Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Cosman Fan

I have a confession to make. I am a fan of Madeleine Pelner Cosman.

Cosman is a writer on medieval subjects, and she is regarded with snooty disapproval by most SCA cooks and scholars. I will admit, her recipes, especially in the very popular and perennially in print Fabulous Feasts, are not perhaps the height of scholarly rigor. The recipes in Fabulous Feasts are, well... let's just say I don't think they had ready access to pineapple or carob in Medieval Europe. But these recipes are fun, and all the ones I've cooked are tasty. No, she doesn't cite her sources for the recipes, but what reasonably experienced medievalist cook couldn't walk one of her recipes back if they had a mind to?

Ok, so don't use one of her recipes as the sole source in a competition at an Arts and Sciences Fair. You'll get that snooty thing. But don't put down Cosman herself or her writing. The rest of her text in Fabulous Feasts is scholarly and well-sourced. The illustrations are wonderful. Her Medieval Holidays and Festivals; A Calendar of Celebrations has delightful ideas for seasonal celebrations for SCA. Her Medieval Wordbook is a treat.

Furthermore, Cosman was Director of the Insititute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the City College of City University of New York. The recipes in Fab Feasts and the celebratory ideas in Medieval Holidays are popularizing, not dry scholarly essays. She herself is a lawyer, a Ph.D, a highly respected medical teacher and lawyer and a serious medievalist.

What gets me about the disapproval about Cosman in the SCA is the irony. Read the back cover blurb to Medieval Holidays. Cosman had a weekly class on public television called Medieval Daily Life. She and colleagues staged demonstrations of medieval celebrations for public.

Cosman is one of us. I love her books, and I noticed while Googling her that I missed a few of them. I'll have to correct that.

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