Monthly Archives: September 2013

Corazon III: Sea change

I’ve spent the last month and a half, more or less, trying to chase down any Spanish manuscript between 1580 and 1650 in translation, to no avail. I came across a couple of references to translations of Diego Granada (Libro del Arte de Cozina, 1599) by Mistress Brighid ni Chiarain, the translator of De Nola; but they appear to be individual recipes.

On Friday, during another idle Google session (my job involves about four hours per week of work that looks like: click – cut and paste – click – wait 90 seconds – repeat; I get a lot of low-level SCA research done while working on that task) I pulled up the Google Books electronic facsimile of Francisco Martínez Montiño’s Arte de Cozina, Pasteleria, Bizcocheria y Conserveria (1611).

And discovered that I could read it.

Well. “Read” is a relatively loose term. I took three years of high school Spanish, twenty years ago, and evidently have retained the fundamentals of grammar. I have studied Spanish, Mexican, and Central American cooking for a very long time, and have quite a lot of functional Spanish culinary vocabulary. And I have handled enough 15th-17th century Spanish maps and documents (reproductions, of course!) that my brain seems to subliminally make the s/f and u/v substitutions where appropriate on words I recognize, even if the meaning doesn’t pop into my head at a conscious level. So I could get the gist of a passage, on a cold read, to about 40% – comprehending some entire sentences, losing others, picking up at least a few key concept words in most. Tables of contents of recipes, my comprehension was closer to 80-90%.

So I transcribed a couple of pages and ran them through Google Translate that evening. The machine translation leaves a lot to be desired, but it provides enough information to tell me what is and isn’t useful. And a lot of it’s useful. There’s extensive narrative about kitchen and service practices, there are New World foods, there are seasonal recipes, there is just a wealth of new and exciting material.

I’ve stepped off the cliff. Over the weekend I finished 63 pages (of 697) of transcription. My plan is to transcribe the whole thing, make a rough machine translation, and select sections I want to work with for deeper translation for this feast and Kingdom A&S 2014.  That’s all I’ll have time for if I want to be in recipe testing by Thanksgiving, which is my usual goal for this feast. The rest, I’ll poke at as I have time. I’ll add a section for the polished translation sections as they come. I’ll also be blogging about the process.



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Corazon III: Research notes

I finished the first of my stack of research notes for Corazon III over the weekend: John Super’s exceptional little book, Food, Conquest, and Colonization in Sixteenth-Century Spanish America. It’s only 88 pages before notes, and it’s not a cook’s book – it’s far more economics-oriented. But it’s very revealing, and particularly in:

  • The Old World foods that the Spanish were most invested in bringing to the colonies, the spread of Old World foods through markets and agricultural records;
  • The New World foods that the Spanish adopted most readily, and the class and race issues around the adoption of certain foods;
  • The economics of agriculture in the colonies from 1600-1800, and how climate and landform affected the differences between what was grown in different areas (and what was grown in the colonies vs. Europe).

It’s very helpful in making educated guesses about what the fusion landscape would have been in the late 16th century, vs, say, the mid-18th century – what foods had already become what would later be the distinctively Mexican/Central American/South American cuisines, and what did not become integrated until much later. What “plausibly period” looks like in this context.

Next up: re-reading Sophie Coe’s excellent America’s First Cuisines and Charles Mann’s 1493. Both of these are background reads – Coe has some post-colonial material but basically her treatment is of pre-contact Native American foods, and I can’t remember how much Mann touches on food at all but he does talk a great deal about daily life.

First impressions:

Peanut marzipan! Goat and venison in the tasting course! SO MUCH MEAT. Fresh fruit is a GO – I worried about this; I know that fresh fruit wasn’t a thing in much of period in Europe, but no, multiple sources are clear that the arriving Europeans were dazzled and entranced by tropical fruit.  Yeasted wheat bread, not tortillas. Time to go back and re-read Diaz del Castillo.

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Productivity vs. submergence

Ironic, that after writing a post about the value of documentation, I left the blog fallow for sixteen months. I am rethinking the purpose of this blog, and maybe moving toward a more speculative, process-based content (which up to now I’ve been putting on LiveJournal; many posts friendslocked, although I just went through and made a bunch of posts from the last year public), and less “finished project portfolio” style content. And that is all I have to say about that.

So. *deep breath* I’ve had a very busy and productive summer, and I’m trying to go into what I expect to be a busy and productive fall and winter without becoming overwhelmed or stressed out. What I find, during the summer, is that my game begins to interfere with my game – I love the SCA for the amateur experiential archeology, the research, the social geekery of it. But as I get deeper into the logistics of encampment-building and garb production and meal planning and generally managing the campaign that is the summer season, I start to bog down, feel disconnected from the art and trapped by the craft.

I’ve gotten an incredible amount of work done this summer, an incredible amount of productivity, but it feels… not entirely real. Not meaningful. A means to an end, not the thing itself. It’s time to re-center on the thing itself.

What I’ve committed to this winter:

Corazon III: A Journey to the New World. The feast is Spanish-Aztec fusion. The narrative underpinning is this: a shipful of old-world nobility has just landed at Veracruz, and is tasting new world food for the first time. There will be theatre and crazy hall decorations and I CAN’T WAIT.

Kingdom A&S: This is the year I am going to level up my game and enter both a cooking entry and a costuming entry. There, I said it. In public. To that end, I am going to work the costume entry in stages, and enter pieces in stages at several competitions between now and then.

Personal research: I want to spend a lot of time this winter on formalizing my personal research, doing some original writing, working on the Great Baltic Mapping Project, developing some costuming resources here on this site. (Watch this space.) I also want to spend some time on Central Asian research, for my own and my oldest kid’s Lipkowie Tatar kits.

Shire administration: There’s a ton of accumulated paperwork that needs to be put in order, a website to be redesigned, a library to be built. We’re going to be doing more social activities this winter, including a weekly movie night. After a summer of EVENTS EVENTS EVENTS, I’m very into the idea of not-at-events, not-in-garb, unstructured social and structured learning time right now. I just want to spend more time with my people.

I’m keeping commitments light right now because I don’t know what will happen at Crown Tourney next weekend, but I have several friends fighting, so I want to have some energy available for service to the new Crown. And I want to do more teaching this winter. And brewing. And work slowly, quietly, on some long-term, detail-oriented garb projects.

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