Last year I got interested in Viking Re-enactment, where you try and recreate a certain time-period as realistically as possible, trying to live the way the people back then lived. Everybody has different rolles in the camps and I got interested in two things: fighting (yes, woman also fought) and of course…. food.
The first can be a very expensive thing to start with, and since I don’t know how much I’m really going to love this I tried to focus more on the preparation of food. This way I can kill two birds with one stone: doing one of the things I love (cooking food) while having something useful to do. A lot of woman do crafts, but I don’t like weaving and I don’t think I have the patience to do that for a very long time as well.
Being a good ‘scientist’ I start out by doing research, and in my search of recipes and food preparation techniques I found the book I’m writing about today: An Early meal – A Vikingg Age Cookbook and Culinary Odyssey bij Daniel Serra and Hanna Tunberg. Daniel Serra is a historian specialising in the Viking Age, he first became interested in Viking meals when doing his Ph.D and when he started working at the Lofted Viking Museum the idea of a cookbook was born. The book isn’t a standard cookbook, but it’s also a work of reference. The book starts out with a very detailed description of the most importants meats, dairy products, vegetables, herbs, cereal and sweeteners they would have used and how they preserved and prepared foods.
I bought the book at Amazon.
The second part of the book is all about recipes. Daniel starts this part of the book by stating that the recipes that are in this book are meant to be made in a modern kitchen, but also says that preparing the food in the ‘right environment ‘ will add to the experience. The proportions of the foods are based on what the writers discovered during their research, but also their personal taste. Some of the recipes aren’t totally ‘historical correct’ because some foods aren’t available anymore or you can’t buy them as a consumer.
The writers amid there where some difficulty’s while putting together this book, because there are no recipes saved from the Viking Age, as opposed to recipes available from the Romans and the texts that are available are written from a European perspective and thus not always useful or reliable. That’s why they tried a new perspective using different sources (archeological finds, experimental archeology and sources from other perspectives. This way they learned about how foods could best be prepared, but it also gave a pretty good idea about the foods that could be made.
The recipe-part of the book is based on a trip the writers made and the recipes are categorised to the area’s Lofoten, Kaupan, Lejre, Hedeby, Jorvik, Uppåkra and Birka. Each ‘chapter’ starts with a description of that region, the foods that would have been eaten and the ways foods would have been prepared. De recipes are short and seem easy to make, and with each of the recipes the writers explain how they came up with the recipe and what sources they used. Most of the ingredients seem easy to find, although you might have to go to a farmer to get some of the ingredients. One or two ingredients may be impossible to get, or at least I don’t know how I am supposed to get 500 ml of blood (Black Bread, page 154).
At the end of the book you can find an appendix with a detailed summary of ingredients and their names in Latin, Danish, German, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish. In the appendix you can also find a food encyclopedia and a description of the cooking techniques.
At first I didn’t know what to expect, was this a cookbook or just historical research, but it’s both!! Which has made both the cook and the historian in my a happy camper. I think I wouldn’t have enjoyed this book as much if it was just a cookbook. The recipes seem very easy to make and don’t require a lot of ingredients. It’s simple and pure food. I was happily surprised that meat isn’t a main component in a lot of the meals, like meat is today, but rather a small piece of a whole meal. Which probably has to do with the amount of meat they had available to them, depending on the season.
Apart from the texts and the recipes this book comes with loads of awesome pictures, not just of the foods, but also you see people making and eating them. The way it would actually look on a re-enactment event. This made this book a complete joy to read and I’m definitely gonna give some of the recipes a try. Hmmmm… boar stew….