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Medieval Feast

I've been day-dreaming all day about eating cutlery - silver-plated knives and spoons, elegantly molded, with ginger ganache thinly filling the crisp, sturdy dark chocolate underneath that edible plating. After a while, it would start to melt on my hands, but it would still be good, rich, spicy, smooth.

You'd never know from my day-dream (unless you too watched the program) that it derives from Heston's Medieval Feast, shown last night on Channel 4. Heston - of Heston Blumenthal - The Fat Duck - Occasional world's best restaurant - molecular gastronomy - temporary food poisoning crisis - is hosting a series of these, and this was the first - perhaps the only one - I caught. The show and I got off to a bad start: did you know that life expectancy in the "medieval ages" was 25? I didn't either. Fortunately, I couldn't blame the voiceover on Heston, only the twee verbal attitude towards the showpiece concepts of medieval no-expenses-spared feast cookery (which was fortunately far more visionary in practice than in set-piece intros).

Indeed, they were all intelligent adaptation of medieval recipes, true to the spirit, if not all the details, of the recipes. Of course he took full advantage of the toys of his high-tech kitchen. He began with meat fruit: ground, cooked, seasoned meat, formed into perfect fruit-a-likes, each in a different flavor, with elegant verisimilitude. The main was a confection of lampreys, for which one must go to Latvia these days in order to catch fresh. Its spine was deep-fried into a crunchy spaghetti-like jumble (as per a modern specialist chef); its blood was extracted and used as thickening in a red white sauce (as per the original recipe); a fluff of lamprey-flavored foam accompanied it (as per modern foam cooking). The blood sauce proved the most off-putting element of the meal to the tasters. Four-and-twenty highly-trained pigeons were put into a huge and largely inedible pie to fly off to their cage, hung from the ceiling, followed by mini individual pigeon pies.

But dessert - dessert is where my mind has been all day, a bait-and-switch of the practicalities of the table, with cutlery, napkin, walnuts, and candles all swapped for edible ones made from chocolate or marzipan. The knives looked awfully good.

Even with all the voiceover-fill about the All-Plague-All-Death-All-The-Time "medieval ages" and performative guest eaters, I seem to have managed to forgive the program its limitations, for here I am, the next day, advertising its merits in spoons and ganache.

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( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
sioneva
Mar. 11th, 2009 10:38 pm (UTC)
Ah, those "medieval ages" and their plague-ridden collapse of civilization, learning, and all refinement! For ganache, they were worth it (at least post-Columbus), right?
owlfish
Mar. 11th, 2009 10:48 pm (UTC)
I bet the medieval ages had time-travelers to bring back corn starch (for giving the meat grapes a disguise dusting), the chocolate, the plastic molds, and the aerator for the foam.

Edited to add: I really liked the *lack* of sticking to medieval ingredients and recipes, using them as guides for modernized versions. It wasn't trying to be a recreation show, but an inspiration one.

Edited at 2009-03-11 10:49 pm (UTC)
sioneva
Mar. 11th, 2009 11:04 pm (UTC)
I like the idea too :)

One of these days, though, they'll stop peddling the notion of the "medieval ages" being such a culturally-destitute time. After all, if they had cool food to copy, surely they must have had SOME redeeming value, right?!
rjw1
Mar. 11th, 2009 10:51 pm (UTC)
it was the second episode.
last week was a Victorian mad hatters tea party.
owlfish
Mar. 12th, 2009 12:44 am (UTC)
Does this mean you watched the last episode? Was it any good?
billyabbott
Mar. 12th, 2009 12:58 am (UTC)
I found it quite variable, like the medieval one, but the look on people's faces as he brought in more and more ridiculous things was fantastic. If the series comes out on DVD then I will most probably own it and be able to lend it :)

I don't know how 4 on-demand works, but I heard that they had the Victorian one up there, although it might have gone now the new episode is up.

Both eps I've seen so far have inspired me to 'cook' weird things... I have ideas formulating, which I think is what St Heston is trying to achieve.
owlfish
Mar. 12th, 2009 11:05 am (UTC)
Last I knew, Channel 4 was Windows-only for rewatching episodes,and we are rather shy on Windows (though not on windows).

Yes! The show was best for inspiration, although currently what it's inspiring is a desire for either 1) a sea salt caramel truffle from Paul A. Young or 2) a jar of Ladurée's caramel sauce.
rjw1
Mar. 12th, 2009 09:25 am (UTC)
it was entertaining certainly.
i missed this week to go see watchmen since im sure it will be on again and inddeed the interwebnets will provide if need be.

I dont think its a must watch like in search of perfection.
owlfish
Mar. 12th, 2009 11:04 am (UTC)
I never saw In Search of Perfection, but I have the cookbook.
supertinks
Mar. 11th, 2009 11:00 pm (UTC)
my favourite part was John Thomson complaining at the end, that he'd eated the candle and was covered in crap, but couldnt use the napkin to clean himself because it too was edible. :-)
easterbunny
Mar. 11th, 2009 11:38 pm (UTC)
that sounds amazing.
owlfish
Mar. 12th, 2009 12:43 am (UTC)
But I didn't get to eat it.
easterbunny
Mar. 12th, 2009 04:50 am (UTC)
A clear flaw with Channel 4 - they should be working on Wonkavision.

But the chocolate ganache filled silverware - that sounds so good that I want to try to make it, and my last few experiences with candy making involved Easter molds that turned out terrifying one-eared white chocolate bunnies and pralines that refused to set (not such a nightmare - I ate the resulting mess with a spoon and some ice cream). I shall exercise my ability to google, but did the show included any recipes?
stormwindz
Mar. 11th, 2009 11:48 pm (UTC)
You can have the cutlery if I can have that caramel-filled candle... mmm...

I was a little confused at the giant pie - it looked like the pigeons were tucked in with the pies with the edible lids... would you want to if the pigeons had been on them?

"per modern foam cooking" - this made me laugh :D
owlfish
Mar. 12th, 2009 12:43 am (UTC)
I paid attention to the pie, wondering exactly that! It was divided into sections, with a vertical divider near the back which reached the lid of the pie. So the pigeons were in the larger section and the mini-pies were in the smaller, pigeon-free section.
stormwindz
Mar. 12th, 2009 05:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I was doing other things and must have looked away at the critical moment. My curiosity is pleasantly satisfied.
hobbitblue
Mar. 12th, 2009 04:31 pm (UTC)
wasn't it amazing? Last weeks Mad Hatter was good too, the "drink me" potion especially, which was a layered pink drink that managed to taste by turns of fruit pie, and turkey, and burnt toast and the other flavours Alice reports in the book. I really want to eat edible candles now too :)
pennski
Mar. 12th, 2009 09:54 pm (UTC)
Did you know 100% of people living in the Middle Ages died? That's how dangerous it was back then!
owlfish
Mar. 12th, 2009 10:28 pm (UTC)
How awful!
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )