Cooks' Guild was Saturday; the subject this month was, aptly, Picnic Food.
It was a relatively quiet Guild meeting, with only three major dishes prepared. ladysprite and I got together just before the meeting, to figure out something to make. Our first thought was to do something out of Traveling Dyshes, but we realized that (a) it was all redacted recipes, so not really interesting for Cooks' Guild, and (b) much of it was intended to be campfire cooking. Fortunately, I had also grabbed Charles Perry's book of Medieval Arab Cookery, so we chose a dish from that. (Judhab al-Tamr, bottom of page 81.)
The result was a qualified success. The dish is made by simmering dates until they begin to fall apart, mashing them through a strainer, then adding sugar, honey, oil and a flavor or two, and boiling it up; the resulting goo is supposed to be served "between two thin cakes". We had two major issues. First, the oil is supposed to be sesame oil, and we only had the toasted variety, which is very strongly flavored. I cut that with canola oil, but it was still too strong a flavor for the delicate dish. Second, the recipe doesn't describe the "cakes", and our guesswork reconstruction (based on some recipes later in the book) just didn't work. So next time we try this, we'll need to figure out some other way to make the cakes, and we need to avoid the toasted sesame oil. Ideally, I'd like to try it with untoasted sesame, which seems to be the right thing. My gut says that, if we can figure it all out, this is probably a really tasty dish.
Besides that, hfcougar made Norwegian Pasties, which came out a bit too doughy, and a tart out of the remaining filling, which was completely delish. And new_man made baked chicken with two sauces -- which was basically what I had *originally* been thinking of making, so I'm glad we made the date goop instead.
The Greenwood Isle Picnic was today. One couldn't ask for a nicer day -- bright and sunny, with a high of 70 or so -- so we got an exceptionally good turnout. For the most part, the picnic went pretty much as normal, with a number of games of bocce, seven-sided backgammon and other activities, and food, food, food. As usual, there was far more food than people could eat, but we made good dents in it. I would say that hfcougar's tart was probably the best thing there.
The high point of the day was the awards ceremony / court. asdr83 inducted me as one of the first members of the Order of the Rampant Squirrel (udalrich being the other). I really ought to wear both that and my Gingersnap to May Day -- I just have to remember to laquer a Gingersnap in time. I also played herald for a moment, reading the Letter of Safe Passage for asdr83 from the Baron.
The other neat thing of the day was that lakshmi_amman was in the middle of embroidering an Ashtapada board; when I expressed interest, she offered to teach it. This is an ancient Indian game that I've heard of, but never played before. It proved a lot of fun, and I'll definitely have to get a set for myself. It's a race game, somewhat like Game of the Goose but with a few differences that lend it a bit of tactical depth and even a little strategy -- it's not just dice-rolling. A fun game for up to four players, quick to teach and easy to play.
And thence home. Only other note is that I'm going to have to skip dance practice on the 27th -- Seaview Lodge called me in the morning, and asked if I could fill in that day. Normally I decline these things, but they want someone to do Senior Deacon for the second degree, which is the Middle Chamber Lecture, my very favorite part of the ritual. The Senior Deacon metaphorically walks the candidate through King Solomon's Temple, using the various items encountered along the way as symbols to teach Masonic lessons. It's a pleasant speech, about seven pages long, with floorwork and pictures and interaction, and it's a really excellent illustration of period mnemonic techniques. I maintain that it's the first major speech an officer learns because it's the one that teaches how to do ritual well, and I find it a lot of fun...