Jaffrey woman pens historical cookbook

  • M. Allyson Szabo recently released 'The Re-enactor's Cookbook' featuring recipes from the 14th and 15th centuries and history about Medieval cooking. Courtesy photo—

  • M. Allyson Szabo recently released 'The Re-enactor's Cookbook' featuring recipes from the 14th and 15th centuries and history about Medieval cooking. Courtesy photo—

  • M. Allyson Szabo recently released 'The Re-enactor's Cookbook' featuring recipes from the 14th and 15th centuries and history about Medieval cooking. Courtesy photo—

  • M. Allyson Szabo recently released 'The Re-enactor's Cookbook' featuring recipes from the 14th and 15th centuries and history about Medieval cooking. Courtesy photo—

  • M. Allyson Szabo recently released 'The Re-enactor's Cookbook' featuring recipes from the 14th and 15th centuries and history about Medieval cooking. Courtesy photo—

  • M. Allyson Szabo recently released 'The Re-enactor's Cookbook' featuring recipes from the 14th and 15th centuries and history about Medieval cooking. Courtesy photo—

  • M. Allyson Szabo recently released 'The Re-enactor's Cookbook' featuring recipes from the 14th and 15th centuries and history about Medieval cooking. Courtesy photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 12/15/2020 3:02:31 PM

The question came quite often as M. Allyson Szabo was set up to cook over an open fire at one of the many renaissance fairs she attends: ‘Do you have a cookbook?’

Szabo had the thought for a recipe collection “percolating in my head for a while,” she said, so last November she decided to sit down and write it. Participating in the NaNoWriMo event, short for National Novel Writing Month, seemed like the perfect opportunity. Tasked to write 50,000 words over the course of 30 days would provide Szabo the deadline she needed.

It wasn’t the most traditional avenue during the month long writing event, but it was the book – her fourth overall – she most wanted to write.

Sazbo estimates she probably put in “200 hours of editing after” because during NaNoWriMo the point is to just get the words out, not anywhere near a final draft. And in late October, Szabo finally released “The Re-enactors Cookbook: Historical and modern recipes for cooking over an open fire”.

“I had a lot of fun writing it,” Szabo said. “It’s a very different method of writing.”

This cookbook is more than just recipes. Szabo talks about the history of Medieval cooking, how to build and start a fire, as well as the different styles. There’s tripod cooking with a pot for more high heat dishes and cooking directly in the coals, used for baking and roasting.

“I put in a lot about the basics of how woods heat,” Szabo said, adding pine is for a faster hotter fire, while oak is more for slow cooking.

The recipes themselves date back to as early as 1,000 C.E., but most are from the 14th and 15th centuries. There were not a lot of measurements, so she spent time working on modernizing the recipes, redacting a recipe it’s called, to give people her own version as a guide to cook some recipes that “do result in some interesting flavors that are a little strange and different,” Szabo said.

“It gives anybody the opportunity who want to cook these recipes the chance to do it,” Szabo said.

The spices are very different with Medieval cooking, using no salt, but plenty of cloves and mace. One recipe for chickpea and sausage uses cinnamon. The recipes tend to be very fatty as well, Szabo said.

“Medieval people did not cook the way we cook,” she said. “Cooking was a necessity, something everybody had to know.”

There’s recipes for each meal – breakfast, dinner (midday) and supper (evening). She has a section on portable foods and another on pies with a recipe for chicken, apple and cheese pie. There are more for vegetables and sides, as well as breads, desserts and drinks

Until she got involved with renaissance fairs a handful of years ago, Szabo didn’t do a lot of open fire cooking. But recently – before COVID-19 put them on hold – it just became something she does a lot from May through the end of October.

“Most weekends I spend time cooking over a fire with a long dress and a veil,” she said. “Most of (these recipes) I have been using for the last three or four years.” And her family has been on the receiving end of all of her test kitchen work.

“They’ve gotten used to seeing the weird and strange things,” she said. “I have always had an interest in it, but didn’t have a lot of time to practice it.”

Szabo likes how the book offers people a variety of options.

“You can open it up and use it like a regular recipe book,” she said. “You can also read it as a history book as well.”

In all there are about 100 recipes, most of which translate well for a camping trip. She even offers from tips for making things ahead of time.

“I talk a lot about the history of the recipes themselves,” she said. “And some will be very recognizable.”

The book is available on Amazon, after being self-published through Kindle Direct Publishing, and has been included into the catalog for some libraries in New Hampshire. She hopes to get it into local bookstores, but COVID-19 has made that a little more difficult.

For more and a link to purchase the book, visit https://mallysonszabo.weebly.com/.




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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