The Hitchhiker's Guide to Ancient Cookery

with your host
Alexandre Lerot d'Avigné
Jeff Berry
(Number 38 in the Series, October 2005)

The Aftermath

As advertised, no plan survives contact with the enemy. Although the feast was a success, it didn't go off flawlessly. As always, there is room for improvement.

The Green Bean Problem
The most glaring problem, of course, was the green beans. String beans are new world, I believe. I ran out of time before the feast and served them anyway. That's a problem. What would have been a better choice? I'm still not sure. Broad beans appear to be ancient enough, as do fava beans. So that still leaves open of the question of what is meant by faseoli virides. I don't have a good answer for this yet, partly because none of Latin dictionaries actual give me a straight translation of faseoli, nor can I can find one on the web. Clearly more research is called for here.

Timing Problems, in Two Parts
The feast took about 2 and a quarter hours to roll out. That was about half an hour too long. Some of that was just miscalculation on my part in plating time, which happens. Two specific things took longer than I expected.

The first was the carving of the lamb. Reducing 12 boneless legs of lamb to gobbets was more of the production that I thought it would be. We lost a few minutes there.

The second part of the slow-down was because the fish took much longer to cook than I expected. The grill tops and such heated very unevenly and not to the heat I had expected. As a result, I had to start them in shifts on the stovetops and finish them off and keep them warm in the ovens. They turned out well, but cost me probably ten minutes. They also messed up a presention point since I wanted to send them out with another dish but ended up sending that out alone first. If I do the fish again, I may just cheat and do them in the oven.

Other than that it went quite well.

The Good
I had a lot of help at the right times, so much so that we had down time in the afternoons. This confused some people who were more used to the frantic, everything-is-a-crisis mode that some kitchens operate in. I don't care for that style, myself. For one thing, I think it tends to negatively impact the food. For another, it's hard on the staff, and no matter how good you are, your staff will make or break your feast. Love your staff!

We started early and I had six people at one point making meatmice out of the premixed sausage. That was the most labor intensive part of the day and it was done by noon. After that, many of staff were released for the day. Some chopping and cutting and making of moretum proceeded at a desultory pace until a couple hours before kick-off when things really got moving.

Lamb went in the oven. Chicken started thawing in earnest. Most of the rest of the stuff that needed to get cut got cut.

The meatmice were a big hit. The lamb also was expecially appreciated by some people. It spent longer in the oven than I had thought it would, which by a happy coincidence gave it a melt in the mouth texture. Folks who don't like fish, liked the fish.

So, overall, I was pretty happy. A couple of bobbles to keep me honest, but enough successes for me to be happy. If you were at the feast, I hope you enjoyed eating it as much as I enjoyed providing it.


Thanks to my staff, including, in the kitchen: Mercedes, Anastasia, Thorsen, Elinor, Nataliia, Mathilde, Bruni, Edward, Griff and Johann. With extra meatmice assist from Antonio.
I can't even begin to thank the rest of the folks, servers and event staff and more. So I will simply conclude with thanking Their Excellencies Settmour Swamp Paigan and Teric for letting me get my hands on the feast, and their Highnesses (now Majesties) Darius and Roxane, for being Roman so I had an excuse to play with Roman food. Above all, I thank my lady wife Eularia Trewe, who handled everything outside the kitchen so I didn't have to. Thank you honey.

Back to Index

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

Copyright Jeff Berry
Originally webbed 21 October 2005
Last modified :21 October 2005