I’d been planning this for about a month now and the day came for me to begin putting together a medieval feast. It was originally supposed to be a Valentine’s Day affair, but scheduling meant it had to be pushed off until Thursday (the 15th) in stead.
I banished everyone from the kitchen – this was to be my gift to them. After weeks of running and seemingly scarcely being home, it was my way to tell them I love them.
Let me tell you about our small feast and what I learned from it.
Course #1… Verrines
The first time I remember hearing about verrines were in 2010 when they seemed to have become “all the rage”. A verrine is simply a small glass in which you serve a tiny appetizer… just enough to kick off the meal.
In our case it was cubed beets with a hint of balsamic vinaigre, capped off with twin quail eggs. It reminded us of the days in Canada when we had a dozen or so quail and ate these tiny eggs regularly.
Course #2… Fish “Soup”
This may not look like much and I’ve got to say I wasn’t too sure about it once preparations kicked in. Course two was simply a small portion of poached fish set atop a piece of baked baguette.
There was a sort of white sauce where almond powder replaced flour as a thickening agent and the sauce was then poured over the fish + bread. I neglected to get a picture with the sauce but just imagine an almond flavoured white sauce….. yum!
It definitely didn’t resemble what we’d normally expect a soup to look like but apparently, in the middle ages, the word “soup” designated any dish where a more or less thick sauce was poured over bread.
Course #3… Rich Sarrasin Pot
“Le Pot” was a basic dish in French households during the Middle Ages. It was essentially a big pot where new things were added daily (kind of like those “clean out the fridge” soups today). People ate it either in the morning or at night.
I cooked cubed chicken and lard bits in a mixture of freshly squeezed orange and lemon juices… these were the first things in “the pot”. Then I added pitted dates & prunes, semi-cooked hazelnuts and almonds, raisins, cubed apple & pear and some fall spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt & pepper).
This photo doesn’t look all that appealing, but despite the looks and despite the otherwise odd combination of citrus juices, fall spices and nuts… this dish was ab-so-lutely delicious!
Dessert #1 – Rissoles
Dessert was another strange affair … (remember, we’re in the middle ages).
This is actually where I began my preparations in the morning. Inside cut rounds of store-bought pâte-brisée I placed little piles of stuffing. The stuffing consisted of cut up dried figs, dates, prunes, almonds & hazelnuts (semi-cooked) and grated apple (which I forgot). This mixture was augmented with more fall spices.
I closed up the dough and baked them in the oven for about a half an hour or so. They turned out like a slightly heavy puff-pastry with a delicious, subtly-sweet filling.
Dessert #2… Pear Pie
The final course of the night called for 5-6 pears – depending on their size. I peeled them then set them in a frying pan with just enough water to help them cook and not stick. While the pears were softening up, I took out two more store-bought pie shells, set one on the bottom of the pie dish and put the second one aside.
When the pears were done, I put them in a sieve to drain thoroughly and cool off more quickly before arranging them in the dish.
The water that remained in the frying pan would form the base of the “batter” that would go over the pears. I added 3 generous tablespoons of honey and let the water cook out before setting it aside to cool. In another dish I mixed light cream and a single egg, gradually adding the water/honey mixture once cool. This mixture was poured over the pears before the second pie-shell was added to cover the whole. I pricked the shell, added whisked egg so it would brown nicely and added some chocolate powder to the center in the form of a heart.
What I learned…
Here are five lessons learned from my day in the kitchen.
I learned what Liz feels every time there’s a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner and she’s spent an entire day (sometimes two) preparing for the big meal.
- I learned (or was reminded) that it’s OK to step back from busyness and I learned just how good it feels to do so.
- I was surprised at the lack of vegetables, salt or added sugar in this meal… yet the dried & fresh fruit more than compensated.
- Life doesn’t always come with clear directions. I’m not sure if it was “the Middle Ages” or “the author” but there weren’t always measurements and the the required oven temperature was simply “hot”.
- This is perhaps the biggest lesson learned… My results looked NOTHING like the photos accompanying the recipes in the cookbook (do they ever?) but that’s alright… they were still delish.
Let me zero-in on #5 a bit more…
I don’t know about you, but I have a weakness. I tend to idealize everything. I have an idea in my mind of what things are supposed to look like, feel like, sound like… how they are supposed to happen, and often it frustrates me when they don’t turn out the way I think they should have. I can easily fall into questioning things or re-evaluating them (ie. re-criticizing myself) over and over.
For our dinner, no one but me had seen the photos in the cookbook so they had no idea what each dish was supposed to look like; they simply and thoroughly enjoyed each course as it came. They just saw new dishes that dad had cooked especially for them because he loved them.
The same can be said about our marriages, our kids, our jobs, or our service in ministry. There are not always clear directions and (outside of our head) there may not be a clear image of what things are supposed to look like.
The Lord calls us each to grow in Him and he gives us his word, the Bible, to help us do that (ie. instructions). My growth may not look like someone else’s… but the most important question is: “Am I truly growing in Christ?” I may still be a long way off from being like him, but am I moving closer to the target. If that is my primary concern it will affect all the other aspects of my life… my marriage, my kids, my service will all be better.
Lord help me to do so today!
They who measure themselves by one another
and compare themselves with one another are not wise.
2 Corinthians 10.12
Paul only asked other to follow him (or compare themselves to him) as he followed (compared himself to) Christ (1 Corinthians 11.1). Now that’s honesty!
It starts with Jesus.
That looks scrumptious. (Also, we may have the same weakness.)
Argh… I don’t envy you. The crazy thing is, we can be completely aware of it and, in theory, know how to handle it & not let it get the best of us but STILL deal with it. It’s no fun. 😉 Bon Courage!
What a meal-I had no idea you cooked too! I enjoyed how your conclusion wrapped the post up neatly-and gave us all something to consider.
Hey there Michele! I was more of a kitchen-hand before coming to France (clean-out-the-fridge soups and desserts!!!). Back home Liz also worked full-time so part of my cooking habit was for a good cause… keeping the “mini-Longs” alive & healthy. 🙂 I enjoy it but I guess I’ve just gotten out of the habit. #GottaChangeThat. Plus… for whatever reason, I didn’t bring my favorite cookbook (the one with all the old family recipes… dunno what I was thinking!) 🙂