Tomas de Courcy

A Baker's Peel Vert

Levels of Skill

A discussion on the Avacal A&S facebook group lead me to think about levels of skill. These are only my thoughts, and I’m not a Laurel, so feel free to take this with a grain (or barrel full) of salt.

Updated: Master Thorvald gave some advice on this that I’ve added as an addendum. I agree that I’m putting too much emphasis on research while someone can definitely be at master level based on their artistic merits alone.

When considering levels of skill I like to think in the context Novice/Intermediate/Proficient/Mastery. These have nothing to do with SCA granted awards, but I think A&S awards frequently line up with them.

Medieval Fruitcake


A number of years ago I put together what I thought might be a good period fruitcake recipe. I never got around to making it, so, since we’re having a Sugar & Spice & Everything Nice theme for culinary night this week here’s an updated recipe and my finished version of it.

I originally got the idea for this from Jennifer Strobel, so again, many thanks go to her.

Medieval Fruitcake



It's easiest to roll it in your hands to make the balls
Her Ladyship Kayleigh rolling the cookies

Qurabiya (sometimes spelled Ghorabiye) is a type of almond cookie, likely originating in Persia, which had spread to the Ottoman court by at least the 15th century. I haven’t been able to find any remaining period Qurabiya recipes, so instead this is being built on a lot of conjecture and various “traditional” and modern recipes. From what I can tell from a few different sources it was a cookie made from egg white, almond, sugar, and rosewater. Modernly different fats and oils as well as other nuts are added to the recipe. Every recipe is different and all have various flavourings. A modern version that seems quite similar to the references I’ve found is this one for Iranian Almond Cookies. The cookie spread west early and several types of cookie (such as in Greece) have names that are very similar. But what is interesting is to compare early French macarons:

Early Tudor Rapier

I wrote this article for Tournaments Illuminated and it was recently published in Issue 200, Fourth Quarter 2016 p.15-19.dsc_2441

Early Tudor Rapier: The teaching of the rapier in London before 1580 by the Masters of Defence examines the history of the rapier in Tudor England and how early it was accepted by the nobility, gentry, and yeoman classes. The rapier was being used by the nobility and gentry at least by the 1540s and was being formally taught to and by the yeoman class through the Masters of Defence of London by 1568, a year before Bonetti arrived in England.

Here’s an excerpt:

Discussions about the origin of the use of the rapier in England frequently begin by focusing on the very late 16th C. This makes sense, as two Italian-authored rapier manuals were published in England in the 1590s: His True Arte of Defence by Giacomo Di Grassi was translated from his 1570 Italian version and published in 1594, and Vincentio Saviolo, His Practise was published in 1595. George Silver’s 1599 Paradoxes of Defence, with its brief discussions of the rapier, round out the decade. Silver’s work also allows us to track back the teaching of rapier in England to Italian fencing master Rocco Bonetti and his successors: Jeronimo, who was also likely the translator of Di Grassi, and the aforementioned Saviolo. Dating the history of the rapier in England to Bonetti’s school is fairly common (Lennox 38).

But Silver ignores that the teaching of rapier was already established in England before Bonetti arrived there in 1569 (McCollum), and well before there is confirmation of his school being in operation in 1576 (Cook 72). Accounts from the 1630s set the time when the rapier replaced the sword and buckler as the weapon of choice for civilian combat as being “20. yeare of Queene Elizabeth” (Norman 24), or about 1578. But in order for a weapon to become popular there has to have been training beforehand, and that is where the Masters of Defence of London are key.

It’s my hope that this article will bring more context for those with an English persona and who have an interest in the rapier, as well as those wanting more information on the Masters of Defence.

Sugar Paste


After getting feedback at the Unfinished Projects at Bitter End’s Harvest Feast, I made a new attempt and entered it in the Apprentices Competition at Samhain. As I am not an apprentice I asked Mistress Maiosara to sponsor me and she graciously did. Because this post is so long, there’s also a short version.

There’s quite a history of sugar paste (modernly called gum paste), with recipes in English going back to at least 1558 when Alessio’s Secreti (1555) was translated into English. Recipes originating in English start appearing in 1567.

Sourdough Fritters


I made a fast recreation because I wanted to make fried bread and had the ingredients, they were underwhelming. But not every recreation is successful.

From Libro B from “Due Libri di Cucina” we get a few fritter recipe, but the simplest one is this:

Chi voI e fare frictelle levetate, tolli lu leveto del pane overo formento, se non petisci avere suco de bono herbolato, et frigile in olio tanto che non vaga tucto socto.

He who wants to make leavened fritters, take the leaven of the bread or else corn, if you cannot have juice of good herbs, and fry them in oil so much that they do not go all beneath.

Candy and Art

I submitted some of my sugar paste research the other week to an “Unfinished Projects” display and got some great feedback. One of the more common questions was: what would 16th century sweetmeats look like? Most of what I do is about recreating a flavour rather than shape of an object so I thought I’d look into it. There are, of course some descriptions of what you can make in the cookery books but they are mostly suggestions of things you can counterfeit such as plates, dishes, cups, glasses and platters, but they also mention walnuts and small loaves of bread or buns.

I didn’t think that was enough to answer the question so I decided to look for some artwork depicting them (I’ll leave my discussion of ephemeral arts in the SCA for another time). Now I’m not an art historian by any stretch of the imagination so if you have better interpretations or know of art I haven’t mentioned please let me know.