Saturday, 30 July 2016

Best sellers - MedievalMorsels claims bragging rights!

Last week I was pleasantly surprised to learn that MedievalMorsels has passed the milestone of two hundred sales.  As a dolls house food modeller working in rather a "niche" area, I was quite pleased with the news! If not pleasantly surprised...

Niche in this case means making Medieval and Tudor dollhouse food at 12th scale (also called 1:12 or one inch scale). The collectable, but not eatable, food items are meant to be played with by adults not children though. And, for those eager to read a little, come a well researched food history provided online which allows the miniature enthusiast to place them accurately in their chosen period Medieval (Middle Ages) or Tudor/ Renaissance miniature setting. Authentic but affordable! That's my motto, or should I say "unique selling point"?

But I must share my rookie mistake, a three-fold error as it happens, as I first contemplated what typical dollshouse Tudor fare might me. It’s all rather embarrassing... I imagined that a wooden plate with a torn brown wholemeal loaf and a random chicken leg would "do the trick". Wrong, wrong, wrong....

First, individual plates for diners were not used back then, "trenchers"  or slices of stale or dried bread or, later, wooden trenchers were used instead.

Second, apart from royalty, people were not served individually but in fours, or much less usually at high table in twos. Diners helped themselves to “gobbits” of food from communal dishes, usually with their fingers, a spoon or perhaps a personal knife usually worn on a belt.

Third and last, cut chicken meat perhaps - and only the breast meat at high table for the most important guests - but strict Medieval and Tudor dining etiquette would not allow gnawing on a chicken bone. And, as we have learned, certainly not from an individual plate with a side order of bread as I had fondly imagined! Some serious research was needed if I was to make a "go" of MedievalMorsels.

Fast forward two and a bit years and here are MedievalMorsels' top three best sellers...

In third place - my personal favourite - is Red Herring. This was one of my first modelling challenges and I attempted it only after perfecting my white herring! Herring - of any hue - are close to my heart. This is because my mother was the daughter of a fisherman, away at sea on the herring "drifters" out of Great Yarmouth fishing in the furtherest North Sea for long periods at a time.

MedievalMorsels' 12th scale period dollhouse food - smoked , brined red herring
Pies of all types for your dolls house table, one inch scale food by MedievalMorsels

In second place sundry pies , which I thoroughly enjoy making as you can see. The Oxford English Dictionary traces the first use of the word "pie" as it relates to food to 1303, noting the word was well-known and popular by 1362. But why the word pie? Its derivation may be from magpie, shortened to pie. The magpie is a bird that collects a variety of things and an essential feature of early pies was that they contained a variety of ingredients. Not to be confused he Medieval term "chewit" (chewet) or “coffyn” also meaning pie. Cornish pasties - eaten by Cornish miners in the tin mines for centuries - are a relict of the medieval pie with their contemporary mixture of minced or ground meat, root vegetables and spice - white pepper in this case.

Pots, kettles, cauldrons of pottage for a period dollshouse kitchen, 1:12 scale food

MedievalMorsels make four different pottages for the one inch scale dollshouse kitchen
In first place - dah dah - pottage. Stew or porridge to you or me. Nourishing medieval pottages were based on grains and pulses available from essential stores all year round plus any seasonal root vegetables, salad leaves (including cabbages)  and fruits cooked in a large pot directly over the fire. It was a classless dish, particularly suitable for fasting days in better off households, and was popular in the Medieval Period as well as in Tudor/Stuart times and even later periods. MedievalMorsels makes red lentil, beef, spring vegetables and pease pottage in metal cauldrons and a smaller matching pottage serving in wooden bowls, complete with bread trenchers and a wooden spoon!

So that is where MedievalMorsels is at. I must admit having access to a reference library and a good camera helps. As well as a very knowledgeable sister who first got me using fimo clay. And who has generously lent or given me much in the way of supplies when she orders for her own modern dollshouse food making business at "abasketof" .

Thursday, 21 July 2016

A summer joust

MedievalMorsels has learned this morning from the veritable "wireless" (that's not wi-fi you know) that jousting is to make a comeback. English Heritage has launched a campaign to get jousting - the sport played by Henry VIII - recognised as an Olympic sport, in time for Tokyo 2020. 

Remarkably perhaps, the organisation has lobbied the International Olympic Committee and the Fédération Equestre Internationale. And today it launches an online petition. English Heritage argues that jousting demands levels of athleticism, agility and equestrianism that make it an ideal candidate for the Olympics. 

Wholemeal bread and cheese - period dollhouse food by MedievalMorsels

12th scale Medieval Tudor dollshouse food - bread and cheese platte
A demanding sport requires a nutritious and filling diet so how about this platter of best cheese, whole cereal bread and an apple to clean the teeth afterwards for a picnic breakfast or lunch or supper in the tilt yard?

Just in time for the long English school holidays a summer of fun is promised at English Heritage sites. Included for the first time will be female jousters . Learn about the rudiments of jousting in this short video or from English Heritage's home page.

 "That's the way to do it"! Be sure to take your medieval or modern picnic too.

Friday, 15 July 2016

St Swithun's Day - is rain predicted?

Today 15th July is St Swithun's Day. And the olde saying goes: 
St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithun’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ‘twill rain nae mare
What credance can we give this prediction, will it rain for yet another 40 days if we encounter an unwelcome shower this very summer's day? And what is the provenance of this weather folklore? 
First, the history of this weather legend. St Swithun (or Swithin) was an Anglo-Saxon bishop of Winchester who died in around AD862. The clergymen requested that his remains be interred among the common people outside the church, but in 971, after he had been made patron saint of Winchester Cathedral, his body was dug up and moved to a new indoor shrine. According to some writers this caused sufficient displeasure in the heavens for a terrible downpour to strike the church and continue unabated for 40 days, hence the legend. 
Now this is all firmly Medieval (Middle Ages) territory so MedievalMorsels took to wondering about rainy day food. Pottage it must be! No need necessarily for bread to go with it - the grain is in the pot! Choose from red lentil pottage, spring vegetables pottage, beef or pease pottage! 

Red lentil pottage by MedievalMorsels  for a 12th scale dolls house

Miniature food for a period style dollshouse, vegetable pottage

Comfort food for any Middle Ages rainy season - cauldrons of pottage

MedievalMorsels 1:12 scale dollhouse food - pottage, pease pottage
Nourishing medieval pottages were based on grains and pulses available from essential stores when not in season, plus any available root vegetables, salad leaves (including cabbages) and even fruits. Cooked in a large pot directly over the fire it was a classless dish and particularly suitable for fasting days in better off households. Popular in the Medieval Period as well as in Tudor/Stuart times it was eaten even as late as Georgian  times.
Porridge, pottage, stew by MedievalMorsels, one inch scale food
Medieval Tudor dollhouse food, 12th scale pottage bowls
Now for the veracity of this ancient weather lore. According to the Royal Meteorological Society there is the tiniest glimmer of sense to the rhyme. Because "the middle of July tends to be around the time that the jet stream settles into a relatively consistent pattern. If the jet stream lies north of the UK throughout the summer, continental high pressure is able to move in, bringing warmth and sunshine. If it sticks further south, Arctic air and Atlantic weather systems are likely to predominate, bringing colder, wetter weather." 
The rhyme, according to the RoyMetSoc as it is colloquially known, just needs a little re-rendering:
St Swithun's day if thou dost rain
For forty days, relatively unsettled there's a fair chance it will remain
St Swithun's day if thou be fair
For forty days, a northerly jet stream might result in some fairly decent spells
But then again it might not