Thursday, 31 January 2008

The Man From Del Monte......

........he say yes!!

Just a flying post to say that todays budget meetings went much better than we thought they might and subject to confirming my calculations we'll be doing all the cookery we thought we'd be doing this coming financial year.....Hooray!!

So roll on the first full weekend in every month (except January), Easter, Christmas and holiday weekends. More news later.

Monday, 28 January 2008

There's The Rub!

Bit of a delay since the last post I'm afraid.....some concerted work on the chocolate talk (which has grown to a bit of a monster) and the fact that it's that wonderful time of year when budgets rear their ugly head, have conspired to occupy most of my time!

Doc sent a comment in the other day which really deserves more than just a reply in the standard fashion as i believe that it touches on some quite pertinent issues.

He said:

While beef in galentyne is an interesting experiment - and I'm all for experimenting with food - I'm a bit concerned with it being presented as authentic medieval cooking. There are a bunch of recipes for galentyne sauce, but the galentyne recipes which specify a meat always seem to specify pork, pike, or lampreys. This leads me to think that there is something about the recipe which lends itself to those particular meats - kind of like how one generally doesn't see chicken or pork stroganoff in modern cookbooks. I'm sure it would be ok, and I know it can be done, but it's not representative of what is done.

Why not use the beef in something like bukkenade, which is easily shown to have been made with a wide variety of meats (including beef)?

Oh, and you're quite right that it's a great recipe!

So where to start........hmm........Well first off I suppose, we try not to present the information as 'how it was' but rather 'how we think it could have been' (or at least that's the aim anyway). In fact, get chatting to the chaps when cooking and their/our failings are very apparent very quickly. It could be argued (and it is quite often!) that anyone that only looks but doesn't talk to us must go away with a different impression, perhaps that what they see is 'exactly how it was in the past' and to some extent, the recent qualitative exit survey would seem to back this up. In it by far and away the majority of those surveyed said that because they were seeing something interpreted at an Historic Royal Palaces site it 'must be how it was in the past'

It's a tricky one to answer really and as Robert said to me in an email on this very subject, it's a big problem with any costumed interpretation, as in essence you tend to take the interpreters word for it that what they're doing is accurate and if you don't ask what it is that's going on or you only get to see pictures of an interpretation then you have to make your own mind up as to what it is you're looking at, which in our case would be pots boiling, ingredients lying about and finished dishes....all of which you probably wouldn't be quite sure of what they may be. It's one of the problems with wearing the history clothes as it kind of blinds people to the experimental part of what we're trying to and moreover are employed to do......all they see is the men in the funny clothes pretending to be Henry VIII and that's one reason I'm keen to do as much work in modern chefs whites as in costume....but thats for another time.

This leads me to think that there is something about the recipe which lends itself to those particular meats - kind of like how one generally doesn't see chicken or pork stroganoff in modern cookbooks. I'm sure it would be ok, and I know it can be done, but it's not representative of what is done.

What is it about those recipes? Why do they only appear with those meats? It's questions like those that tend to be asked by visitors to the kitchens who look through the recipe books.......and so it's part of our job to be able to answer those questions not simply with a 'because they didn't do that' but with a more reasoned answer, more often than not with some practical knowledge behind it.

As for this not being representative, that's a really tricky one as 10 guys in a kitchen staffed by 200 isn't particularly representative either, or Henry VIII and 10 people representing the entire court in the Great Hall (but I digress!).......back to the do we know? A couple of years ago I'd have been right there with you and that comment, but the recipes aren't sacrosanct. If people only cooked the recipes that we have in surviving recipe books then that comment would be true and they'd have had a remarkably limited diet, but they didn't, lists of foodstuffs issued to the court under Henry VIII include many things that do not appear in recipes of the time and vice versa.....we can only say with any degree of certainty that they possibly didn't do this or that and there, as the post heading the rub!

We can only show what may have happened in the past and hopefully that's what we do. I'd like to think that we get to experiment a come up with some 'answers', but a lot less of that goes on than I'd like (perhaps this year will be better) Many more people across the world do much cleverer things with history food than we do, we just have the advantage of a budget and a Palace to try things out in. I suppose that's also one of our limitations as well........when it's your job, you find other things to do when you're not at work, I don't 'live and breathe' food history!?!.........yes, it may come as quite a shock, but many of us have real lives that don't necessarily involve food! As such I don't think we get to put in as much time on the subject as a lot of people do.
From what I have seen, by far and away the best work in experimental food history is being done by 'hobbyists' across the world.....and that's not meant in ANY derogatory way , I just mean those people whose job is nothing to do with food history but for whom it's an all consuming (no pun intended) passion......if that makes sense??

So another rambling pile of tosh eh! I hope it's answered some questions, but possibly not........budget meetings all day tomorrow so hopefully we'll have a better idea of what 2008 brings later this week, then of course this weekend is cookery. Apart from anything else this weekend will see Robert back into modern 'whites' with camera and thermometer in hand, so hopefully a good spread of pictures will be one of the results of these two days if nothing else. I aim to take some more video, though at this moment I don't know what of........any suggestions then do let me know, the same goes if you'd like to see a picture of something that we haven't provided yet.....all comments gratefully received (and taken on board as well!)

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

No News Is......

No News! That's why I've not posted recently as there's been nothing to tell!

Well the February weekend is all 'in the bag' so to speak, at least from my end to cook have been planned and the shopping list worked out and submitted. Just as I'd thought, we'll be using up food that we have in stock/store/left over so the shopping list is down to a nice small sum with only really fresh stuff like milk and eggs being needed on top of the stuff we have already.

Over the weekend we intend to be looking at surviving recipes we use but applying them to ingredients that we already have and seeing if they still work as well. So for example, the recipe for Fylettys en Galentyne.

¶Take fayre porke, þe fore quarter, an take of þe skyne; an put þe porke on a fayre spete, an rost it half y-now; þan take it of, an smyte it in fayre pecys, & caste it on a fayre potte; þan take oynonys, and schrede hem, an pele hem (an pyle hem nowt to smale), an frye in a panne of fayre grece; þan caste hem in þe potte to þe porke; þan take gode broth of moton or of beef, an caste þer-to, an þan caste þer-to pouder pepyr, canel, clowys, an macys, an let hem boyle wyl to-gederys; þan tak fayre brede, an vynegre, an stepe þe brede with þe same brothe, an strayne it on blode, with ale, or ellys sawnderys, and salt, an lat hym boyle y-now, an serue it forth.

calls for pork to be used, a pre roasted piece of which we have in the freezer. We also have some pre roasted beef as well and so shall cook this recipe twice to show that you don't always have to stick to the exact letter of the recipe if you don't have all of the ingredients to hand. It is by the way a cracking recipe and a great way now of using up leftover meat from a Sunday joint.
Other things planned are pies using up left over roast venison instead of raw along with some stew recipes that will make the most of some 'odds and ends' that I found in the bottom of the freezer when we took stock at the beginning of the month.

The chocolate talk is taking shape nicely, research is getting back on track and I'm looking through all of the suggestions and ideas for courses that you've sent so keep 'em coming!

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

You The Jury.

OK then, time to try and elicit some response from the audience!

If you could choose an adult education programme to come to at Hampton Court, what would be your subject of choice? What do you want to know?

This is a partially hypothetical exercise, so no limitations on how wacky or far out the ideas can be......except NO practical cookery courses as that's an assumed 'given' in the pantheon of wished for courses already!

Half day, full day, evening lectures, a combination of all or any, linked thematic series of talks, hands on sessions, practical, pure theory.....whatever you could possibly think of on any topic linked to Hampton Court, so art, history, clothes and costume, conservation, etc. etc. etc.

A couple of ideas to get you started:
Researching do you go about finding historic recipes to try? How do you read them? How can you source the ingredients?

Historic photography techniques.....lots of pictures have been taken of Hampton Court over time, how do the processes differ? What can we learn from these methods? Could we try to replicate them?

either of those could have a practical element to them or simply be lectures and discussions. That's the sort of thing I'm after.

Any and all comments welcome if you'd be so kind, no promises that any ideas could be turned into reality, but you never know!

Monday, 14 January 2008

It's Back...No It's Not....Yes It Is..!?!?

Well after a couple of days with Flickr working, then not, then working, then not, here we are on Monday and it all appears to be fixed!
So without further ado I've just sent 6 more of Roberts pictures there for all to see. They include this one

That gives you some idea of how big the fire was that Warren built......the last time he did that he was suffering from a teensy weensy hangover and the high strength pain killers he was taking to 'correct' the problem lead to a huge fire.......this time though there was no reason and a stonking fire was had by all! As it happened it gave Ross a fairly quiet day as the crowds of visitors that normally come and stand in front of the fire and ask him loads of questions were kept some 10-15ft away by the blazing heat.

There's also this one of Dave when there was too much salt in the egg at dinner.....

which goes once again to prove that you always get good value from him in pictures! I've also posted one that Robert won't thank me for, but it was too good an opportunity to miss I'm afraid, I think the moral to be learned is don't let your sister take pictures of you at work.......either that or try to look less enigmatic next time!

Apart from that I'm afraid it's very much a case of 'no news is good news' at the moment. I'm still plugging away sorting out the menus and so on for February, March and Easter......should be finished after I can take a look on the shelves to check some ingredients tomorrow; there's also the adult education lecture I'm preparing on the history of chocolate. (Click on the link to go to the HRP website for further details.) which is keeping me busy too.

Meetings tomorrow then a spot of tidying up the storage area in our office later in the week, followed by me getting back to the research is what I'm planning for the near future (after the shopping lists and talk are sorted). The research for the coming year has been sorely neglected of late with other work getting 'in the way' so it's about time that I attempted to knuckle down and get on with what I had planned to do this financial year in order to give us some new information to work with next year.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Just To Let You Know

That Flickr are having a spot of 'down time' to sort out database problems, so if you can't get to the site to view the pictures then that's's also why I haven't posted any more of the Christmas pictures yet.

When they're sorted I'll pop some more up for you to see.......fingers crossed it'll be tomorrow (Sunday)

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

I Never Knew There Was So Much In It!

...Our freezer that is! I've been going through the contents trying to work out what we could use up for the following few weekends and it looks like we have quite a bit of spare meat in stock.....stuff like leftover cooked beef and venison, trimmed off bits of veal, a body weight of sausages and the like, so it looks like we could be keeping the costs right down for the next few weekends....which will be good.

Another 6 of Roberts pictures and 1 of mine have gone to Flickr including

I'm quite taken by the picture of Robin.....him nice and still with the blur all around him. The other one shows just how hot the stoves can get, 933 degrees centigrade......which is pretty damn hot in antibody's language. Hopefully I'll have all of the data that Robert took over the various weekends last year shortly (hint, hint!) and when that's all compiled I'll be able to let you have a peek at some of the numbers that we got......temperatures, cooking times, weights before and after cooking and so on. Hopefully we'll be continuing with the record keeping over the following year as well, the aim being to more carefully record what it is that we never know, we may even end up with some redacted recipes for those of you who don't want to work them out for yourselves.

More work on the menus for Feb' and March tomorrow and possibly some more pictures for you all to see.....but no promises!

One final thing, there have been a few 'comments' made on some of the earlier posts, thank you for the interaction.........just to let you know that I have answered all the comments to date and the replies are in the threads/posts that the comments were made in, so if you were expecting a reply then that's where to look.


Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Back To The Grind.

So it's back to the daily grind today having recovered from the Christmas excess and to mark the occasion 6 of Roberts pictures from the Christmas event have been popped onto the Flickr site for your viewing pleasure (or not as the case may be!), I quite like this one of the roasting fire:

There are a couple more to come that show the scale of the fire on the day that picture was taken.....towering inferno seems to be the best way of describing it as Warren the fire warder who built the fire that day seems to have gone for it big time!!

So it's the new year and what does that bring? February's weekend looms large, followed by March then the Easter cookery from Good Friday through to bank holiday Monday, all that needs doing now is to plan the menus and sort out the shopping lists......although we plan to use up as much of the food that we have in store as possible so that we start the new financial year with a clean slate so to speak in our storage area.

Hopefully we'll find out the state of play for the next year soon as well, then we can crack on with getting that planned.......I've certainly got some new stuff in store ready for the new year, we just need the 'go' to get started on all the work that is needed to get it all ready.

More pictures from Roberts Christmas collection soon.......

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Time Off For Good Behaviour

Is what I've just been enjoying, but it's time to get back to work (well Monday will be anyway) and more importantly for this, time to get back to talking to you lot!

First things first, my meagre contribution to the weeks photographs have been sent to Flickr.....all 3 of them!! Well it just turned out not to be a picture taking week, mainly because there was no need in the main.......although Robert kept his end up over the last couple of days and I'll let you see them in a day or two as soon as I've got them all sorted and saved to the hard drive.

So how was it? Well New Years eve was pretty fact for the first time in a long while we all spent midnight in the poppers, toasts and handshakes all round. This lead to a fairly easy New Years day (no hangovers to negotiate!) even though it was fairly quiet.....but then 'real' people probably had better things to be doing than coming to see us wheezy gits in a cold kitchen.
Overall the week went fairly massive shocks......nothing out of the ordinary to report, hence the fairly dull posts I suppose. On the up side, for me at least, was the discovery of the time lapse setting on the camera.....which has lead to seeing the kitchens in a new light I time I'll try some of the different time intervals, but for the moment all the footage is taken 1 frame every second.

With that in mind, here are a couple more clips for you to of the washing up after the public have gone home and one of the main room in the kitchens over the space of about an hour on New Years day. I know I said I was going to hold the washing up clip in reserve for times of need, but I managed to edit out the footage that shows lewd or lazy behaviour (and miraculously still have footage left!!). Well boys will be boys and we find washing up a good release after a hard, mentally demanding day at work. The 'black' frames in both clips denote a passage of time...or embarrassing faux pas!!

Before anyone asks about the modern kitchen (and I think I've said this before), the washing up isn't part of the learning/experimental work that we do....there's absolutely no artifice involved and we're very open about telling people how the washing up is done. It's just one of those things that has to be done each day in order for the project to function, so it's all done in a modern kitchen with modern products.......although in so saying, we have in the past experimented with Tudor methods of cleaning.....scouring with sand or horsetail grass, washing in lye or soft can compare the modern products to their historic counterparts when we need to.

Although New Years day wasn't that busy you do sort of get the impression of what we do from the second clip, hopefully in future events I'll be able to get some better footage for you.

That's all for now, pictures from Robert as soon as is viable.