IAP Sampler: Medieval Foods - Bringing the tasty past into the present

If someone were to ask you what comes to mind when you think of medieval foods, what would it be?

Perhaps a gigantic leg of turkey? A bowl of leeks? Or maybe something more exotic, like bear meat? Anne McCants, Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow and Professor of History, brings the foods of the past to your plate with her IAP course, Old Food: Ancient and Medieval Cooking.
 
McCants hosted about 25 members of the MIT community in her housemaster’s suite at Burton-Connor during IAP for an afternoon of exploring ancient and medieval recipes. All interested foodies have the opportunity to cook and eat food from a time long past.
 
“It’s always such a great experience. This year was really nice though because pretty much everyone already knew how to cook,” McCants explained. “Sometimes we would be here late until maybe 8:30 pm washing everything up, but it didn’t take long to explain to everyone how to make the dishes.”
 
The course begins with an overview of the dishes to be prepared, then the group is split into teams, with each group working on certain dishes. The menu boasted fourteen different foods, ranging from glazed leg of lamb with garlic and rosemary to poached pears in wine sauce.
 
“We always try to change the menu up a bit every time, but some things just stay every year,” McCants said. “I’ve been organizing Old Food for almost 15 years now.” A student joked that if she kept it up, popular foods from 1999 would be considered the “ancient dishes.”
 
Although there were a wide variety of tasty things to try, the overwhelming favorite were the Emperor’s Fritters, filled with farmer’s cheese, pine nuts and honey. “We never make enough of the fritters. Even if we think we did, we didn’t,” McCants said.
 
To learn more about IAP at MIT, visit http://web.mit.edu/iap/ and follow @MITStudents.

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