The underground supper club that is Guerrilla Cuisine capitalizes on several things. One is an interest in all things food. Two is a desire to discover new experiences. And three is trust in Jimihatt, the host who coordinates and curates the event itself, providing his guests with great food, cool art, and a night to remember.
For Mitchell Davis, president of BiblioLife, a digital media company that digitizes out-of-print books and allows them to be printed on demand, Jimihatt was the perfect person to curate a cookbook series that would capitalize on the same things that Guerilla Cuisine does.
BiblioLife has access to 7,000 digitized public domain cookbooks. Davis' idea was to package those books with a new foreword that puts them into a modern context and sell them to those with an insatiable interest in all things food. He thought Jimihatt and Guerrilla Cuisine would be a perfect brand for such an old school cookbook series. He also knew Jimihatt has access to a variety of talented chefs capable of writing introductions to each book.
On their first project together, Davis and Jimihatt tapped Chef Matt Bolus, an instructor at the Art Institute, to introduce a book by William Carew Hazlitt originally published in 1902. The revamped cookbook delves into the history of British cooking, documenting ancient techniques from those used by poor Englishmen in the countryside of the 11th century to the ones employed by official cooks in the royal court in the 1400s.
Of course, those ancient techniques aren't so far removed from the modern trends of farm-to-table, nose-to-tail dining. Back then, there wasn't much of a choice. As Bolus puts it, "Two hundred years ago, there was no McDonald's. You didn't just run to store and buy a flat of eggs. You had to go to the coop, and you ate everything, you didn't throw anything away. The whole animal was consumed."
The Old School Cooking Series, says Jimihatt, is all about staying close to home. "Food preparation and farming are the most ancient traditions we have. And everything started out local," he writes in his introduction to Hazlitt's Old Cookery Books and Ancient Cuisine. The book provides a fascinating look into the ancient kitchens of Britain, when royal tables featured extravagant meals with whole porpoises, beer made from hops, and omelets with bacon, while the poor subsisted mainly on bread, butter, and cheese.
Hazlitt also includes plenty of "receipts" or recipes for a variety of different dishes. The directions for Spread-Eagle pudding directs you to "cut off the crust of three half-penny rolls, then slice them into your pan; then set three pints of milk over the fire, make it scalding hot, but not boil." It goes on to instruct the cook to add "a good spoonful of sugar, very little salt, a nutmeg grated, a pound of suet after 'tis shred, half a pound of currants washed and picked, four spoonfuls of cold milk, 10 eggs, but five of the whites; and when all is in, stir it, but not till all is in; then mix it well, butter a dish; less than an hour will bake it."
Following the recipes is challenging but not impossible, particularly with the road map provided by Bolus in the introduction. A history buff and European-trained chef, Bolus explains the measurements, ingredients, and techniques you'll encounter in the ancient recipes. In his intro, he promises: "no matter how off-the-wall they seem, [the recipes] have worked out brilliantly and pleased all my guests."
So, if you've always wanted to host your own medieval feast and make your own mead and ragoo of pigs' ears, Jimihatt has the perfect book for you, and he's planning a Guerrilla Cuisine event that will showcase the cookbook and the recipes this summer. To find out more, subscribe to Guerrilla Cuisine's newsletter at guerrillacuisine.com.