The Hitchhiker's Guide to Ancient Cookery

with your host
Alexandre Lerot d'Avigné
(Number 13 in the Series, mid-March 1998)

The time is rapidly approaching for the feast itself. In the past few articles, I went over the menu and recipes, now it's time to get down to the nitty-gritty of quantities and how best to prepare the food.

The menu, as you recall is:
To Make Spinage-Broth (Digbie pg. 123) (Vegetarian)
Tart on Ember-Day (Ancient Cookery, 356) (Vegetarian)
To Stew A Rump of Beef (Digbie pg. 196)
To Stew Apples (Digbie pg. 201) (Vegetarian)
The first course will consist of the Tart and the Spinage-Broth. The Broth contains enough barley that I think no bread or other carb laden food is needed. Those two items should go out together.

The Rump has quite a bit of cabbage associated with it, so no vegetable needs to accompany it. Some bread might go well here, though. I'll add bread to this course. It will help to sop up the juice if nothing else. This can go out whenever it's ready, but after the first two dishes go out, the pressure is off. Still, no need to procrastinate.

The Apples are a dessert-type of finish, and will go out a bit after the Roast. Again, not too much after, and again no need to procrastinate.

Now, quantities. Those familiar with my feasts realize that I have an unholy terror of running out of food. So when I choose quantities I always overestimate. With that caveat, away we go.

For the Tarts, everyone should get at least one piece, and most people should be able to have two. Three Tarts gives 24 pieces, which is just not enough. Five tarts means everyone can have a quarter of a Tart. That sounds a bit on the high side. Therefore, I will plan on making four. I will probably cop out and make a fifth, though, knowing me. I also want to be sure to have a little extra Tart and soup since the vegetarians will not be eating the Rump.

Soup. The Autocrat's Handbook says that 1/2 cup per person is enough. I think that is way too little. By at least a factor of two, maybe three or four. I want everyone to be able to have a full cup of soup with more for those who want more. (Let me say, though, that part of this is what Mistress Morrigan di Winter calls the "looking bad factor." Even if people aren't going to eat the whole cup, a half a cup of soup in a bowl looks skimpy.) So twenty people, means twenty cups. One gallon is 16 cups. I want about two gallons of soup.

Rump. The aforementioned Handbook says that eight ounces of meat per person is about right. I actually agree with that. However, the "looking bad factor" must always be kept in mind. For this dish, the factor is somewhat compensated for by the fact that it will be served with the cabbage and so the dish itself will look larger. That said, somewhere in the 10 to 12 pounds of Rump Roast range is what I'll be aiming for, along with 3 or 4 heads of cabbage. Again, knowing me, it will probably be 12 and 4.

Apples. This is not a major course, but even so, I'll probably do about 15 apples worth.

At this point I want to just do a quick check of ballpark figures. The big ticket items are the Rump Roast and the Cheese for the tart. 12 pounds of Roast at $3/lb is $36, 5 pounds of cheese at $3/pound is $15. The total is $51. That gives me half of my $100 budget for all the vegetables and so on. I think I'm in good shape.

Scheduling is next up. My kitchen has an oven, four burners and a microwave. I would like to have everything ready to go out right around 7:30. That means I need to plan my cooking spaces and times to make that happen. The Rump Roast is planned first. It will take four or five hours, and some longer won't hurt it. So the oven is spoken for from about 2:00 on for the Rump Roast.

The other baked item is the Tarts. They need about 30-45 minutes at 375. That means that they'll go in about 6:45, and I'll probably just leave the Rump Roast in with them.

Stove top, I need to cook soup and apples. The Apples again can cook for a long time, and so can the soup. So the soup will get started at about 5:30, with the apples at about 6.

Note that in all cases this is the time they start cooking. The prep must be done before that!

The other concern is pots and such. I'd like to all the roast in one vessel, but I'm not sure I have anything appropriate. The only thing close is my large stock-pot, but then I would have to do the soup in multiple pots. I haven't quite decided what to do yet. I may just buy some cheap roasting pans, like the big round turkey ones, and use one as a lid. Or I may be able to borrow a big stock pot somewhere.

Next time, the Aftermath!

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Comments are welcome.
Alexandre Lerot d'Avigné, Jeff Berry,

Copyright Jeff Berry
Originally webbed 4/9/98
Last modified 4/9/98