Lunch for Athenaeum, 2019

The Madrone Culinary Guild’s service to the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), is to research medieval and Renaissance food and to prepare meals based on the research.

In 2019, an event called Athenaeum was taking place in our area. Athenaeum was a single-day, non-competitive showcase where many SCA artists and artisans signed up to show their work. Many people came to the event to sit down with the artists and artisans whose work they were interested in and talk about the works being shown. We knew that for everyone attending the event, setting up, talking to people all day, and packing up at the end of day would be intense and busy. We wanted to help by feeding participants and attendees lunch, and present the lunch as our arts display for the Athenaeum event.

To create a buffet lunch, we re-visited several menus from past banquets we had done.


Inspired by the praise garnered by the appetizer course of the 2014 Egyptian banquet led by Eden of Lionsguard, we returned to recipes from two cookbooks of the late 14th century, “The Treasure of Useful Advice for the Composition of a Varied Table,” (Kanz al-Fawa’id fi tanwi’ al-mawa’id) and “The Book of the Description of Familiar Foods” (Kitab wasf al at’ima al-mu’tada) of 1373 from Cairo.

  • Walnut sauce
  • Egyptian hummus
  • Flatbread
  • Cabbage and feta salad
  • Smoked olives

Main Dishes

From the 2015 Italian Renaissance Banquet led by Genevieve Marie Etiennette de Montagne, we made pies from recipes found in the 1570 Italian cookbook “Opera” by Bartolomeo Scappi.

  • Sweet Chicken Tart
  • Cauliflower Tart
  • Savory Pumpkin Tart


Based on research projects by Ysolt Tayler of Windhill on Turkish desserts, we made three recipes from the 13th century work “Scents and Flavors” by Kitab al Wuslah.

  • Sharbat with fruit-flavored sweet syrups
  • Syrian Wheat Candy
  • Pistachio Kunafah

The foods were prepared in advance, and all the dishes served cold except for the pies, which were kept warm. The food was conveyed to the event location and arranged on platters on a line of tables. Our lunch customers went along the table with their plates to serve themselves, while we kept service dishes replenished from behind the tables.

For the sharbat, (basically, snow cones) the flavored syrups had been prepared in advance, but we wanted to shave the ice for each order. Ysolt found a clever crank-driven machine and, yes, it shaved ice — and it was gloriously messy. We managed to serve sharbat to everyone who wanted it.

Ice-shaving machine and bottles of syrup are deployed to serve people in line to receive a Turkish-style sharbat. Photo by Rowenna de Manning

The downside: we spent the morning in a kitchen preparing food instead of being at the event. The upside: we fed a lot of people food made from period recipes.

When the time came for another Athenaeum where people could gather, we did it again. Watch for the next blog post “Lunch at Athenaeum, 2022,” coming soon.

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