Answers to: Ten things about me (one is a lie)

I hope you all have had a lovely time over the Christmas holidays. If not, or if Christmas is a tough time for you, all I can say is well done for getting through it.

Of course, the one big thing on everyone’s mind over this holiday has been the answer to my last post, ‘Ten things about me (one is a lie)’, which I set a few days before Christmas.

I jest, of course. But for those of you who were kind enough to indulge my vanity by providing me with their answer/viewpoint/opinion, here are the truthful things, followed by the big lie:

NINE TRUTHFUL THINGS:

1. I have three times made myself ill cooking for Monk’s Modern Medieval Cuisine.

Yes, I really have done this. Unforgiveable, you might think.

In the first instance, I experimented with the recipe Tart de Bry, from Forme of Cury (Richard II’s cookery book) and, because I am gluten intolerant, I substituted sorghum flour for wheat flour to make the pastry, as sorghum is gluten free.

Tart debry
Tart de Bry, from Forme of Cury. Manchester, John Rylands Library, MS English 7. Photo by Christopher Monk © 2019. By permission of the University of Manchester.

Now I had never used sorghum flour before. I thought I was being very careful. Alas!

I won’t go into detail about the aftereffects, but suffice it to say that it was decidedly unpleasant and extremely painful. At first, I blamed it on some poppadoms I’d eaten at a restaurant, assuming wrongly that the waiter had fibbed about the poppadoms being gluten free. But when I repeated the recipe experiment a week later, the exact same symptoms occurred.

I followed up my discovery of intolerance to sorghum flour by doing a little research, which confirmed that some people with wheat intolerance unfortunately react badly to sorghum, too. Lesson learnt.

The third time I made myself ill was consuming a large quantity of a fava bean purée, again based on a recipe in Forme of Cury, which though not causing quite as severe a reaction as the sorghum experiments, nevertheless had me cursing my luck with the discovery of another new medieval method of torture!

2. I drank cocktails with Sir Lancelot.

Yes, it is true. I sipped cocktails at a party with Sir Lancelot du Lac, also known as actor Gareth David-Lloyd!

Gareth, pictured below with his wife Gemma, is the voice actor for Sir Lancelot in the video game Dance of Death: Du Lac & Fey. I was invited to the party in London to celebrate the launch of the game, for which I was one of the historical consultants.

341A0240
Gareth David-Lloyd and his wife Gemma James. Gareth played the part of Sir Lancelot du Lac in the video game Dance of Death: Du Lac & Fey. Photo by Christopher Monk © 2019.

3. I started a pastry fight in my cookery class at school.

Well, I should first thank all the folk who responded to this by saying that I’m much too peaceable to get up to such a wicked act of violence.

But, alas, it is true. Though rather an angelic child in general, at times the halo slipped. Fortunately, I was the teacher’s pet. So when Mrs Rollings (what a great name for a cookery teacher) returned after absenting herself briefly from class, she took it all in good humour.

The kitchens were scattered with balls of shortcrust dough, served, I might add, with varying degrees of accuracy by me and my fellow students using our sieves. Perhaps ‘pastry tennis’ rather than ‘pastry fight’ is a fairer description of what I started.

Anyhow, I confessed immediately to being the instigator and was forgiven, in part I think because I was the first ever boy at our school to take an O Level in cookery (these were the days of strict gender stereotyping), and Mrs R didn’t want to throw me out the class. Aww!

4. I have held in my hand the oldest copy of King Richard II’s cookery book.

Of course I have! I’ll just leave this picture as evidence.

Website header photo
Forme of Cury, the official record of cookery of King Richard II (c. 1390), and my fingers. Manchester, John Rylands Library, MS English 7. Photo by Christopher Monk © 2019. By permission of the University of Manchester. The Rylands copy of Forme of Cury is considered to be the oldest version, and made during Richard’s lifetime; by comparison, the more famous British Library copy (in scroll form) dates to several decades later, and was therefore made after Richard’s death.

(For Mary: generally speaking, medieval manuscripts are best handled with clean hands, rather than with gloved hands, so I did actually have skin contact with the book as I handled it at the Rylands Library. And we can call it King Richard’s cookery book, rather than the book of his cooks, because the preamble to the recipes states that it is the king’s official record. Hope that explains I’m being honest here!)

6. I have been in a pop video drinking bubbly.

Yes, I get about a bit!

I had the great pleasure of working with the brilliant musician-singer-songwriter, Ben McGarvey, better known as Minute Taker. I can be found, I think, four times (totalling about 5 seconds of fleeting fame) in his video for the 2019 single Hearts (We’ll Never Know). In the screenshot below, Ben pushes past me as I’m drinking a glass of bubbly.

(Here’s the video in full.)

Hearts video

7. I sat down to drinks and nibbles with the White Witch of Narnia.

This is rather like the answer to no. 2. So perhaps mildly duplicitous of me, and also I don’t have any photographic evidence to support this.

So, no White Witch of Narnia as such, but it is true that I sat down to drinks and nibbles with actress Tilda Swinton who played the White Witch in the 2005 Disney film, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

This event happened by chance about five or six years ago in the American Airlines executive lounge at Chicago O’Hare Airport. I was sitting down eating olives and a gin and tonic, and who should walk in and sit herself in the adjacent armchair but the terrifying Jadis herself!

Tilda Swinton, 2019
Tilda Swinton, who played Jadis, the White Witch of Narnia in the 2005 Disney film, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Photo credit: Myles Kalus Anak Jihem; Link to licence.

8. I have dined at a MasterChef winner’s restaurant.

True! In fact I’ve dined in this restaurant twice.

The place is Wood, in my hometown of Manchester, and the chef-patron is Simon Wood, who won MasterChef in 2015. The food is superb!

9. I have eaten medieval cheesecake.

Obviously I have not eaten cheesecake that has survived since the medieval period, but I have eaten my own reconstruction of the fourteenth-century recipe known as Sambocade, a rosewater and elderflower curd cheese tart (see image below).

I made the curd cheese from scratch and reported on this experiment on my other website, The Medieval Monk: Making cruddes (curds).

20190323_183223
A gluten-free version of Sambocade (and some apricot tarts), based on a fourteenth-century recipe from Forme of Cury. Photo: Christopher Monk © 2019.

10. I have eaten 14th-century French tarts whilst dressed in an authentic 11th-century English monk’s habit.

True.

This is related to No. 1. During the filming of my experimention with making Tart de Bry, a recipe that, as the name implies, orginated in Normandy in medieval France (Bry=Brie, the French cheese that seems to have originated in eigth-century Meaux), I decided to appear as an English Saxon monk snaffling the goodies.

My costume, seen below, was made for me by Aidan Campbell and was based on manuscript drawings from the eleventh century. I blogged about it on my other website.

20150711_171039

AND SO TO THE LIE!

5. I once dressed as Queen Wealhtheow, serving mead, whilst teaching Beowulf at the University of Manchester.

And so no one worked out the fib. Not even my partner of 19 years!

It is true that I once dressed as a make-shift Queen Wealhtheow in a Beowulf class -— I made her long locks of plaited hair out of wool and her crown out of shiny gold card —  but this was during my own undergraduate studies at the University of Manchester. And it is also true that later I taught Beowulf at this same university. But, come on! Serve mead to my students? I’d have got the sack!

Wealhtheow
Queen Wealhtheow. From the children’s book Stories of Beowulf by H. E. Marshall (1908). Illustration by J. R. Skelton [Public domain].

Hope that was at least mildly entertaining. And, once again, a big thank you to all those who responded on Facebook, and to Kay who responded conscientiously in the comments section on here xxx.

Wishing you all a great 2020. See you all in the New Year.

Published by Christopher Monk

Dr Christopher Monk is creating Modern Medieval Cuisine

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