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tisdag 22 september 2009


Ystad. A small town at the south coast of Sweden. Outside - the castle of Bjersjöholm, the site of one of the biggest (the biggest?) 14th century events in Sweden, spanning over four and a half days. Our friends in Fraternis Militia Carnis are kind of co-organizers of the event; they have the responsibility to set up the battle. The event was set in the beginning of July, but I haven't had time or motivation to write anything about it yet. But here I go!

Me and my daughter Isolde was first on the spot of the guys from Albrechts Bössor. Elisabeth had business elsewhere, so she couldn't come.

I more or less set our whole camp myself (with some help from our friends in Fraternis Militia Carnis), and I was about finished when some of the others turned up. We made straw beds in the tents. Me, Morgan and Isolde were to bunk together. I made the tent as comfy as possible, with blankets and sheeps fleece. The small tents really are a bit small when you want to bring your equipment along; you won't feel that it is roomy if you are more than two people. Luckily we finally finished our bigger tents, which means we have space enough for the whole of the company.

The light was fading, but as Swedish summer nights almost never go quite dark, there was still light enough to make Isolde think it was day. And she behaved that way, plus she was really really tired. I put her to bed, and made up a story about a cow and a calf. She still likes
that one.

I had a couple of beers and a chat with the other guys, as the camp was beginning to form - even in the dark people arrived, and set up their tents. White shapes were risen against the night sky as I sat shivering from the chilly air with a mug in my hand. It is a funny thing to let your ears do all the "looking round" - it gives a whole new perspective. You know what happens, and you can picture it in your head, even if your eyes can only see shadows and a lonely lantern here and there.

At Thursday the event started. We were to have one battle each day, and we were having kitchen duty at least one of the days. As I used to work as a chef, I had the honor and the responsibility to organize the food one of the days. Sebastian, a more or less well known character at this blog, had planned it all before, and he had a lorry come all the way out to the area, and unload food enough for more than 60 people. He didn't want to cook, though, as that is what he does all day long. I'll get to the cooking part further down.

The day was used to check out the market for a bit. There weren't much for the serious reenactor, although some of the stalls had some stuff that could pass as decent.

Furthermore, we practiced gunnery. During calm, focused conditions, our best gunnery team can fire 4 shots in one minute and 3 seconds. That is exceptional, but we WILL be able to fire four shots in a minute blank. It is a matter of routine and practice, so we'll get there. We were very proud of ourselves, and of course it looked stunning.

The rest of the day, we built barricades for the battle. Henrik, a pyrotechnist, made up holes in the ground, which were filled with blackpowder and charcoal - these small harmless "bombs" were to be ignited by electricity when the cannons fired at the barricades - and it created a marvellous effect!

I mostly fired handgonnes during each battle, although I picked up my sword from time to time; when the fight came closer I had to protect myself. I'd rather not, if I can choose - My gauntlets have never really fit me, probably due to the crappy leather gloves I have as a base for the metal. They are really uncomfortable and restrain my movements. I am going to sew a pair that really fits - then I'll be happy to pick up the falchion and ward off the scabrous dogs that assail me!

Lots of groups took part in the fighting, among others our pals in Tyska Orden, our great friends of Deventer Burgerscap (it was really a blast to see them - they came all the way from the Netherlands!) and some other groups that are new to the Swedish 14th century scene. It is really good to see new groups emerge; it will be a blast when we get to work with them!

One of the guys from the great Norwegian tournament group Frilansene has made a quite decent film of the battle. It can be seen here. Be sure to check out the "bombs" exploding (Oi! Have a look after you finish reading)!

I could write on and on about the fights, the good company, the drink and the late nights, but I'm afraid I would only be repeating myself. That's why I'm going to tell you more about my day as a head chef in a kitchen serving more than 60 people, three times a day over an open fire.

First of all - the kitchen. It was the biggest reenactment field kitchen I have seen. The cooking fire was big enough for three or four pots, and the fireplace was made by bricks. We had lots of working space, and I had maybe ten people at my command. I was prepared for hard work as we began cooking breakfast; porridge, smoked susages, cheese and bread.

Second I'll present the menu for the event as a whole, although I was only responsible for two of the following meals (I guess I already broke my promise about spamming you with food details. Sorry. I am a terrible person...):

- Russet soup, from Le Viandier
- Legs of duck a'la Dodine, from Le Viandier
- Pork, cabbages and apples seasoned with cumin (one of mine!)
- Salmon covered in herbs served with frumenty, from Faite de cuisine (also one of mine! :-))
- Onion soup served with sausages and bread, from the Forme of Curye
- Grilled lambs and piglets along with root vegetables and camelina sauce
- Chicken with onions and almonds

And third I'll tell you more about the two dishes I was in charge of making.

The first dish we prepared was the pork seasoned with cumin. This was easy enough. We cut the pork into dice, 2x2 centimetres or so big. It was already seasoned with cumin seeds. At the same time we cut like a million cabbages and fried them with butter and honey, plus some vinegar. When it was close to finished, we started to boil the pork for some minutes - in the meantime we cut the apples and put them in the pot with the sliced cabbages. I tried it with salt and pepper - and it was a huge success!

Next dish (for the evening meal) was salmon covered with herbs. A time consuming process was to prepare the frumenty. The problem is that the barley always stick in the pot when it starts to swell and become thick. We solved that in an easy way: we boiled chicken stock and poured it over a big trough filled with barley. And lo and behold! The barley swelled, and was finished to eat in just a matter of about ten minutes. In the mean time, I used my skills as an old sushi chef to fix up the salmons. I got quite decent filets, but I saved the skin - it protects the meat when you fry the fish. My trusty helpers started to fry the fish, as I mixed the now finished barley with cream and more chicken stock. The result was a lovely, thick stew. Sadly it lacked salt. I'll do better next time.

Something that put a bit of damper on my dinner mood was that one of our boys came running from one end of the camp to the other - he was running from the training grounds. He came running back with another members personal effects in his hands. This usually means trouble, and boy, was I right.

Scan, one of our prospects, was down and out. I wanted to throw everything aside to go check on him, but I didn't; several of the boys are old combat medics - and Dr Bob was about, which meant me getting involved would only complicate things. So I took a deep breath, grasped my ladle and continued to stir my pots in the chilly wind.

One of the company members brought me a damage report. Scan had been cut in the face during practice. Three teeth had been broken, and he had a wide Joker grin, as the sword had cut his left cheek open. The cut was about three centimetres long, and he was taken to the Ystad hospital for serious patching up. I didn't have the focus to eat just then, so I finished cooking and put a couple of guys to do the dishes, so I had the possibility to get in the car and drive to pick the guys up at the hospital.

Scan had been fixed up real nice, but he was a bit down, as the effect of the adrenalin and the painkillers were wearing off. We bought soup for him, so that he could eat, and in the same time we tried to get hold of emergency dentists to fix up his teeth.

As far as I know, all is well with Scan, his cheek and his teeth. You just can't forget about that cut - nowadays we call him Smiley :-)
The most perfect thing was that the man actually stayed the whole event through! Pure and utter quality! He was even fighting the next day. No matter what happens, that man will have my respect for not stepping down, and for not submitting to fear. I am certain I would not have been as strong and composed.

Cheers to you, Smiley!

måndag 21 september 2009

Varberg - recipes

A sauce for noble men
- Cloves
- Nutmeg
- Cardamom
- Peppers
- Ginger
- Cinnamon
- Roasted bread crumbs
- Salt
- Vinegar

How to:
- Mix it all. Finished.

Chicken boiled with sage and smoked pork
- A chicken
- Salted/smoked pork
- Sage
- Salt
- A little vinegar

How to:
- Chop the pork in small dice
- Chop the sage
- Put it together with the chicken in a pot, and boil for about an hour

Grön sås (Green Sauce - a sauce made from vinegar with different herbs)
- Parsley
- Sage
- Thyme
- A pinch of cinnamon
- Vinegar

How to:
- Grind the herbs
- Add the cinnamon
- Add the vinegar

Simple chicken
- A chicken
- Lard or butter
- Wine
- Black pepper
- Water
- Salt

How to:
- Boil the chicken for about an hour
- Pick the meat of the bones. Fry the meat
- Add some wine, salt and pepper
- Let it boil for a short time

- Diced bread
- Egg yolks
- Fatty milk

How to:
- Mix egg yolks and milk
- Pour eggs/milk over the bread
- Fry slowly until thick enough to cut

Späckad mjölk
- Lots of eggs
- Fatty milk
- Smoked pork
- Saffron

How to:
- Chop the pork in small dice
- Beat eggs and milk
- Mix it with the pork
- Boil the mixture, and let simmer until it resembles wet scrambled eggs
- Let it cool
- Put in a cloth and a sieve, and strain the water over night
- Cut it into slices
- Fry it in butter

There (*pant*). I'll never do this again. It was a bit tedious...

Varberg - menu

Friday evening:

- Fried sausages
- Bread
- Butter
- Sauerkraut

- Eggs
- Olive oil
- Salt

- Making of En sås för herremän - a sauce for noble men
- Frying meat
- Pickling the above meat in the above sauce

Saturday morning:

- Porridge
- Honey
- Milk
- Butter
- Bread

- Soaking peas in water

Saturday lunch:

- Späckhöns (chicken boiled with sage and smoked pork)
- Grön sås (a sauce made from vinegar with different herbs)
- Bread
- Butter

- Frumenty
- Boiled carrots

- Reducing the stock left from the chicken

Saturday evening:

- Enkla hönor (simple chicken)
- Bread
- Butter

- Peasoup

- Späckad mjölk (a dish consisting of eggs and milk heated up, then mixed with pork and put in pressure over night)

Sunday morning:

- Kaliis (a dish made from dried bread and eggs)
- Bread
- Cheese
- Butter

- Kaliis made with water instead of milk

Sunday lunch:

- Pickled meat, prepared almost 48 hours before (and yes - it kept fresh in spite of the heat!)
- Späckad mjölk

- Boiled and then fried root vegetables
- Fried eggs

- Saving the stock from the boiled root vegetables
- Saving four eggs

Sunday evening:

- Assorted cheese
- Ham
- Sausages
- Apples
- Pears
- Raisins
- Nuts

- Stock saved from lunch
- Eggs
- Bread
- Apples
- Pears
- Nuts
- Raisins

There you go. A menu. Next step - the recipes (yeah - I know this is bull shit boring. I'll try not to do it anymore, OK?).

söndag 20 september 2009


We had a great time in Varberg, at the west coast of southern Sweden. The event was hosted at Varberg Castle - which also houses a museum where the Bocksten finds are on display. We had two different kinds of display - fighting and a fashion show. The fashion show was not as good as Johan wanted it, but it gave us some ideas for the future. The public was really interested to check out our clothes and how they were made; stitches seem to be really cool :-)

The fighting wasn't bad either. Me and Morgan made a very good show when it came to wrestling. Johan followed up with dagger techniques, and I displayed the longsword. The display ended with Johan and Thomas beating each other to bloody pulp in a full contact clash. The audience was struck with awe, as the monster-fight-extravaganza took place.

For some reason, we didn't get a lot of photos from the event, but the few we have can be viewed here.

The main thing about the Varberg event was, however, one of my biggest challenges as a camp cook. I'd like to point out that it is something that is important to me, although I am a bit afraid you guys don't feel the same way. Please bear with me.

I put together two menues (one for the vegetarians and one for the regular omnivores), three meals a day for two days and one evening. Almost all of the recipes were from the book En sås av ringa värde, written by Daniel Serra and Hanna Tunberg, based on a Danish cookbook from around 1300. It was a serious piece of planning to be able to fix everything together. I planned to use the same broth several times, but I didn't have the means to store it, so I had to plan the different dishes with my mind set on that. Plus - I didn't want to serve similar meals in a row, and a lot of the food could turn bad in the extremely hot weather - I would say it were the hottest days this summer - over 30 degrees celsius! The meat and the chicken had to be cooked as soon as possible, and some of the dishes prepared more than one day ahead.

All in all everything went really well, except for the späckad mjölk - I'll present the recipe further down, but first I'll list the menu for the weekend, along with my working schedule. In the next post.

torsdag 10 september 2009

New helmet

A new helmet has been peeking out on different photos on the blog (you can have a look at me wearing it in a previous post - the one about the chain mail). I have finally the motivation to publish some of its history here.

I wanted a helmet made from one piece, so I contacted Ralph Snel, an incredibly talented Dutchman who lives part time in Sweden. He made my earlier helmet, and I was happy with it. But that was in 2003, and since then I have become more picky, and Ralph has become a lot better. We met in the spring/summer 2008 and had a chat about how I wanted it to look. Ralph measured my head and we discussed various aspects of helmet making. I wanted a kettle that that looked like ones in Skamstrup church in Denmark. It is dated to 1350-1375, which is perfect (well, 1375-1380 would have been better :-)) for me. It's the helmets on the topmost picture. I also looked up some other, similar helmets for reference. They are posted below. The two at the far left (top row) is from French manuscripts, while the right one (still top row) is from a Polish fresco. The photos in the next row is from a museum in Nürnberg, Germany. I am not sure about the dating, but it basically looks like the helmets in the top row.

So Ralph started working.

I think it is an incredible study of craftsmanship.

It's really smashing, if you ask me!

As it was finished, I made a lining for it.

Altogether, I thought it was a bit big. It was too heavy. The brim was too wide, and if I was going to wear it with my ears outside it, it would look silly on top of my head. So at first I wasn't as happy with it as I thought I would be. But as soon as the lining was put in, and I could wear the helmet with my ears inside it (it sounds a bit funny, but it looks alright, plus it's really good when you want to conceal the earplugs you use when firing guns), I started to feel a lot better. The real turn came in Morimondo, where I could happily grin at archers doing their best to shoot me - their arrows just bounce of, as the brim is wide enough to cover my shoulders. When I came close and personal with other fighters, I only needed to raise my shield and duck down to be perfectly safe. The weight of it "softens" the blows to the head, and when firing guns you can hear a faint "clang!", as from a church bell, as the boom from the gun resounds in the metal. It fits my needs, and I look sinister in it, as my eyes are always shaded from the sun. Probably I won't need another helmet in my days, even if some people might think that I look like a giant mushroom!