Cooking in pre-Renaissance times wasn’t terribly different from today, although there were some notable differences. With no stoves or ovens (at least as we think of them) available, they used fire and coals to cook their foods. In the SCA, we have such a wide array of eras to pull from that it can seem overwhelming. Still, no matter what era you choose to play in, there are vast numbers of foods that can be served.
When cooking in an SCA context, we look at historical recipes (or “receipts” as they’re called), as well as searching images in paintings, woodcuts, and carvings. We can also search through archeological evidence, to provide lists of ingredients used in different places and times. Making historical recipes into modern ones is called “redacting”, and the older the recipes, the more complex it can sometimes seem. The good news is, there are many fantastic teachers out there, and those who will gladly mentor you.
For those new to cooking SCA-period recipes, your best method for connecting with others who share your interest is to join in. All skill levels are welcome! If you want to try your hand, simply walk into the kitchen at the next event you attend, and offer to help. You will meet helpful and knowledgeable people, and they will guide you through the experience with a smile. Feasting is a central part of most SCA events, and there is always a need for more hands on deck in the kitchen.
Another way to learn about historical cooking is to do it at home. There are a number of great books available that cover the periods SCA encompasses. There are also a lot of websites that contain already redacted recipes that you can practice with in your own kitchen.
If you would like to learn more about cooking in the SCA, you can visit the main SCA website and look under the “Document Library” tab for issues of The Compleat Anachronist, which includes some recipes in past issues. Stefan’s Florigelum Archive has many articles pertaining to cooking, baking, and food in general. And on our own Malagentian website, under the “Cooking and Food” section, you can find links to a number of different resources.
When it comes to books, there are countless offerings:
Pleyn Delit: Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks by Sharon Butler (available here)
The Re-Enactor’s Cookbook: Historical and Modern Recipes For Cooking Over an Open Fire by M. Allyson Szabo (available here)
Eat Like a Viking! (available here)
Ancient Roman Cooking: Ingredients, Recipes, Sources (available here)
You’re also welcome to contact Allyson by email (), who is the author of The Re-Enactor’s Cookbook, as she is a member of the SCA. She lives just south of Malagentia, in the Barony of Stonemarche.