Monday, June 2, 2014

Seventeenth Century Dinner

Some time last year our family was introduced to an educational program that was an instant hit. "Tales From the Green Valley" is a BBC production that follows a group of historians and archeologists over the course of a year as they live on a restored Seventeenth Century farm in England. Similar to some shows that have been produced in the U.S. (though those were clearly more focused on entertainment than education), the inhabitants of this farm were restricted to using only foods, tools and technology that existed in the 1620's. Unlike their American "counterparts," these Brits are experts in their field and pretty much knew exactly what they were getting into. They stayed an entire year, and the program was was presented in twelve installments, each representing one month of the year.

If you are a history buff, you MUST watch this program (we streamed it from YouTube). If you are a homeschooler, you MUST watch this program. Even if you are only even mildly interested in things that are outside the realm of your everyday life, you MUST watch this program. Just sayin'. (End of commercial)

So, one of the things that most impressed me (not necessarily in a good way) was how much time and energy was expended in producing, processing, and preparing food. It wasn't just the cooking (although that took at least one person most of the day to feed everyone on the farm), it was also the cultivating, harvesting and storing. And in the case of foods they could not raise, gathering funds or goods to trade for foods.

But, to the point of this post. Michael is completely enthralled with this show. Not only did he watch it all the way through all twelve (one hour) episodes the first time, he went on to watch all of the "spin off" shows. Then he went back and re-watched Green Valley. Several times. And then he re-watched all of the spin-offs. Several times.

That was last year. And I thought we had finished this "block of learning" for Michael. But, nope, he recently dug up Green Valley again, and watched the entire series all the way through. Three times in one week. That's how this kid absorbs.

At the end of the third viewing, he announced that "we" needed to go to the store. "Why do we need to go to the store?" I innocently asked (not really innocently, since I know there is always a plan behind every trip to every store with this kid, sometimes involving world domination). He explained that he "needed" to cook a Seventeenth Century dinner for our family (I keep trying to explain the difference between "need" and "want", but, like most adults, Michael realizes that semantically when you want something really, really, really badly, it somehow magically transforms into a need). I insisted that he provide an actual recipe and list of ingredients, which he promptly did. So, off to the grocery we went (which was a much better alternative than growing and raising and trading for all of the ingredients ourselves, thank you very much).

I don't remember the actual name of the dish, but we managed to find all of the ingredients at Kroger, except the rosemary that Michael insisted we use from our garden (good boy). He cooked it himself, as specified in the program's recipe (which, if you know anything about Seventeenth Century recipes, is vague at best and baffling at worst). In true British style, everything was boiled.

Remarkably, it turned out to be really tasty. It looks really plain, and could be a little dry unless you put lots of the "broth" on it. But, you know what? It was good. Plain, simple food. Although a small salad on the side would not be remiss ... if you have that stuff in your garden ;)

(Full Disclosure) This particular recipe called for an accompanying "pudding". If you're an American, or haven't read much Brit literature, let me clarify that British "pudding" has nothing to do with The Jello Corporation. In this particular historic case, as far as I can tell, it is (leftover from slaughter) meat, and herbs, and oats, all stuffed into an animal's digestive organs and boiled in the same pot with your meat and potato/vegetable. Sort of like a sausage, except you actually know what's in it, because you cooked it. In the case of this family dinner, we skipped the pudding part.

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