Did you crochet those snowflakes on your tree?

Yes. I’ve done them in several batches. I often invite holiday visitors to take one home with them, so replacement/supplement sets have been made. A couple of the flakes are my own invention, one or two are single motifs intended for bedspreads or tablecloths, but most are from these books:

Of the two, I like the patterns in the green Leisure Arts booklet better than the red American School of Needlework leaflet. The LA flakes are smaller, lacier and a bit more delicate. Both books are pretty easy for experienced crocheters to follow, but I’d recommend the red one if you’re relatively new to thread crochet. Warning – this IS thread crochet, although it’s pretty large scale for that style. These snowflakes all look better done with smaller threads and hooks. You can work them with relatively large threads, size 10 and bigger, but you won’t get flakes of a pleasing scale for hanging on a tree (they’ll look nice as door or window ornaments, though.) Mine were done with size 20 crochet cotton, although the next batch I’ll make will be with size 30 cotton, comparable to the stuff I used on the dragon curtain.

There are also lots of patterns for snowflakes on line, although I haven’t tried any of them yet. Noel Nevins maintains a nice index to them at her thread crochet website.

How was the cassoulet?

Wonderful. Worth the year’s wait. Beyond that, words fail me. And when that happens you know I’ve been conked royal.

Is cassoulet the most complicated thing you’ve ever cooked?

No. In what now seems like a previous life, The Resident Male and I were very active in the SCA (East Kingdom, Barony of Carolingia). Among the many things we did was host a Valentine’s Day event for the local group.

It was a themed day, and included several activities as well as a sit-down three course dinner for 125 people. The feast offered up nine main dishes from historical sources (of which I can only remember seven), plus three in-between-course sweets. The theme of the day was Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowles poem, in which the birds hold court to debate the nature of love. It’s more than 25 years ago, but as close as I can remember the “Feast of Fowles” ran something like this:

First course

  • Ostrich eggs on salad nests – many chicken eggs cracked and separated, then the yolks poured into round golf ball sized molds and cooked to set. The whites were poured into huge half egg-shaped molds. When they were mostly cooked, the centers were set inside two half-whites.
  • Not Chickens – a chicken skin with legs and wings intact, stuffed with a forcemeat style sausage, sewn back into chicken shape and roasted.
  • A barley-thickened chicken soup with leeks (broth made from the bones and scraps from the Not Chickens)
  • First sweet – spun sugar nests with tiny marzipan birds

Second course

  • Ham dressed in pastry to resemble sleeping swans
  • Chicken pies – the meat from the Not Chickens after the soup was made, cooked with onions, leeks and bread,?made into open face pies
  • [memory fails on the third dish]
  • Second sweet – Feather shaped shortbread cookies (again memory lapses, I think this was what we served)

Third course

  • Roast duck stuffed with kasha and onions
  • Beef birds – roulades of thinly sliced beef, wrapped around garlic and mushrooms, then braised
  • [memory fails on the third dish]
  • Third sweet – Peacock in its pride – three magnificently shaped and painted gingerbread cakes, each sporting heads, wings, and a fan of real peacock feathers behind.

There were also sallets (vegetable side dishes), brewed mead and ale, and nibbles offered earlier in the day. Before your mind boggles, please note that we didn’t offer these dishes in full-serving-per person portions. There was enough of each for everyone to have a fair taste, and to be full at the end of the meal, but not enough to stuff everyone silly (For example, for each table of ten we sent out one pie, one duck, one Not Chicken, etc.)

The Resident Male and I did not do all the cooking ourselves. Lots and lots of friends helped. They did the marzipan birds, the splendid peacock cakes, the beef roulades, the mead and ale, and half of the Not Chickens. Most of the rest we were able to cook together ahead of time and warm at the hall; the remainder we did on-site. RM ran the day-of kitchen, I ran the hall, the service, and arranged the entertainments, which included copious dancing (and flirting); a Court of Love adjudicated according to the rules of Capellanus; a poetry competition; and other gentle activities suited to the day and theme.

Needless to say, life has interfered with other pursuits and we don’t do this sort of thing much any more.

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