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Eden

eG Foodblog: Eden - Italian Renaissance Banquet in Seattle

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150 diners,

25 dishes spread across 6 courses,

20 odd volunteer cooks of varying skill levels

Two ferrets

One amazingly patient husband

Almost certainly some nice rainy Seattle weather

And me...

To introduce myself a little, I'm a researcher of Food History, with a focus on medieval Italian food. In addition to poring through books and translating recipes from medieval Italian, I enjoy actually cooking from historical recipes, and a couple times a year I get together with a local food history group to put on a large banquet cooked from historical recipes that we've reconstructed into modern tasty dishes.

This coming Saturday we'll be cooking an Italian Renaissance dinner for about 150 people. Yours truly did the research on this & with my compatriots we've spent most of the last year trying & refining different recipes till I whittled them down to a six course menu of about 25 dishes. This is all a volunteer labor of love which means that things can get a little crazy since you don't have the power of the paycheck over your assistants, but it also means that people will give you 200% if they believe in the project...

I'll be taking you along through the week as we do our last minute firming up of numbers, shopping, panicking, pre-prepping and of course cooking on the day of the banquet itself.

And don't worry, there will also be visits to various Seattle eateries since I'm doing so much work for the event, I won't be too keen on much home cooking this week. We have reservations at Rovers for lunch on Friday, which I'm really looking forward to, drinks with a friend at Sambar Monday evening, and everything else will be decided in the moment depending on where around town I happen to be when hunger strikes...

Oh, and there will be at least one gratuitous ferret posting, since my primary purpose in life is actually to serve the royal whims of Bindi & Venya, the two small furry princesses who rule the universe :laugh:

That's enough to start since I really ought to be in bed by now anyway (we just finished roasting 25 lbs of carrots, candying a giant bag o' pine nuts, and baking 300 cookies.)

Talk to you all in the morning,

Eden

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This sounds very exciting and a huge amount of effort. Good Luck.

Is there any specific part of the Italian Renaissance that you are focussing on and what sources are you using?

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Fantastic!! You're working on a project that is very close to my heart. I wish I could be there to volunteer.

In bocca da lupo!

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This sounds like great fun! I wish I were there to dust off my recorder and play some Renaissance music. Will there be any musicians at the banquet?

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This should be an interesting journey. How did you develop your interest in Italian Renaissance cooking?

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Lovely. This will be a wonderful glimpse into a time and place only heard of. We knew it would be a banquet of some sort, but this is just the best. It will further serve to unwhack my chronology, as we spent yesterday at Feast of the Hunter's Moon, back in 1770's Indiana, when life was HARD, and cooking was NO FUN at all. A knife and a big black pot, if you were lucky, right out there on the ground, with a smoky fire and smothery clothes.

Will you dress as chef/serving wench, or as ladyhostess in all her finery? And will you be in the kitchen for the duration, or out at table with your guests?

The sweet memories of Rosie and Tillie, our two ferrets, bless you for sharing your own.


Edited by racheld (log)

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This is going to be really interesting! Glad you are blogging Eden!

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Aha!

Eden, since your audience includes a number of seriously interested readers (there's a Bartolomeo Scappi freak :wink: reading as I type), it would be great were you to tell us what sources you are using once you begin to introduce your menu and dishes.

Explaining how you went about orchestrating the courses and updating recipes would be interesting, too...as much as it is reasonable to ask you to provide, that is. I understand this is a very busy week.

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I can't really add anything to what everyone else who's salivating over the upcoming installments has said already, except:

I assume that the period authenticity here does not extend to the clothing you and your guests will wear or the setting for the feast, but that it will extend to the music chosen to entertain the assembled guests, if not necessarily the technology used to deliver it.

Looking forward to reading about the runup to what looks like will be a Lucullan feast.

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Good Morning all,

for those who missed the preview thread, here's my "inspiration shot"

gallery_28660_3710_1626.jpg

Not that our banquet will look like this, but it's nice to dream.

Big kudos to Pontormo, apparently a resident art scholar for identifying the painting:

the final of four spalliere panels that recount the story of Nastagio degli Onesti from The Decameron. The moralizing tale advises women to give in to the desires of suitors lest they spend all of eternity chased naked by hounds until, exhausted, their hearts are torn out of their bodies, alive. Botticelli's workshop produced the cycle for a wedding that tied the Pucci & Bini families in the late 15th century, most likely arranged by Lorenzo de Medici.
You really have to love the Decameron :laugh:
This sounds very exciting and a huge amount of effort. Good Luck.

Is there any specific part of the Italian Renaissance that you are focussing on and what sources are you using?

The banquet will be arranged in two sections: three courses from the 15th century, and three courses from the 16th century. (Pan there will be music and dancing during the pause between these two sections, as well as "boxed" music in the background throughout)

I should just admit right upfront, when it comes to food history, I'm a big geek. I'd been thinking about doing a small Italian Renaissance banquet for a while now, and had a lot of fun recipes from the 15th through the 17th centuries that I was looking at, but every time I tried to put them together into a menu in my head, it bugged me, because they just don't belong together. I don't like my foods to touch :laugh: And that's when I went insane and I decided I wanted to serve two meals at once, one from the 15th century and the other from the 16th century with no "cross contamination" and the base idea of my current menu was born.

Fantastic!! You're working on a project that is very close to my heart. I wish I could be there to volunteer.

In bocca da lupo!

Thanks, you would be very welcome in our kitchen.

Crepe il lupo!

For those who don't speak italian, "in bocca al lupo" their equivalent of "Break a leg" means literally "in the mouth of the wolf", to which one replies "let the wolf die!" :laugh:

I'm going to go see if Bill is awake and can find me a USB port for the camera, and then you can see my idea of breakfast (neither traditional, nor historical :biggrin: )

I'll get to more questions in a bit.

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How exciting! My exposure to 16th century Italian food is limited to what I read in Peter Elbling's The Food Taster, so I know I will learn a lot this week. :smile:

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Fabulous, Eden! You know we'll all be hanging on your every word, and if you need an extra hand in the kitchen, just give a shout. I can certainly testify to the "amazingly patient husband) part!

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Apparently Hathor's technical difficulties were contagious, since we're now having problems with photos as well. (Bill is working on this, so hopefully this afternoon things will be all better!)

Breakfast wasn't that photogenic anyway...

edited to add photo belatedly:

gallery_28660_3710_183673.jpg

Leftover lamb Saag and basmati rice are beautiful on the palate, but not necessarily on the plate. Yes, I eat Indian food for breakfast. Bill is a 'grains with milk' boy and thinks I'm crazy, but anytime we go out for Indian food we have to bring home lamb saag, so I can have it for breakfast over the next few days. I do like traditional breakfast foods of the eggy protein heavy variety, but if I can have a rich spicy curry, that's just the best way to start my morning. :rolleyes:

This should be an interesting journey. How did you develop your interest in Italian Renaissance cooking?

I'd done a fair amount of reading and cooking from medieval and renaissance cooking sources that were already vailable in English over the years (primarily French and English recipes) but I started doing my own translating and more indepth research after my first trip to Italy back in '95. One of my fellow travellers (who studies 15th c. italian food) bought a book of about 600 years worth of historical italian recipes, several of us started poring through it & discovered that with the variuos language skills among us (French, spanish, beginning italian) we could do rudimentary translations of the recipes. From there I got hooked...

I have to run out & do some errands, I will post about the menu * it's sources this afternoon.


Edited by Eden (log)

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I'm looking forward to this. Thankyou for taking on a blog.

We did a "Roman Feast" in Jr High. The adapations required were not extensive as we stuck to simple preparations. I hope you comment on adaptations you had to make to recipes, as you go along.

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Finally back at my desk, with photos working, and the adrenalin slowily leaving my system. (One of the ferrets was very sick this afternoon, she seems better now, but if there's major radio silence over the rest of the day you can assume I had to run to the Vet...)

Techinically since it was around 1ish, this would have te be my Lunch:

gallery_28660_3710_228606.jpg

Espresso milkshake from B&O espresso - this thing has enough sugar & coffee to shoot me to the moon :blink:

While I was out I stopped by PFI to pick up a couple of things for the banquet. PFI is one of those stores where you always find something you werent' expecting. Today it was boucherondin

gallery_28660_3710_164181.jpg

This is one of my favorite cheeses, it's fairly light chevre with a really buttery, not uber goaty flavor.

The wine in the background is Viina Borgia, purchased for the banquet. (the event planners wanted to do some goofing around with poisoning since we're doing an Italian Rennaisance theme, and I said that was fine as long as it didn't touch on the food, hence the wine...)

Here's the boucherondin as part of my real lunch:

gallery_28660_3710_145016.jpg

The tomato came from the Ballard farmer's market, and was very sweet, almost plum-like, perfect with just a little salt sprinkled over it. The crackers are just "mystery crackers" leftover from a party, they have a nice oaty flavor to them I like.

And here's what it looked like outside when I came home this afternoon. gallery_28660_3710_70276.jpg

Early Fall in Seattle is really beautiful.

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I'd really like to offer up my services as well... even getting to see this banquet will be such a treat :). Really looking forward to the rest of this blog ...

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Eden, since your audience includes a number of seriously interested readers (there's a Bartolomeo Scappi freak :wink:  reading as I type), it would be great were you to tell us what sources you are using once you begin to introduce your menu and dishes.

Explaining how you went about orchestrating the courses and updating recipes would be interesting, too...as much as it is reasonable to ask you to provide, that is.  I understand this is a very busy week.

OK for the food history geeks, my sources for the 15th century course are De Honesta Voluptate by Bartolomeo Sacchi, aka Platina and Libro de Arte Coqinaria by Maestro Martino, (including the Cuoco Napoletano translated by Terrence Scully)

For the 16th century course, I pulled from the above mentioned, and fabulous, Bartolomeo Scappi's Opera , the Libro Novo by Christoforo da Messisbugo, the cookbook of Suor Maria Vittora della Verde, a 16th century Nun (as transcribed by Giovanna Cassagrande) and Domenico Romoli's La Singolar Dottrina .

Very little from this later era has been translated into English thus far, though I hear that a Scully translation of Scappi is in the pipeline (yay!)

next the menu...

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I'd really like to offer up my services as well... even getting to see this banquet will be such a treat :). Really looking forward to the rest of this blog ...

Since I'm from the diagonaly opposite corner of the country, I can't see how my help could be of any use, but dear HEAVEN, I'd love to be there! :biggrin:

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Here's the menu the guests will receive.

(the recipe titles are given first in the original Latin or early Italian, so readers of modern Italian may find them a little odd to read...)

Primo Servizio: The first half of the menu is primarily from the writings of Platina - a 15th c. humanist whose book "on right pleasure, and good health" combines recipes with commentary on the humoral (nutritional) properties of food as well as the order in which dishes should be served.

First course:

Bellaria - Ginger Candied Pine nuts

Fructus - Fresh fruit of the season

Panis - Fine white bread

Torta cucurbitina - Savory cheese and gourd Pie

Olea conditum - olives

Persica cum aceto - Pickled peaches with fresh savory

"taken as a first course they [peaches] stimulate the appetite" -Platina

Second course:

Pullus assum cum salsam - Roast chicken with three sauces

Salsa narantia - Sweet Orange Cinnamon sauce

Aliato - White garlic sauce

Ius herbaceis - Lombard green sauce

Tagliarini - Genoese pasta with arugula pesto

(Pennette pasta dressed with cheese, Arugula and saffron)

Phasellum - beans sauteed with onion & saffron

"After eating beans it is necessary that one drink some pure wine" -Platina

Third course:

Torta Alba - White Ginger Cheesecake

(made with ricotta, mozzarella and 3 types of ginger)

decorated with hand made candied rose petals

Confectione - Confits

(silver candied fennel seeds and sweet quince paste)

Caseo Vetus - Aged Cheese

"Eaten at the end of the meal, a small amount [of aged cheese] has the virtue of sealing the stomach and takes away the bad effects of rich food" -Platina

Intermezzo: There will be a short pause for entertainment and to allow you to move about the hall, and visit with friends and neighbors.

"Besides the most delicate viands and precious wines, there were all those pleasures and amusements that are suited to the season, the guests, and the feast." - Priscianese

Secondo Servizio: The second half of the menu is from the more opulent 16th century. It is comprised of dishes from various later sources, arranged in the order they would have been served, according to contemporary menus, and commentary.

Fourth course:

Uve zuccherate - Frosted grapes

Una vivanda di riso alla lombarda - Lombard Rice withpullets & sausage

(a rich rice casserole with cheese, chicken & salami)

Cavolfiore all'arancia amara - Cauliflower in Sour Orange sauce

(Cauliflower salad with orange vinaigrette)

Carotte sotto la bragia - Roasted carrot salad.

"The opening dishes of banquets are arranged from these with skill: the salads either of lettuce or of mixed greens, or of carrots...or of other similar things." -Garzoni

Fifth course

Per stufare il lombo del boue - Beef Loin braised in wine with dried cherries and prosciutto

Cipolle in Tiella - Crispy fried pearl onions

Pagnottine - small bread rolls

Caciofali bonissimi - roasted baby artichokes with rosemary

" The artichoke is a fruit noted by everyone; and they are very good when they are young and fresh" -Cervio

Sixth and final course

Torta con diverse materie, da Napoletani detta pizza - Sweet Tart called "Pizza"

(a sweet custard tart with pureed dried fruits & nuts)

Biscottini con mondole - Sweet almond cookies with anise

Confetti - Candied almonds

Frutte stagionale - seasonal fresh fruit

"the making of cakes and the serving of fruit after meals all came from Florence" -Aretino

"Spring is for looking, Autumn for tasting" -Castelvetro

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Leftover lamb Saag and basmati rice are beautiful on the palate, but not necessarily on the plate.  Yes, I eat Indian food for breakfast.  Bill is a 'grains with milk' boy and thinks I'm crazy, but anytime we go out for Indian food we have to bring home lamb saag, so I can have it for breakfast over the next few days.  I do like traditional breakfast foods of the eggy protein heavy variety, but if I can have a rich spicy curry, that's just the best way to start my morning.  :rolleyes:

Lamb saag for breakfast sounds great. I have never understood why most folks prefer certain foods at particular times of day. I’ll be having leftover chicken and potato curry for breakfast tomorrow.

I know nothing about medieval and renaissance cooking, so I’m looking forward to learning. Can one assume that more is known about the foods of the aristocracy? Has any information survived about what the common folks ate?

Best wishes for the ferrets, too.

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I assume that the period authenticity here does not extend to the clothing you and your guests will wear or the setting for the feast, but that it will extend to the music chosen to entertain the assembled guests, if not necessarily the technology used to deliver it.

Looking forward to reading about the runup to what looks like will be a Lucullan feast.

Actually, the menu above would be considered very tame by Italian Renn. standards. It may have 6 courses, but it has only 25 dishes total. Acceptable for a simple dinner, but certainly not for a really extravagant occasion. The afore-mentioned Scappi has a menu for an October lunch comprised of over 150 dfferent dishes. :blink: Of course his guests didn't expect to get a taste of every dish, just the ones placed near them, so he had it easier in that respect...

The dinner we're cooking is for a local history club, so yes all the guests will be in historic costumes of one kind or another, though not all from the same time/place as the banquet. The cooks are expected to wear costumes as well, so that if they need to run out into the hall they won't mess with the ambiance (Pain in the a--).

The hall is a fairly neutral space which will get banners & fabrics draped about to make it look nicer, but it's certainly never going to look like a renaissance palazzo... What's really important is that it has God's own kitchen :biggrin: two commercial stoves with ovens, two regular home stoves with oven, and tons and tons of counter space for us to work on.

This is just the main stove area:

gallery_28660_3710_124379.jpg

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E magnifico, that menu. It's so ambitious, so "modern" so ... long. That's just crazy -- the length and breadth of it! I want to taste it all -- the gourd and cheese pie sounds like something I should be baking right now, in the most beautiful Illinois October of recent memory.

When you have time, enter some (or all) of your recipes in RecipeGullet, per favore.

I'm in the savory breakfast camp myself, and regularly gross out my doughnut-fancying co-workers by gnawing a couple of leftover fried chicken legs or a dish of reheated chili for breakfast.

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I have to say that people amaze me. The absolute drop-dead deadline for tickets was October 3rd, and of course pre-registration was absolutely required for the dinner, so that we'd know how much food to buy etc. This was published multiple times in many many places, and yet the event coordinators got a call today from someone, who we have good reason to beleive knew they were coming to the event for a while now, but somehow misssed all that & wants to know if we can fit in several more people :blink:

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Amazing menu, Eden. Could you perhaps tell us more about how you interpreted these dishes for the modern palate...or are you making them as they were written?

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