1 - What do you want from a feast?
Above all AMBIANCE was listed as the number one thing that people wanted from a feast. If they just wanted food, they could have gone to a restaurant off-site or brought their own food. People listed many things that added to the ambiance of a feast. Some of the things mentioned were: “real” serving platters instead of foil trays, a decorated hall, candlelight (but enough to see the food and their friends), background music, more persona conversation, etc.
2 - How important is the feast in relationship to the whole event?
Scale of 1 (low) 5 (high) - A 4 (four) - Most people do not come for just the feast, but a bad feast can ruin a good event.
3 - Do you usually eat feast?
Most people answered that they do attend feast, but some made mention that they attended feast “in the beginning”, but now eat off-board. (See submitter comments)
4 - WHY do you eat feast?
Again, The ambiance. Second came “the food”. Third came “the company of tablemates”. When I wrote this question I listed a few things for people to consider in an effort to help them understand what I meant by the question. The examples I offered were: for the food, the ambiance, the company of your tablemates, etc. Over 2/3s of the people wrote the words “all of the above” for the answer. It seems most people see the feast as a pleasant way enjoy the whole event experience in a "medieval atmosphere". Feast is more than just the food.
5 - How long should a feast last?
90 minutes - 2 hours was the number one choice. Most people indicated that they do not enjoy sitting longer at feasts. Others mentioned Revels and other evening activities that they would much rather engage in than sitting through a long feast. The exception to this was some people mentioned that they would sit through longer feasts for Special events i.e. Coronation.
6 - What time would like to see feast served?
The overall response was 6:00pm (never later than 7:00)
7 - How many total number of dishes do you want at a feast?
Nine to Twelve. With twelve being the “average” number of dishes mentioned. A few people wanted up to 20 dishes, but usually made comment that they wanted that many dishes to insure that they found something that they liked to eat.
8 - How many courses (removes) should a feast have?
Three was the overwhelming answer. Four if a special event.
9 - How long do you want to wait between courses/or do you want to wait at all?
Only a few people wanted the dishes brought out one after another. Most people wanted a wait to finish what they were already served. Still, the average waiting time between courses was 15 minutes maximum.
10 - Should ALL the dishes be from redacted/documented historical sources?
Now here is where it gets sticky. The overwhelming response was that is Not Necessary for the dishes served at feast to be from redacted/documented historical sources. (See actual submitter comments - I found them most interesting and enlightening) I had a “theory” that the longer a person played in the SCA the more they would desire the dishes to be documented. This did not prove out. There were some events where people expected the dishes to be documented. Examples mentioned were Coronations and Kingdom A&S Competitions. Almost everyone, who voiced an opinion, stated that they did not want dishes presented as documented that were not documented.
11 - Can the dishes be made from "period" food, but not from redacted/documented historical sources?
The answer here was an overall YES, many people remarked that the documented dishes they had eaten in the past were “not to their tastes” and that they would prefer dishes that “appeared” historic rather than ones that actually were. Many people were more concerned with presentation than content. If the dish “appeared” in a form that they “felt” was “period”, they would accept it. Thus... they WOULD accept a hunk of beef, a chunk of cheese and a loaf of bread, but WOULD NOT accept a cheese burger.
12 - Can the dishes contain non-period foods?
Almost all people preferred foods that they identified as acceptable within the SCA Timeframe. A few people said that they would not care if tomato pizza was served, but only a very few. If the non-period food was “hidden” within the dish this was also acceptable to many people. The majority were not concerned whether “Plums were always served stewed in “period”. If they accepted that “plums were period” then plums in most forms were acceptable. (NOTE: I am NOT saying that Plums were always stewed in “period” - this is just an example) About 25% were very vocal that, given the amount of foods available within the SCA Timeframe, the use of non-period foods should not be necessary.
13 - Do you like entertainment during feast? If so, what kinds do you like or dislike?
One thing that was mentioned over and over was that everyone (who stated an opinion) disliked performances directed to JUST the High Table. The overwhelming majority preferred background music, strolling musicians, or just one or two bards during the whole dinner. Another comment made by most people was they did not mind entertainment as long as they were not expected to be quiet during it. Most people actually enjoyed and looked forward to the dinner table conversation and resented being told to be silent.
14 - Do you have a feast setup you like or dislike?
Many people were not familiar with any feast setups other than the ONE
style of their area. BUT almost everyone complained of styles that reminded
them of (as one person put it ) the “cattle call to the cafeteria”. For
this reason I have chosen to outline the various ways you could have feast
set (as mentioned by submitters in the survey). Give a couple a try at
your next event and see how they go over in your area.
15 - What beverages do you like served at feast?
Although some people desired “historic” beverages only, even people that wanted “documented recipes” for their dishes still wanted their favorite modern drink. The non-alcoholic beverages most mentioned were: (ice tea, water, lemonade, and grape juice). Many people wanted “period” drinks to sample, but not as the only choices.
16 - What are your views on serving procedures?
In a perfect feast, almost every single person wanted assigned servers as their first choice. If the feast required the use of general volunteers through out the Hall, it was suggested by many that they wear Kitchen Tabards so they could be easily identified and add to the ambiance. A few people did not mind the “one person from each table get up and get the dishes for their group”, but a large majority mentioned this as the one style of serving that they disliked the most. (again that “cafeteria feel”)
17 - Does it bother you if someone gets a dish that you did not?
The responses to this question were a revelation for me. And the only question that length of membership in the SCA had any (if only a slight) bearing on. If the Royals were at High Table the majority of people thought that it was a nice gesture if the cook prepared one or two “special” dishes for them. The idea of a completely different menu for High Table was cited as offensive to almost everyone. People who were “new” to the game found the idea of ANY special treatment in any way “unfair”. They felt that if the Cook wanted to make any special dishes for High Table it must be out of their own pocket AND announced as such when the dish is served (example: “ The Cook presents, as a personal gift to Their Majesties, a dish of roasted rattling beetles in a vinegar sauce”) If the Cook wanted to use the very same ingredients that the populace was eating and create something a little different for High Table this was more acceptable than “completely different dishes." It also made a difference to a lot of people as to who was sitting at High Table. For any special consideration to be allowed, current Royals needed to be in attendance. Only a few people said that they would not mind if the table next to them got something they did not.
18 - What dishes clean-up setup do you prefer?
Most people were pretty flexible in this area. They would take what they could get. The majority wanted more than one place to dump their trash. Many people cited trash cans OUTSIDE the hall. Tubs made available for rinsing off dishes was mentioned more often than running water. And if plastic bags were available to pack their dishes in to take home, they were even happier. Getting out of the Hall quickly and efficiently was cited more than taking home clean dishes.
19 - What thing (or things) really make a feast GREAT for you?
Now this is a very personal question and numerous answers were offered. To really get an understanding of the responses you need to look over the actual submitter’s comments. If I was pressed to sum up the responses it would have to be that the majority want ambiance, plenty of elbow room, and hot food served hot and cold food served cold to consider the Feast great for them.
20 - What thing (or things) would you change at feasts?
It goes without saying that if you ask over 500 people what they would change at Feasts you are liable to get a hundred different answers. But of the answers given these two were repeated over and over again: Do not overcrowd the Feast Hall. Allow plenty of room for the diners and the servers to move around and do NOT have entertainment that requires them to be quiet.
Well, now you have the answers to the survey questions. What you do
with this data is up to you. I have only offered food for thought. Read
over the submitter’s comments. See if the voices of your group, kingdom
or area are there. How will you know? You will have to try the suggestions
that you find within the comments. Talk to your own group. Listen to what
they say. We are all alike in many ways, but are also very different.
Differences between Kingdoms and groups can be the spice of life. Dive
in and see what you find.
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