Monday, October 23, 2006

Robin Hood, Robin Hood!

Last weekend Nottingham held its fourteenth annual Robin Hood Pageant in the castle grounds. It was business as usual for my re-enactment society Regia Anglorum who were employed to provide part of the living history exhibit and acts of derring do in the main arena.
The photo to the left features members of the Nottingham branch of Regia, the Conroi de Vey.
I am on the far left of the photo and dressed down in my 'cooking frock'. Just before the photo was taken (by Sarah, also known as the Lady Nicolaa and the mum of the two little boys in the picture) I remembered to remove my by then disreputable apron!
De Vey has performed at most of the pageants, aided and abetted by other groups within Regia Anglorum's framework - Cestrefeld, de Bec, Deoraby to name but three, together with guests from other societies who share Regia's ethic for 'getting it right.' Not that the Robin Hood Pageant is an event calling for white-hot authenticity. It's a fun show where anything vaguely Medieval goes. Costumes range from Viking to fifteenth Century. Purple velvet, wench corsets, black leather and fantasy gear are well represented. Regia's dateline for this event was late 12thC and we dressed to suit.
Numerous traders have booths and stalls on the site and it's a great opportunity to do some early Christmas shopping. I picked up some Fraoch beer for my sons. www.heatherale.co.uk
Also a medieval drinking cup from www.themerchantventurer.co.uk
A while ago I blogged that I was considering what sort of food to dish up to the Regia members at the pageant, given that I'd be cooking outdoors, using a firebox and cauldrons and catering for approximately thirty people, including some vegetarians. I finally decided on a spicy beef stew for the Saturday, containing (as well as beef!) onions, ginger, cumin and black pepper. I'd tried this out before at Castleton and it had worked very well. Also it's a fairly generic, authentic medieval dish. Being as it was the Robin Hood Pageant, I could always claim that we'd stolen the spices off the sheriff's baggage cart! The vegetarians dined on a leek and onion pottage. People returned for seconds, so it was evidently a success! Sunday's main course was sweet and sour chicken (authentic Medieval again. The Museum of London cookbook has it in the Norman section, although more academic works put it later, but I assume it comes from a long tradition). Actually, when I say authentic, the meat should have been goat or rabbit, but chicken is more readily available today and user friendly. For smaller quantities I'd have used the original suggested meat. The sweet and sour was obtained using wine, wine vinegar, honey and currants. There were also onions in the dish and garlic.
We also had nibbles, including parsnip cakes - mash cooked parsnip with flour and salt and fry on the griddle in a little butter in the manner of a potato cake. Excellent! We had pear tarts and leche lumbard among other things. The latter is an interesting medieval dessert for which there are as many recipes as days in the year. My adaptation is this: Empty a bag of dates into a saucepan. Cover with white wine. Add a couple of teaspoons of mixed spice and one of ginger. A few screws of ground black pepper. Cook until it makes a squidgy mush. Then stir in breadcrumbs until you have a stiff but still moist mixture. When cool, mould into an oblong shape. It will look like a plate of poo (ahem!). People at shows who've never encountered it before will look at it askance, but once they've tried it, if they like dates, they can't stop eating it.
As always, when attending a show in kit, there was a lot to learn just by being around re-enactors and enthusiasts for a couple of days. I had a go with a hand quern (hard work, but wonderful to see grains gradually emerge after several grindings onto the boult cloth as flour.
Fun too to learn that a pine cone makes a marvellous brillo pad for a scummy cauldron!

All in all a great weekend. Good friends, good food, loads of research and a medieval atmosphere. What more could anyone want....apart from a bit less rain on the Sunday afternoon!

9 comments:

Jane Henry said...

And oh the joy of turning up as a non mediaeval counterpart, but quite an enthusiast to meet Elizabeth in kit, but sadly after the cooking was done on Sat afternoon! We wouldn't have gone to Nottingham on Saturday if Elizabeth hadn't mentioned it on one of my egroups. And boy did we enjoy ourselves. And as for the kids? They've shouted themselves hoarse, and are totally totally into the Robin Hood legend now! I don't care if the TV version IS crap, at least they're interested. And I have Roger Lancelyn Green at the ready for when it's needed...

Thanks Elizabeth, we had a really great weekend...

Would love to do it again sometime!

love Janexxxx

Anonymous said...

I would love to have been there, just to say hello!

Anne G

Gabriele C. said...

Sounds yummy.

I had some good Roman food in Trier - unusual combination of spices, but I'm all for experiments. :)

KC said...

Sounds like an amazing day! Wish I could have been there.

The food sounds wonderfully yummy.

Carla said...

It sounds like great fun. Was there much discussion about the current BBC Robin Hood series? Opinions I've seen elsewhere seem to run fairly high.....

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

Thanks for all the comments everyone. It was a fun couple of days indeed - and since we cooked on charcoal, not as bad as some years when all we've had is green wood!
Carla, opinions of the Robin Hood TV series in the re-enactor community are not printable. Most people I have talked to, have watched episode one and then turned off. The reaction seems to be 'it's so iredeemably bad, let's just not go there by talking about it.' So amid a general atmosphere of disgust and contempt, not a lot has been said.

Andrew Zalotocky said...

Given that most Robin Hood adaptations are just escapist adventure fantasy, have there actually been any that the re-enactor community would consider to be reasonably good?

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

Hi Andrew,
Thanks for dropping by. I can't speak for the re-enactor community at large and it's not something that's come up in discussion. I suppose everyone has particular favourite versions of the legend (I rather like the Disney cartoon version myself :-) ) I do recall that an acronym for bad, inauthentic re-enactor shoes used to be DROSS which stood for 'Dire Robin of Sherwood Shoes'! Some folk did come to re-enacting through the Robin of Sherwood programme, so I suppose it was good in that it fostered an interest in the period. I do know there is tremendous respect in the community for what Peter Jackson did with Lord of the Rings. He cared to get the costumes right. Having seen them at the exhibition in London, including the 'mithril' mail shirt, I am in awe of what was achieved. You could feel the love and integrity that had gone into the making.

Carla said...

That's an interesting comment on Lord of the Rings. Something that stuck in my mind from a Peter Jackson interview, I think before the first film was released, was when he said soemthing like, "The only way you can film these books is to say to yourself: this really happened. It was five or six thousand years ago and the records have been lost, but Tolkien found a scroll, and this is real history." That convinced me that he was going to do it well! I sometimes wish all films/TV shows/novels showed an equivalent respect for real history, or, if they don't want to do that, that they'd put up a health warning on the first page saying, "This film/show/book is intended for entertainment purposes only. Do not attempt to learn any history from it."