Many events offer a feast. This is a very large fancy meal served in a series of courses. Some are served at the table and some a buffet-style. Between courses, you may have other activities such as bardic performances, court business, dancing, etc. A series of toasts will usually occur with the feast.
What is a Feast and Why do we do it?
A feast is largely a big party to celebrate some special occasion within the SCA. It’s based on medieval traditions when people would travel great and small distances to celebrate together and show off the best they and their land could afford. Feasts are rich in tradition and ritual, both historically and within the SCA. Traditions can vary by Barony and Kingdom.
It is a chance for people to dress up a little in their “Fancy Garb.” Super fancy garb isn’t required but people do tend to dress up in their finer garb that they would not normally wear to outdoor events. If you see something you like, don’t be afraid to polietly compliment and ask questions. People usually love to talk about their work and research.
There are different kinds of feasts to attend. Though most feasts are similar there can be things that are unique to a particular event.
Feasts Typically Held in Caid and/or Calafia
Territorial Anniversaries (Shires, Cantons, Colleges, etc.)
Twelfth Night (Fancy)
Food and Frivolity – Feasts usually are when the best cooks in the region get to show off and we get to have some fun!
Things to Look out For:
Reservations – Because of seating restrictions, food costs, and allowing the cooks to plan for enough food portions within their alloted budget, most feasts require a reservation to be made. If you don’t make the initial reservation list, there is also a wait list. At a certain point in the day at the event, unclaimed reservations will be released to people on the waitlist to claim, and then open to anyone else to claim if it is not full. If you don’t get a reservation, you can always ask when you check in at Gate to see if there are some left or what the procedure for released reservations will be.
Feast Registration – This is usually separate from the site registration since that goes to pay for the cost of putting on the event, whereas the feast cost will go ahead so that you know how much an event will cost to do everything. Also, there can be sideboard seating where you can avoid purchasing a feast seat, bring you own food, and still be part of the fun.
Wet/Damp/Dry Site – Wet site means alcohol is allowed but know you limits! Dont be THAT guy. Please note that underage drinking is NEVER allowed in the SCA, even with parental consent. Damp site means alcohol of a certain percentage is allowed (usually 20% abv and below). Dry site means alcohol is not allowed.
Menus – Menus are typically released/posted ahead of time. If you have dietary concerns, be sure to look ahead to make sure you’ll be able to eat at a feast.
What to Expect to Happen at a Feast?
Food – Sometimes there is a specific region or time period chosen to reflect in the feast menu. The recipes can be more on the period side (which doesn’t always fit the mold of modern flavor sensibilities, but can still be tasty and interesting) or be more suited to modern tasts. Look for the menu postin if you have dietary concerns. Remove means course when it comes to a feast.
Entertainment – There are usually performances from bards, musicians, etc. durnig the feast. It adds to the fun of the meal and mirrors historical traditions. If you are interested in doing a performance, always check in with the event and/or feast steward. They may have a specific plan or “feel” for the event in mind. Sometimes, however, there can be a call for anyone who is interested in an “open mic.”
Court – It is not typical to have court at a feast but it does happen! Sometimes there are elevations or awards given during the feast! Remember to be a good audience during their special moment! Dinnerware “clinking” can be noisy.
What to Bring
- Commonly made of wood, ceramic, pottery, fine china, or melamine (plastic that looks not-plastic)
- Dinner plates – bring a dinner and salad plate so that you can have as much separation of sauces and such
- Bowls – especially if there are soups or stews on the menu
- Utensils – fork, spoon, knife (one that can butter bread and one to cut through meat)
- Cups/goblets/mugs – 1 for water, 1 for a special beverage (sekanjabin), and a “tasting glass” (shot glass)
- Napkins – can be linen or paper. As fancy as you like!
- Plastic bags – you might not be able to wash your dishes on site before you leave and you’ll want to store dirty dishes without making a mess!
- A basket or storage bin to keep it all in. It makes life easier
Extras to Bring for Fun
- Extra feast ware – sometimes someone forgets theirs or is unexpectedly able to attend and may not have some with them. It’s nice to be able to help ensure their enjoyment.
- Salt and Pepper Bowls – salt was not always store in shakers, but rather in small dishes
- Table Decor – Tablecloths, candlebras/candle holders (99% of sites require flameless candles), floral arrangement, table runners, etc. Nothing with glitter or confetti!
- At some feasts, like Twelfth Night, people prepare tokens for their tablemates.
How You can Help Putting on a Feast
In the Kitchen – Many hands make light work. if you can chop, stir a pot, knead dough, etc., you can volunteer. You don’t have to be The Chef to help cook. Contact the feast steward to see if you can be of service.
Serving the Food – It’s really fun to be the one serving the food. There’s few feelings like watching a table full of people light up when you head their way. There’s usually a server’s dinner served ahead of time, so you can get a free dinner for a couple hours of work!
Dishwashing – There’s always so much to clean up after a meal’s been prepared and it’s tough on the cooks, who have usually started working 6-8 hours already by the end of dinner, to have to do all the clean up as well. Even if you were a feast participant, you can still volunteer to help with clean up.
Feast Reservation Manager – If needed, you can volunteer to help with creating the reservation list, check people in for their reservations at the feast, and be the communication specialist between the populace and the cooks.
Coordinate the Servers – knowing the rules and etiquette of serving (serving royalty first, etc.) coaching the serving staff, announcing each remove, helping plan and execute the logistics of serving.
Things to Remember
- Remember your table manners
- Ask for foods needed for dietary restrictions BEFORE the event. Email the feast steward ahead of time to see if there will/can be foods made that can suit your needs, within reason. There is no guarantee that they can or will, but there’s no harm in politely asking. If you ask ahead of time, the cooks might be more willing to accommodate your needs.
- Bring a reasonable amount of feast wear. Try not to bring so much gear that you take up the room for your tablemates.
- Do NOT make toasts especially in Caid and Calafia. There are traditions regarding toasts and you wouldn’t want to commit a faux pas!
Sources For Acquiring Feastware:
- SCA Artisans – Partciularly at War, you can find lots of pottery and wood artisans selling their wares. It is good to support someone else’s SCA fun!
- Etsy Shops – LOTS of SCA artisans sell their art on etsy or SCA yard sale on Facebook.
- Department Stores – It doesnt have to be fancy, you can get away with the “look” of period-esque. Plus, Metamine (fancy plastic) is very practical for carrying around.
- World Market – Period-esque items
- Thrift Shops – It’s like treasure hunting!
If you are interested in period cooking, food storage, and or general food things, check out the Baronial Hearth and Cauldron Guild or the Baronial Provisioner’s Guild!
The information presented here comes from All About That Feast: Feasting in the SCA 101 by THL Anóra Tryggvadóttir