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.

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.

A Year As A Willow

I wrote this post a year ago after an incredibly long, exhausting weekend. I should have probably posted this a year ago, but I didn’t think about it then.

I’ve also been somewhat inspired by Andreas/Drew at http://www.apapermuse.com and his SCA posts to start chronicling my more notable SCA experiences.


It never fails that I am called into court for whatever reason while I’m running around during feast prep. It’s becoming a “thing”.

Mid-stride, while returning to the kitchen from stirring carrots for feast, I hear my name called, so I drop the raised foot, pivot, and approach the dais and give proper respect to the assembled Baronages and kneel in front of Rachel, who is holding a Regency Court for Their Majesties William and Isolde. Cue Drew grinning with mischief and Aggie, Jeff, and Epona all looking at me. There is no doubt that I am loved and appreciated, and the feeling is reciprocated in spades.

I was inducted into the Order of the Willow, an armigerous award order for those who have “demonstrated proficiency, but not yet mastery of one of the peaceful arts” in the SCA, the medieval reenactment organization I spend most of my free time with.

I’m not sure if you can see it in the scan, but the open book says “We Love You” on it. When I finally got to thoroughly look at the scroll after feast was done and everything was being broken down, I about cried when I saw that. The SCA has been a ridiculously positive influence on my life, and I’m glad that I’m able to pay that back and forward.

I love you guys, too.

Words by THL Andreas Blacwode/ Drew Nicholson.
Calligraphy and Illumination by THL Gillianne/ Christine Wallrich

Stone Dog Inn XII – Thank You and A Gift

As written on the Barony of Ayreton page on Faccebook:

Greetings unto the Barony of Ayreton!

As announced yesterday at Stone Dog Inn, when called before Their Excellencies during Feast, I happily and humbly submit the book of recipes that my team and I used to create the modest feast submitted for the pleasure and sustenance of our populace. The recipes contained in this book are sized for a family gathering as I believe that food should be shared, doubly so amongst our kith and kin.

I would also like to take this time to acknowledge the efforts and time of Siobhan and Tiffany, who both tirelessly assisted with creating the feast set before Their Excellencies and the populace, and of Helewyse, who was a source of reassurance and knowledge in this endeavor. Thank you all for your help. Stone Dog’s Feast could not have been executed without you!

Thank you also to those who came in after us to help with cleaning the kitchen and dishes! I appreciate your efforts and time, as well!

Thank you once again for allowing my team and I the opportunity to feed you after a long day of tournaments and games of skill!

In Service,
Samson “Samii” Muskovich


Stone Dog XII Feast Recipe Book

 

Small Business Saturday 2015

In a new tradition I started last year, I like to highlight small businesses owned by my friends in addition to my own venture, Flying Tiger Designs. There are TONS of really awesome small businesses in local communities, though, and they should absolutely be patronized.

~ Samii

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

AnubianHost: http://www.anubianhost.com/

Ayden Lane Photography: https://www.facebook.com/aydenlaynephotography

Beauty by Brittany: https://www.facebook.com/beautbybritt

Blake Illustrate: http://blakeillustrate.tumblr.com/

Brillig and Mimsy: https://www.facebook.com/brilligandmimsy/

ByCats4Cats: http://www.bycats4cats.com/

Collared Corgi: https://www.facebook.com/collaredcorgi

Delilah’s Earth Crafts: https://www.facebook.com/DelilahsEarthCrafts

Draconas Creations: https://www.facebook.com/DraconasCreations

Felix Needleworthy Fine Renaissance Costuming: http://needleworthy.com/

Flying Tiger Designs: http://portfolio.samiitiger.com

Ink’s Mistress Tattoo and Piercing: https://www.facebook.com/InksMistress

Kangaroo Reef Mascots: https://www.facebook.com/Kangarooreefmascots

MoiraCoon’s Shinies: https://www.facebook.com/MoiracoonsShinies

Pendragon Chainmail: https://www.etsy.com/shop/PendragonChainmail

Reindog Creations: http://sugarbuzzstudios.tumblr.com/

Skullgarden ~ Art of A. L. Swartz: http://www.skullgarden.net/

Tag-End Emporium: https://www.etsy.com/shop/TagEndEmporium

Terraflora Designs: https://www.facebook.com/terraflora.designs

Small Business Saturday

While I’m getting ready for MFF next week, I don’t have a lot of extra cash on hand, but I want to support my friends who own independent businesses today and also remind folks that both Britt (my fiancee) and I also run our own independent businesses.

AnubianHost: http://www.anubianhost.com/

Ayden Lane Photography: https://www.facebook.com/aydenlaynephotography

Beauty by Brittany: https://www.facebook.com/beautbybritt

Blake Illustrate: http://blakeillustrate.tumblr.com/

ByCats4Cats: http://www.bycats4cats.com/

Delilah’s Earth Crafts: https://www.facebook.com/DelilahsEarthCrafts

Draconas Creations: https://www.facebook.com/DraconasCreations

Felix Needleworthy Fine Renaissance Costuming: http://needleworthy.com/

Flying Tiger Designs: http://portfolio.samiitiger.com

Ink’s Mistress Tattoo and Piercing: https://www.facebook.com/InksMistress

Kangaroo Reef Mascots: https://www.facebook.com/Kangarooreefmascots

MoiraCoon’s Shinies: https://www.facebook.com/MoiracoonsShinies

Pendragon Chainmail: https://www.etsy.com/shop/PendragonChainmail

Reindog Creations: http://sugarbuzzstudios.tumblr.com/

Skullgarden ~ Art of A. L. Swartz: http://www.skullgarden.net/

Tag-End Emporium: https://www.etsy.com/shop/TagEndEmporium

Terraflora Designs: https://www.facebook.com/terraflora.designs