On Board, Off Board
These terms can be confusing and you will see these words as part of the fee schedule on the event announcements. The term “board” is old terminology in which a table laden with food was referred to as a “board” or sometimes as a “groaning board” if the amounts of food are great. This comes from the style of table often used in the Middle Ages, in which a board over two trestles (fancy sawhorses) served as the table. This allowed them to completely dismantle and move the table when the meal was over to allow for dancing and other merriments.
In the SCA, “on board” means that you will be staying for feast and paying the fee for feast. “Off board” means the opposite, you will not be sharing feast. On board usually includes breakfast on Saturday and Sunday. Lunch is generally not included. Some events have fund raiser lunches, these are generally $5 for a sandwich or stew, chips or some sort of salad and fruit or dessert. If the flyer doesn’t state that there will be a fund raiser lunch, then assume that you should provide your own.
When you arrive at the event and you wish to sit feast, ask about the seating chart. If there is one it will be available at the gate as you troll in. This chart will be a layout of the tables as they will be set for the feast. There will be spaces for individuals to sign up for where they want to sit. If this is your first feast, feel free to ask for help finding good table mates. Most tables at SCA feasts seat 8-10 people, so most likely you will have company at your table. Sometimes the seating chart is not available until later in the day, but they will be able to tell you that at Troll. Sign up early to make sure your party is able to sit together.
After the fighting and Court comes the feasting. Feasts are a chance for us to celebrate together by holding a period dinner. Many of us enjoy researching and preparing period menus and cooking. Feasts also give us an opportunity to have a candlelit meal in a Medieval style that sometimes includes entertainment!
Our feasts are set up to replicate a Medieval feast; there will be food prepared using recipes from the Middle Ages served in a series of courses. This can be from a simple feast with 3 courses to more elaborate ones with 7 or more courses where you need to pace yourself. The first course generally is appetizers; the second course consists of meat, vegetable and a starch (potatoes, pasta or rice); and the last course is dessert. When there are more than 3 courses, you will have a different meat and vegetable in the middle courses.
Most feasts are structured, each course will be introduced. The head table, where the Royals and Their guests sit, is served first. The food usually is served on a large platter to the whole table, which is then passed to each person until everyone has a chance to have a portion. It’s chivalrous to serve the ladies at the table first. Take a small amount. You may not like the dish, in which case you do not want to have to throw a lot away, and if you do like the dish, opportunities for second servings can be taken after everyone has had a first serving. Because there are so many courses, it is assumed that individual portions will be small, and if you eat a lot during the first course you will not be able to enjoy the remaining courses.
You need to prepare a little in advance. First, you need “feast gear” since it is not generally supplied by the event. It was normal for travelers in the Middle Ages to carry with them their own knife, spoon, and possibly trencher (like a plate). We follow that custom; it looks more period to have a variety of feast gear on the table. What you need are the basics to set a place at the table, and many people bring more than the basics. Do not invest much money at first, gather basics, then decide on what or how to upgrade. Here is a list to help you choose things that you might want to bring.
- plate made of wood or pewter are best to start, glass or ceramic require extra care when packing
- bowl for soup, salad or dessert
- mug for water or juice made of glass, metal or wood
- glass for wine (or ceramic cup that would not break easily)
- knife, spoon, and fork; medieval style or modern ones are okay
- candle holder
- candle, either traditional wax or the modern battery ones
- matches or lighter
- cloth napkin
- tablecloth or placemat
- basket or bag to carry it all in
- a serving spoon so that neither you nor your table mates need to put forks and spoons you have been eating from into the community dish
- large plastic bag to place dirty dishes in to take home to clean
- Consider bringing something you enjoy drinking. There are usually pitchers of iced tea and water available but it may not be to your taste.
If it is not a “dry site”, you may also bring wine, or mead, etc. with you to have for dinner, within the limits of the modern laws.
If you or anyone attending with you has any food allergies (not preferences), forward the allergy concerns to the Head Cook/ Feastcrat at least 2 weeks prior to the event. This will allow them time to make accommodations, such setting aside a portion without the offending ingredient or to make a substitution. Most event announcements will have a notation about who to contact for information related to feast.
If you didn’t contact the Head Cook ahead of time, you can ask to see a list of ingredients once you arrive on site so that you will know which dishes to avoid. The list should be available at Troll or posted on the kitchen door.