Saturday, February 27, 2010

Baking Shakespeare

Hello all! First things first, so sorry about the major lackage of posting since my arrival home! This has been one of the most hectic weeks, school-wise, EVER! After a nice sleepless night, some major cramming and extremely rushed power-point makin' has come time for me to do a school project that I've actually been looking forward to. That's right, a project I have to do for my Shakespeare class includes food.

It all started with a series of reports my class was assigned to do about Elizabethan England. I was sleepily sitting there listening to the deal about this up-coming project: get into group, remember your citations, yadda, yadda, yadda...UNTIL I had to ask myself: did I really just hear what I think I heard?!? Yes, I did. One of the groups, and therefore topics of these "reports" we had to group up for was food! I got into that puppy A.S.A.P.!

I got even more excited when I was informed that our group had the task of cookin' up samples of Elizabethan recipes for the entire class - this is right up my alley! Maybe I'll even get an outstanding mark for once, too...

The tricky part came when I had to actually decide on what to make for the see...Elizabethan folk didn't really have the greatest tastes in the culinary department...can you say eel pie, stuffed dormice and sparrow brains?

After browsing through this little gem, "Eating Shakespeare" by Betty and Sonia Zyvatkauskas, I finally found something that the class may actually consider consuming.

What I decided on baking up was "a tart to provoke courage". Sounds like a pretty epic little tart, right? Well, upon further research I realized that "courage" also meant "lust" back in the day, and therefore this really should be named "aphrodisiac pie".

I know I'm getting all nerdy on you now, but this is kind of interesting! Elizabethan English believed that not only people, but also food fell under astrological influences. Parsnips fall under Venus' influence - therefore provoking this discussed "courage", apparently!

Anyways, the original recipe is obviously a little bizarre (there is no crust used - it's just a mess of pumpkin-pie-like filling - there are sparrow brains in the recipe, and it requires the strainage of root vegetables, which is something I imagine is messy and unnessesarry), so I went from the modern version in "Eating Shakespeare", and then did a couple more mod's of my own!

I started off by making the pie dough with the recipe that my Mom has used forever. This recipe never fails!

Mom's 7up Pie Dough

5 cups pastry flour
1 lb lard
1 can 7up

Cut the lard into the flour.
When the mixture becomes an oatmeal consistency, pour in the can of 7up and bring the dough together.
Pop in the fridge for an hour before rolling out!

When the dough was in the fridge, I started peelin' and choppin' up a storm, and cubing up the yams (I opted for these instead of sweet potatoes), parsnips, apples and dates. My variation on the original recipe is I used way more yams than parsnips , in an attempt to make this recipe a little less bizarre. 

I have such a weakness for dates...

After all the prep work, I piled all the chopped up bits into a giant pot and let it simmer away with apple juice (we didn't have any white wine laying around).

Then I got to work at rolling out the pie dough and cutting it into nice little circles to pop into the little tart shells.


After the yam/parsnip/apple/date/egg/spices mixture had all come together, I spooned it (about 1 tablespoon per tart shell) into my little army of tart shells!


Once the spices and sugar were in the mix it actually started to shape up into something that didn't look all that bad! The house smelled like pumpkin pie, and to the eye, these little puppies looked like pumpkin pie, too! Too bad they weren't little pumpkin pies...

After 30 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees F, these tarts came out perfectly cooked! Much like pumpkin pie, I slid a metal knife into the filling to see if it came out clean. 

So, how were these Shakespearian tarts??? Not too bad! They were a little strange (the taste of parsnips that was unavoidable), however asides from that aspect, these were much like healthier little pumpkin pies! Not too bad, Shakespearians...

So my crazy week is finally over. Prepare for more regular posting in the future (and more regular eating on my part, let's hope)!




Chef Aimee said...

I am glad to hear that part of your Shakespeare course includes the foods of the bard! I used to teach Shakespeare but never had the time to incorporate the more enjoyable aspects such as this! For some more literary food fun, check this soup-tacular website out:

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