Historic / Skyrim Cooking – Introduction

Written by . Posted at 12:35 pm on January 5th, 2013

Recently on my Facebook account, I announced that as a personal goal this year (not a “New Year’s Resolution”—I realize its just semantics, but psychologically it feels different to me) I would like to start doing more research on cooking and dishes from German/Saxon and Viking cultures in the Middle Ages and before. My motivation stems from 1) a desire to do more research on my persona (German, probably Lower Saxony, circa 1500) and the roots of that culture for the SCA, and 2) über-geekery stemming from the video game Skyrim, which is based on Norse culture, and my casual research revealed that the creators of the game had done their own research and kept things decently accurate—but how accurate?

I already tried one foray into this same concept and was very happy with it. About three or four months after the release of Skyrim, my wife went out of town for the weekend so I had the house to myself, which meant I could cook anything I wanted. Now, she’ll tell you that I could always cook anything I wanted, but I try to be a team player and cook things that we’d both like, and save the bizarre experiments for times when she’s gone. My recipe then was Apple Cabbage Stew, and it was marvelous. I looked at the basic recipe from Skyrim which contained three ingredients—apples, cabbage, and salt—and then found one of my father in law’s recipes he brought back from the years he lived in Germany that was pretty much the same thing. I substituted a few ingredients to make it more period (leeks for onions, for example, which also went better with the Skyrim theme), and the result was great. It is definitely one that I’ll do again, so look for a future blog post in this category.

In doing some online research of secondary sources, in an attempt to find well-documented sources that they had used, I found The Viking Answer Lady’s Viking food. It was an awesome resource, pretty much perfect for what I was looking for. Sure, its not Saxon, but its not far off either. Lower Saxony is in the northwest region of Germany, with a climate similar to Scandinavian countries, and this fit with the Skyrim theme pretty well. In fact, this picture from The Viking Answer Lady’s page could easily be reference artwork for foods used in the game. The Viking Answer Lady’s page has recipes that she has modified on her own, but she also has some great references to primary and even more detailed secondary sources, so I plan to pursue those.

The sad reality is, while historians know a lot about what was eaten by peoples of those regions, we don’t entirely know how the food was prepared, we can only guess. We can use modern recipes (like the Apple Cabbage stew), look at the fact that those same ingredients were being used over 1000 years ago, and guess (or rather hope) that the modern version is a handed-down recipe from ancient days, when dragons roamed the earth.

First up: “Chicken Stew with Beer” (link when I’ve finished the write up).

Post a comment.