A little paradise at Champions of Lough Devnaree…

And besides all this (proceeded Socrates), nowhere among the various countries which he inhabits or visits does he fail to make it his first care that there shall be orchards and gardens, parks and “paradises,” as they are called, full of all fair and noble products which the earth brings forth; and within these chiefly he spends his days, when the season of the year permits.

Crit. To be sure, Socrates, it is a natural and necessary conclusion that when the king himself spends so large a portion of his time there, his paradises should be furnished to perfection with trees and all else beautiful that earth brings forth.

So said the Greek historian Xenophon, in his Oeconomicus, Book IV, in In 401 B.C.E. to recommend the introduction of pleasure gardens (Persian, paradeisos) to Greece.  It was a popular idea, and one that carried on through medieval times, as evidenced, for example, by the inclusion of gardens and two “paradises”  in the St. Gall Plan by Haito.  This plan, donated to Gozbert, the abbot of St. Gall (816-837 A.D.) contains the most famous monastic garden details of the Early Middle Ages. They include an Infirmary Garden, a Cemetery Garden and a gardener’s house. There are two semi-circular ‘paradise’ spaces at the east and west ends of the church, confirming the influence of eastern churches on the plan.

I had been asked to prepare feast for Champions of Lough Devnaree, (which happened to be my second anniversary first SCA event!) which was just mildly terrifying.  (ha!)  The theme for the A&S competition was “Paradise”, and originally I entertained an idea of entering a garden themed feast into the competition, but there was a lot of work to do just to prepare for feast, it being my first etc., and I wanted to reserve the right to pare back the garden motifs to just get food onto people’s plates if I needed to.  I still wanted to use the garden theme though, so I included some little things like bread roses (shaped out of severely flattened pieces of ordinary loaf bread which I toasted on the day), a gilded “tree” (branches) with marzipan blossoms, a green soup, beef “birds” and a lot of vegetables though feast, along with slow roast pork belly and herb stuffed eggs to reflect the working garden idea.
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I don’t have photos of anything else, the day was a bit of a blur, feast cooking is intense! I am, of course, acutely aware of all the things that didn’t happen (the pork belly was supposed to get crisped on a hot setting to get the crackling just right before it went downstairs,  the Alows de beef were supposed to get brushed with a lemon, sandalwood and ginger dressing and the  chicken skewers and salad were supposed to get a dressing amoungst other things, but the time simply slides away and at least now I know the sorts of things that can get missed.   I also amplummus, after reading the very wonderful Cooking Vivendier blog – http://cookingvivendier.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/recipe-13-amplummus/ – I used a tart apple from my mother’s garden, somewhere half way between an eating and a cooking apple and found it delicious, though I think my test cook turned out better than the one on the day.

It seems to have gone down well though, judging by the very warm reception I got when I finally finished up in the kitchen (and put on garb.. a naked chef, whoever heard of such things!!??) People are lovely 🙂

Gytha prepared lunch, also her first, and it was awesome, Friday night was spent in a delicious smelling kitchen as she worked on her pies, being funny and wise and occasionally cursing gluten free pastry with a fiery passion.  Agnes and Mícheal cooked fantastic breakfasts, the smell of which on both mornings acted as my alarm clock, though on the Saturday morning I was too anxious to eat and on the Sunday just too tired to move.  The beds in Aspire in Clara have wonderfully comfortable mattresses and I had a good book.  I have very little idea of what else happened all weekend, though everyone seemed to have a great time.  In other household news Lady Cassandra della Corona has succeeded Lady Agnes La Verte as the A&S Champion, Alays de Lunel and Aodhan Dha Cheist have both achieved the rank of Archer in the Drachenwald Company of Archers, and House of Green continue to rock. I also got to see some of Thora’s recent craftwork and only harboured mild thoughts of stealing her hoard. (or at least that’s all I will confess to)

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