…Beginning with the Feast of St. Peter [June 29], on meat days they serve swan, swan giblets, crane, heron, hare kidneys, roast joints of meat, roast beef tongue, roast saddle of mutton, salted chicken, chicken gizzards, chicken necks, baked mutton, chicken soup, corned beef, chipmunk, corned beef cooked with garlic, corned beef seasoned with herbs, goose seasoned with garlic, goose cooked with herbs, baked split goose, baked split smoked duck, aged corned beef, smoked beef tongue, elk tongue, elk, pan-fried hare, hare served with noodles, pickled hare, pickled hare kidneys, hare gizzards, hare liver, young roast chicken, hare pate, chicken pies, puff pastry, buckwheat kasha mixed with mutton fat, biscuits, beef cooked with garlic, sweetbreads, wild boar, ham, chitlings, ribs, kasha, two kinds of rennet, crooked burbot, pea noodles, noodles, carp, dumplings, cabbage soup with kasha, cheese blintzes, pies, patties, jellies, kasha, plums, soft cheeses, boiled milk pudding, milk with horseradish, butter, pancake (i.e., melted) butter, whipped butter, or peppered oil…Domostroi
This feast was prepared to echo what might have been served at the court of the Kievan Rus king Vladimir the Great, perhaps sometime after he married princess Anna of the Byzantine Empire in 988. As such, it draws on inspirations from Byzantium and Viking sources (Vladimir was the great-grandson of Rurik, the first Varangian ruler of Kievan Rus), as well as what is known about Rus food. Unfortunately, sources for Russian food are mostly non-existent in this part of history – a few archaeological sources for what items were eaten but not how they were prepared, a few descriptions of foods in the “Tale of Bygone Years” (also known as the Russian Primary Chronicle, Повѣсть времѧньныхъ лѣтъ). Dishes from this feast are sourced from a variety of times and places to better flesh out those descriptions and references, most notably from the Domostroi, a 15th century Russian book of household management, but also from period English and German sources as well as a few modern Russian ones.
Background: The Russian Diet in General
Medieval Russia was not a place of rich cuisine, for a variety of reasons. In general, the colder climate meant fewer resources for elaborate meals than Western Europe. Perhaps more importantly, the Russian Orthodox Church was generally more ascetic than the Catholic Church, with over 200 fasting days per year and an attitude that food for pleasure was something to be shunned. Still, feasts did occur, on saints’ days and holidays and for weddings.
While meat was somewhat of a luxury, both beef and pork were popular and served extensively by the wealthy. Other luxury foods included almonds, walnuts, olive oil, dried figs, and preserved lemons, bought by Hanseatic League traders. The more typical diet, however, was built around rye bread, kasha, cabbage and root vegetables, with some dairy products to supplement.
Logistical Notes for the Feast
This was a fairly generously budgeted feast prepared in a very nice kitchen – Millstone 4H camp in Sanford, NC. Equipment wise, we had everything we could need – multiple ovens and warmers, a ten burner stove, a tilt kettle, plenty of counter space, etc.
I had a budget of $1,200.00 (in 2019, if one is reading this much later) for 120 paying guests, I planned servings for 144 to cover cooking staff, servers, and my general need to make sure that everyone leaves my feasts stuffed.
As always, when planning, I try to serve something like 32 oz. of food per person – while this does lead to some level of waste, it allows family style serving to feel generous and for people to have larger portions of dishes they like vs. dishes they do not. Again, my goal is stuffed, happy diners.
The feast was under budget and roughly on time – breakdowns of the schedule and budget are included as an appendix.
First Course: Breads and Salty Things
Although the “Bread and Salt” traditional greeting still used today in Slavic countries didn’t seem to exist yet at the time and place this feast is attempting to emulate, I was still inspired by it as I considered the practical problem of having food that could be prepared for service and hold well, no matter what time the feast actually started. More likely the first course in a Rus meal would have included bread, yes, but also a cabbage soup, rather than the pickled vegetables and fish served here.
As served, the first course included a set of dishes designed to whet the appetite for what was to come:
- бу́лка – Wheat Rolls
- Чухонское масло – Cultured Butter
- Вылеченный лосось с консервированными лимонами и укропом – Cured Salmon with Preserved Lemons & Dill
- маринованные огурец – Half-pickled Cucumbers
Second Course: Cabbage Soup and Meats
In Sofya la Rus’s studies of Russian monks’ diets, meals tended to start with cabbage soup, perhaps with meat. I did not think this would be a popular choice with modern diners, so sauerkraut it is, along with corned beef and turnips, and vareniki, a cheese dumpling.
- Кислая капуста – Sauerkraut
- Колбаса – Kolbasa
- Солонина – Corned Beef and Turnips
- творог вареники в бульоне – Cheese Dumplings
Third Course: More Savories
In an actual Rus feast, I believe all of these dishes in the second and third courses would, most likely, been served as one larger set of dishes, possibly along with the desserts. However, in the interest of fitting the platters on the tables and giving the diners a bit of a chance to eat, I’ve split the meal into multiple stages. This stage includes a chicken pie for the carnivores, as well as a beet salad and mushroom-topped buckwheat kasha.
- пирог с курицей – Chicken Pie
- Свекольный салат – Beet Salad with Horseradish and Caraway
- Гречневая каша – Buckwheat Kasha with Mushrooms
Fourth Course: Dessert
SCA feasts really must close with dessert, whether the meal they’re based on would have or not. And there are some particularly splendid Rus dessert to make.
- яблочные пироги- Apple Tarts
- пряник – Pryaniki (Gingerbread Cookies)
- Маковые рулетики – Poppyseed Pastries
For those who are curious about the logistical planning that goes into a feast like this, some of the planning is below. I’m a firm believer in fancy color coded schedules and recipes posted all around the kitchen!
Appendix 1: Timing
As for timing, the chart for this feast is here (it doesn’t translate well out of PDF). This was printed in tabloid form and posted in multiple places throughout the kitchen – it’s helpful for keeping the entire staff on track as each task can be checked off as completed and the color coding indicates where any given dish should be at a time.
Appendix 2: Budget
|Food||Serving Size (per recipe)||Total Amount Needed||Dish Projected Cost|
|Heavy Rye Bread||1/8 loaf||18 loaves||$23.92|
|Wheat rolls||1 roll||12 dozen rolls||$18.96|
|Cultured Butter||1 tbs||4.5 lbs||$45.40|
|Cured Salmon with Preserved Lemons and Dill||1.5 oz||14 lbs?||$119.32|
|HalfPickled Cucumbers||2 oz||18 lbs||$19.50|
|Sauerkraut||3 oz||27 lbs||$45.84|
|Kolbasa Sausages||4 oz||36 lbs||$103.47|
|Corned beef on turnips||3 oz meat + turnips||27 lbs||$139.82|
|Cheese dumplings||5 dumplings + broth and cabbage||720 dumplings||$65.25|
|Chicken pie||1/8 pie||18 pies||$102.72|
|Beetroot salad with horseradish and caraway||1/4 cup||9.5 quarts||$84.66|
|Buckwheat Kasha with Eggs, Onions and Mushrooms||1/2 cup||5 gallons / 20 quarts||$60.02|
|Apple pies||1 tart||144 tarts||$100.87|
|Pryanik||2 cookies||288 cookies||$22.35|
|Poppyseed pastries||1 piece||144 pieces||$62.54|
120+8 seated, 16 cooks and servers = 144 fed (18 “tables”)
|Cash Advance||1/28||$ 1,200.00|
|Wells Fargo (fee)||2/20||$ (7.50)|
|Restaurant Depot||2/20||$ (295.65)|
|Savory Spice||2/21||$ (54.21)|
|Whole Foods||2/21||$ (34.72)|
|Bull City Homebrew||2/22||$ (8.05)|
|Harris Teeter||2/22||$ (45.72)|
|Restaurant Depot||2/22||$ (349.35)|
|Harris Teeter||2/22||$ (198.05)|
|Food Lion||2/22||$ (55.68)|
I generally plan for at least a 10% under-budget number when I’m picking dishes for a feast; this allows me to have a few “oops this is out of stock so I need to buy a more expensive item” moments, cover some purchases of cleaning supplies, and other similar unbudgeted items. This feast’s totals did come in under budget as expected.