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.

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.

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,


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 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.