Bagging a Pheasant for Class

by Keith Duhamel

Student Keith Duhamel shares his experience in hunting and preparing a pheasant, 16th century style, for the Food History course as part of the MLA in Gastronomy core curriculum.

IMG_1601Autumn in New England evokes images of trees ablaze. Reds, oranges and yellows seem to light the horizon against a clear blue sky; crisp cool air in the morning balanced with warm gentle breezes as the day progresses; heading to the apple orchard, though the orchards of yesteryear are replaced today with neat ,orderly rows, manicured and pristine, like soldiers awaiting inspection; and heading to the pumpkin patch for that perfect orange sphere to carve out your jack-o-lantern.

Autumn also means, to many a native New Englander, the start of hunting season. For me, donning the orange (so that I’m recognizable to other hunters) and loading the century old double barrel shotgun once used by my grandmother on her honeymoon (no, not that type of shotgun wedding) means the hope of getting a pheasant or two.

IMG_1746This year, in particular, hunting season coincided with our Food History class studying the medieval period, and my desire to “bag” a pheasant was only magnified. Dr. Ken Albala’s class has taken us on a journey through time and this period in food evolution intrigued me the most thus far. The ostentatious displays of food by the wealthy of the late 15th and early 16th century certainly lend one to imagine dishes in excess.

My first endeavor out into the fields, however, resulted in nil, unless we count the ticks. Luckily, on my second trip I bagged me-self a beautiful rooster, the name for a male pheasant. The iridescent coloring of his plumage sparkled in the sunshine, and I knew this guy would make a meal fit for the King.

IMG_1749In respect of the period, preparation and accompaniments were lavish. After dismemberment, the breast was roasted briefly over a wood fire. As this was occurring, I prepared a stuffing of short grain rice seasoned with dates, homemade almond milk, cinnamon, ginger, garlic and a splash of verjus. I stuffed the breast, wrapped it in bacon and swaddled the entirety in a simple pastry of flour and water. Once baked, the head, wings, tail and feet were re-attached, if you will, and served on a bed of autumn leaves and a sprig of bittersweet (a modern touch).

My guests that night were indulged in a meal that was nothing short of spectacular, if I do say so myself. In true fashion of Medieval times, and at the recommendation of Dr. Albala, I stuffed his beak with a cotton ball soaked in alcohol and lit him ablaze. Autumn’s breath of fire collided in all aspects of this dish. Phineas, as we named him, was succulent and moist, tasting of smoky bacon balanced with the spiced sweetness of the stuffing. Autumn is a time of preparation, a time to reflect and prepare for the winter ahead. Phineas graciously gave of himself, so that I, and my guests may do just that.

Dr. Ken Albala will be teaching the Food History class again for the Spring 2015 semester.

Cover photo credit:

Second Annual Boston Fermentation Festival

By Katherine Wood

Katherine Wood recounts her experience at the Boston Fermentation Festival, which occurred on Saturday, September 27th.

4On a warm September afternoon in Jamaica Plain, friends, fermenters, and food lovers of all kinds came together to celebrate the 2nd annual Boston Fermentation Festival. The Boston Fermentation Festival is the primary event organized by Boston Ferments, a self-described “collective of fermenting enthusiasts, lovers of real food, and folks interested in the health aspects of living foods.” Aside from the Fermentation Festival, Boston Ferments holds courses, dinners, and workshops bringing public attention to the benefits of fermented foods.

The fest was set up in conjunction with the Egleston Farmers Market, which occurs every Saturday in Jamaica Plain. It featured several exhibitors including Real Pickles, Katalyst Kombucha, and AO Biome.

2The day was packed with book signings from several national authors, along with a speaker series, tastings, a “pickle off,” a culture sharing table, and a kraut-making workshop. The speaker series included talks by Boston University professor Ken Albala on the history of ideas about fermentation and digestion. Geoff Lukas, Chef de Cuisine at Sofra Bakery and Café took listeners on a tour of the world discussing fermentation delights across cultures. The speaker series ended with headliner Sandor Katz examining nutrition, foodways, economics and anthropology using fermentation as a lens.

5To break up the full schedule of speakers, Boston Ferments held their very own version of a reality show competition, The Pickle Off. Prior to the festival, Boston area chefs were invited to create their own lacto-fermented vegetables and bring them to the festival to be judged by a panel of pickle experts and festival participants. Attendees also had the opportunity to make their own sauerkraut at the “kraut mob” table where they were provided with cabbage, apples, carrots and salt. The “mobsters” taught the art of sauerkraut making as festivalgoers got their hands dirty, going home with their own bubbling jar to watch the lactobacillus bacteria work their magic. At the end of the day, the “kraut mob” went through 100 pounds of cabbage and 40 pounds of apples and carrots during the communal event.

The Boston Fermentation Festival is most special in that through the exchange of bacteria, sourdough starters or kombucha mothers, as well as information on the most effective ways to make vinegar-free pickles, it evokes a feeling of community and a sense of sharing. Invisible organisms – the microbes – were the stars of the day, and the Boston Fermentation Festival effectively showcased just how crucial these tiny creatures are for the body and palate.