Why the Feast Survey?

To be perfectly honest - in the beginning - just because.

You see, I belong to a number of SCA online lists. In early 2000, a suggestion was made, on one of these Lists, that Cooks should be more concerned with preparing dishes that the people wanted to eat rather than cooking foods that the Cook wanted to prepare.

Now this got me thinking... Just what DOES the populace-at-large want out of a feast? Since I cook within the borders of Meridies I was interested in what Meridians wanted. I have raised two children in the SCA and my grown daughter and her husband (parents of my grandchildren) are both feast cooks. I know that when they cook, their main concern is for the people that will attend their feasts. I thought, perhaps, this survey will help them.... and me.

After posting the survey to the Meridian List I was contacted by Meridians who wanted the results of my Survey. Cooks who also desired to know what the people that attended feast “really” wanted. But then something strange happened. The Feast Survey was cross-posted and soon I was receiving completed surveys from all over the Known World. So I adjusted the survey to accommodate this new data. Within the surveys were comments like “I am so happy that someone has even asked what I want” and “please, can I find out the results of the survey?” I also received questions like “Who are you and why do you even care?” Good questions.

First off, I do care and for a variety of reasons. A purely selfish one is that I eat feasts. And I would like “my” likes and dislikes taken into consideration. Now I know you cannot please everyone. Sometimes you're lucky if you can please even just a few folks. If you serve mushrooms at a feast and some people don’t like mushrooms (or can’t eat mushrooms) they might be unhappy. This survey was designed to find out what the “majority” of the responders thought. Notice I said “the majority of the responders”, not the majority of the members of the Society. (see the Statistical Methods page for more on this subject).

I, personally, feel that everyone at an event has a responsibility. From the Autocrat to the Marshal to the Populace to the Cook (and everyone in between).

As an Autocrat, I want the event to be a success. I want people to enjoy themselves. I hope that they will return to other events that my group sponsors. For some reason it seems that no matter how good an event is, if the feast was bad, THAT is what people will remember and talk about. And if the event had its problems (i.e. weather, timing, etc.) a great feast can make the day’s troubles almost disappear.

As a Chirurgeon, I want the food prepared properly and utilizing correct food handling procedures. I understand that a feast is not designed to present the “basic food groups”. Nor is it designed to make up for the populace’s week-day or even event-day eating practices. Still, a balanced variety is desired.

As a Cook, I have a responsibility to my group and to the people who will attend feast. The job of the Cook is to feed people. If I prepare a feast that people will not eat (for whatever reason under my control) then I have failed in my job and I have wasted my group’s feast monies. It is with this in mind that I need to know what the majority of the people who eat at the feasts I prepare really want.

So now you know who I am and why I designed the Feast Survey. But now comes the really important question.... “How does any of this apply to YOU?”

Well, you know... it just might not apply at all. You might belong to a group, kingdom or area that does not “fit” into the results of the survey. But the first thing to do is to FIND OUT. Do your own poll. Ask your own questions. Listen to what the people say. Watch what they do. If you prepare meat pies that get thrown into the trash - find out why. Was it served cold, when it should have been hot? Is the crust soggy? Is the taste unappealing to the masses? How about if you love to cook and you enjoy offering six or seven courses, but by the fourth course more than half the Hall has left and the sixth and seventh course is returned uneaten? Do some “people research” on your own. Do not allow the cheers that you might receive at the end of the meal convince you that all was well. Many times this is a public recognition of the physical effort you put forth and not a true gauge of your abilities or the actual outcome of the Feast.

The data within this Survey is offered publicly because people asked for it. And as with any good meal... check everything out, take what you like and leave the rest. 

I know that some cooks are distressed that more people aren't interested in historic food and preparation; in an effort to address this, the webmistress for the Feast Survey [Cynthia] has developed a suggestions page to which you can contribute.  Send your thoughts and suggestions as instructed on the What Now" page or discuss this problem on the Cook's Guild List or other places, such as with other folks (cooks and noncooks) at events.

In Service to the Society - always,

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