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Monday, June 8, 2020

Losses

Even though I haven't been to an SCA event in person since February, I've been keeping quite busy and social within the Society. However, my reports on that will have to wait, because of the heavy losses we have incurred.

First, Baron Rorik Fredericsson, eighth Baron of Storvik. During these last few years, he had been looking increasingly tired, and he suffered from various health problems. At one point, he fell at home and broke eight ribs all at once. Ow. That set him back for a while. He'd also had some problems with slow-healing leg wounds and a tiny spot of a tumor on his liver. When I saw him at the Bright Hills birthday event in February, I asked him how he was doing, and he replied, "Surviving." In one of his last Facebook posts, he said he actually tested *negative* for the novel coronavirus. He needed the test before some surgical procedure (something to do with his stomach).

He went into the hospital for surgery on April 27, and something went south, and he died that day. I believe he was 73 years old.

His Excellency was well known throughout our barony and kingdom and fought in SCA battles for many years. Decades, even. I think he finally gave it up around age 60 when he got his bell rung pretty hard on the Pennsic battlefield. He also enjoyed the gentler art of playing cribbage, an ancient card game. He was also a huge science fiction fan. the first time I ever saw him was at the Millennium Philcon Worldcon in 2001, more than two years before I joined the SCA. He was wearing a Babylon 5 character's costume and was carrying his gray goose puppet, Fred, the one with the studded leather collar. When I did eventually join the SCA, I recognized him and thought, "Oh, that's the guy with the goose from the Millennium Philcon."

Baron Rorik was also that fellow who looked so much like George R.R. Martin that some Game of Thrones fans actually asked him (Rorik) for his autograph. (But Rorik was taller than George.)

Baron Rorik was very happily married to Mistress Janina for 40-plus years and they had a grown daughter and son (who adored him) and many "friends who are like family." My heart has been grieving with them. I often thought that if I could have told my father (who died in 1982) about the SCA, I would have introduced him to Baron Rorik, who could have explained all the different pieces of armor to my Dad (who was a professional welder) and then sat down and played a good game of cribbage together.

Here is a photo of Baron Rorik from the 2015 Storvik Novice Tourney:


It's not the best photo of him, but it was the first one of him I found among my photos when I heard he had died.

Lest you think that my SCA circles had escaped covid-19 ... in late April the family of Master Liam St. Liam of the East Kingdom said that he was in the ICU with the pandemic disease. I kept checking his Facebook page for updates on his progress, but there weren't any.

Who was Master Liam to me? By one measure, he was the first SCAdian I ever met, although neither he nor I had joined the Society way back then. When he and I were both juniors at our respective high schools -- me in central Massachusetts and him in southern Rhode Island -- our schools' bands and choruses did two "exchange concerts," one in our town in April and the other in their town in May. I honestly don't remember as much about the concerts as I probably should, because my grandmother was ill in April and passed away just before the May weekend (and my mother made me go along on the weekend trip, because "Grammy would have wanted it," but I wasn't in a good mood for it).

Many years later, when LiveJournal was still going strong in the United States and I took an interest in the SCA, I started looking up the journals of people who were posting in the SCA-related communities, Liam posted that he'd graduated from a certain high school in a certain year. I inquired ... and, yes, he'd been part of the same band-chorus exchange! So we "friended" each other in cyberspace, first on LiveJournal and later on Facebook. He was a high school history teacher who went back to his first love, journalism, in upstate New York. He married his second wife, who served a reign as queen of the East, and his grown daughters became Peers, one a Laurel and the other a Pelican.

I met Master Liam in person (in the SCA, not high school) only a couple of times at Pennsic, because he was so busy teaching and writing for the Pennsic Independent and doing a lot of other things. But he always remembered exactly who I was and how we'd gotten to know each other.

A couple of years ago, Master Liam suffered a major stroke and had to give up working as a newspaper reporter. He moved to a rehab facility in Massachusetts and still kept on posting on Facebook as well as he could under his own power. Usually his posts were short exhortations to be well and do good. He didn't go back to Pennsic, but he did get a chance to attend the East Kingdom 50th Anniversary celebration in 2018, albeit in a wheelchair.

So he wasn't posting for a while, and then we waited for news ... and then on May 13, his daughters wrote that, while listening to the Dropkick Murphys and his other favorite Celtic punk bands, he passed away. He was 61.

Tributes poured out from all corners of the electronic Known World. One of his daughters wrote an SCA-specific obituary (I was a bit surprised to learn that his registered name was actually NOT Liam St. Liam), and one of his former newspaper colleagues wrote a very nice tribute to him. Other comments pointed out his tireless efforts to support causes ranging from the Special Olympics to high school gay-straight alliances. Someone praised him for his "radical inclusivity."

We in the SCA have had other losses. The first Triton Principal Herald whom I worked under, Baron Eogan mac Alpein, passed away in late May. I hadn't seen him for quite some time, but I think he was in his mid-60s. Then a woman who was on the winning team at last year's Revenge of the  Stitch died of complications from an aneurysm. I didn't really know her, but she was apprenticed to one of our Atlantian Duchesses, and she was young enough to have three school-age children.

The only good way I can end this post is to note that on Friday, May 29, the Dropkick Murphys played a live concert (without an audience) at Fenway Park. The band members even socially distanced themselves around the diamond as they played their greatest hits. I drank a beer, logged into a Facebook "watch party" hosted by Master Liam's daughters, and agreed with everyone that it was the best "virtual wake" we could have had during the pandemic.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Virtual Atlantia

There's a reason why I haven't been to an SCA event since February 8, when I attended Bright Hills Baronial Birthday. One of the members of my household was awarded the Pearl, which is the Grant of Arms-level award for arts and sciences in Atlantia, so I wanted to be there (plus, our outgoing submissions herald received the Golden Dolphin award -- with the late Pedro's medallion).

My attitude toward the SCA hasn't changed. But the world has, with this COVID-19 pandemic we're currently experiencing.

It was if society packed up their toys and went home around mid-March. SCA events left and right were canceled. One minute the staff of Gulf Wars XXIX in the Kingdom of Gleann Abhann (southern Mississippi) said that the event was still on, and people should use hand sanitizer; the next minute it was canceled, even though people were starting to arrive on site and many more people were en route.

Overnight, it seemed, most of the rest of the March events on Atlantia's schedule were postponed or canceled, followed by virtually all of the April events.

Except Coronation. But how could Coronation go on if gatherings of more than 10 people were strictly prohibited? The outgoing King is a lawyer and, as an officer of the court (as, I think, all members of the bar are), he can't be found disobeying the law.

So yesterday we had a Virtual Coronation, live-streamed on YouTube from the back yard of the incoming King and Queen:



The woman who was elevated to Laurel was supposed to have been elevated at Gulf Wars (but see above). The outgoing Majesties wanted to make sure she received her due recognition before she and her husband moved out of Kingdom for mundane reasons and she had to make a whole new set of acquaintances. There were also a few other pieces of business that were supposed to have been transacted during March.

As you can see, it was a nice enough day in North Carolina that the "event" could be held outside. A woman in Storvik, Dame Emma West, made the beautiful silk banners hanging on either side of the tent.

So, now the next big Kingdom events are supposed to be Spring Crown Tourney and Ruby Joust, both in May. However, both are scheduled to take place in Virginia, where the stay-at-home order does not expire until June 10. The new King and Queen did not announce anything about these events, particularly Crown, yesterday. Probably they are working behind the scenes, and communicating with the SCA Board of Directors, to figure out how to handle the situation.

I haven't surveyed all of the SCA kingdoms -- there are 19 of them besides Atlantia -- but I do know that the East Kingdom has postponed both Coronation and Crown and combined them with another big East Kingdom event on Memorial Day weekend. That won't quite work for us, because our Memorial Day weekend event, Ruby Joust, is still technically prohibited in Virginia. I don't think the Kingdom of Aethelmearc has yet postponed its Spring Crown Tourney, which is supposed to be held the same day as ours (first Saturday in May). I am less familiar with other kingdoms.

So far, Pennsic 49 is still a go. The Mayor of Pennsic 49 decided to nip rumors in the bud by putting out an emphatic statement that Pennsic 49 will be held unless HE says it is canceled (link goes to a PDF). I suspect that the Pennsic executive staff uses the annual Aethelmearc War Practice event (held the weekend before Memorial Day weekend) as its big planning meeting, because the Mayor said the meeting would be held virtually if War Practice has been canceled in person. (Update even as I continue to write this: Today the Sylvan Kingdom announced that Aethelmearc War Practice has been canceled.)

I don't want to start any rumors, and I do NOT speak for the Pennsic staff, but I can't help thinking that the go/no-go decision needs to be made no later than late May. At least the decision *by* the Pennsic staff (obviously, if the state government shuts down fairs and festivals, it's not the choice of the Pennsic staff). The deadline for paid, online pre-registration for Pennsic 49 falls on June 16, and that is also the deadline for refunds. Yet some other SCA branches have offered refunds after the cancellation of their events (Pennsic is a different beast altogether, though, because of its sheer size -- it's kind of a partnership between the SCA and Cooper's Lake Campground). I don't think the Coopers want to give back huge amounts of refunds, and I really don't think people will be happy if they can't get refunds from a canceled Pennsic. So ... we shall see.

Anyhow. Back to my own Kingdom of Atlantia.

Just since this crisis began, Duchess Adelhait and the Kingdom Web Minister have put together a page called Virtual Atlantia, a central location where online gatherings and classes can be posted. People can even get University of Atlantia credit for teaching or attending classes!

One of the first online Kingdom-wide happenings was a Saturday afternoon in which the participants in a Zoom meeting started to read aloud The Decameron by Boccaccio. Reading aloud a book of stories "told" by people stuck on an island during a huge plague -- what a medieval thing to do! There were about 15 or 16 of us, including a few bardic Laurels, and we managed to get through the introduction and all ten of the stories from Day One in about three hours. It was enjoyable, but I have no idea when we will take up Day Two.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

The SCA on a Budget -- The Handout!

Finally, here is the link to the handout from my recent University of Atlantia class titled "The SCA on a Budget":


I got frustrated with trying to post the PDF of the handout, so I just did a cut-and-paste into Blogger and made a page. Then I had trouble displaying the handout page on my main blog page, so that's why I'm creating this post.

Grrrr.... Is it just me or is Blogger really that much clunkier than Wordpress.com, which I use for my non-SCA blog?

I may try a new layout/design for this blog in the near future. This template is the closest thing to "something Lithuanian" that I could find originally, but it seems quite dated. If you return to this site after an absence and it looks radically different, please don't freak out.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Another year in the SCA

Happy New Year! Yes, I know that the New Year's holiday was a month ago already. At least we can all agree on that. (Whether the new decade starts at the beginning of 2020 or the end of 2020 is still fodder for debate.)

I know I haven't posted here in a while, so let me catch up.

In 2019 I attended more than twice as many SCA events as I did in 2018. Nice side benefit of having a more reliable vehicle (even though it's still pretty old)! And some of the events came my way -- like Fall Coronation, hosted by my Barony of Storvik.

The incoming Royals, Cuan and Signy, let it be known that They wished Their coronation and Their reign to have a late-period German theme. Many, though certainly not all, attendees decided to wear their best German garb -- think Landsknecht, Cranach gowns, and the like. I personally did not have a German dress, but based on the little I know about late-period Lithuanian and Polish women, I figured that making a German dress would be a good place to start learning how to sew late-period clothing.

So, with the help of a few friends, I drew up a bodice pattern and, based on various images I collected on Pinterest, I managed to put together what I call the "base" of a German Renaissance dress. It doesn't have sleeves yet -- I'm going to make some detachable sleeves, because I hate boiling under multiple layers in the summertime. It doesn't have guards (the contrasting horizontal stripes around the bottom of the skirt). It doesn't have a proper hat yet. But it looked plausibly German enough to wear to Coronation.

I really, really want to do a "dress diary" type of entry with photos and such, but in the meantime, here is a link to a photo of me at the event: https://www.flickr.com/photos/34356022@N03/48855928906/in/album-72157710604512416/. (I had to "kilt up" the skirt because it stretched while hanging overnight and it was suddenly too long. That's what happens when you hem garb the night before the event!)


University of Atlantia


This past weekend my Kingdom held a session of the University of Atlantia, where I taught a class called "The SCA on a Budget." I had some enthusiastic students who made suggestions of their own. Overall, a good experience.

I know I said I'd have a copy of the handout on my blog … I'm still trying to figure out the best way to get it up here, though. My professional Wordpress-based blog handles PDF uploads just fine, but I can't figure out how to do a similar upload here in Blogger. *grumble*

I'll have it up here as soon as I can, honest.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

From Pennsic, Onward (the year so far, part 3)

This year I dithered about attending Pennsic, but I ended up going for the second week of Pennsic 48. It was the 15th anniversary of my first Pennsic (2004), but only my 12th Pennsic because I've missed a few. It was a tight squeeze to get a week of War fitted in among my freelance writing assignments, but I'm starting to realize that I won't live forever, so I might as well go to Pennsic while I am still "young" and healthy enough to walk around and do things.

This year I did not take a single class at Pennsic University, though I had taken a full day of classes in mid-June at the most recent session of the University of Atlantia. Some Pennsic classes tempted me, but ... I had chores and shopping and chatting with friends who don't live near me in the "real world." Also, I did something I've sadly neglected doing for some years: I volunteered one afternoon at Heralds' Point. I colored device and badge submissions in the art tent and got some free ice cream for my troubles.

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I went to a couple of evening balls, although I felt rather awkward at the first one -- not because of the particular dances, but because one of my camp chores was to refill the tiki torches, and my hands continued to smell of kerosene, no matter how much I washed them. I don't think anyone particularly avoided me, though.

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The second ball I attended was Lady Sonya Flicker's "Reduction Ball," which started with dances for sets of large numbers of couples and ended up with dances for individual couples. Sonya, also known as Patches, made a new dress for herself, and she also brought along the "BEAR-on" and "BEAR-oness" of Storvik. (The real baronage were unable to attend Pennsic this year.)

Dance mistress of the Reduction Ball! 20190808_230648 The Bear-on and Bear-oness of Storvik at the Reduction Ball. 20190808_204053

While I was packing up my gear at the end of War, I felt rather wiped out. Once I got home (or started my "50-week town run"), I realized I had that kind of chest cold known as the "con crud." I hardly ever get sick, so I wanted to sit around and mope, but I had freelance writing to do.

Now that another Pennsic War is in the books, I'm looking forward to a few fall events. I'm even making a new dress for the next Coronation, which Storvik is hosting. (The dress will be the subject of at least one other post here.)

To kick off the season, Storvik had its first-ever information booth at the Greenbelt Labor Day Festival (which is rather like an old-fashioned fair). Lady Sonya was in charge of our booth, and she did a great job -- we won second place!

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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Two events, one site (the year so far, part 2)

In late April and early May I attended two very different events at the same site in the Shire of Spiaggia Levantina, mundanely known as the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

The first was the Shire's own event, Revenge of the Stitch, which is now in its sixth iteration, making it a truly annual event in my book. Some people, I know, would not find staying up almost all night to hand-sew linen very enjoyable, but it gets my competitive juices flowing, and I always learn some aspect of garb-making that had previously eluded me. This year -- my fourth such challenge -- I helped Meisterin Johanna's team make a houppelande with undertunics and hood for Master Richard Wyn in his heraldic colors. I was rather tired after the competition, but I did manage this "action shot" of Master Richard posing in his new duds:

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Notice the leather shoes -- they were made during the competition by one of our six team members. I think we were the only team that made footwear this year. We didn't win, but I think Wyn (as he is usually called) looks spiffy in his new outfit.

Half a fortnight later, I was crossing the Chesapeake Bay again for Spring Crown Tournament. The rain held off, the competitors fought fiercely and cleanly, and Duke Cuan won his eighth reign. He and his consort will step up to the throne at Fall Coronation, to be held in Our Glorious Barony of Storvik. My friend Lady Kunigunde will be the autocrat/steward of Fall Coronation, which will have a 16th-century German theme, and I feel highly motivated to make myself a suitable dress for the occasion.

My friend Lady Meleri was the head cook for both of the Spiaggia Levantina feasts, and were they ever good! I could barely finish the last couple of courses at each meal. Meleri dedicated the Revenge of the Stitch feast to one of her schoolteacher colleagues who had operated a catering business on the side ... and who had just passed away from cancer, at a much-too-young age.

Just this past weekend, I attended the 30th edition of Highland River Melees, the signature event of the Barony of Highland Foorde, which encompasses the westernmost counties of Maryland (and is surrounded on three sides by the Kingdom of Aethelmearc). Two of my friends were "retiring" after serving as Highland Foorde's Baron and Baroness for the past five years. I talked with one woman who came all the way from Massachusetts to attend the event because she is a good friend of the new Baroness of Highland Foorde. I have a lot of experience driving between Massachusetts and Maryland, so I know what a haul that is!

During the afternoon, I took a class in using wire to make jewelry that isn't Viking-wire-knitted. Here are my results:

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I posed these pins in the order in which I made them from top to bottom. Not a bad start, I'd say. :-) The bottom fibula had three beads at first -- a red bead between the two blue beads -- but the red one must have had a crack in it, because it fell off and got lost. Ah, well.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Only in Lithuania...

Some things about modern Lithuania just make me shake my head and smile. (Imagine the reaction people without any Lithuanian ancestry must have....)

For example, šaltibarščiai, or cold beet soup. I can take it in small doses, because I wasn't exposed to it while I was growing up in the USA, but real Lithuanians really, really love the stuff. In case you're wondering ... it consists of beets and dairy (buttermilk or cream), looks like Pepto-Bismol, and tastes like ... well, beets and milk. It's usually garnished with hard-boiled eggs and dill. You can find a recipe here or on many other websites.

So, imagine my jaw dropping when I stumbled upon a photo of these men's briefs on Facebook:


As George Takai might say: Ohhhh, myyyyy!! Especially note the strategic placement of the hard-boiled-egg slices. You cannot unsee that.

Even more amusing is Google Translate's English version of the product description:

Men's underwear with colds "Horseshoe". For real fanfare fans who are not afraid that the girl will want to eat them from the body. 😂

Apparently there's a whole website called Foodroobai.lt that sells a full line of men's and women's clothing made with this kind of cloth that's printed to look like an endless supply of cold beet soup. (More details on the underpants: "The underwear is made of an elastic microfiber that is pleasing to the body and absorbs moisture and prevents skin contact. Such underwear will be irreplaceable on hot summer days, workouts at the sports club or just if you tend to get more sweaty.") You can get sweatpants, leggings, T-shirts, swimwear ... all in šaltibarščiai cloth that will make you (apparently) look like a cool, delicious summer treat.

Skanaus, indeed!

Monday, April 15, 2019

This year so far, part 1

We're now more than three months into 2019. So far I've been to a a couple of baronial business meetings and a few SCA events in other Maryland baronies (Lochmere and Bright Hills, specifically). At the end of March I attended an unofficial event, Storvik Performers' Revel, which is intended to be by and for performers to show off their skills in a relaxed setting (and to eat the food produced by a couple of talented chefs).

At the beginning of January, I marked the 15th anniversary of my first SCA event: Storvik Yule Revel 2004. That day I met so many people for the first time ... and, strangely enough, quite a few of them are still in my life today. I am definitely grateful for how those people have enriched my life.

This has been another one of those seasons in which Their Majesties Atlantia have seen fit to bestow some long-delayed Peerages and Orders of High Merit (Grant of Arms level) on people who should have received those awards in the past, but didn't for whatever reason. My friend Janina Krakowska, one of our former Baronesses of Storvik, received her well-deserved Laurel for embroidery; my friend Sonya Flicker, who organized the 2017 Known World Dance and Music Symposium, was inducted into the Order of the Golden Dolphin for service; and another longtime Storvik and Southwind friend, Tirzah MacCrudden, was elevated to Laurel at Ymir in February.

Also, Baron Stefan of the Barony of Black Diamond became a Laurel in dance, Baroness Wynne became a Pelican, and a longtime scribe, Baroness Daniela, became a Laurel for calligraphy and illumination. I could go on and on....

On the personal front, I've been plugging away as a freelance writer, so I'm not rich by any means, but this year may end up a bit more remunerative than the last. (*crosses fingers*)

In the news I've found a couple of items of interest to the Baltic region. First of all, a 5,000-year-old barley grain was found in what is now Finland. So people were doing at least some rudimentary farming in that area back in that time, not just killing and eating seals and fish.

The other news item garnered more press coverage than the little detail about ancient barley. The Smithsonian Channel showed an hour-long documentary on scientists who studied Casimir Pulaski's bones and concluded that he may have been an intersex person. Casimir Pulaski was, of course, the Polish nobleman who crossed the ocean, proved his cavalry skills to George Washington, got promoted to brigadier general, and was killed in Savannah, Georgia. (Pulaski's birthplace, Warsaw, was still part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth when he was born in 1745, so Lithuanians could theoretically claim him as well.) Pulaski has long been a hero to Polish Americans; when I was a kid, my neighborhood in my Massachusetts hometown had a Pulaski Playground, though I didn't learn about the origin of that appellation until I was a bit too old for the playground equipment.

Apparently, when Pulaski's bones were disinterred so that his memorial could be rebuilt, anthropologists found that his skull and pelvis were shaped more like a woman's than a man's. It took a while, but finally the bones were confirmed to be Pulaski's through a mitochondrial DNA match with his grand-niece. His baptismal record suggests he was "debilitated" (or something like that in Latin), so he may have had congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), which would have made his body produce excessive androgens despite female chromosomes. (I'm using male pronouns because he was raised as a male and probably considered himself completely male. Given the relative status of the genders for most of European history, it's not surprising that he was designated male, even though he might not have looked like a "regular" baby boy inside his diaper.)

In addition to the Smithsonian Channel show, the research was covered in the Washington Post and the Guardian, among other media outlets.

One final note: Thanks in part to a post in the Kingdom of Atlantia's unofficial Facebook group, I've been finding a lot more SCA-related blogs, so that they don't all fit in the Blogroll anymore. I'm going to start a separate page for lists of blogs and other interesting websites. That will be a work in progress, so please don't expect it to look organized right away.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Another "Restoration of Independence" Day

I've said before on this blog that Lithuania is the little country with two independence days. Today is the second -- the 29th anniversary of Lithuania's historic declaration of its independence from the Soviet Union (which ceased to exist less than two years later anyway).

Recently I read an online essay about what the Lithuanian revolution/restoration of March 1990 was really like. Heady days indeed -- and sharing the experience on television must have seemed extraordinarily amazing to viewers who were accustomed to nothing but Soviet TV.

I want to write an update-type post on my SCA activities, but that will have to wait until I finish my current crop of articles-for-pay.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Cookies! Or ... ?

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while have probably noticed that I don't do much actual medieval cooking in the SCA. True, I pitch in with the household dinner plan at Pennsic, but we don't cook period recipes. (Yeah, sometimes I would like to try to cook from medieval recipes at Pennsic, but it's easier to please everyone's palate by declaring "taco night" or "spaghetti night" or "grilled chicken night.")

But then our current Baron and Baroness of Storvik decided to entice more people to come to the December baronial business meeting by declaring a cookie contest, with actual prizes. And my competitive instincts kicked in: Whoa, just let me make some genuine medieval cookies!!

The only problem: Real medieval people didn't leave behind a lot of recipes for "cookies" in the sense of Keebler and Nabisco products. They had some sort of gingerbread, but not much else. I couldn't help thinking, "Gee, if everyone brings gingerbread, it's not going to be much of a competition, is it?"

Fortunately, even though "period" was one of the prize categories, it was not mandatory for every entry. (Probably because of that dearth of extant recipes.) So I started to think ... my persona is Lithuanian ... maybe I should look for something that is considered "traditional" Lithuanian, even though "traditional" usually means 18th- or 19th-century stuff.

So ... I thought of ... grybai! The word translates to "mushrooms," which is one of the five basic Lithuanian food groups, along with fatty pork, cabbage, potatoes, and sour cream. :-) But it also refers to mushroom-shaped cookies.

A couple of years ago, one of my friends from the Lithuanian Hall in Baltimore made grybai and posted about it on Facebook. Her cookies had dark brown caps and white stems, like these over here. I thought they looked adorable, although she averred that large quantities of vodka needed to be consumed to make them come out right. :-)

Anyhow, I latched on to the notion of making my own grybai, because even though the recipe isn't from the SCA period, the idea of making a "sottelty" or "subtlety" -- a sugary concoction that looks like something that isn't edible, like a castle or a ship, or something that is edible but not sugary, like a rooster -- is perfectly medieval.

What recipe? I quickly found three: one in my hardcover copy of Art of Lithuanian Cooking by Maria Gieysztor de Gorgey, one in the "Our Moms' Lithuanian Recipes" group on Facebook, and one on a blog site called The Culinary Cellar (a reprint of a recipe from a 1972 magazine called Sphere). I ended up using the last of the three, just because I figured I'd better pick one, any one, since they had essentially the same ingredients in different proportions. (Baking relies a bit more on chemistry than other types of cooking, so I didn't want to end up with inedible lumps by using mix-and-match proportions.)

Making the grybai wasn't terribly difficult, just a lengthy process. Here's what the dough looked like before I kneaded it for a bit:


I posted this to Instagram just as a teaser -- to keep everyone's competitive juices flowing. *grin*

I had to bake the stems and caps separately, then glue them together with icing (confectioner's sugar and water). Then I let them dry overnight. THEN I mixed up more icing -- some left white, some with added cocoa -- and dipped the cookies in the icing and sprinkled them with poppy seeds and shavings from a dark-chocolate bar to look like "dirt."

Did they actually look like mushrooms? You tell me:




As things turned out, my grybai were one of 22 entries in the cookie competition! It was a tough contest. I didn't win, but it was close, and I received lots of compliments on what was supposed to be a "test batch" but ended up being my entry.

When I posted all this to Facebook, my friend and neighbor Tina asked me to make some for her Solstice Party on Friday night (yesterday, as I write this). So I made a second batch. I was conscious that the first batch seemed a little dry, so I made sure I put the full half-cup of honey into this second one (I may have shorted the honey on the first). I also lowered the oven temperature slightly. The cookies turned out a smidgen softer, especially the caps, but they were easier to stick together that way. And the non-SCA folks at the party loved these grybai just as much! I brought home an empty container.

If Storvik makes this cookie competition an annual affair ... for next year, I am thinking of making another Lithuanian "cookie subtlety" that will be much easier to make. Just saying.