Sable Sparrow for Garbing a Child

A friend, Lady Dianna as she is known in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), was awarded an Ansteorran award for garbing a child. MY child to be exact. My child seeks to learn to do Rapier fighting in the SCA and so needed garb appropriate to that late period activity. Lady Dianna Blakely dove right in and created this garb:Version 3IMG_2193

Two pair trousers, vest, doublet, hat, tabard, shirt, and a fighting cloak not shown. Also not shown, gloves, hood, and gorget!  She is working to add one more shirt to round out the wardrobe.  She made each item carefully to allow for changes in height and breadth.  THIS is a top flight example of garbing a child.

The Sable Sparrow is an award given for a one time service that is above and beyond. I would say this was a very beautiful example of a well deserved award!

The garb is late period because rapier (fencing) is a late period activity. In the 10th century the fighters would have been Chivalric in nature (in the SCA these are the medieval knights with the heavy armor) and dressed very differently, but that is one of the wonderful qualities of the SCA. A family does not all have to dress alike.

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Also, the Tabard clearly informs the educated SCAdian to which group this child is attached and to whom you return them if they are found where they ought not to be.

And that, dear readers, is an example of children’s garb.

My gratitude to the good Lady Dianna!

Children’s Clothing for SCA Events

Children’s Clothing for playing in the modern middle ages, AKA the Society for Creative Anachronism(SCA), is an ongoing problem. The other day as I explored the Ansteorran web page, seeking information, I ran across this excellent article: Children’s Costumes at SCA Events by Ælflæd of Duckford (the author’s SCA name).

The article is good, with pictures, patterns mentioned, and other useful and practical ideas about clothing children for events. She did a far better job than would I!

So, while my basic kids garb, influenced by the Metropolitan Museum where their online pages have two extant items (child’s hooded tunic, Child’s dress, similar to adult) that suit my period, is easily done with a t-shirt, linen, and a bit of trim; practical and simple to make but not all that varied in design, this author wrote on all sorts of fun options, with photos of her own children fully garbed.

So, in addition to Children’s Costumes at SCA Events, you can dive into the many options at Stefan’s Florilegium.

Go, follow the links, and enjoy!

 

 

Lighting in 10th Century Byzantium

Revisiting the Dumbarton Oaks Museum and the Byzantine & Christian Museum of Athens, today we shall take a look at methods of lighting which would be typical for the 10th century in Byzantium or Eastern Rome.

In the Dumbarton Oaks collection there is a 10th century glass hanging lamp. It would have needed a wick holder, which would likely have been of brass, to hold the wick, it would have been filled with olive oil, and was common enough that it shows up in an icon of St. Luke. The chain is attached by eye-bolts set into holes through the glass. The Dumbarton Oaks, lamp is the only one of its kind still intact. The book LIGHTING IN EARLY BYZANTIUM published by Dumbarton Oaks has excellent images.

Over in the collections of the Byzantine & Christian Museum there are several clay lamps which, from the sheer numbers that have been found, and the common motifs carried by so many, were likely used by nearly everyone, even if they also had the wealth to own lamps made of metals.  Of particular interest are the hanging fish lamps, and the smaller table lamp with fish decoration.

This metal version (image from Wikimedia Commons) with the Chi Rho would have been very common in clay and this shape was common with all sorts of Christian motifs; the chains indicate that it could be hung as well as set on a table:

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Oil Lamp Christian Symbol“. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 fr via Wikimedia Commons.

Coriander Seed in Sauerkraut

OH WOW!  This is an eye opener, indeed.  I put coriander seed in a fermentation of cabbage and this morning the resulting excess brine was added to breakfast.  This is a one bowl sort of meal, with the steamed veggies and cut up meat mixed together with whatever interesting flavor is available. Today, it was coriander seed brine and cinnamon.   Coriander with cinnamon produces a pungent odor, almost like the smell of a really strong cheese. I enjoyed the flavor to a surprising degree.

So my breakfast, in addition to the lovely probiotics found in the brine after fermentation, was amazingly flavorful.

As this is a fermentation process that was common in the 10th century, and the coriander seed was a common seasoning in that period, and human beings love to eat what tastes really good, and the Byzantines loved strong smells (just research their take on perfumes!), I suspect I just ate a breakfast that would not have been out of place on the table of my SCA persona. FUN!

I apologize for scarfing it down before I thought to take a photo for the blog. MUST improve on my habits!

Why 10th Century and Fermentation of Cabbage?

Why 10th Century? Well, longish story. I used to bake. My beloved husband does not like baked goods. I needed an episodic kitchen thing so I thought about how great grandma made kraut and that tasted way better than the junk that comes in the jar and don’t even mention the canned version!  Anyway, I was asked in a fermentation group why the historical focus on the 10th century, and as my explanation was much too long for a post there, I decided to carry it over here and blog on it.

In my family of origin, I was taught to bake cookies and then later to expand that out into pies. These were the delights I made whenever I had the urge to be creative in the kitchen. Then I fell in love with a whole foods healthy eating focused man who took over the general cooking and anytime I mentioned baking a pie would tell me he would rather eat the berries straight than be presented with them in a pie.  He also considered cookies an entry food to bad eating practices. So what is a girl to do when her ONE creative food outlet is unwanted and even deemed wasteful? In my case, I went looking for something else creative and interesting to make my contribution to the table.

Anyway, I started learning about how to make Sauerkraut, finding first the book WILD FERMENTATION, and later other books on the subject.  Somewhere along the way an author, it may have been the first author, mentioned in passing that Pliny wrote about lactic acid fermentation. Another author mentioned in passing that the ancient Roman legions, when they traveled by land or by sea, always brought with them fermented cabbage because the use of it with every meal resulted in a more stable digestive system when dealing with ever changing food and water sources. They especially wanted the fermented cabbage when heading into the middle east, for apparently the foods going that direction were harder for them to digest.

All this meant that my interest in an episodic cooking project had cross-over with my Society for Creative Anachronism interest in all things 10th Century Byzantine.  It also meant it crossed over into my research for my Historical novel.  Thus was born a passionate pursuit of the history of Brassicas and anything else the Byzantines grew or fermented in the 10th Century.

And the best part?

I have only just begun the journey.

UPDATE: Fermenting Cabbage

The first attempt at making sauerkraut by the means of a possible in period recipe was a success. The initial kraut was shifted from the fermentation crock to containers for the refrigerator after 3 months fermented. They further aged in the refrigerator as they were used up.

The flavor improved over time even in the refrigerator. Initially the sauerkraut was too salty and not as sour as I like. Each successive container we opened to use was less salty tasting and more tangy. So there wasn’t anything we did not end up enjoying.

Evaluation of how it tasted initially led to the conclusion that my use of the salt was heavy handed and would be better if I went lighter in my next attempt and if I were to allow it to ferment longer in the crock before placing in the refrigerator.

My reading about the history of cabbage has taught me that the firm tight heads of cabbage we enjoy now are a more recent development. “Heads” of cabbage in period were looser. So for the next batch of sauerkraut I selected a different kind. I have no idea what it is called but it is darker, smaller heads, and the outer leaves spread away from the head as they mature, thus leaving only the center tight. I think it is also a modern variety, but just not the common large heads I usually see in the stores.

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So currently there are THREE crocks fermenting on my desk. Thyme and whole peeled cloves of garlic went into each crock. One crock also received whole cumin seeds, another received sliced, peeled, fresh ginger, the third nothing extra. Cabbage was sliced very thin, almost shaved, and mixed with less salt than last time and squeezed until liquid began to form. I packed each crock with the wet salty cabbage and pressed it repeatedly with each handful to pack it as tightly as I possibly could pack it. Folded whole cabbage leaves were used to cover the contents, then weights were added to hold it all down. A 2% brine was mixed and pour over everything until even the weights were covered.

And we wait.

What I love in our SCA

Recently I read a comment about a family starting out playing in the Society for Creative Anachronism. They began with borrowed garb and a modern tent and camping gear and no funds for a period tent and fancy period equipment. They felt that sometimes in our zeal for recreating historical aspects of the middle ages we forget that not everyone can afford all that. It made me think about our little Shire and how period correct is encouraged, but not at the expense of everyone participating!

We are not a large group, we have a lot of history loving members whose tents are period and their tent furniture is period, and their garb is marvelous, and we applaud them and peek at what they have done with admiration and for ideas we might adopt to move our camps up closer to that excellent example.

But we also have long time participants who play on a very tight budget. Their tents are modern, their equipment the same– but even there, we applaud the person whose tent is covered with a tarp that hides the modern tent in the shadows and adds a sun shade, and an over-head to make a porch– and suddenly his camp is more period looking on a small budget. He has great garb and a well developed persona that serve as another good example to us all.

Another aspect of our group is that we all camp together. Modern and period side by side. It is important that we support one another and help each other get the most out of the event– and it doesn’t matter that you do not have the cash to be more period. We say do what you can and have fun!

I think that the ideals of the SCA are multifaceted. We serve a dream. Each effort to create period ambiance is a boon to that dream. But fussing too much over what people cannot afford to do detracts from that dream.

Taking garb for example. You can go many ways with it. A period good t-tunic in a nice linen can carry you a very long way. Over time, at little expense, you can add some embroidery or sew on some trim, and have even nicer garb. For many people, that is as far as they need to go to be both period and have a good time–and there is NOTHING wrong with that!

Another person in our Shire has a wardrobe of marvelous later period garb. She can do a turn-out that is FABULOUS. Another period correct garb person does the basic tunic– but decorates and trims it so marvelously well that it is equally excellent garb. A third person in our group makes period looking garb for her hubby but uses costuming techniques to keep the number of layers manageable for the heat. It may look like three layers but it is one very well done piece! Again, the dream is served by the quality of the outcome– and this represents a third path to great garb.

To wrap it up, we urge our newcomers to go with basic period appropriate garb like a simple tunic to begin.  Then to take their time discovering which aspects of the SCA are their favorites.  We want them to spend their money were it will give THEM the best experience possible.  Again, this serves the dream.

I love the ideals of the SCA. Both the love of authenticity, and the practical acceptance that it is never going to be perfect. I feel that our little Shire does a marvelous job keeping the balance.  After all, learning to recreate history in an idealized form should be fun.

In service to the dream,

Lady Anna Maleine