Saturday, May 24, 2014

Getting Closer!

We're almost there! We're just shy of one week until the challenge begins! Are you getting excited? I know I am!

If you're anything like me, right now you're staring down a massive pile of repro cookbooks, plus your digitized copies on your computer or tablet or phone, and making some lists. I have some creative ideas in mind - I can't wait for challenges 11, 15 and 18. But that's all I'll say for'll have to stay tuned to find out!

Right now, my biggest hurdle is a gift card. I have been puzzling and puzzling over just exactly how to spend it: do I make the responsible choice and buy a food processor, or do I make the fun choice and buy an ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid Mixer? This is a real quandry, people!

A bit of housekeeping: I have updated the list of challengers, and I think I've caught everyone - apologies for taking so long to do that! If you don't see your blog listed, and  you want it listed, please leave a comment in the Challengers post, and I will get it updated before we launch next week. Just seeing that list makes my heart happy, to know we have so many people officially throwing their hat in the rings, and I don't want to leave anyone out.

Happy planning and prepping!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Primary Sources and Why They Matter

Now that we're just a scant four weeks away from the kick-off of the Historical Food Fortnightly, I bet you're busy planning your challenges and researching recipes. It seems like as good a time as any for a talk on primary sources, so that we're all on the same page, and a reminder of the purpose of this challenge.

Some of you many be well-versed in primary sources. Some of you may not even be familiar with the term - and that's okay! Simply put, a primary source is a document from the actual time period about which one is researching in - in this case, it's a document from whatever time period you are interpreting in your cooking. By contrast, secondary sources are documents which come from a later time period, or offer a later perspective, on the era being researched. Both are valid sources in historical research; however, secondary sources by nature come loaded with a different author's bias and interpretation.

Here's an example from my own research. One of the books I have been referencing in my planning is A Prairie Kitchen by Rae Katherine Eighmey. This book is a collection of recipes from The Prairie Farmer, a magazine popular in the Midwest during the 19th century. Rae Eighmey (who is a literal genius and definitely a kindred spirit, go check out some of her books) has taken recipes, tested them, translated them into modern language. Super convenient, right? However, in her testing and translating, she may have made different choices, substitutions, or conversions than I would. I can't know for sure without going back to the primary source, and deciding for myself whether or not I would make the same choice.

Thankfully, in this case all the recipes are dated and the source is listed, so I can go back and compare the translated recipe with the original recipe. But that might not be so easy with other recipes. What if, for example, I find a great recipe for gingerbread that claims to be from the 19th century, but there is no source listed? I could go back to different primary sources to compare recipes, thus backing up my secondary sources with primary sources. Secondary sources can be a great place to jump in, but it is then your job to do the research to document the choices you yourself made.

Why not just use secondary sources? Why go to all the trouble of doing all that research? Because research matters. Many of us participating in this are living historians who interact with the public - a public who is relying on us to present history accurately, the way it really was. And even if you aren't, it's really, really, really cool to be able to cook something the way it was meant to be cooked, to consume it, to taste how it tasted to people who lived and breathed and loved  and ate many years ago. It's a time-travel moment; it's experiential archaeology. It's more than just pretend - it's real!

Anyone can make a modern recipe - we're time-traveling.

So, don't just support each other in meeting each challenge - support each other in finding and sharing primary sources. Document your research so others can learn from what you've done. Challenge yourself - it will absolutely be worth it!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

And We're Off!

Wow! Melissa and I are just pleased as punch with the interest we've had for this little challenge of ours! We're just a little less than two weeks old, and we already have 170 folks in our Facebook group. How awesome is that? Pretty darn awesome, I think!

Not only is the amount of interest huge, but the scope of interest is as well! We've got challengers from across the globe (we have North America, South America, Europe and Australia represented for certain). We also have participants cooking across a huge range of timeframes, from the 1950s all the way back to Viking recipes! How do you even cook for Vikings? Mind officially blown, gang.

I've been adding blog links to the Challengers page. If you haven't yet joined, go comment on that page and we'll add you to the list, so everyone can follow you and your wonderful adventures!

I hope you're all scouring for recipes! I have some really interesting things in the works, and can't wait to try them out. Only a month left until we start!