- Take your Northwatch (Northshield Kingdom Newsletter):
Before you go to an event, make sure you have your copy of The Northwatch, or other sources of event information with you. This should offer directions and information on the site fee. Don't try memorizing the directions.
- Make a Packing List and check it twice.
- The basic rule for attendance at Society events is that the participants behave as a lady or gentleman and dress in an least an attempt at period costume (garb).
- Bring your own feast gear:
While it seems to be common sense, if you regularly forget to bring anything to a feast you may find yourself wearing out your welcome at events very quickly. For the average feast, you will NEED a plate, bowl, goblet, spoon, cloth napkin, plastic bag for unclean feast ware, and knife. You may also wish to bring your own beverages, fork, extra goblets, extra bowl (for slops or other tasty bits), bottle opener, corkscrew, saltcellar, table cloth, and (if allowed in the hall) candles or candle lanterns.
A quick note on feast gear: Why do so many people bring wooden or metal plates and bowls when there are so many ceramic and glass items which are period and look pretty? Breakage. It is that simple. Wooden plates generally bounce and dirty gear can be stashed in a plastic bag without having to be wrapped in bubble wrap prior to transportation. Glass was also expensive for many of our personas and in several places, would have been something only used by the highest social classes. Another thing you may wish to think about when you collect feast gear is how well the item holds liquids of different temperatures. For example, metal cups tend to conduct heat and a hot cup of coffee can suddenly become uncomfortable to pick up. Wooden cups often do not handle heated liquids very well. Mistress Meghan of Tara Hylle firmly suggests that we opt for ceramic (stoneware is great and available to most social classes) as our drinking vessel.
- Food Allergies, Preferences or Sensitivities:
It is your responsibility to find out if there is something you are allergic to, or just plain won't eat at a feast. Remember, dropping dead at an event is usually frowned on and considered to be bad manners! In many cases, the kitchen folk will have an idea of what went into a recipe and will be more than willing to ensure that you do not break out in hives, as it can throw off the whole feast. ASK WELL IN ADVANCE, and one hour is not well in advance.
If you are a vegetarian, try to call ahead and inform the feastocrat or the autocrat. Most feasts offer substitute dishes for vegetarians or there are plenty of dishes available to fill your tummy. If you are Vegan, it may be wise (and good manners) to dine off-board (bring your own food) so that you may maintain your eating habits.
- Mundane Items:
Do not drink mundane drinks out of cans, or non-period looking bottles. It is considered most uncouth to pop the tab on a can and set it out on the table where the rest of us have to stare at it. Pour your drink into your goblet and stash the offending can. Blazing lanterns flopped in the center of the table will blind your dining companions and create havoc. Leave them at home.
Forks as we know them today are sometimes considered to be ‘‘out of period’’. Forks are documented, but they usually had only two or three prongs and lacked the popularity of hands as an eating utensil. Eating with only a spoon and knife and your fingers can be accomplished with all the grace and skill of eating with a fork. However, if you would like to find a fork, look for something with two or three prongs.
- Pace Yourself:
Most feasts contain a few removes. A remove consists of several dishes and may be likened to a whole meal in our mundane lives. Try not to gobble everything in sight during the first remove and fill up so that you cannot enjoy the rest of the feast. If the feast is a buffet, please remember there are other people who would like to have something to eat and do not be greedy. Going back for seconds is acceptable and sometimes encouraged if there are a lot of leftovers.
- Make your reservations early:
Feasts require a great deal of planning in order to avoid cost overruns. Do not expect to be able to purchase a ticket at the door. For some feasts, advance funds from early registration are what fund the purchase of ingredients.
- Respect the High Table:
Important personages are often seated at the high table, and probably some of the royalty. Treat them with deference and be polite. Please remember they are working and often cannot spend hours in conversation with you. Do not be offended, just keep it short. They will seek you out if they wish to continue the conversation or if they have a moment.
The first toast is to the Crown, second to the Principality, third to the Barony or Shire if they are hosting the event. The first toast often opens the feast as the first course is served. Autocrats, feastocrats and the kitchen staff are usually saluted at the end of the feast.
- Squeamishness or Disliked Foods:
When in doubt, take small amounts. Do not hold up the servers by asking if you can try a bite of your serving first and then deciding if you want more of a particular dish as you may slow down the entire feast. Either refuse the dish or just take a small amount and try one bite, you may be surprised. There are many things that may seem rather disgusting at first which are actually wonderful once you have sampled them. Screaming "How can you eat Thumper?" while the rabbit stew is served is considered to be uncouth.
Whatever you do, do not start commenting on how bad the food or how much you dislike it. This is just plain rude. Complimenting the food is appropriate. If you dislike something, just cease to eat it and carry on polite conversation with your neighbors. If you absolutely must spit something out (i.e. you may drop dead from eating it) then carefully put your napkin to your mouth and remove the offending food. Spitting the dreaded turnip across the hall is frowned upon.
The autocrat may need help setting up tables or cleaning up at a feast. Ask if there is anything you can do to help out. This makes you look good on top of offering you the opportunity to get to know your hosts. Clean-up usually goes faster when people get their feast gear stowed away promptly and then offer to assist with the cleaning details.
If you are interested in helping to serve, ask the staff in advance. In some cases, the feast has been carefully planned so that very small servings of expensive or rare foods are to be served. There is nothing worse than having some well intentioned person run off with the gold-plated saffron-sauced swan and serving the entire thing before realizing that the dish was only to be served at the high table. Before you swing out into the hall serving your heart out, ask how much is to be served to each person.
Pack a plastic bag for your own dirty feast gear so that you do not have to wash your gear before you leave the site. Some locations do not have dishwashing facilities. Just scrape your plates well and pack them up before you leave. DO NOT WASH YOUR GEAR IN THE BATHROOM. Autocrats hate having to call an emergency plumber to unclog turnips from the drains. This also adds a significant cost to feasts. The trend recently has been for some of the kitchen staff to wash dishes or call for dishwashing volunteers at the end of the feast. We like gentile trends such as these.
- General Manners:
Servers are volunteers, treat them with respect. Heralds command the same respect as they do at events as the voice of the Crown. Listen up! Try not to interrupt entertainers and keep conversation to a minimum during performances. If you wish to get up and go speak to people during the feast, try not to block the servers from performing their duties. Conversation should be kept to SCA-related or medieval topics as people are often sitting close together and cannot help but overhear you speaking. It is also a good idea to refrain from gossiping about anything you don't want the entire Kingdom to know.