Ystad. A small town at the south coast of Sweden. Outside – the castle of Bjersjöholm, the site of one of the biggest (the biggest?) 14th century events in Sweden, spanning over four and a half days. Our friends in Fraternis Militia Carnis are kind of co-organizers of the event; they have the responsibility to set up the battle. The event was set in the beginning of July, but I haven’t had time or motivation to write anything about it yet. But here I go!
Me and my daughter Isolde was first on the spot of the guys from Albrechts Bössor. Elisabeth had business elsewhere, so she couldn’t come.
I more or less set our whole camp myself (with some help from our friends in Fraternis Militia Carnis), and I was about finished when some of the others turned up. We made straw beds in the tents. Me, Morgan and Isolde were to bunk together. I made the tent as comfy as possible, with blankets and sheeps fleece. The small tents really are a bit small when you want to bring your equipment along; you won’t feel that it is roomy if you are more than two people. Luckily we finally finished our bigger tents, which means we have space enough for the whole of the company.
The light was fading, but as Swedish summer nights almost never go quite dark, there was still light enough to make Isolde think it was day. And she behaved that way, plus she was really really tired. I put her to bed, and made up a story about a cow and a calf. She still likes
I had a couple of beers and a chat with the other guys, as the camp was beginning to form – even in the dark people arrived, and set up their tents. White shapes were risen against the night sky as I sat shivering from the chilly air with a mug in my hand. It is a funny thing to let your ears do all the ”looking round” – it gives a whole new perspective. You know what happens, and you can picture it in your head, even if your eyes can only see shadows and a lonely lantern here and there.
At Thursday the event started. We were to have one battle each day, and we were having kitchen duty at least one of the days. As I used to work as a chef, I had the honor and the responsibility to organize the food one of the days. Sebastian, a more or less well known character at this blog, had planned it all before, and he had a lorry come all the way out to the area, and unload food enough for more than 60 people. He didn’t want to cook, though, as that is what he does all day long. I’ll get to the cooking part further down.
The day was used to check out the market for a bit. There weren’t much for the serious reenactor, although some of the stalls had some stuff that could pass as decent.
Furthermore, we practiced gunnery. During calm, focused conditions, our best gunnery team can fire 4 shots in one minute and 3 seconds. That is exceptional, but we WILL be able to fire four shots in a minute blank. It is a matter of routine and practice, so we’ll get there. We were very proud of ourselves, and of course it looked stunning.
The rest of the day, we built barricades for the battle. Henrik, a pyrotechnist, made up holes in the ground, which were filled with blackpowder and charcoal – these small harmless ”bombs” were to be ignited by electricity when the cannons fired at the barricades – and it created a marvellous effect!
I mostly fired handgonnes during each battle, although I picked up my sword from time to time; when the fight came closer I had to protect myself. I’d rather not, if I can choose – My gauntlets have never really fit me, probably due to the crappy leather gloves I have as a base for the metal. They are really uncomfortable and restrain my movements. I am going to sew a pair that really fits – then I’ll be happy to pick up the falchion and ward off the scabrous dogs that assail me!
Lots of groups took part in the fighting, among others our pals in Tyska Orden, our great friends of Deventer Burgerscap (it was really a blast to see them – they came all the way from the Netherlands!) and some other groups that are new to the Swedish 14th century scene. It is really good to see new groups emerge; it will be a blast when we get to work with them!
One of the guys from the great Norwegian tournament group Frilansene has made a quite decent film of the battle. It can be seen here. Be sure to check out the ”bombs” exploding (Oi! Have a look after you finish reading)!
I could write on and on about the fights, the good company, the drink and the late nights, but I’m afraid I would only be repeating myself. That’s why I’m going to tell you more about my day as a head chef in a kitchen serving more than 60 people, three times a day over an open fire.
First of all – the kitchen. It was the biggest reenactment field kitchen I have seen. The cooking fire was big enough for three or four pots, and the fireplace was made by bricks. We had lots of working space, and I had maybe ten people at my command. I was prepared for hard work as we began cooking breakfast; porridge, smoked susages, cheese and bread.
Second I’ll present the menu for the event as a whole, although I was only responsible for two of the following meals (I guess I already broke my promise about spamming you with food details. Sorry. I am a terrible person…):
– Russet soup, from Le Viandier
– Legs of duck a’la Dodine, from Le Viandier
– Pork, cabbages and apples seasoned with cumin (one of mine!)
– Salmon covered in herbs served with frumenty, from Faite de cuisine (also one of mine! :-))
– Onion soup served with sausages and bread, from the Forme of Curye
– Grilled lambs and piglets along with root vegetables and camelina sauce
– Chicken with onions and almonds
And third I’ll tell you more about the two dishes I was in charge of making.
The first dish we prepared was the pork seasoned with cumin. This was easy enough. We cut the pork into dice, 2×2 centimetres or so big. It was already seasoned with cumin seeds. At the same time we cut like a million cabbages and fried them with butter and honey, plus some vinegar. When it was close to finished, we started to boil the pork for some minutes – in the meantime we cut the apples and put them in the pot with the sliced cabbages. I tried it with salt and pepper – and it was a huge success!
Next dish (for the evening meal) was salmon covered with herbs. A time consuming process was to prepare the frumenty. The problem is that the barley always stick in the pot when it starts to swell and become thick. We solved that in an easy way: we boiled chicken stock and poured it over a big trough filled with barley. And lo and behold! The barley swelled, and was finished to eat in just a matter of about ten minutes. In the mean time, I used my skills as an old sushi chef to fix up the salmons. I got quite decent filets, but I saved the skin – it protects the meat when you fry the fish. My trusty helpers started to fry the fish, as I mixed the now finished barley with cream and more chicken stock. The result was a lovely, thick stew. Sadly it lacked salt. I’ll do better next time.
Something that put a bit of damper on my dinner mood was that one of our boys came running from one end of the camp to the other – he was running from the training grounds. He came running back with another members personal effects in his hands. This usually means trouble, and boy, was I right.
Scan, one of our prospects, was down and out. I wanted to throw everything aside to go check on him, but I didn’t; several of the boys are old combat medics – and Dr Bob was about, which meant me getting involved would only complicate things. So I took a deep breath, grasped my ladle and continued to stir my pots in the chilly wind.
One of the company members brought me a damage report. Scan had been cut in the face during practice. Three teeth had been broken, and he had a wide Joker grin, as the sword had cut his left cheek open. The cut was about three centimetres long, and he was taken to the Ystad hospital for serious patching up. I didn’t have the focus to eat just then, so I finished cooking and put a couple of guys to do the dishes, so I had the possibility to get in the car and drive to pick the guys up at the hospital.
Scan had been fixed up real nice, but he was a bit down, as the effect of the adrenalin and the painkillers were wearing off. We bought soup for him, so that he could eat, and in the same time we tried to get hold of emergency dentists to fix up his teeth.
As far as I know, all is well with Scan, his cheek and his teeth. You just can’t forget about that cut – nowadays we call him Smiley🙂
The most perfect thing was that the man actually stayed the whole event through! Pure and utter quality! He was even fighting the next day. No matter what happens, that man will have my respect for not stepping down, and for not submitting to fear. I am certain I would not have been as strong and composed.
Cheers to you, Smiley!