Sternfeld Shenanigans

As I mentioned in the last post, Monday and Tuesday of this week were spent assisting with various Simple Day Feast prep items. While I’m technically writing this on Friday morning, it won’t post until the wee hours of Sunday morning so that people have a chance to enjoy their dinner at Simple Day before seeing where parts of their dinner came from.

That said, if you are any bit squeamish or bothered by dead animals, this is not the post for you.


Monday

Monday morning, after I got off work at 6 CDT, I rolled out to Abbott Johan’s house in the Barony of Sternfeld since it was Duck Day. When I got there, he and Liadan were already elbow deep in duck processing since they had started in the wee hours of the morning. After plucking one of the ducks sufficiently, we removed the innards from it, then bagged it and put it in the freezer to hold until we left. From there, there was one duck left to process, so I got to watch Johan kill it, the work on it.

Killing the duck was, in my opinion, done in one of the most humane ways possible. Instead of shooting it or slicing its neck open, Johan grabbed the duck from its cage by its feet, then grabbed a length of 1/2″ round stock. The duck’s head was laid down on the ground, the round stock resting on its neck, and Johan stepped on the metal rod to hold it in place. A tug up to break the neck, and the duck died. We let the nerve endings fire out the last few flaps of the wings, and then I set to first removing the down for feathers to be made into pillows by a barony member, and, then removing the pin feathers.


As I’ve mentioned several times before, I really love the concept of “farm to table” and knowing where one’s food comes from, so it was a fantastic opportunity for me to directly take part in preparing the ducks for this weekend’s feast. While Liadan and I were working on the ducks, we talked with Johan about meat processing in period for us in the SCA, guilds in period and the agreements — spoken and unspoken — between them, and a bit about animal husbandry (drakes are ruthless when it comes to mating; they essentially rape their mates — that’s why the duck below has a patch of feathers missing).

After processing the ducks as best we could (and getting assaulted by flies in the process, Liadan and I left Johan’s and headed back across town to her house by way of a couple grocery stores to pick up more items that we’d need. At some point, we started working on various things. I shelled 14 lbs. of shrimp. At some point, Master Llewellyn (Llew) and Tualaith came over to help, so we did all the things then, including cooking the shrimp and lobster tails in a fair amount of butter.

We got to a stopping point in our work and went over to a local Asian restaurant for food. I ordered crab rangoons and some sort of pork noodle dish that was very tasty and ate. Then, I started falling asleep at the table despite my best intentions and efforts to stay awake. It was a rather long day for me since I’d been up well over 24 hours and had done travel and basically 2 shifts’ worth of work between actual work and cooking. At that point, I stumbled upstairs to the room I was staying in, shirked off my clothes, and promptly passed out.


Tuesday

After sleeping who-knows-how-many hours, I woke up, took a shower, and headed down to help with breakfast. Breakfast squared away, we started work on making the liver paté. We clarified 7.5 lbs of butter, and fresh herbs, onions, and garlic were chopped up while I made caramel sauce for later from scratch. Like ya do. Caramel sauce done, I turned my attention to helping with the paté.

…I lost track of how many pounds of livers — both chicken and duck — went into making the paté. Before I started cooking it, though, I cut out the fresh duck livers and cleaned them out from the fibrous muscle and gristle that surrounds them. And did so gleefully. I’m weird, I know. At some point, Johan showed up with more ducks for feast, and assisted with clearing out the store bought ones of their offal packets, then headed out not too long after. Livers separated and clean, I turned to helping cook down the aromatics in some of the melted, clarified butter. Aromatics cooked down, the livers were next.

Once the livers and aromatics were all cooked down, they were combined together and cooled. Add a bit of brandy, then blend them together into a puree with 7.5 MORE pounds of butter that were chilled and chunked. Did I mention that there’s a ton of butter? There is. And the paté was delicious right out of the food processor. I can only imagine that a couple of days hanging out in the fridge made it even better!

After finishing the paté, we basically got to a stopping point until the rest of the crew came over to help. So, we had caramel sundaes.

Our crew came over, and I was put to work taking a small torch to the ducks we’d butchered the previous day to remove some more of the lingering feathers outside while folks worked inside on making gluten free bread products and bread crumbs for another recipe.

Then, more caramel sundaes, caramel coffee, and socializing with the group that was over, including an impromptu bardic session.

Once it got to a reasonable hour, I wandered upstairs to pass out early (for me) since I’d be driving back home the next day.


Ultimately, while the work was exhausting (and my sleep cycle is still suffering for it), it was an incredible experience to be part of Sternfeld’s cooking team. There is a ridiculous amount of heart, soul, and love that went into Simple Day’s feast, and I’m hoping that each person who sat and ate felt that as they were taking part in the meal.

Sourcing SCA Feasts Locally

A few months ago, my friend Liadan Liathain asked me if I’d want to work on her crew for A Simple Day in the Country, which is this upcoming weekend. While I’m not able to because of work commitments and co-workers’ time off, I am able to head down in the morning after work for my weekend to help with prep.

“Why is this relevant?” I’m sure you’re wondering.

Well…

Liadan is doing something amazing (to me) in that she’s sourcing most of her feast from local partners. Fresh blackberries from a local farm where she got to pick them herself. Fresh ducks that will be slaughtered and processed this morning.

It’s that last bit, plus a bit more, that I’ll be assisting with over the next couple of days. I’m excited about it. Have been since I made plans to come down and assist, in fact.

And, then, I started watching Episode 4 of Season 2 of Parts Unknown, which focuses on Rene Redzepi‘s Noma Restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark. Redzepi sources all of his ingredients from local-to-him sources, including going out and foraging for things to include on his menu. It’s a simple, yet complex way of staying in touch with where your ingredients come from. So many times, when we eat, we don’t consider where our food comes from.

I’ve long considered opening a restaurant where I could source from local farmers for my meats, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables. Running SCA feasts allows me to do that as much as my budget allows. I’m, in fact, looking forward to going to a local orchard and picking apples for the honey glazed roasted apples I’m making as part of Fox Hunt dessert. So, yeah. Sourcing local ingredients gives me great joy, especially when I have a hand in procuring them.

Compleat Anachronist – Phase I

So, because of a comment from Mistress Sofya Chyudskaya Smolyanina, I shot off an e-mail to the Editor of Compleat Anachronist on a lark.

Greetings!

I’m currently working on research of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals in the time period of the SCA, as well as conventions for interactions within the Society. Would this be of interest to you and your publishing team? I currently run a class primarily in the Midrealm and Pennsic called “Trans 101 for the SCA: A Primer” that my submission would be based on.

I’ve attached my class notes as they stand (I’m continuously working on research to increase my knowledge and class material) for your review.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration,
Lord Samson Muskovich (called Samii)
mka Milan Nelson

I figured they were going to say “nope, not in the realm of what we do”. But, they didn’t:

Greeting!

This proposal looks quite intriguing! I like it indeed. The biggest focus for CA, of course, is research, so I’d want the research section regarding historical transgender and gender non-conforming individuals to be the largest section, followed, as you currently have it, by a smaller section on interactions/courts within the SCA today. I’d think that the basics could be an introduction, perhaps with a glossary to help define some terms.

But, yes, I’m interested!

You’re aware of CA’s requirements, yes? I need 50-60 pages of 10 point, double-spaced Times New Roman, including images, appendices, endnotes and bibliography. Yes, CA uses endnotes and follows University of Chicago Style, 16th edition.  See here for the submission guidelines. http://www.sca.org/ca/guidelines.html

I am looking forward to reading your manuscript!

In service,

Ariel/Ellen

I think this now qualifies pretty solidly as an A&S Project.  Or Service. Or, perhaps, both?

Either way, guess who now gets to recall the books they requested via InterLibrary Loan so they can properly document their research…

Stand Your Ground

A couple of weeks ago, Gareth (Devin) and I worked on polearm technique to help get me ready for my authorization test, and something he said clicked with me:

“You know Sir Ivan Shishov, right? You know he doesn’t move when fighting polearm? He just stands his ground.”

For me, that’s revolutionary. I’ve struggled with polearm auths because I was either too timid, couldn’t switch hands easily, or something else. This is a game-changer for me. That one bit of information changed how I think of my polearm fight (at least in tournament) and instilled a great deal of confidence in me for that weapons form. By standing my ground and only moving my feet when it’s completely necessary, I can control the fight in a much better way than trying to move around awkwardly with the polearm. I still need to practice with the polearm to ensure I can move it correctly when it comes time for my auth, but this is an improvement.

This is also proof that there are just as many ways to fight as there are people, and that someone else’s way may not be the best case for me. Only time, practice, and trial and error will let me know.

Caramel Sauce

Ingredients
1 Cup Light Brown Sugar, Packed
1 Cup Granulated White Sugar
1 Cup Water
1/4 Cup (or 4 Tablespoons) Unsalted Butter
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
Salt to Taste (Optional)

Instructions:
1. In a medium sauce pan with a heavy bottom, combine sugars and water, stirring until sugars are dissolved.
2. In a second sauce pan, heat the heavy cream and butter together, melting the butter while not allowing the cream to boil.
3. Bring sugar water mixture to a boil. The sugar water should start to turn an amber color.
4. Slowly add the butter and heavy cream mixture to the amber candy mixture, stirring with a silicone whisk to combine.
5. Allow mixture to come up to a boil again, then remove from heat.
6. If making into salted caramel, add salt to taste, ensuring it is blended fully. Allow to completely cool, then pour into containers and use coarse salt to garnish.

Ragnarok Stole Everyone’s Soul

… But the event’s feast gave EVERYONE life.


First, my thanks:
To Abbey May, Adeline, Adella, Astridr, Johara, and Sarafina — You all are amazing. Without you ladies, feast would have been a hot mess. Instead, we had an incredibly filling meal that really did make everyone’s day. Everyone poured a lot of love into making Feast, and, really, that’s what it’s all about. Sarafina, thank you so much for stepping in when Johara needed to get checked out. I truly appreciate it more than I can properly express.

To Nicolaa, Cartooth, Raja, Sierra, Avery, Ragnil, and Gillianne — Thank you for being incredible servers and putting up with my last minute changes to the order of the menu.

To Siobhan — You are an incredible feast herald, and your colorful words are certainly a boon to any meal! Thank you for being flexible and understanding when I needed to adjust the order of things that went out to ensure everything was properly cooked.

To Cella and Epona — Thank you for both trusting me and also encouraging me to do a feast that was anything but period. Ragnarok is, indeed, the event that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and I’m glad that I was able to live up to that.

To Her Majesty, Katherine Vivian — My thanks is two-fold for you. First, for being the inspiration for this year’s Ragnarok feast. Second, for traveling across the kingdom to visit us in the back 40 of the Midrealm. You’re an incredible person with a lot of heart and soul, and I think I speak for many of us that we would be delighted to have both you and Alric back out here again if ever you feel up to the trip.

To those who attended Ragnarok’s feast — Thank you to everyone who came out and sat feast. Without you, there literally would be no feast. Thank you for the standing ovation for the kitchen crew. I know, for me, it spoke volumes and hit me to the core. It reminded me of why I volunteer to organize feasts.


The Feast Book


(Click the image above to download/read the recipe book.)


My Unabashed Event Report

As I’m sitting at work with a large iced coffee in-hand, I still feel delightfully overwhelmed by the event this weekend. There were so many good points to it, even with the challenges we faced in the final hours leading up to service.

I’ve mentioned this before, but the SCA is my extended family. I have lots of people in the Society that I love a great deal, but, more importantly to me as a Feast Steward, is that I love to cook for these people. My attitude is this towards food and hospitality: If you sit at my table, I want you to know and feel the love and care that goes into each dish. The bits of laughter, of the passion I feel for making sure people don’t leave my table hungry and that everyone is happy with what they’ve had. I mention all of this because it’s so crucial to this weekend’s feast. 64 people got to come in and sit at my table, and my crew and I made sure that everyone was fed until they couldn’t eat any further.

We received a standing ovation for feast. Before that happened, I snuck out of the kitchen, jug of cold water in hand, and sat off to the side, watching everyone chat amongst themselves and eat until they were happy and full. I saw lots of happy, smiling faces across the populace and head table. Lots of empty dishes come back to the kitchen. There is literally no better feeling than knowing you’ve made someone’s day with a good meal.

When the feast crew and the servers were called up, Her Majesty gifted me with a small first aid pouch and a paternoster made with her heraldic colors, and the crew and servers were all given pewter spoons for their service to the feast hall. For me, the first aid kit and paternoster were incredibly thoughtful gifts and definitely tongue-in-cheek, given the events of the day (which we’ll get to later), especially because I’m a first responder and 911 Dispatcher in my mundane life (though she knew neither of these things at the time).

Master Alexander de Seton also gifted me with a small token of an owl carved from rose quartz. I believe the owl is one of his personal symbols, but that it is made out of rose quartz is even more symbolic and special to me, for rose quartz is a stone that embodies love. For me, food is love made tangible.

Leading up to service, we had some things come up that led to some on-the-fly changes that kind of made things a bit more “fun”:
– Over the last year, the site renovated the space, meaning that where there were previously utensils, there were none. Lots of things that needed mixing on Friday night got mixed by hand: sweet potatoes, cornbread mix, chicken marinade, salad.
– The site’s convection oven is dead. As in wouldn’t heat… So, we used a lot of charcoal (8 large bags, to be specific) and 2 bottles of lighter fluid.
– Because we were using the big ass grill next to the hall, we couldn’t entirely control the temperature of it. The bottoms of the cornbread all got charred. Adella had the fantastic idea to ball them (because the cornbread was still moist) and serve them over a bowl of corn.
– Mom’s turkey fryer is woefully small. I could only fry 3-4 pieces of chicken at a time. Johara brought a huge ceramic-lined pot to use, so that got used on top of a portable burner. If this happens again where I need to deep fry things, I’m totally asking Godryck if I can borrow his burner and will be bringing my big 5 gallon stock pot out, too.
– While pulling chicken from the oil pot, Johara got splashed with hot oil on her left hand. We made her go to the ER to get it checked out, so I lost a person. Sarafina happened to be on site as part of Ayreton’s entourage and thankfully stepped in to help us finish the rest of feast before service.
– In the course of “oh shit, we have a lot of chicken to finish”, we ended up finishing the chicken with cooking it off on the grill just to make sure it was fully cooked all the way through. It was. And it was delicious and tender.
– We ran out of white sugar. I seriously underestimated how much sugar we would need for feast, so that was a thing. What ended up happening is that we had some brown sugar left over from making the sweet potatoes, so that went into the sweet tea. It worked.

After service was done and thanks given to the kitchen crew and servers, the kitchen crew went outside to have some of what was left over and, y’know, eat and have fellowship because, in the words of Astridr and Sarafina, this meal took them to church.

I love these people. They made this an amazing experience, even with all of the challenges. And, if that’s not what soul food is about, I don’t know what is.

I Get Around (To Fighter Practice)

Sundays bring with them multiple options for fighter practices: Either head south to Grey Gargoyles, head Northwest to Jaravellir/Northshield, or head Northeast to Ravenslake.

Today, mostly because I knew I was mildly low on spoons after work last night, I chose to go Northeast to Ravenslake. And I’m glad I did. I haven’t been up to Jara’s practice (yet), but every practice I go to offers something different. Today was mainly working on polearm with a bit of endurance tossed in. All told, I was in armor for about 2 hours. I know that doesn’t seem like much, comparatively, but it was decent for me. I tried a new option for fighting garb (my Carraig Ban coat), and I know I’ll have to wear more padding on my shoulders.

It took a bit to let my headspace disengage from its normally wound coil, but when it did, I moved a lot more smoothly. Even though I still have a lot to learn about fighting polearm before I can authorize in it, I felt comfortable and natural holding it, which hasn’t been a “thing” up until recently. I need to make or buy a new shield. Center grip heater shields are not something I work well with despite that being what I have the most experience with. I think, unless I’m fighting melee, I might switch over to sword or axe and buckler. Tzvi also mentioned maces, which would be a fun weapon to fight with in a melee, as well. And I also need to make my dagger. Still.

Got some good feedback on polearm from both Gintaras and Sir Ix, and it definitely helped, getting to practice putting those skills into play.

So, yeah. All told, good practice.

And, then, after practice, I went out to dinner with most of the folks who were at the meeting and practice. Good conversation, good company, decent food. I stayed out WAY too late, but it was totally worth it to spend time with people I don’t get to see often enough.

Building A Better Tiger: Day 1

Starting Weight: 313.2 lbs
Goal Weight: 250 lbs

Starting A1C: 10.1
Goal A1C: 7 or less

So… This is a hard post for me to write. I’m going to start chronicling my journey to become healthier and more fit overall, and that includes some pretty (to me) scathing looks at my lifestyle choices and the like at present.

As much as I’d like to be perfect in how I view my relationship with medicine and food, my lifestyle is anything but. I make poor decisions all the time, often justifying them for this reason or another. I don’t exercise as much as I’d like to, blaming my irregular schedule. I don’t take my medications all the time like I should. My weight keeps ping-ponging between 305 and 315 pounds, and hasn’t dipped below 300 in quite a few years. I hate how my work shirt hangs on my body and hugs every little curve.

For the last 4-6 weeks, I’ve been excitedly awaiting June 1st to switch my diet over to a low carb, high protein diet… And I did nothing tangible to prep for the day. I mean, I did, but there’s no solid plan right now. I’m kind of just flying by the seat of my pants. My sleep schedule was also thrown off yesterday, too, which doesn’t help matters. So it goes. Today is a new day and an opportunity to do better.

I have mixed feelings about gyms and exercise. I do currently have a gym membership with Planet Fitness, mostly because they are one of the cheaper options out there AND they have an incredibly strong culture of not being judgmental. However, they are also 30ish minutes away from home. I’ve been only twice. I keep thinking about discontinuing my membership there because I’m not using the facilities that I’m paying for, but at $20/month, I can justify keeping it. Maybe I’ll get off my tail and go sometime. My main goal, right now, is to keep working on the Zombies, Run! Couch to 5K program that I started. It’s something that I can do in the mornings right after work on either East or West Campus, plus I like listening to Danheim while running/walking with it. So, that’s what I’ll be doing in the months leading up to Pennsic.

Heavy Fighting. This is something else I keep having mixed feelings about. My headspace isn’t where I need it to be when I fight. I know that’s mostly due to not going to practices consistently. I need to figure out a fighting schedule that works for me, whether it’s going to the Grey Gargoyles/Clovenshield Fighter Practice or going to the local Carraig Ban practice. I miss Wednesday night practice, too, but with working Wednesday nights, it’s not really a viable option right now.

Food. For the most part, I try to make good food choices, even when I eat out. It’s hard, though. I’ve got a sweet tooth, and I know it. It’s also difficult to commit the time to doing meal prep each week… But it’s something I need to do to ensure this venture is successful. Portioning, I know, is key. Something else for me to work on. I also REALLY need to start using MyFitnessPal more consistently. I did really well the last time I did… I’m also considering doing the subscription for it so I can track my carbs more easily.

Medications. Generally, I’m pretty good about taking my medications. However, I’m not, also. I often ignore taking my medications on my days off. It’s a bad habit that I need to break. I may need to start using a pill organizer to make sure I’m keeping up on that. I hate taking my insulin, too. Actually, I hate using a needle on myself. It hurts more often than not. I do want to talk to folks and see about getting a Continuous Glucose Monitor so I can keep better track of that.

So, there’s all that. There’s a lot of things I need to work on overcoming to be successful in this venture, but I’m confident I can do it. Hopefully.

There’s also a headspace component to this because I’m basically flying solo in this. Support is distant (literally), so that’s a bit difficult to deal with, but it is what it is. Onward and forward.

The Chains That Bind — Part II

 

The other night, I finished the squire’s chain that I had been working on, made from the remnants of a spool of aluminum that I didn’t just want to get rid of, and posted this on Facebook as a comment to my Knight, Sabah:

Sabah, I’ll be handing this off to you at Ragnarok. Feel free to either give it to one of my house brothers who may not have a squire’s chain yet or keep it for whenever we formalize our mentor-dependent relationship.

In either case, it is made of imperfect rings to symbolize that we are all flawed in some way and will have many lessons to learn on the path of Chivalry.

The rings are all hand cut and formed by me, representative of the work and passion that goes into the path to becoming a fighter and person worth being recognized by the Chivalry.

The chain is light, but still bears weight to remind the bearer that one should be mindful of their deeds, words, and actions.

Sabah also requested that I make a segment for him to give to one of his Men-At-Arms who lost their chain on the first day it was given to them, which I have and is now sitting in a bag waiting to be given to him with the necklace.

The Chains That Bind

Sir Kith made a post the other day about a set of Knight’s chains that have imperfect links, symbolizing that those who have become members of the Chivalry still have flaws because they are human, not Gods, and still have opportunities to learn.

I’ve picked up chainmail as yet another skill in my lexicon of things I do in the SCA. As I’m making this chain, it is filled with little imperfections: links that may not close completely, some small burrs (that will eventually get filed or tumbled off), nicks and scrapes to the rings from me working them, imperfect cuts due to them being coiled and cut by hand.

This has become a personal project of passion for me. A squire’s chain that represents the lessons and reminders that the wearer (be it myself or another) will learn on the path to Knighthood.