What’s Sambocade, Anyway?

by | Jan 16, 2015 | history, research, setting | 0 comments

sambocade-rabbit

from British Library, Lansdowne 451,  f. 6

 

Since readers have asked me about food, clothing, and places mentioned in my books, I thought it would be fun to share sources of inspiration and research from time to time. Today, I’m starting with food.

I come from a family of big-eaters. If we had a family crest, it would show a double-dip ice cream cone with the motto, “There’s Always Room For Ice Cream,” emblazoned just beneath it. Food wasn’t simply nourishment, it was a central part of our family culture. So, ever since childhood, I’ve been interested in cooking and recipes.

Interested does not equal skilled.

As a girl, I began collecting cookbooks. Authentic Mexican food, Christmas cookies from around the world–anything involving food that represented other cultures or eras. I would read through the recipes, alchemical formulas promising culinary gold. If a cookbook had pictures, I’d thumb through them again and again, dreaming.

I cooked nothing. Nada. Nichts.

Well, I grew up. I left home. I cooked. Culinary gold, it was not (nor is it now, after years of practice). But, my fascination for the alchemy remains. One of my favorite experiments is trying the foods my characters are eating.

What I eventually pulled out of the oven was black around the edges and still jiggly in the middle. I’m no fan of jiggly food, but for the sake of research, I persevered.

While writing Tangled I went through a baking phase. In the months between finishing grad school and finding a full time job, I baked (and ate) a different cheesecake every week. I was baking so much, I even wrote my baking self a cameo appearance in the book. I got pretty good at baking cheesecakes. Trying my hand at sambocade (an elderflower cheesecake) seemed only natural.

I used the modern sambocade  recipe from A Boke of Gode Cookery. I bought rosewater and elderflowers just to make it. Having no food processor, I blended the ingredients manually. (That’s more medieval anyway, right?) I popped it in the oven, baked it, checked it, baked it some more. What I eventually pulled out of the oven was black around the edges and still jiggly in the middle. I’m no fan of jiggly food, but for the sake of research, I persevered.

I ate it. All of it. I eat my mistakes with true commitment. I eat my mistakes alone–you can only ask so much of your friends.

It’s been a decade almost. I remember mouthfuls of char and bland bites of crusty not-quite-cheese over cottage cheese curdles. By week’s end, I faced the sambocade with dread.

Alas, I took no photos. Just as well, I suppose. If you’d seen my version, you’d never have wanted to try sambocade. If you’re curious what delicious sambocade would look like, check out this one from Fromage Homage. Almost makes me want to try again.

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