Something to eat
This page is a subsection of SCA Without Breaking the Bank. It provides information on food and feasts.
- Pay for the feast: Yes, this costs you more money at the gate, but it includes a (usually very tasty) feast, and sometimes also includes dayboard as well. I've been to some events where an extra $10 Canadian (approx. US$6) got me two breakfasts, two feasts, and a dayboard.
- Buy at the supermarket: If you can't be on-board (pay for the feast), try buy your food at a supermarket instead of a convenience store on your way there. Let's face it, supermarkets are cheaper, and convenience store jerky sucks!
- Some good foods to start with: Your best way to start, if you're buying food for yourself, is with bread. It's filling and usually one of the cheapest things on your menu. After that, go for fruits and veggies in season. Have more to splurge? Grab some cheese, ham, or eggs (assuming you have somewhere to keep them). They make a great, period, cheap meal. If you're going to be having breakfast, try grabbing some oats to make porridge. Add some sugar, cinnamon, or honey, and you've got yourself a tasty breakfast for pennies (and you can use the leftovers at home).
- Prepare at home: If you can, prepare things at home first. Jerky is really easy to make if you have a dehydrator, and cheap too. If you make enough and give some to people, they'll love you.
- Water!: Don't forget water! You don't have to buy bottled water if you have bottles lying around, but this is definitely an area you don't want to neglect!
- Get it free: Sometimes volunteers in the kitchen or servers get to eat for free, so ask the head chef what the policy is. If you're in the kitchen, you also get to nibble on whatever it is your making, and often have access to leftovers. Without volunteering, you probably won't find free food, but you never know. Someone in our shire didn't have any money and wanted food, so he started begging, and people gave him some. You never know what might happen if you're willing to put aside your dignity. Alternatively, I have heard stories of "barbarian invaders" storming into camps and taking food, but I wouldn't recommend this.
- Barter for it: Ever heard the expression "sing for your supper"? Some friends of mine, at large camping events, go from camp to camp singing and storytelling, and usually get some food in the process. If you don't have a singing voice (or can't sing while you're eating), you could offer to do people's dishes for them for the whole event, or do their food shopping or cooking for them.
- Pay someone in the SCA for it: A lot of times at big (or even small) events, people will get together at events to have "food plans". That is, everyone chips in and everyone helps out, and everyone eats. This is a good way to get a better meal than you might be able to afford on your own, plus it gives you the chance to meet people and feel like part of a group.
- Get it used at discount: Until my friend dragged me to a local farmer's market, I had no idea how cheap some food can be. We got a basket of peppers for CAN$2, about 60 eggs for CAN$2, and lots of other things at similarly cheap prices. Find out if your city has any farmer's markets and check them out. It's a fantastic way of getting a lot of food at really good prices. Usually, farmer's markets will offer fruits and vegetables in season, and occasionally eggs, honey, grains, and other local specialties. It works even better if you're on a food plan (see #3), and you can get lots of people chipping in.
- Get it cheap: So, you're off-board, not on a meal plan, and don't know of any farmer's markets? Try going to your local supermarket or discount food store. Buy things that are on sale and that won't spoil. As a general rule, no-name brands (or better yet, things that don't need brands like fruit) will be cheaper than brand-name foods. Go for a loaf or two of french bread, some fruits and veggies, some pasta, and maybe some cheese and meats.
Submitted by Dana ingen Faolan
When camping without a cooler, peanut butter, jelly and bread, though not really period, all keep rather well (in shaded storage) for weekend events, like smaller wars. Chips can substitute for staples as well, though be careful not to keep the bags out where squirrels can find them.
This may be obvious, but if you have to buy water, it's cheaper to buy gallons and use a tankard rather than a supply of smaller bottles. It also looks more period.
For people underage, or who simply don't drink, sparkling apple cider is a fun and tasty substitute that seems to feel a bit more period than soda. Sometimes, too, you can purchase it on a sale for a moderate fee.
Submitted by Brian
At one event, for $6.50 I got 10-12 small loaves/kaiser roll type, a block of cheese and a small summer sausage. Slice up the cheese and sausage, insert into the rolls, and I fed myself and three companions breakfast and lunch (with water) for about $1.50 apiece or so, and remained "period". It was also unrefrigerated, and easy to carry around in one of my larger pouches.
Submitted by Lady Lillith the Lost
A book recommendation: "Simple Foods for the Pack: The Sierra Club Guide to Delicious Natural Foods for the Trail", by Claudia Axcell, Diana Cooke, & Vikki Kinmont (ISBN 0-87156-757-1).
This cookbook is designed for extreme hikers, the kind who will be carrying all their provisions for a couple of weeks. The recipes are for foods that are lightweight, durable, and often quick cooking (to conserve on fuel). There are lots of make-ahead recipes and what I call "baggie meals". Instead of buying expensive freeze dried meals at the camping store I now make up my own one-pot meal mixes for a few cents, from ingredients I can usually get at the local grocery store. Some of these mixes can be stored at room temperature for weeks! I pre-package the mixes in baggies and write any directions right on the baggie. People are amazed when they stop by my site, receive an invitation to dinner, and I can have Moroccan Couscous on the table, start to finish, in 5 minutes.
Submitted by Giano Balestriere
Pasta, rice and porridge are period. So are wheat porridge and gnocchi, and a large number of soups. All of this is easy and cheap to make with basic ingredients and comes cheaper than cheese sandwiches (though not usually cheaper than either eating feast and dayboard or joining a household). If you cook your food at an event and share with visitors, you may even end up being invited to cook for a household or group next time 'round. Good cooks are popular people, and there isn't that much too it.
Submitted by Kat
I've also done well the few times I've made beef jerky... it started at an event where I had some for our family and then I took it to some events where there wasn't a tavern being run to raise money (whether for host group or kingdom or such). It's very easy to make so long as you have a sharp knife or slicer and an oven.
Submitted by Vaughan
Much of the time it's cheaper to go onboard rather than outboard. Eating at a restaurant near the site can cost $10 or more, above the site fee, and you have to leave the site and not be with everyone else in the feast hall, but onboard is often only a few dollars above site fee.
Another way to cut costs is to bring your own snack food so you're not tempted to buy dayboard or snacks etc. And, don't forget about volunteering to be a server, many times you get your food for free if you serve.
Submitted by Tivar Moondragon
Things like cheese and summer sausage will keep pretty well. Bread and fruit are good choices, too. You can recycle old half-gallon milk or juice jugs into generic drink containers--one or two for water, one or two for tea, lemonade, gatorade, or whatever you like to drink. Fill them about half full and freeze them the week before a camping event, then top them off when you're packing the ice chest. That way you won't need to buy ice, you've got cold drinks all weekend and you avoid theproblem of the ice melt ruining everything in the bottom of your ice chest.
Submitted by Dame Aoife Finn
Offer to help at the event and explain that you can't afford to eat on board. Many groups have workers discounts, separate food (free) for servers at feast, some cooks will pay for those who will help cook, and many cooks accept beggars at the door (arranged in advance).
Offer your service to someone who has lots of people to take care of: a family might feed you if you help watch their children during the tourney, for example. A Noble household might feed you in exchange for help setting up and taking down their stuff. Join a household. If the household goes to events and camps together, they might very well already have your meals planned for you. Sooner or later you'll have to contribute. Sometimes they'll ask that you bring the <>, and they will supply the rest.
Easily-found modern foods that can pass as authentic:
- Whole bread loaves are cheaply made at home for less than $1.00 each. Many new persons fall into that hard-tack fallacy. Don't bother, unless you plan on a sailor's persona and like breaking your teeth. Use any low-tech bread recipe, avoiding using those rectangular bread pans. Or simply buy a round, oblong, etc. French, Italian or other ethnic loaf.
- Natural Cheese (not sliced, and not orange, marbled, or having flecks of any other ingredient in it).
- Pickles, olives, and similar foods are great, add flavor, and go a long way. Good to replace lost salts at hot events as well.
- Boiled eggs, or pickled eggs (not the ones made with red beets). These are very cheaply made, and keep a long time.
- Basic fruit, nearly any kind except grapefruit, kiwi, or nectarines are OK. Vegetables except: Squash, broccoli, cauliflower, tomato, green-type or chili type peppers, potato, corn.
- Plain baked meats, fish or poultry of any type except turkey or processed types of meats, except sausages are generally OK.
- Drinks: Modern drinks in historical containers are generally thought OK (check the site rules before bringing alcohol, though). Lemonade, mint tea and water are all good non-alcoholic drinks. Many folks consider Iced Tea acceptable though it is not an historical beverage for our period of study in Europe. Hide any cans, plastic bottles, or modern containers. If anyone asks what you're drinking, smile mysteriously and answer "lemonade."
Submitted by Ernst Nuss von Kitzingen
Volunteer in the kitchen. You get to meet a LOT of people and eat.
Camping without a cooler
Camping sans cooler is less cumbersome, less ugly (let's face it, coolers aren't the most attractive things in the universe), more period, and (here's the clincher) cheaper! And really, that's what we're all here for. If you're just going to a weekend event, there is absolutely no need for a cooler. Even at Pennsic you can live without one.
A brief note: Most of the tips here are compiled from conversations I've had over usenet, and I sincerely appologize to anyone whose tips I have taken without permission. I unfortunately only saved the tips, and not the emails or names of the people who sent them. If you sent me one of the tips on this page and want credit, just email me.
- Try using the water from the site if it's safe. Obviously, you need to make sure you have enough water, and you might have to go buy some, but it's easier than bringing it from home. If your stomach gets upset from foreign water, and you're camping longer than a few days, try this tip: bring few gallons of water you're used to use as drinking water. As you use up that water, top off the container with water from the site. The change to the new water is gradual, so it doesn't shock your stomach.
- Prepare food ahead of time. There are plenty of foods you can make ahead of time that will keep for a long time. Check out the links on the bottom of the page for more information.
- Stock up on essentials. Things like crusty bread or rolls, hard fruits and veggies, cheese, sausage, dried meats, and some sweets can keep a long time and require almost no preparation. As we all know, cooking at events can take a while. Why not make things easy on yourself?
- Get period-looking containers. Leaving the cooler at home won't add anything to aesthetics if you have dozens of white grocery store bags lying around camp. Try wooden or ceramic containers (you can subtly mark them or write on the bottom), canvas or mesh bags, and so on. If you're careful, you can pick these up at thrift stores or garage sales for almost nothing.
- Try one-pot cooking. If you feel the need to cook, there are many dishes that can be prepared in just one pot. Stews, pottages, porrages, etc. don't require too much work and are quite filling on cold, wet days.
- It only takes one trip. For a weekend event, you can probably pick up everything you need in one trip to the supermarket.
- Prepare a meal plan. One of my problems is that I always seem to get too much food. Try thinking out your meals ahead of time. This will give to a chance to make anything you need ahead of time, prepare your cooking gear, and know how much to buy.
- Enjoy your free time! Just think about all the time you're saving on trips to get ice to stock the cooler. You're still eating healthy, you're being more period, and it's less of a hassle for you. What more could you ask for?
Here are some foods that are at least plausibly period and can keep a fairly long time without a cooler. These are just basic foodstuffs that you can pick up at any supermarket. Like I said above, there are also recipes you can prepare ahead of time that will keep very well. This list is by no means exhaustive, but just a suggestion to get you started.
- Bread and Grains:
- round, country-style loafs (look for any loaf with a crusty shell)
- crusty bread rolls -- keep their freshness a bit better than a large loaf
- Fruits and Veggies:
- dried fruit--apricots, raisins
- canned fruits and veggies (obviously not period, though)
- Condiments and Seasoning:
- cheese -- something in wax (you may be able to get cheddar that comes this way) or the very hard Italian cheeses like Romano. For a weekend, almost any cheese should work.
- Meat and Nuts:
- dried meat (like jerky)
- hard boiled eggs
- hard sausages like salami
- gypsy ham
- fruit juices
- Sekanjabin and similar Islamic syrup drinks
- various kind of sweets
Links and articles on non-cooler camping
- Cariadoc's Miscellany
- From Stephan's Florilegium:
- Article by Elizabeth Cook
- Article by Rufina Cambrensis
- Another article by Rufina Cambrensis