Feast for Beginners – Workshop Notes

Feasts for Beginners – Workshop
Roxanne McMurray

You’ve probably attended a couple of feasts by now and you’re saying to yourself, “This looks awesome, I really want to run one.” before you commit yourself, I have some advice for you.

The best way to learn is to shadow someone else from your group
Many groups have their own “feast culture”. There’s probably some expectations that only someone else in the group can answer. Plus, learning on the job, without being completely responsible for everything is a great way to see if you’re up for the task. Find someone in the group who is running a feast and ask to shadow them, especially in the lead up which is where 75% of the work is.

Your Team

No one person is capable of running a feast by themselves. Know what your strengths are, (admin, organising, cooking, making subtelties) and find a team who complements that. You don’t want a team with only admins and no cooks, but you need at least one person capable of making sure you’ll stick to the budget. You cannot do both front of house and work in the kitchen at the same time. One of the roles must be delegated to a trusted person, or you will be found halfway through the first course curled up with a bottle of wine in hysterics.

Why?

Why do you want to run a feast? What kind of feast? Is it a casual get together of the club, plus close friends? Is it a Royal Feast (bigger and fancier) or just a stew and dessert kind of feast?

Time Frame

Sticking to a particular time and place has a lot of advantages to it over picking and choosing your favourite dishes
Limits the amount of resources you can look over and debate whether or not you want to use
Sets the theme and makes the feast more cohesive without any effort. 14th English food goes better together compared to ancient greek entrees, Elizabethan mains and Persian deserts.
Cuts down on once off spices – food from one time and culture is more likely to be able to share spices and ingredients are more likley to be able to be bought in bulk (cost saving!) compared to having to buy fixed quantities that won’t be used.

Serving Portions

Depending on what kind of feast it is, and who it’s aimed at, this will change the proportions of the feast. A feast with mostly heavy fighters who have just finished a grueling tournament will eat more than a feast with mostly children and grandmothers)

Money, money, money

Find out what your group’s reimbursement policy for feasts is. There’s a couple of different ways that people do it, and depending on how you group does it, it might prevent you from being able to do the cash part of it. (Which doesn’t meant that you can’t organise or cook, just that perhaps someone else will need to bank roll it if the policy of your group is that the feast organiser pays for everything up front and is reimbursed after the event with strict receipts only). Also, check what happens if you don’t have a receipt. The markets are a great place to get good cheap food, which bulks up what you can do for the price, but don’t provide receipts.

Speaking of money – who is collecting the ticket money? Most people will want to transfer the funds via EFT prior to the date. Is this going to your bank account or the household or the kingdom’s bank account? And, whose checking the bank account to see who has paid and providing that list back to the people who have to buy/cook the food?
Cap the numbers and if possible, close the bookings the Friday before the event. That gives you the weekend to purchase and begin precooking.

Booking the hall

When booking the hall you’re looking for a couple of things

  • How good is the kitchen? (Do the burners work, is the oven reliable, has it got enough powerpoints and bench space)
  • What are the restrictions? Many halls don’t allow candlelight – will need to either work in the budget to buy electric tea lights or keep the lights on (or have a lunch feast). Some halls don’t allow alcohol. (Most feasts don’t supply alcohol but all feasts need to be in a BYO friendly hall – or you won’t have much attendance.)
  • What’s the capacity for seating? There’s a maximum attendance that the hall is allowed to have with fire restrictions and that (minus staff) is the maximum amount of people can attend the feast.
  • Is it available on the day? If the feast is a particular feast (like Yule, or Midwinter), then getting the right date is critical.
  • When will you have access? What time in the morning can you get there and what time does it have to be vacated by.

Precooking
Precook is going to be one of the most important parts to ensure that the feast goes as smoothly as possible. Beg fridge and freezer space from friends or hire a chest freezer. As well as precooking as much of the actual feast as possible, try having a smaller get together with 10 or so people two or so months in the lead up. This will allow you to try out recipes, learn what the recipe actually means (I do not recommend trying your own redactions for your first feast. Use a cookbook or someone else’s recipes), what the serving sizes actually mean, how hard is it to get ingredients, and how well the recipes go together.

Serving
How is the feast going to be served? Buffet, individual servings or messes (family style). (each of these has their pros and cons) Has the group got the equipment to serve a feast? Platters for cheese, big pots for cooking soup, pie dishes, salt dishes, sauce bowls, etc.

Summary

  • Why do you want to run a feast?
  • Who can you get to help you? (Both before and on the day.)
  • Ensure the two main tasks on the day are divided out to two seperate teams (front of house and kitchen)
  • How is it going to be paid for?
  • Plan for things going wrong on the day
  • Check the kitchen out before you book.
  • Check the hall for restrictions on alcohol, lights etc.
  • Precook everything you can.
  • Don’t try and do everything yourself.

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