Wednesday 23 November 2011

Google +

Right, the time has come to admit to myself....and you all, that it's highly unlikely I'll post much here again!

Not only have I lost the motivation to do so, the format and methodology of posting here is no longer suited to the way that I've come to update the world about the work in the kitchens at Hampton Court. The majority of what "I'm" doing is covered by confidentiality at this time, so I can't blog about it and it's quite clear that nobody else is likely to post anything either that would cover the sort of stuff I used to write about.

Short is indeed sweet and Twitter suits much better for now. Along with that there's also the forum and for some things I'm also trying out Google+  as a way of posting's easier to use than the Blogger site and as it's a "new toy" it may well keep me motivated for a little longer. Those of you with a Blogger account that folllow should find that your Blogger credentials are good for starting a G+ account should you wish to, you don't need one to read the drivel I write, but you would if you wanted to "follow" the page or comment on anything I write.

I'm not going to say that this is the end of the blog...never say never and all that...just the start of a hiatus, and unlike previous ones, a hiatus of my choosing not out of sheer laziness!!

Thanks all for following and commenting, please do watch the Google+  for news and updates as well as the Twitter feed and the Forum...and who knows, something may well present that's better posted here than until then it really is Ta Ta For Now....from here at least.

Friday 15 July 2011

Fish Out Of Water...

is always the distinct feeling I get when at things like the IMC this week; I become acutely aware at my own lack of academic qualifications and always feel somewhat out of place. However, although the week started like that, by the end of Tuesday the situation was definitely much improved.

I had arrived on Sunday not having really finished my paper, but after a little time and contemplation I managed to fudge something reasonable together that would fit in the 15 minutes slot that I'd have. After a couple of sessions on Monday though, what little confidence I'd had in the text I'd got began to waiver and a quick review with a more critical eye lead to me re-writing the whole thing.....4 times over the day!!
So, bed on Monday, a fair nights sleep then up on Tuesday and breakfast, where a little conversation and questions from some other delegates got me thinking again about what I'd written.....time for another re-write before my session...just!

Managed to get everything finished, text and some accompanying images, then double checked it all would fit inside the 15 minutes, packed the briefcase and zipped off to get the shuttle bus to the other Uni' site where the session was. Rumour had it that this session was going to be popular, no idea why, but it turned out to be true as it was standing room only! Presented my paper and it seemed to go down ok, got some nice comments and had a few interesting chats about what I'd said so panic averted....but damn glad I'd done the re-writes.

The other papers in the session were varied, but all organised by the Wellcome Trust sponsored project, "You Are What You Ate" ,which I'm a part of...Jo Buckberry discussing the use of osteology workshops for the public in presenting information about the medieval diet and its visible effects in the skeletal remains, Gary Williamson and Iona McCleary on "was the medieval peasant diet healthy"...which included some interesting data on the polyphenol levels of a variety of apple types showing that modern varieties are no more or less healthy than heritage types...and Julia Gant, and Jenny Rogers from re-enactment group 4 and 20 blackbirds on cooking in a re-enactment context, they've only been doing that for 3 years or so and unfortunately it showed, both in the images they used and what they spoke about, but the audience liked them, so who am I to criticise?
I will say though, in case they're reading, that fireboxes in re-enactment are not "authentic", nor are they based on some historical reference, they are a direct result of the implementing of English Heritage guidelines for fires at historic sites which were introduced in the early 1990's. Prior to this time and regulation, the approved method for fires at historic sites was to cut and lift the turf, build the fire, then after the event, replace the turf. It soon became clear though that not only could that damage archaeological fabric close to the surface, it would also have some effect on any future geophysical surveying. So EH introduced a rule for re-enactment on their sites that fires must be in a box, suspended above the ground in order to protect the site as much as possible, this then became commonplace at all historic sites; attempting to claim otherwise, or reverse engineer a non existent reason for them is a touch disingenuous...though to give the ladies the benefit of the doubt, they haven't been doing the hobby long and probably don't know any of that!....but you really do need to check, re-check then check again everything that you say when presenting at this level of conference...unlike at a re-enactment event, here you could guarantee a knowledgeable audience.

I chose to go to the other 2 sessions organised by "You Are What You Ate" and the 1st was absolutely top notch...some great papers on Anglo-Saxon attitudes to feasting, stable isotope analysis of food consumption at an early Scottish Monastic site and disputes and punishments associated with the bread assizes in medieval London, Oxford and Southampton. The final session of the day is where it came unglued!!
First paper was an interesting one on the medieval view of the Roman recipes attributed to Apicius. Then Dr Timothy Dawson on food from the later enduring eastern empire (Byzantium to you and me, but that's incorrect it seems) then came the crowning turd in the water pipe to quote Blackadder. "Feasting at Tintagel in the Late Saxon Period" by presenters who shall remain nameless (though not hard to look them up!)
Apparently they'd submitted a proposal and abstract that was " referenced as one would expect for re-enactors"...shame they didn't bring that....or any notes, paperwork, images, information,  coherent thoughts...or indeed sentences!
Instead the two of them rambled and babbled for 20 minutes, no structure, no plans (it seemed), no real idea what they were talking about...really best not to bluster, bluff, and bs about a subject when an acknowledged expert is in the audience...which they'd have known if they'd bothered to come to the session before! In short, possibly the worst "paper" (and calling it that, even in quotation marks is being generous!) I have ever heard presented....but fair play I suppose for having the stones to do it....and to think that I was worried about the contents of my paper!

Still, all in all a pretty good use of time....heard some interesting papers, met some interesting people and put the case forward for the work we do, or at least tried to anyway.

It's a shame that the congress doesn't publish the papers, but with over 1000 presented it's no surprise really, still the Wellcome project is looking to publish all of our papers at least, so that should keep the powers that be at work happy.

Now that this is all out of the way, I can get back to work, hopefully up to the National Archive in the next week or two to have a look at the Eltham Ordinances and some other similar paperwork...I'll keep you all posted about that when it happens though.


Full(ish) Report....

,,,to follow soon!

Am nearly finished writing the report for you about Tuesday at the IMC but have just noticed the time...I've got to be up early, so I'll have to finish and post it tomorrow.


Monday 11 July 2011

Ah Ha!

turns out that if you knuckle down and actually write something, rather than rely on random waffle and some pretty pictures, then making something coherent that fits inside 15 minutes is possible....just in my case, but that's only because I gave such a scatter gun title and abstract for the proposal that covering everything I mentioned in those in 15 minutes would task the best of us.

Still, as i just put on Twitter, after the 5th complete re-write of the day it finally makes sense, fits inside 15 minutes and covers most of the topic title...result!! Now just have to present it.

Wish me luck!


It's IMC Time....Day The First.

So sat here in my digs at the International Medieval Congress, half eight in
the morning and the room's already like a sauna....gotta love student
Finally finished putting the talk together last night, though undoubtedly
there'll be some tweaks later on when I have had a chance to gauge the
average presentation style here...I have to say that this is a first, 15
minutes to present a meaningful presentation knowing that there is virtually
no chance of a longer, more full version being published for people to read
if they didn't get the gist of what I was talking about...still, I'll soon
find out I'm sure.
Being such a large gathering is also unusual compared to what I'm used many attend that all of the keynote speeches are on a first come
first served basis in terms of fitting in the rooms...which strikes as odd,
not having space for everyone to see, but I guess that's what happens with
such a popular this morning's keynote talks are at the other
university site (the congress is split between Boddington and Weetwood Halls
at the university of Leeds) and all the rest of the sessions...and more
importantly, lunch...are here at Boddington, I don't think I'll be rushing
to try and get a space, time will be better spent re-checking the talk for
tomorrow and having a look around the book fair here...though the wallet
will be remaining firmly in my pocket....I hope!!
Right, time to try and get a cup of that hasn't been extruded from
a machine!! (it was an interesting "taste"....a tea puree pumped into the
cup, then topped up with hot water...I have to say I *have* had worse, but
not that much worse!!)

Tuesday 7 June 2011

You Can Take Your Stinking Meat And.....

use it!!

Seems that the guys had some problems in storing the meat over the last weekend. As I mentioned before, thanks to the set-up for the Music Festival we don't get to use the modern kitchen for the June weekend and so they had no access to the large catering fridges for storing ingredients and in spite of their best efforts they weren't able to keep the meat in "tip top" condition for Friday.

To be frank and to quote Marc H it apparently "stank like an abattoir" before it went on the spit and when it came it was duly taken into our office, double bagged then stuck in the bin.
Now it can be argued that throwing it away was a waste of the meat and the money it cost, however the powers that be don't necessarily see it that way as while it was on the spit it "did the job" and allowed people to have a go at turning it round, take pictures and see what roasting is actually all about..eating it afterwards would just have been a bonus really.

So why tell you all of this...well, the next event in July sees us in the same boat as the June weekend as thanks to a function on the Saturday we will once again have no access to the fridges.
What will we do? Well, having considered the possible options....not roast at all, not roast on Sunday...the message from above is "carry on as usual, roast on both days". The only difference being to try and make the most out of things if the meat turns out not to be in the best of states on Sunday.

How will we do this? Simple really, use it to discuss storage in the Sixteenth Century Kitchens compared to storage today; after all the Tudors managed without access to electric refrigeration didn't they?! Worse case scenario and we end up with a stink laden piece of beef when we come to look at it on Sunday morning...roast it anyway then show that it isn't possible to disguise the smell let alone taste simply by using spices (yes that age old chestnut!) least until we can't stand the smell ;o)..take some pictures of public reaction, possibly some vox pop comments to be taken, that sort of stuff.

Now that's kind of sorted it's now time to get on with the nitty gritty of the rest of the menu plan for July and get that submitted before I pop off to Wakefield on Friday.


Sunday 5 June 2011

You Aint Seen Me....Right!

Hard to believe, but it is indeed my weekend off the rota and hence away from the kitchens whilst the rest of the guys struggle with the June event.
It's always a tricky weekend because the Music Festival set up means we don't have access to the modern kitchen no baking but more crucially, no fridges!! I did my best to plan a menu that would fit this lack of storage as best it could, but if Marc H's latest tweet is anything to go on, the weather has taken its toll on the beef...still, from a personal standpoint, it isn't affecting my chicken sandwich as I sit here typing this ;op

I've re-tweeted Marc's various tweets of interest to the twitter feed, and you can always pop to the forum to see Terry Love's pictures from the Saturday... CLICK ME

I think I'm enjoying being completely dispensable and having them get on with things without me...after all there's no I in team....though I do have to say that the reports I'm getting do indicate that if nothing else I'm being missed as a target for grumbling at/about, so it's nice to know I am good for something.

June is shaping up to be a chaotic month, off to Wakefield to Clarke Hall for the food day and my sessions on chocolate next weekend, plans for July and August to sort out and the presentation for the International Medieval Congress to get sorted....and a new computer to source to enable me to do it all well as continuing the research project and get to a position where I can start writing stuff up in a meaningful pressure then!

Details for what they did this weekend can be found over at the forum via the link above (cheers Terry) and I expect this will be added to after today can also follow progress via the Twitter feed, but for now...time for the rest of my weekend off!!


Thursday 26 May 2011

Clarke Hall Food History Day

FYI the details of the trip back to Wakefield that I mentioned on Twitter, maybe see some of you there??

Tuesday 24 May 2011


Well so far this has turned out to be a pretty duff month!!

I really didn't enjoy the last cookery weekend, that's one of the reasons I only updated you for the first day...I had simply had enough of it all and after work time was set aside for drink and loud music....I expect I was an arse to work with so apologise to the rest of the guys, but they're kind of used to that by now!

Since then I've made great progress with the research I'm doing, worked out the plans for the June weekend (when it's my turn to be off rota) and started on putting together the talk for the International Medieval Congress in was then that things really bombed!
Simply put, the graphics card in my laptop went belly up and that's really put the mockers on things for me. It means that I'll have to replace the laptop, but that will have to wait until funds can be accrued..until then I thought I'd worked out a lashed together work around that would allow me to work without having to resort to just using my phone for internet access. The laptop will still run in "safe mode" which bypasses the graphics card and uses the on-board graphics of the motherboard to allow very basic operations..great I thought, that means I can still use the computer to look things up online and carry on with work, all be it at a much reduced screen resolution.
Unfortunately, the computer "safe mode" isn't designed for running the machine with, just to allow access to sort out problems and as such it has a VERY limited can't for instance save documents or create new ones, or view PDF files, or images, or pretty much anything except look at some already created documents, go online and check email...result being extreme frustration and VERY limited scope for getting things done.
Fortunately, I've got loads of reading to get through and a shed load of images of documents from the National Archive to transcribe...BUT that doesn't help with writing stuff or, more importantly, getting the IMC presentation sorted....luckily I can blag the use of another machine for a limited time now and then in order to put the talk together and I should be able to take the departmental laptop up to Leeds for the IMC itself in order to give the presentation.
So, if I needed another reason to reduce how often I update the blog....that would be it I suppose!

Well, enough of the sob story, on with the "normal" stuff I guess. For those that don't follow the Twitter feed (Why not?), I had mislaid the menu plans for the next weekend of cooking at the end of this week so couldn't let you know what we are going to be doing. I thought that they may have slipped under the sofa, but it seems that I had actually put them in my briefcase ready for the weekend and not in the epic pile of paper next to my chair...doh!
So what are we going to be doing? Pretty much the same as last time...more from Harl. 5401.

Marc H wants to work on pottage of prunes....using plums this time as the word prune can mean either the dried preserved fruit or the fresh. Last time he used dried prunes and the result, tasty though it was, wasn't as the recipe lead him to think it should be....I'm not going to go into detail as I would hope (vainly perhaps) that he might actually write and tell you about it himself.

I want to look at mylke rosted again, although I was "happy" with how it turned out last time I still think I'm missing something. As it happened we had some American visitors through who said that they still cook the dish, or one very similar, at Easter except they use vanilla sugar in it to give it some flavour. They said that their dish didn't have a name but that it was a traditional one, seems that it might be the Carpathian dish Hrutka or Sirek, so I want to look at that and compare the two just to see how similar they are.

Robert will probably carry on with looking at the various pork and egg recipes like charlet whilst Robin will potter with chewetts, papyns and viandre Cypre de Salmon amongst others...we've got 4 or 5 dishes each day plus a roast that we can have a go at depending on how much talking we end up doing.

As far as I know the wine fountain will once again be running each of the three days filling up free glasses of wine for anyone that wants one (subject to licensing over 18 and collect a free token from the visitor centre some time during the day which you then exchange for a glass of red or white between 4.15 and 4.45 pm each day, weather permitting)

After this weekend we rush headlong into the June event...I'll let you know the plans beforehand but as I won't be working there will not be updates over the weekend itself I'm afraid. That will then be it for events that are on consecutive weekends until the end of August/beginning of September and we settle back down to cookery on the first weekend of each month as before.

Well, I think that's it for now...I've just noticed the time and should be away to sleep.


Saturday 30 April 2011

Wedded...Bliss(fully Ignorant)

Hmm, definitely an interesting day, not busy by any stretch of the imagination...but that's not too much of a surprise given the Royal wedding taking place!
As we thought it might be, the bulk of visitors today were foreign with English not as their main language...mostly French as it happens...but all of them were interested and kept us busy with chat and questions...I don't think that I heard any talk about the wedding, apart from Dave and his slightly republican views! (we don't hold it against him)

Marc H had some trouble with his pottage of'll have a look at the Twitter time line to get an idea of what happened (will be able to go into greater detail when I have access to a proper keyboard instead of this phone one...or perhaps Marc will elucidate in person)
I had some joy with the roast milk recipe I was working on. So far it's set solid which is more than can be said for the last time I tried out...tomorrow we'll find out if it's solid enough to cut into cubes and roast...fingers crossed, though I don't hold out much hope for it being any good to eat!
Robin and Robert worked on a couple of other dishes, but I can't recall what they were called, so rather than waffle on without being able to tell you the names I think I'll call it a night and update you tomorrow....but with a little more detail than I'm providing here =0)