounding it. 

That brings us to Fall...which is in bad shape here in America. We have no real fall festival, hell our fall is dramatically different here than in Europe. For most of our culture we did not have a unifying fall festival, communities would throw harvest festivals in September around Michaelmas but as the industrial revolution ripped across the world that even changed how our country operated; going from an agricultural to a industrial in the relative blink of an eye. Now all the labor and work came from factories and machine halls instead of farms.

Labor Day I feel satisfies MOST of what we want for our fall festival. It honors the "harvest", brings the community and family together, welcomes back the men from their time away (returning soldiers now returning families from vacation), and shares the bounty of the harvest with everyone (hello one of the busiest sales weekends of the year). It brings that ritual component that we need to feel better.

But what about Thanksgiving? Why is that holiday, which should be our fall ritual, regulated to nothing status? Because...it's all made up.

Thanksgiving as a holiday is a fake. It does not draw from the cultural heritage of the other holidays and thus has no support to stand on. The pilgrims landed, probably happened in September by official reconciling. Harvests in America are finished by October to prepare for early winter weather that comes in November. The holiday itself wasn't official until 1942, almost 80 years after Lincoln established it (in comparison to Labor Day which has been regularly celebrated since the 1880's). The holidays point was to thank God that we were delivered from Europe and thank him for our "blessings", NOTHING to do with being focused on harvest. We don't know what to do with this holiday, so we did the only thing our subconscious brings could muster: attach all the fall ritual trappings that Labor Day was missing.

Now we have a Christian general day of thanks, parading around and pretending to be a fall featival. It has no attachment to any ritual itch humanity needs scratched, and we really only acknowledge it when forced to (or point out how it's being overshadowed by a real holiday). It's empty, devoid of the meaning that these other holidays all have for our hearts.

And that is why Thanksgiving is not real.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Fiction: That One House


Every town in Florida has that one run-down house, that one spot filled with urban myths and stories handed down from neighborhood kid to neighborhood kid. Riding bikes around town, coming up with various schemes and games to entertain yourselves in the rural backwaters of a town that lives in the shadow of tourists, every kid eventually finds this old house. It is a source of wild tales and crazy dares, stories shared to frighten.

The truth of the matter is that this house is a source of dread and fear for all the children, but not that they truly understand why. They ride by it, trying to catch glimpses of what frightens them about it. They gather in groups and dare each other to get ever closer, some getting close enough to touch the mildew-covered walls and smell the rot from the leaves mixing with the heat of the sun that lay heavy on the lawn. Sometimes you catch glimpses of a figure, always a woman, moving around inside the sun-bleached house. One of the kids swears they saw her in the backyard, hoe and spade in hand, planting some unseen garden. She is always a witch, always some demonic figure who curses and summons monsters to frighten. Every child knows her, every child knows the run-down house.

As teens many have forgotten the old stories they used to tell themselves, moving onto new horrors from film and stage. But none of them ever forgot that house, or the woman inside. When the stolen beer flowed and the teens gather late at night for thinly-veiled sexual games, horror stories come out. And someone always brings up the old "crack" house, along with one of the horror stories attributed to that house. A murder, missing child, a witch, a demon-summoning agent of the devil. One by one, they all remember the stories they told and the dares they made; they never forgot the house. 

The teens find their way to the rotting house, drunk and high on more than the drugs in their system. The house is still there, just as they remembered it. There's a light on, and the peeling paint and crumbling walls on the house seems more imposing and frightening for the light. A shadow moves across the filthy window, someone is inside and awake. One teen is dared to go to the house, to sneak around and investigate. Old fears come back, those primal nightmares that as children refused them sleep. One teen goes up, to touch the moldy door like old times. The light turns out, and they hear the door creak open. They run, all afraid and terrified of what hell spawn is unleashed upon them. They go back to school the next day, laughing off their encounter. They joke about how stupid it is, and how dumb they were. 

But they never go back to that damned house, they never bring it up again. And their friend just moves one day, no explanation.

Adults are beyond such things as childhood fears, that's what they all say. Adults have real fears, worries of money and relationships, they don't have time for childhood scary stories. They forget, they move on. They forget all about that one scary house, and the figure inside. They don't even remember what it was like as a teen, that fear clutching the belly and twisting all rational thoughts into a warped horror. They never think about it again, until they go back to that old hometown.

Stories and memories from the old days resurface as old friends drink beers and discuss life. Stories of old teachers and neighbors, childhood loves lost and friendships forged. And of that old house, the one you haven't thought of in years. The beer makes things fuzzy, and you can't believe you were ever afraid of a stupid house. You talk yourself into going to visit the house, if you even remember how to get there.

You remember, because you never truly forgot. It's exactly as you remembered it, unchanged by time. You remember the fear and the horrors, the things your mind has tried to forget. As you stand outside this old house, you hear the door open wide. A woman walks out, a young one clutching her belly that has just begun to swell. Her eyes are filled with dread and regret, her face set and determined, her walk brisk to be free. You remember her, remember your childhood friend who never left town. You lost contact when you moved, you never reconnected; just like she never left this rotting and festering town.

An old woman hangs in the doorway, watching you. The shadow on the moth-eaten curtains, the witch, the devil-summoner. The source of nightmares your whole life, casually lighting a cigarette and gazing at you from a haze of smoke. She knows you, has seen you your whole life. You've known her too, seen her your whole life. She is the decrepit woman you remember being shunned at the wal-mart, the aged woman that adults in town would talk to in hurried and quiet breathes and would be afraid to be seen with. She's the old woman watching you ride by from her seat at the bus stop, but never gets on the bus. 

She goes inside, and you run. You drive away, and drink to forget. But in the dark of the night, when your mind won't let you sleep, you remember her. And every time you find yourself in your old hometown, you drive by that broken-down house. And she's always there, covered in a haze of smoke, waiting for you.

Every town in Florida has that house. Each town, living in the shadow of media and tourist centers, live in darkness. Each town is a festering rotting hole, compost to grow new lives in which one day must leave. But someone needs to tend to the compost, someone needs to ensure the healthy leave. The dead stay and rot, their nutrients feeding new generations of life; their gardener stays in that house. 

Every town in Florida lives in shadow, rotting and festering as it ages away. Every town has that house, and the woman who tends the compost.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Bard Monkey

So something I enjoy doing is writing music and lyrics. Often times I cannot play the music I write at events, so much of my SCA work is in filks of tunes people recognize. I have a few songs I've written that I'll post here sometime, this filk has been one I've been meaning to add to the blog for a while but have forgotten.
Bard Monkey
(sung to the tune of Code Monkey by Jonathan Coulton, original song here)

Bard Monkey get up get coffee,
Bard Monkey go to job.
Bard Monkey have boring meeting,
With boring Site Herald Bob.

Bob say Bard Monkey very diligent,
But his breath does stink.
His clothes not period or elegant,
What do Bard Monkey think?

Bard Monkey think maybe Site Herald wanna cry goddamned morning news HIMSELF,
Bard Monkey not say it,
Out loud,
Bard Monkey not crazy, just proud.

(Chorus)
Bard Monkey like moonlight.
Bard Monkey like mead and bacon too.
Bard Monkey very simple man,
With big warm fuzzy secret heart,
Bard Monkey like you.
Bard Monkey like you.

Bard Monkey hang around at Crown Lyst,
Tell you Tudor look nice.
Bard Monkey offer bring you soda,
Bring you cup bring you ice.

You say no thank you for the soda 'cause,
Period it ain't.
Anyway you drinking some sekanjabin,
No time for that.

Bard Monkey have long walk back to Herald Point
He sit down pretend to work.
Bard Monkey not thinking, so straight.
Bard Monkey not feeling, so great.

(Chorus)
Bard Monkey like you, a lot.

Bard Monkey have every reason,
To get out this place.
Bard Monkey just keeps retaining,
See you soft pretty face.

Much rather wake up, eat a coffee cake.
Go fence, take nap.
Blazoning fulfilling in creative way.
What a load of crap.

Bard Monkey think some day he have everything
Even pretty scribe like you.
Bard Monkey just waiting for now,
Bard Monkey think some day, some how,

(Chorus)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Post-foodem Part 2: 30th Year Feast Dishes

In this second part, I want to break down all the dishes and some thought on each one. Lots of pictures here!


Ah, white rice. This came out lovely, Mikey had a much better way of cooking this than I had on hand which gave the same light and fluffy texture. Good stickiness, and Corey shaped the domes perfectly. Love this rice!

This was my collection of pickles; ginger, plum, carrot and turnip. The plum was intense, a sweet and spicy mixture I found tantalizing. The pickled carrots and turnips were a classic hit, a lovely flavor. What surprised me was how popular the pickled ginger was, for it was a very harsh flavor but I didn't have any left over at the end of feast!

This was my Fresh "Crane" soup, and it was one of my better dishes. The duck I used for flavor was light and frothy, providing a great flavor. The mushroom water added in rally bolstered the flavor without overpowering. I wish I had added a little more salt to the finished product, I thought it would have made it ZING!


Water chesnuts were water chestnuts. They were meant to be eaten with other items, and as a palette cleanser. SOOO glad I bought pre-sliced ones, saved me such more prep time.


I swear, there were sick sticks on here...these were one of the most popular course items. I'm super proud of them, and glad I decided to lengthen the marinade time on the chickens. Each stick had alternating chicken and squash chunks, and the squash was super fresh and yummy. I never actually ate the finished product of this one after testing,just licked the glaze off a spoon...


My Uji River! Presentation on this didn't look how I wanted, this nori was a little softer than I had licked and I switched plates for ease of service, but the noodles were PERFECT thanks to Jason! The Udon was super tasty, and most people were surprised at the cool noodles but greatly enjoyed the flavor and texture. I ate a crap ton of these myself.


This pine cone tofu looks so perfect, isn't it cute? Tasted so terrible though...I had some people try and eat it, but I hate tofu. I loved reading the little poem with this dish, it made me smile!


This was my rock-star dish, I am so proud of this miso soup. Thanks to Andi for the suggestion of the fresh wakame, this already amazing soup became stellar. The secret ingredient was fresh fish stock, I used the water made from parboiling the tuna sashimi. So good...none of this came back!


This is two dishes, the sushi on top and the sashimi underneath. The fish was expertly cut by Corey, and the rice shaped by Andi/Jason/Mikey. As per period accounted, the sashimi was lightly teamed/boiled to heighten the flavor but not cook, while the sushi was served fresh with a strong rice vinegar rice bed. This was perfect and beautiful.


Another presentation piece I wasn't very thrilled with, issues in creation meant my bird heads never were able to be made. That's ok, I still topped them with a nice treat designed by Andi! I loved how the eggplant did a great job cooking and toasting the items inside, made a very tasty meal.


Meh...wasn't that thrilled with this one. I feel like it looks pretty, and is just tasty for me, but most people found the cabbage a bit too chewy That's a bit frustrating, and I know a lot came back, but you can't win with every dish. Next time I do fresh cabbage like this, I will just salt and sit instead of the saltwater brine.


Fresh fruit is so darling, and such a rarity in European cooking! I loved the floral arrangement for the citrus, and the pears just had this sharp elegance in the way they were cut. It looks like small stones of white and green blooming from a flower. Very lovely!


Another dish combination, this is my red bean paste dessert and the fresh mochi. The red bean desert was weird, I wasn't sure of the texture at first but it and the taste won me over rapidly. Thanks to Corey for the shape, he did a wonderful job on the cutting process. The mochi was also so yummy, and the green tea flavoring was refreshing! I'm not a big fan of the seeds on it, the texture tasted a bit off to me, but the kinako flour on the other just heightened the natural flavor.

Thank you for taking the time to follow my adventures in this feast! If you would like any of the recipes for any of thee dishes, feel free to email me at canatsey86@gmail.com and I would happily share them.

Post-foodem Part 1: 30th Year Feast

I've taken a lot of time away from this feast, to digest and decompress everything that happened. I read through my notes I made, got feedback from patrons and fellow cooks, and now feel confidant to tackle this detailed breakdown.

To start...I kinda rocked the house. Everything went great, the food looked good and tasted good, there was just the right portions and I had a wonderful time. I had some of the best help a head cook can ask for, and some of the most loyal friends. This was an amazing effort from everyone involved, and we all knocked this shit out of the park. I know I already made a large thank you post right here, but I just wanted to stress that point home.



Top 5 What Worked - 

1) Study - I spent a whole bloody year putting myself out of my comfort zone, studying a new culture as well as cooking style. Spending all that time becoming so familiar with the food to truly know it was a huge advantage, when issues and errors happened I was able to quickly react to fixing it.

2) Trust the experts - Who prepares Japanese food better than the Japanese? I purchased pre-made pickles, pre-made miso and other critical ingredients from the culture to best recreate the food. The grocery store clerks gave me the best options for cooking many foods and often recommended ingredients that I normally wouldn't have purchased (but came out better because of their recommendations). Yes I studied for a year, but these people have lived this food for decades and they will understand it better in ways I never will.

3) Trust my volunteers - One of the hard things is always letting go and trusting others when they have the ball, even when you're the team captain. There were plenty of times where I trusted the fantastic instincts of Corey when it came to cooking food, when I couldn't see what he saw and let him go. When you assigning tasks to folks you are trusting that they'll follow instructions to get what you want, but also trusting that f they can improve it they will. A good example is the red bean paste desert, I had envisioned tall/thin cuts in a deep pan, but Corey was confidant that short/wide would get the better result and look. And he was totally right, I was so much happier with the finished cut he did than my own. That's trusting your volunteers.

4) Feast menu's, schedules and instructions - I loved how I posted everything on the walls. Having it out in the open for everyone to check, double the sheets to force me to double check everything, and having in high traffic areas really helped a lot. Definitely adding this to my feast prep package.

5) Portions - Nuff said, I portioned the hell out of this feast and am proud of my math. I went to the limit on so many dishes, I was very proud of my math and my purchasing ability (all which was double/triple checked by my wife thank goodness!).



Top 5 What Didn't Worked - 

1) No solid book - I loved how I did my menu's and schedule this time, having it posted in multiple spots was really awesome. But what I found myself missing was an actual feast book, like I've done in the past. I didn't like the loose leaf copies of recipes, and many times I felt myself looking for my book. I think I'm gonna do the postings and the books, for my own sanity.

2) Not scheduling enough water/food breaks - Yeah...I failed on this one. I got stressed a lot during times, and it took me a while to realize I wasn't eating/drinking enough. I normally have to schedule myself these breaks, and I didn't put in as many as I needed this time around. Next feast I need to take care and take care of myself better, so I don't get too hungry or thirsty.

3) Serving the H.A. room - I had a blast serving this room, and my two servers did a great job with me, but in the end it made me more twitchy than I prefer. I don't like being out front when I cook feast, I like to be in the kitchen and hear reports. I'm glad I did this for the experience, but in the future I will stick to my kitchen!

4) Measuring cups - Soooo much food was so tightly controlled, it'show my portioning worked as well as it did. But that meant I needed TIGHT portion control of ingredients, and the kitchen was lacking severely in various cups. I know for future adventures that I need to bring my own if I am in need of a specific size measuring tool.

5) No solid cleaning plan - Unlike Ocala or other sites, I've never had to worry a great deal about dirt and outdoor mess getting into the kitchen. Not true with this site, the doors and airflow bring in a crap ton of dirt and muck from the outside into the kitchen. I didn't have a plan for dealing with this, so I frequently found myself delayed as I wiped or swept various areas. Need to remember at least every other hour cleaning checks.

Next post I will break down each dish and make a few comments on each.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Feast Thank You's

Any project is composed of multiple parts, and a feast is not just the head cook; dozens of people play a vital role in making a dream become a reality. Before I delve into a full breakdown of my feast I want to take the time and thank many key people in this successful journey.

Three people deserve special mention, for all they helped me make this feast a reality. Kristin picked up a dropped ball at the literal last minute, she helped make my feast hall vision a reality and without her I would not have been such a success. If you appreciated the hall at all, please send her a note of thanks. Andi, my Laurel, of course deserves special mention for all she did for me. From counciling and advise to slapping me silly and keeping me focused, she was the rock I needed. Of course I cannot forget to thank Corey amongst these three, in the kitchen and outside of it he was my right hand in everything i did. He and I had been working towards this project for many months, and he never left my side in the kitchen. I could not have completed this meal without his skilled hand and artistic vision, he deserves much praise.

My sister Ever is a wonderful person as well, she took on the hard job of organizing servers for this and did an amazing job. Molly, Fionnula, Deniese and all the Butterflies did an amazing job helping wherever they could and however they could; I wish I knew everyone's names who I saw lending a hand so I could find them and hug them so very tight. I was overjoyed that my lovely wife Sarah made it from work to spend the day with me and experience feast, that really cheered me. And my lovely family who barreled in to clean my kitchen, Far-Flung is my family and I am proud to be one of theirs as well.

His Majesty continues to surprise me, kudos to him for that, and I was humbled to receive such an honor for my feast. I loved my crowd who all attended the High Authenticity experience, their participation and willingness to go full on board made me smile so much. The event staff who allowed me to chase this dream, those who donated items to decorate the hall and even those who stopped me to make sure I had eaten or had water: thank you so much.

For all the people who helped and I cannot name, thank you for what you did for me and my Dream.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Reflections on an Event: Fall Coronation 2015

Fall Coronation has come and gone once again, the start of our Trimarian new year in many regards, and as always it was an ending of old and beginning of new. In future posts this week I will delve deeper into the feast, but for now an overview of my time.

I had an utter bast all weekend. We started a new site for Kingdom events and I fell in love right away. Long winding paths, deep woods and a beautiful lake adorned the camp and the stars at night were just beautiful to spy while laying in the grass. My only concern is the actual lack of light on site, without a lamp or flashlight of some kind is a must to avoid any pitfalls while traveling. The kitchen is quite lovely, an important feature for me obviously, and the hall is in such a great grid for planning designs. I think this site is going to be a wonderful addition to our Kingdom and well used for years to come.

As always, my personal connections with people changes at this event. Andi and I got to welcome a new person into our household with Jason accepting an apprentice belt, and I felt we really bonded over the weekend even more. My friendship and love for Kristen and the Butterflies continues to grow, many of them going out of their way to be overly kind in ways I could never expect. The Butterflies made me cry in good ways all the time, and I hope to find some way to repay them. I got to spend some quality time with many new SCA friends, deepen my friendship with others and made some brand new friends as we bonded over food!

I was very happy to see my wife recognized with an award in Court, and was quite surprised by my own given to me at the end of feast by the King. Many good friends and good people got well deserved awards and honors, and seeing peoples smiles when given gifts of favors always touches my heart. Seeing such great acts and lovely behavior inspires me, inspires me to be better and improve in the year to come.

The tradition is at new years that you make a "resolution", a promise of a thing you will do in the upcoming year. I feel like this is a thing I should do, and I know I can accomplish this goal because I have friends and family that will support me. My Trimarian new year resolution is that I will become a Gulf Wars Champion with this years Art/Sci entry.

What's yours?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Preparations of a Feast Part 5

So far we've talked about the food culture, what food is being served, its flavor profile and appearance. Today, in my final post before the event, I want to talk about how you the guest should go into my feast to get the best eating experience.

When you sit down, the table will be decorated simply. This is done intentionally, to help you get into the simplistic mindset that the food will be dwelling in. Chopsticks will be provided for each guest, though not required it is highly encouraged that you eat with them to get the best experience. The chopsticks are very important, they will control your portioning as well as keep you eating each bite in the proper method. Japanese food culture evolved around chopsticks, using them will help you best experience this.

On the table before you will be some paper explaining much f what's on the table, and encouraging you to explore it. Once table service has begun, drinks will be served to refresh and prepare the palette for the food that will be consumed. The first course will be served as it would be for the Shogun himself, the dishes will  be announced and one at a time will they be presented. The Shogun (in this case TRM Trimaris) will approve the first course and the dishes will be given to the populous. The dishes can be eaten in any order or combination, each "course" is designed for all the food to be eaten as one, but there is a recommended order to trying them and the servers will bring the dishes in that order. 

With my artistic pieces, the servers will present this dish then read a haiku for the table. This poem pertains to the dish, it is meant to be pondered and considered as it is eaten to better enjoy, or if you wish to abstain then to simply admire the art and think on what the poem means to you. 

Each course will be brought out in such order, until the meal is complete. Take your time, enjoy each bite and relish the flavors as they blend and work within you. Your bites will be small due to the chopsticks, savor each one. Enjoy the work put before you, and let it inspire you and cause you to think of your own art that you endeavor. This is simple pleasures, simple joys of nourishment and companionship. Let the meal slowly ebb and flow into you like the tide, in no hurry and at its own pace.

For those sitting in my special seating, your experience will be quite similar but still has its unique qualities. Beyond the room decoration, each place setting will be provided for you. You will dine on pillows as is tradition, and will be honored guests of the Shogun and thus will be served by the head cook directly. It will be a fun time for everyone!

Thank you for following this progress, and for supporting me in this endeavor. This feast is by far the most complex I've ever done, and it is a labor of love not just by me but my friends and family as well. Expect a recap of the meal after the event.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Preparations for a Feast Part 4

As I said in a previous entry, one of the things I felt the need to touch on was how important the image of the food was to the meal itself. Yes the mood had to taste good, yes the food have to taste CORRECT (which I covered in Part 3); but almost as importantly the food had to LOOK artistic as well. Especially considering the “optional” food dishes, this is a topic I want to discuss in depth here.

    In Japanese high culture, art was the thing. The house was designed with art in mind, the clothing was an art, the weapons and armor had an artistic bent and to that even the food was artistic in nature. It was a sign of high culture, of refinement, that you were able to produce not only a good tasting meal but a good looking one at that. Understanding the artistic styles and applying them to food was an amazing gift that was meant to be shared, this is an aspect I am trying to emulate upcoming feast.

    So let’s talk about that, shall we? The food itself is to be a work of art, so it must look the part. Sauces will be carefully placed, not to smear or dribble about in presentation. Vegetables and fruit will be cut as square and clean as possible, to show off the angles of the cut. Plating will be warm and inviting, food will be arranged to create shapes or images (like my Triskle Chesnut design I’m gonna do) and the colors will be vibrant to stand out against the stark white serving gear. The idea for this artistic display is to heighten the taste of the food and appreciation for the skill of the artisan crafting it. It wasn’t just what was served on, it was the served items themselves.

    Another aspect to this style is food designed for appreciation, not so much for eating. A massive show of wealth, these were dishes that used inedible ingredients for color/shape or were often not that tasty. You were meant to reflect upon the nature of the dish, see what the dish meant to you, perhaps hear a haiku read about such a dish or just appreciate the artistic touch gone into crafting it. I have three such dishes, mine will all be edible because food science has given me a modern edge, and each is unique in its theme. The Pine Cone Tofu will be a baked tofu shaped to look like a pine cone and covered in sweet spices, it is shaped to look like a pine cone before it releases its seeds in promise of new life. The Uji River is designed to resemble the mighty river in the thaws of spring and new beginnings, Udon noodles dyed blue will run along the caramel colored sauce with pieces of Nori carefully placed along the sides to represent the green hills. Lastly is my Blue Sea Soup, a chilled cold soup of fruit juice dyed blue and topped with fresh made whip cream waves (fish shaped mochi topped with red bean paste will be served on the side which go delightfully well with the tasty dessert). 

    These dishes will be something amazing to look at, and I eagerly look forward to sharing them with my guests. This whole feast experience has been amazing, and I want to thank you for following along with me thus far. I have one last post to write before the big day, on how people who eat the food to get the full experience, which will come out soon. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Preparations of a Feast Part 3

Couple of things before we get into the meat and potatoes of this post:

I recently did a redesign of my blog layout. I wanted it to be easier for everyone to read, I tagged similar posts so you could read specific posts and hopefully made this a better experience for you. Any feedback you have would be appreciated!
I did change my URL for this blog, so if you keep me bookmarked please update with the new URL above!

It’s still a work in progress, and I plan on doing more redesign work in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

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In my last post, one of the things I said I wanted to discuss was the flavor profiles of the food for this feast. The food here will be different than what most people with a Western palate are used to dining on, even more so for period food in the SCA. Japan, and other “Eastern” cultures in many extents, had a unique flavoring and seasoning palate for their food. For Japan, especially during the Edo Period, this style of cooking was already well settled into the cultural ideals and thus we have a fantastic view on not just how they viewed food but culture as well.

In French of English cooking, the use of spice and varied cooking techniques was designed to transform the food. Take the steak and vegetables, change the flavor with spice and styles of cooking, adjust and transform. All this is wonderful food, and I have cooked plenty Western styles of dish to a rousing success. But I can’t do that here...that’s not how it was done in Japan. In their style of cooking, the Japanese did not test their culinary art in how they could change the flavor of the dish but how they could accept and highlight the natural flavor of the ingredients and dish. This has been a challenge!



Take for example my Fresh Crane Soup. There are a number of challenges involved with this dish that I had to struggle with, and I want to use this as an example of Japanese flavor profiling. The Japanese viewed crane as a delicacy, something for the upper nobility, and thus this was a carefully crafted dish. The soups of Japan were more like broths, meant to prep the body for a meal and not to be a meal unto itself, so had light flavor and were served warm-to-hot to enhance the flavor. You boil and cook with natural complimenting ingredients so the flavor isn’t lost, and the soup is the lead in of another major dish. Had miso before? That’s another great example.

And thus the challenge begins. Crane is not something viable for me to get in bulk, so I had to substitute for duck (which one document I read says happened regularly as the the flavors were very close in taste). I had to unlearn everything I knew about making soup, just to perfect this dish. Instead of a chunky meal-type dish, I had to minimalize the amount of meat that would be in the soup without sacrificing flavor. To enhance I’m adding mushrooms and light spice to season, these will compliment the taste of the bird as well as enhance the flavor of the soup. I will serve is more on the warm side than the hot, to mellow a bit of the sharpness from one of the ingredients added as it blends best when warmed. The portions will be small, maybe 4/6oz of soup at MAX to not overindulge the flavor onto the guest. This way you are getting the natural, enhanced flavor of the soup expressed how it “should be”. This will be done for every dish.

That’s another thing I feel needs to be discussed with flavor, portion sizes. Along with the correct flavor, the correct AMOUNT of the flavor is also an important thing to take note on. In Western styles of cooking you would pile meats and sauces and vegetables high, you ate larger portions because there would be (on average) less dish options available. In this Japanese style each portion is carefully measured and weighed out to match not just the flavor but its place in the meal. My first course is SEVEN dishes, which means portion sizes will be small and gradually increase in small doses as the meal progresses. What that means is each guest will be given a 4/6oz portion of soup, 2/3 bites of pickle, 2 bird skewers, 3/4 chestnuts, one long and thick chopstick wrap of oolong noodle, etc. Each bite is carefully planned for so by the end of the meal the guest is comfortably full, each flavor is appreciated in kind and no one dish overpowers another. 

On my next post I will be discussing the illusion food aspect that I will attempt with each dish, how important it was to the dining experience and what you can expect to see at the event!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Preparations of a Feast Part 2

So in my last post we did a general overview of what is to be served at 30th year, today we discuss exactly what will be served. My menu for the event is thus:

Main Tray (Course 1)

Furesshukurēnsūpu 
(Fresh Crane soup)
Pikurusu
(Pickles)
Hakumai
(White Rice)
Kushi ni chīsana tori
(Small Birds on Skewers)
Ujigawa
(Uji River)
Kuri
(Chestnuts)
Painkōn tōfu
(Pine cone Tofu)

Second Tray (Course 2)

Fujisan no sarada
(Mt. Fuji salad)
Misoshiru
(Miso soup)
Sashimi
Jā-yaki sunaipu
(Grilled Snipe in Jars)
Edomaesushi

Third Tray (Course 3)

Mochigome
(Sweet rice)
Mikan to anto furūtsu
(Tangerines and Ant Fruit)
Burūshīsūpu
(Blue Sea Soup)

That sure does look like a lot of food, doesn’t it? A proper meal arranged like this does contain many dishes, but portion control is king in this style. One of the things to remember is that the primary eating utensil of the time was chopsticks, so each bite is designed to be properly sized for chopsticks. As well, each person can only eat so much food, and it was rude to snub a dish that was provided for you so culturally at least a bite was required. Over so many dishes, across such a wide variety of food, you would end up eating small amounts of each dish to be full in time for the end of the meal!

So when my guests sit down to dine at 30th year, they will not see mountains and piles of food on a plate but delicate and calculated portions. This is important for each of my guests to understand, so much so that I have created special cue cards for all my servers detailing not just things like ingredients/allergies but also portion sizes. Yes you may only be eating 2-3 pieces of sushi...but after already so much food will you really notice?

Another key detail is talking about some of the food itself. When a Western culture-raised individual thinks of a soup, perhaps you imagine hearty chunks of food and a creamy broth in a full bowl. You’re not wrong, and I’m hungry just thinking about it but that is not the Period Japanese style in terms of soup. A soup for them was light, sometimes savory or sweet, a deep rich broth filled with unique flavor. The soup was not a meal in itself, it was meant to be a part of a meal. With my Fresh Crane Soup for example, there will not be huge chunks of meat floating around to snag; it will be a delicate broth meant to add flavor, heighten anticipation for the next item and compliment the meal. 

Flavor profiles are something huge I also need to discuss, and will in my next post to more detail. Japanese valued a simple style in their art, and food was most definitely an art! You were meant to appreciate and admire the flavor of the white rice, the simple pleasure of melting tuna in edomaesushi, the crisp bite of eggplant or the rich soy flavor in a noodle. These are dishes not heavily spiced, or flavored to change the taste profile; these dishes were meant to be enjoyed as the flavor stood. Light seasoning to enhance the flavor will happen, and there is so much more I need to touch on this that i will on my next post.

In one last example, and another that I’m realizing needs a post all to itself, Japanese food of this period relied heavily on illusion and subtly. The art was not just in how it tastes, but how it looked. This is where things changed dramatically, yes the white rice was supposed to taste like rice but it was also supposed to be sculpted and shaped to look like a swan! Illusion food was such a commonplace that much of the text doesn’t even talk about how you should go out of your way to accomplish this; at the end it offhandedly talks about how you should make the food look. There are even dishes that are served that you are not required, or sometimes not even intended, to eat! The whole purpose of these dishes is to admire, reflect on what they mean to you and let their appearance and beauty enhance your eating experience. I have 3 such dishes in this feast alone; the Uji River, the Mt Fuji salad and the Blue Sea soup (all of which I will be discussing in detail in said next blog post).

What you can take away from this is that the food is going to be art, not just in visual style but in taste. It is my goal to preserve and enhance the natural flavors within each dish, to shape them to be visually pleasing and give my guests a unique dining experience they many not have had before in Trimaris. Portions will be small, but the whole meal will be filing with each bite.

Next time, I will dive deeper into the flavor profiles of my meals. Stay tuned!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Eulogy for Camp Ocala

Camp Ocala for me has been the foundation of my time in the SCA. Many sites have changed, but so far in my life there has only ever been one kingdom site. I find it fitting that at the last event I was able to cook in the kitchen and serve feast one last time, which made my weekend all the more sweet. I have a bunch of fond memories of this site, but there are two right now that I'd like to record for my own sake. I hope you enjoy this small trip with me down memory lane.

***

 My first kingdom event was TMT, Mideon and Rose were the crown at the time and my friend Ever had someone convinced me to call out of work for 3 days of the hottest weekend in the year to camp. I sat and watched my first crown Lyst that weekend, I fell in love with the contest and have tried to see every crown lyst I can ever since. I remember I sat under the An Crosaire pavilion, next to Ever and she told me a bit about each fighter. I later got up and helped her with waterbearing, which got me up close to the action.

At that first TMT, Ever had managed to get me into the retaining schedule. She and I had talked about it before hand and I thought it would be a great time, this was also the first time I would meet my now friend Kristin. She gave me a once over and asked if I wouldn't mind doing "party detail" for His Majesty that night. At the time I thought this was just dandy, because party detail seemed pretty simple. Inhad one major task beyond the usual retainer duties: make sure His Majeaty did not have an empty cup.

As we traveled to the first party, His Majesty requested a drink from the "bar" in his mug and I happily had the beverage poured. I did one of my favorite activities (people-watching) while keeping an eye on His Majesty and the mug. As the liquid got lower I started to eye all the bar and figure out how to refill the glass, but the King had other plans. He had tried a sip of the drink from another individual and changed his mind to wanting that. He asked that I fill his mug with the new drink, and I asked him where I should pour out the last of his old drink. He gave me a laugh and told me to just "kill it quick" and top him off, so I finished the last of the drink and refilled his mug.

Little did I know this would be the normal situation, and party detail quickly became a challenge as we both got more and more drunk into the night.

***

This was the first site that I took Sarah to,  when we started dating. I took her to MMM, another Crown Lyst, and we had a blast. Seeing the event through her eyes as she experienced it was a joy, and making sure she met Ever and all my other friends was vital. She helped set up a pavilion (Brenna and Kro's in fact), she began to scribe with Lana for the first time and we both got to bear water together while my friends Jake and Karou fenced under the big oak tree.

My favorite moment of that was late in the night, walking along the waterline and is sharing a kiss and some quiet time. The sounds of laughter, the smells of fire wafted, but for a few moments it was just the two of us. It was the first time that I really felt a lasting connection with Sarah, that maybe this relationship would be different from any other I had in the past.

***

I have so many wonderful memories from the site, and I'm sure I'll post more stories as I feel inspired. But these were two things that stood out to me today in reflection.



Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Reflections on a Feast - TMT 2015

AndBefore I begin, I want to emphasize to any of my readers that the purpose of this blog is for me. It is a place I can reflect on my experiences and share my works, but most importantly it is a place for me to be brutally honest about what I do so I can learn. It helps me to explore why things work or don't, and give me things to look back on.

For starters, this was a very rough feast for me.

I'm not saying this was a bad feast, in many ways it was a success. Food was good, plenty of noms for folks, the shtick was lovely and everyone dining had a great time. Most people never really saw the cracks in the foundation either, which is also a success. This feast, by many standards of measurement, was a success and thus was a good feast. But this doesn't make it smooth or less than rough.

1) Feast Planning - My first stumbling blocks were at the very beginning with my feast planning. Now I had plenty of work into this, many test feasts and culinary food runs helped me plan this one out months before. I had a good firm foundation of planning, but things distracted me towards the end. The stress and strain of my job, combined with the stress and strain that this began to put on my relationships, distracted me.

What this caused was me to make a quite dramatic mathematical error in planning my shopping. While shopping for dry goods it wasn't too obvious, but as the food numbers began to add up with the produce and meat I was suddenly made quite aware. This was a rocky start to my weekend, which I had to scramble to correct. It also became difficult because I had purchased many dry ingredients slowly over the weeks and in many ways I overbought on too much.

As well, in the hustle and bustle many small items got left. My feast box had many pieces missing that I forgot to account for, and some really vital equipment didn't make it to site. This made me have to shuffle around to deal with site equipment, and more often than not I did not have everything I needed to provide to my volunteers.

2) On Site Prep (Friday/Saturday) - Friday was a long day. Yes I completed every task I needed to, but I poorly scheduled out many items. I was so focused on accomplishing prep goals on Friday that i overloaded myself on tiny tasks to get done. There were several small things that I should had done earlier in the week to make my life easier (see previous mention of former job stress being a distraction) that instead I tried to cram into the event and clogged me quite a bit.

Another thing that really hurt me was injuring myself. Yes I have hurt myself before (and probably will in the future), but the severity of this injury shook my confidence and really wrecked me. I was being cocky, cutting too much too quickly, and took a nice chunk out of my pinky. It bled for 2 hours, the wound gaped open and by all rights I should have simply gotten stitches. But I didn't, on reflection a poor choice. This made me go a bit unhinged and took the wind out of my sails.

What I mean by this is that while I normally have a great confidence in my ability, after 2 hours of being stuck and bleeding I started to second guess everything I did. I got nervous, uncomfortable and unsure. Dishes I had been practicing for months I wanted to suddenly change, I was unsure of portion control. Thank the gods I had my Laurel and one of my best cooking friends in the kitchen for me, to sometimes even smack me around when I needed it.

When I get nervous and uncomfortable, I start to get very micromanagie. I want my hands on everything, to grab and hold it tight when I don't feel I'm in control. More times than not this weekend I was in total control, but because I did not feel it I caused nothing but issues. There were times Madhavi had to force me away from a thing, because I just didn't need to be involved in what was going on.

3) Clean-up/departure - With my original clean-up plans falling through several times, having grabbed someone to cover the food replacement plan was nice. I still had issues here, because now that nerves were over I wasn't as focused on clean-up as I should have been. I don't feel I was polite to my fellow Cook and I felt like I did not set her up for success as much as I'd like to. I tried to get my things out as early as I could muster, but I know I was still muchly in her way.

As far as food removal, I feel I was less than stellar. I know I grabbed my leftovers that I knew were staged, but I know for a fact I left dry goods by accident on site. I fear I may have left more, and hopefully a good beat down from Wolfmom will better help me correct myself in the future. 

I know that there is a lot of things I did well, a lot of kitchen wizardry I pulled from my hood to make some magic happen. The food tasted great, the portions worked and every guest had an amazing time. But I feel it's important to recognize not just my successes, but my mistakes. It's how I learn, it's how I grow as a person and an apprentice. 

Next post will be much more positive, as well as a discussion of my favorite moments. But for today, I acknowledge my mistakes and am happy to have the learning experience.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Preparations of a Feast - Part 1

Coming up this Labor Day weekend will be my third, and most ambitious, kingdom feast yet. I am doing a period Early Edo feast, inspired by the feast the Emperor of Japan hosted to celebrate the second Shogun of the Edo Period. There are so many facets to this feast that I need to discuss, not just the food but the culture around the food, and my Laurel found the best way to do this would be a series of blogs. She is right, as per normal on things, so I'm starting a multi-part discussion on my feast and my process.

I wanna start this off by discussing Japan as a culture, how it got to this point and what we can glean from the food. One of the things I find fascinating is I can learn so much from a culture based on what/how they eat! In studying the food and meal preparation of this feast I have learned a great deal about Japanese culture and I feel enriched like never before.

The first thing to understanding this feast was for me to wrap my head around the time period this took place. This is just after the end of the greatest Japanese civil war, the Sengoku Jidai or Waring States Period. It was a time of great strife that lasted decades, with clans rising and falling and the whole social structure receiving a massive overhaul by the end going into the Edo period. What we know from that time is that with life in so much turmoil for the populous, many traditions were held tightly to the chest and ritual habits of everyday life became sacred and gained great importance. People NEEDED some stability in their lives, it's a human trait, and that's evidenced by many of the cultural shifts and changes. This also applies to their food.

Beginning in what in Europe would be referred to as the 14th century, the Honzen-ryōri (I'll use just Hozen for short) is a style of meal designed to structure and organize the new warrior culture that arose in the period just before the Waring States. The meal would organize and "tame" the new samurai class of nobility, and into the Edo period this would become THE meal of the nobility. The traditional Honzen would begin with 3 rounds of drinks, and be followed with three round last of food with 7/5/3 courses going down. 

Looking at the typical portions and type of food for the Hozen also reflects aspects of the culture. Nothing on the trays were larger than what a pair of chopsticks could reasonably hold, the soup was mostly thin to allow ease of sipping and almost every dish had an illusion or imagery attached. Ingredients were vegetable, rice (a staple), noodles, fish/marine life and water fowel. Sauces were few and far between, and most food was eaten "fresh" in some form or fashion. 




Knowing this, what can I gleam from the culture based on the food? Their main source of protein being fish, we can see that the Japanese culture will focus heavily on water and will have many myths/cultural stigma involved in such. Fishermen will be well respected, and you can imagine that there is predominately fresh food served to everyone. With each bite of food no larger than what chopsticks can reasonably hold, eating to excess or with great gutso is not a thing easily done. The Japanese developed a cultural stigma with shoveling food, and the Hozen has strict rules on how much to eat of each course before you move onto the next. The lack of sauces imply that the culture honors purity, enjoying and relishing the pure taste of the dish instead of an altered flavor profile. This again is evidence in Japanese culture, an almost isolationism that promotes Japan over all. Fresh food being served regularly is a sign of this purity as well. The over use of illusion food, of artistic presentation being almost more important to amount/quality of the food highlights a culture striving for high arts and trying to separate itself from what it may feel are barbaric roots.

Studying the food nets the same result as studying the culture, a proud people who strove for ideological purity especially after decades of devastating war. A culture which clung to the ideals of its society, and while very expressive in the medium given is rather isolated from much influence at this time. This is a culture that honors art, and struggles to find its humanity admits the warrior struggles of the noble class. This is a people who want to be better, but on their own terms.

Next time, we will discuss more specifically what food will be served, some of its history in Japanese culture and tackling several Japanese food myths.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

War Journal of Christopher Köch Day 9

This last entry has taken several days to pen, as I rest from my wounds and try to adjust my mind from the mindset of war to the mindset of peace. It is a difficult adjustment, having been on campaign so long and experienced so much in a short time. I am changed because of it, for the better I feel but only time will tell.

What would become our last day of the campaign began far earlier than most of us would have liked. There was great feasting and drinking the night before, celebrating our retaking of the fortrss from the Ansteorran forces, and many of us awoke roughly that day still feeling thepounding  of the wine and beer. Our King commanded us to muster however, so muster we did. It was time to push the remainder of our enemy forces from the land and free it from the grip of the Black Star, and a great offensive of the entire army would occur. I armored up, tried to ignore my pounding head and fell into ranks with my fellow soldiers.

We met at the edge of the ravine, circling around the Ansteorran forces to cut off their escape. Our numbers were mighty and our blades freshly sharpened, but even the experienced fighters amongst us were not prepared for the sight across the way. Barely numbering a third of our forces, the remaining soldiers and allies of Ansteorra could see the writing on the wall and knew that this day would be their last. In the face of such bravery and acceptance of fate, but refusal to yeild, my heart was moved at the display. I felt pity for what our King asked us to do, and looked around and saw a similar look on many in the allied army. So moved, the generals of the Northshield and East armies approached our own and proclaimed that they could not allow these brave men to stand alone. Our general, tied by loyalty to our crown, could not let the Ansteorran forces pass without engagement but allowed out allies to fight for honor and chivalry against us for he too was moved by the Ansteorran display. Hands were clasped and patches of brotherhood sworn, and I stood by and watched as our noble allies offered their own lives to help the brave soldiers leave.

Soon, the most grueling and painful battle of my life began. Our forces poured into the ravine, determined to cut off the advance and escape of our foes, and the Ansteorran forces met us with the ferocity  of a cornered lion. Time and time again we crashed upon their advancing line, and all of our best efforts could not do more than slow down their escape. For every man that died two more took his place in a bid for freedom, and as the hour passed on they pushed and fought through our defenses. Seeing that they would fight to the last, and not wanting to risk any more Trimarian dead, our general called a halt to our battle and allowed them to pass. Will this come back and hurt us in the future, only God will know.

Wounded, I struggled back to camp before collapsing in our wagon. My wounds were tended to, I was redressed and soon rather sleepily we pulled away from the campaign. Our King had declared an end to combat and hostilities in the sake of peace talks, and with myself and Alexander the Plump wounded and exhausted from a week of fighting we took to the long trail back to Trimarian lands. I lay half asleep as the ladies around us spoke of adventures and shared stories, and I was lulled to sleep by the gentle embrace of my own loving wife.

Over the last few days I've had time to reflect on this campaign i undertook, and all that it means. This is not the first war I've traveled alongside, but it was my first fighting war. I will remember those I stood beside, and those who stood for me. I will remember all the new experiences and hold them close to my heart. Combat...satisfied something deep inside. My soul yearns for my art, my heart takes joy at my service, but there was something carnal and truly physical in pleasure to be fighting for my King. It will push me to become better, train harder so I can better satisfy my own needs. 

Until then, I am back to work. My wagon is in need of repair, my kitchen work calls to me and my heart yearns for the quiet solace of art.

But I will not forget the sounds and sights of war anytime soon.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

War Journal of Christopher Köch Day 8

Today has been a day of great triumph for Trimaris, and a day worthy of praise! Vivat!

My lady wife went to continue her study of glass work, I feel that I may soon have a new craft for her to entertain herself with in our humble home. I don't mind, I enjoy beading and am happy to have the opportunity to play with it myself, so I went to study various coffees before the great battles of the day. Some light shopping with Lady Kolfinna followed by a brief construction project to help a fellow Trimarian. I heard the drums of war ringing out and quickly moved to the ridge to watch the battles begin.

Trimaris, fueled by the knighting of Syr Cherish and love of our Queen and King charged towards the Ansteorran bridge. The enemy, normally fearless, in the face of such a charge began to tremble at the sound of our fury. The Trimarian forces crashed upon the Ansteorran shields like waves upon the shore, and eroded the defenses of our foes with the same lethal efficiency of the sea water to the sand. Our fighters pushed hard and fast, and in just a few short hours we had claimed the bridge. The rapier fighters were ordered to guard the bridge and ravine incase of escaping Ansteorran forces, and rotating guard shifts have been ordered by the Generals.

A brief rest was ordered by the King for the army before the next battle. The next one was a huge battle for us, the fortress was an ancestral building for our kingdom which had been stolen from us by the Ansteorrans and claimed as their own. It is our house, and we would reclaim it. The sun was high in the air as our siege of the castle began. Batista fired, archers shot with perfection and the Trimarian war machine slammed into the gates. The Ansteorran forces had the advantage by defending the sturdy gates, but in the end their forces were not prepared. We claimed the fortress, but then the remainder of te Ansteorran army arrived. The army which had beaten us at the field had made the long travel around the bridge to attack us just as we claimed the fortress. Ballista fired now on us, and our men had to face the fury of an angry army. We fought for hours, holding our gates and in the end there was only one option; victory. The Ansteorran forces yielded the fortrss to ourselves, opting to save lives instead of senselessly throw them at our unyielding shield walls. We reclaim the fortress, vivat!

Tonight a grand celebration for all the Knowne World is planned, to proclaim the triumph of our Caesar and our Trimarian forces. There will be drinking and merry-making, and I hope to find myself well into cups. Tomorrow will be another day of war and God willing it will be our last.

Friday, March 20, 2015

War Journal of Christopher Köch Day 7

The fighting was fierce today on every field, and yet we continue on with this seemingly endless campaign. When Ansteorra will finally yield is unknown, but it is known that Trimaris will fight every day for every inch. Vivat!

Once again I awoke in the embrace of my wife and to the smell of camp fire and smoking meats in the air. If there is a better way to awaken, I have yet to find it. 

As an aside, I neglected to finish this entry before I went celebrating our victories with my companions so the beer prevented me from writing on time. My apologies.

My duties were to one of my dear friends, an Italian name I have trouble pronouncing but we have nicknamed Crissy, who needed assistance throwing a luncheon for our Pharaoh. It was a great delight to cook for friends, as always, though I did have a small mishap with the fire. Due to wind and poor kindling collections I was unable to start a flame to grill the meats needed, thank goodness the caravan hailing from the Middle East had set down and started a fire pit earlier that week. I bartered my service to the men of Al Mahala and was able to collect a pot of coals to rush back and ignite my own fire with. The rest of the luncheon went off smoothly as each of the various kingdoms hosted a champions tournament for sport.

Before long, word was given that the army was to muster. The Knights would take the field and those of us wielding rapier would sweep the remains of Ansteorra from the town once and for all. The Ansteorran forces did outnumber us as many Knights left to fight with our King, but we held true. Our generals led us as one strike force, focused and determined to shatter the black star foes before us; and shatter them we did. We forced the enemy to abandon the town and freed them. We followed orders and post haste made to guard the ravine for our King.

Our Knights has a greater challenge ahead, to fully remove the Ansteorran forces from the outlaying fields. Our King led our forces valiantly, and two passes through the field saw us victorious. As we prepared for a third pass we saw that the Ansteorran forces had increased in size as well as added siege engines. Our King, seeing that his men's lives were now in danger, brought out our secret weapon; a siege device called a tank. The King of Northshield had made friends with an inventor named Da Vinci, and had commissioned a siege weapon of great power. This moveable take could fire great cannonballs over long distance, and was so shielded only the greatest of trebuchet could smash it. As it rolled onto the field the Black Star trembled in fear, and it wrecked through their lines. It was not enough however, and King Kurn saw that the risk to Trimarian lives was greater than ever. Unwilling to risk any more of his men, Kurn commanded the army to retreat and yeild the field to the Ansterorrans. The army pulled back to the bridge, now penned in both sides but ready to fight the next day.

The King wanted to raise the spirits of his army, so he and Pharaoh held a great court for the Trimarian army. Many awards were given, words of praise offered and soon the spirit of every Trimarian was elevated. Of special note is my good friend Crissy, who for her long term service to the crown and our kingdom was awarded a Court Barony from the King himself. Not a dry eye in the seats was able to be seen and it was a wonderful end of our day. 

Tonight there are many parties and celebrations springing up around the campaign field, and I will be joining them. Tomorrow the battle for the fortress begins and we will reclaim our house

Thursday, March 19, 2015

War Journal of Christopher Köch Day 6

I live to face another day, and another day of War has come upon us.

Last evening I upset both my sister and wife, this led to me volunteering for a guard duty shift to appease them and calm their fury. I sadly spent most of my morning guarding the edges of our encampment, bored and left swinging my legs as the hours rocked by. Once my shift was complete I dashed away, to prepare for the days battle. On my way to my camp I ran into Lady Kolfinna who was in quite a state.

Her Majesty, our Pharaoh, had gone missing. There was no sight of her, and as Lady Kolfinna was supposed to watch her next to escort her through the merchants and guard her there was obvious concern. We searched high and low over the entire camp and town, unable to locate her. It seems she was as quick-footed as they say and had slipped us durin the day in her own private game of hide-and-seek. Much relief was had when she was finally located and I was able to prepare for battle.

The Knights and archers took to the ravine, to avenge our fallen comrades and clear the Ansteorran forces from the location. The battle was a rousing success, with Trimaris able to push them out of the ravine and back towards the field to gather their forces and lick their wounds. Of special note were our Atlantian allies who held a defensive position and refused to yield the floor to te enemy. The Trimarian forces pushed the Ansteorran forces out of the ravine and back onto the field before the town itself.

Soon after, I received the orders to marshal onto the field and prepare to engage the Ansteorran forces. I was nervous and scared I will admit, this was my first true battle and my fellow men at arms to my left and right depended on me. I was blessed that in our first pass on the field I had Jarl Ari by my side, his courage and calm was infectious in the times of stress. Finally our general called for a forward march, and the bloodshed began.

The Trimarian force had a simple stance: hold the center ground and do not die. Our allies on our flanks were to crush in on the left and the right, and we the anvil would be te surface ok which we broke them. I was scared, but as soon as our enemies were before us I had a sudden rush of purpose. I knew what I had to do, not die and hold this spot, and by God I would do just that. I parryed and blocked, defended my allies and even managed to kill two Ansteorrans. I was wounded, and lost use temporarily of my right arm from the pain, but I battled on and did not yield the ground. Three passes the enemy made at us, and in all three we captured them on our anvil and shattered them. We held the field that day, and I have never felt so alive.

I have heard that some of the Ansteorran forces have tried to retake the town while our forces were harried outside it. We will lead the charge in to retake it, while the bulk of the Trimarian forces finish off the Ansteorrans on the field.

My day after that was tiring but fantastic. I have eaten much, drank much, eaten much and danced till my feet hurt. Goodnight world, my life has gone amazing and I hope that it continues. I am well into my cups, thanks to a fantastic celebration of our victories. Vivat!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

War Journal of Christopher Köch Day 5

The war has begun, and the blood flows. Alliances are declared and the first battle has occurred. Vivat!

The dawn broke with the sound of sweet birds and the smell of bacon and eggs on the air. All of Trimaris rose early to march with our King and Queen, I found myself helping to fill in gaps with their Highnesses retainer entourage which was a delight. Their Highnesses were given special mounts, noble steady which had been trained to walk next to each other, so they could hold hands as they helped lead the army. It was incredibly sweet to see such an open display of affection.

The armies assembled and awaited the word of our King. The sovereign crowns of Gleann Abhann and Meridies both pleaded with the assembled armies and Kings of Trimaris and Ansteorra, asking if there was no chance for peace. Our King, ever gracious and noble of stature, said it was a simple matter for peace and he would happily command his armies to stand down if but the King of Ansteorra would show a measure of respect and friendship to his majesty King Kurn. King Lochlan, sovereign ruler of Ansteorra, took a moment to stop and think on the offer. Many present were hopeful that bloodshed could be forgone, but then King Lochlan gave King Kurn a gesture most rude and unwelcoming to our beloved King. "Let there be war" King Lochlan cried and the armies rattled sword and shield in anticipation.

Before battle could begin, the gathered nobility from around the Knowne World chose sides in the coming fight. Allies were drawn and both sides of the conflict gathered warriors to fight for them. Siding with Ansteorra are the kingdoms of An Tir, Avacal, Calontir, Caid, Atenveldt and Gleann Abhann. Siding with Trimaris are the kingdoms of Middle, West, East, Aethelmearc, Atlantia, East, Meridies and lastly Northshield.

Of Northshield is a special note, as they had made a special request of our King to secure their alliance. They required the aid of our most fearsome fighter to train their troops and wear their colors to is pure their men. Jarl Ari was that man, one of our generals, and with the stroke of a pen and the good nature (and willingness) of Jarl Ari for the duration of the war he fights in the name of Northshield. His wife was rather fond of this contract, as it gives a clause to her allowing her to ignore any grievance her husband may give.

With the announcement of war and the declaration of allies, the armies began their formations. I myself took time in the town to enjoy a wonderful hands-on experience with vinegars and German sword styles, before retiring to the Green Dragon for a pint. As I rested, war began. The drums beat and horses charged as our brave warriors marched to battle. Our war command made the choice to split the army and make separate pushes.

For those not familiar with the lay of the land, in the center of the fortrss. Leading to the fortress is a great bridge spanning a deep ravine, and on the other side of the bridge is a splendid town. A great field leads to the town where many of the armies camp. His Majesty made the call to send the army straight into the town to catch the forces of Ansteorra by surprise, while sending our archers around to try and sneak through the ravine to surprise the fortress. War was met by both forces with varying levels of success.

The archers, small in number but skilled in battle, snuck past the fortress in the rush of battle to make a break for the ravine. We were met by the guards of the bridge itself, Ansteorra had foreseen such a maneuver and placed their own arches the n the other side of the ravine. Battle was fierce and long; while the heart of Trimaris was strong and we would have fought to the last man, our general made the wise choice to pull our remaining archers back to rejoin the rest of the army. The Ansteorran archers held the day, but they bled three for every one Trimarian. 

Meanwhile, our armies laid siege to the town. Trimaris and her forces were mighty and valiant, swiftly striking and scattering the opposing army. Our strength was so great they could not even recover, we had several legions stand down and rest yet still we struck true. Once we had forced the enemy from the town, they rallied to try and retake it from our grasp. This went as well as their earlier defense, they fought hard but did not have the strength. Our heart was fierce and our spirit strong, at the end of the day we held the town and forced the Ansteorran forces split between the field and north towards the bride and ravine. When our King heard of the bloody battle in the ravine he vowed revenge and began to prepare our knights for a battle to avenge our archers. 

While the knights and their squires fought within the town, many of the rapier fighters (myself included) decided to enjoy the sweet tunes and cold drinks of the Green Dragon. As the war began in earnest outside our doors, all manner of thieves and ruffians found shelter within the tavern walls. Things turned into an outright brawl as the thieves began to pilfer from our forces and the tavern itself. We subdued the thieves, but as soon as we finished the last thief off the guards managed to arrive. They saw the litter of thieves on the floor and the blood on our swords, then decided we were at fault. We fought off the guards and made our escape from the Green Dragon to rejoin the victorious Trimarian army.

I rest tonight with family, enjoying a small
measure of camp work with many talks of fun and laughter. There is a small echo of worry, will this be the last time we all drink together? Will war claim one of us? We drink and toast, poke fun but always worry that tomrrow may be the last. Tomorrow, our generals will marshal our rapier fighters to chase the Ansteorran forces onto the field where we will engage half the forces separated. 

This may be my last writing, for I may die tomorrow in my first battle at war. Pray to God and all the saints that Trimaris is kept safe.