Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 157
Actor John Tufts was playing Hal in a production of Henry IV, Part 1 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Every night, he would call Falstaff a “roasted Manningtree ox with the pudding in his belly.” Hal means that Falstaff is gross and overstuffed, but Tufts started to think that a roast Manningtree ox actually sounded pretty tasty.
That role inspired the actor and cook to write a cookbook, Fat Rascals: Dining at Shakespeare’s Table, a collection of over 150 recipes inspired by Shakespeare’s words and adapted from actual 16th- and 17th-century recipes. We hopped on Zoom and asked Tufts to tell us about the book and give us a remote cooking demonstration. He obliged by teaching our host, Barbara Bogaev, how to make a pork pasty inspired by Titus Andronicus and the mid-17th-century chef and author Robert May. Bon appétit!
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FolgerShakespeareLibrary · “Fat Rascals”: In the Kitchen with John Tufts
Award-winning actor John Tufts has performed at theaters across the country, including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (where he is a member of the Acting Company and performed in over 20 of Shakespeare’s plays), Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Arena Stage, Actor’s Theater of Louisville, Ensemble Studio Theater, Guthrie Theater, Primary Stages, The Mint Theater Company, and others. He is the author of Fat Rascals: Dining at Shakespeare’s Table, which is available on his website.
From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast. Published December 8, 2020. © Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved. This podcast episode, “Make Two Pasties,” was produced by Richard Paul. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster. Ben Lauer is the web producer. Leonor Fernandez edits our transcripts. We had technical help from Christine Albright-Tufts and Chris Spurgeon.
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Fat Rascals: Roast Mutton
Try a recipe for roast mutton from Tufts’s book.
From our Collection: Robert May’s The Accomplisht Cook
Page through a virtual copy of the Folger’s 1685 edition of May’s cookbook.
Shakespeare Lightning Round: John Tufts
Watch John Tufts answer our 30 lightning-fast Shakespeare questions and find out how he ended up with Stacy Keach’s broadsword.
MICHAEL WITMORE: Shakespeare was a writer with a well-tuned sense of what human beings do. That’s why, in his plays, we find passion. We find hate. We find victory. We find love. And—more than you’d probably recognized—we find food. From the Folger Shakespeare Library, this is Shakespeare Unlimited. I’m Michael Witmore, the Folger’s director.
John Tufts is an actor. An actor who mostly does Shakespeare. And like a lot of actors, when he’s not onstage and talking, he’s thinking about the play he’s appearing in—what it means, how it moves people, how it works.
In John’s case, all that thinking led to an unusual place. Because what he was thinking about was food. All the times food is mentioned. All the times it’s eaten. All the times it’s alluded to in Shakespeare. And then, in turn, that thinking led him someplace else unusual. John decided to research all those food references and turn them into a cookbook, Fat Rascals: Dining at Shakespeare’s Table.
John’s book doesn’t pull out every food referenced in Shakespeare, but he pulls out most of them. And then, in the cases where he can, he gives you the recipe so you can make it.
Now there are two ways to talk about a cookbook on a podcast. You can just sit down and talk about it. Or, you can talk about it while you’re actually cooking. We decided to go with option number two. Given the times we’re living in, we needed to maintain social distance, of course. So we cranked up our Zoom, we broke out our smartphone microphone apps and handed them to spouses, and we placed everybody about as far away as they could get from each other within the continental United States. John Tufts is in his kitchen in New York. Our host, Barbara Bogaev, is in her kitchen in Los Angeles. So that’s what we cooked up, and here’s how it came out. A podcast we’re calling, “Make Two Pasties.”
BARBARA BOGAEV: John, it’s so great to have you here, and you know what? I’m going to start cutting up my bacon because I’m just realizing what a ton of bacon is going into this pasty we’re making.
JOHN TUFTS: Okay. Yeah, two pounds of bacon is nothing to shy away from—or maybe it is quite a bit to shy away from. I haven’t read this recipe, honestly, since probably the book was finally published. Then when you said you wanted to make it, I was like, “Yeah, sure,” and then I looked at it and went, “Oh my god, I forgot, two pounds of bacon.”
BOGAEV: I know, it’s really hitting me, I mean it’s two full packages. I realize that it’s only 12 ounces per package, so I got an extra one.
[Unwrapping the bacon]
TUFTS: Oh, it’s okay.
BOGAEV: Oh my gosh. Vegetarians, just trigger warning right now, you might not be able to stay with us. Anyway, I’m going to start chopping, but, you know, while we do that, I did wonder what made you think of writing a Shakespeare cookbook?
TUFTS: Well, it certainly wasn’t like, “What would people love to eat? Oh, I have an idea.” It was more just like, you know, I was doing this production of Henry IV, Part One, and we were in the beautiful outdoor Elizabethan Theater at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. We’re in this scene that’s called the Eastcheap scene. At one point, Prince Hal and Falstaff are kind of hurling insults at each other, and Prince Hal refers to Falstaff as a, “Roasted Manningtree ox with the pudding in his belly.” I would say this—It’s a brilliant line, isn’t it? It’s just like… it’s so evocative. I would say this line every night, and I would think to myself… It’s meant to be gross. It’s meant to be really evoke something just disgusting and fat— it’s like a 400-year-old fat joke. And I would say this line every night and go, “That does not sound disgusting, that actually sounds kind of delicious. I want to learn…”
BOGAEV: Is this the kind of actor you are, that you’re thinking these things while you’re on stage?
TUFTS: Yeah, I am. Well, other actors are thinking what they’re going to have for dinner, and I’m thinking about what I want to put in a cookbook for someone else to have for dinner. I wonder what are other food references in Shakespeare that might be interesting for an audience?
BOGAEV: Okay, so you would hear that every night on stage and think, “Ooh, that sounds pretty good.” It sounds like a lot of just lard, which is kind of this pastry recipe sounds like.
TUFTS: Yeah, well, the Elizabethan spent so much of the year with restricted eating because of the church. And the church said, “Well, on these days, you can’t eat meat, you can’t have dairy.” That kind of thing. And it was more than just like, “fish Friday.” So you get the sense that the rest of the year, when they were allowed to eat meat, they just sort of went to town and ate whatever they could possibly find.
BOGAEV: Oh, that makes sense, they really hove to.
TUFTS: But yeah, I would listen to that line in Henry IV, 1 and think, “That’s something I want to learn to make.” And in truth, it sounds—I mean, to me, I would stand by it—it sounds delicious. This roast ox, cooked on a spit, over an open flame and then filled with sausage and things like that. I mean, you don’t want to have it every night, but it sounds pretty good for one night.
BOGAEV: No, it’s cool, it’s kind of like a turducken.
TUFTS: Yes, right.
BOGAEV: And now I’m putting more meat in my meat, I’m putting some pork mince, as they say, into my bacon.
[Crackling of moving ingredients]
TUFTS: Right, that’s sort of what it is, it’s like ground pork into your bacon.
BOGAEV: I’m thinking, “Wow,” you know? I’m imagining my hands covered with whatever you’d be covered with in Shakespeare’s times. No soap.
BOGAEV: Oh yeah.
TUFTS: And what’s interesting too is this recipe in the book is significantly scaled down. The recipe that I took this from is from a cookbook that’s after Shakespeare’s death. It was written in about 1660 by a man named Robert May.
[Liquid draining, hands being washed]
TUFTS: Robert May was a cook during the reign of Charles II, and he published this brilliant book called The Accomplisht Cook. In it, he has just hundreds of recipes and several of them are for different pasties. The pork pasty that’s featured in The Accomplisht Cook is intended for a wedding feast and comes out of the oven looking like a pig’s head, basically; the way the pastries been shaped and all that kind of stuff. But it is enormous, and that would’ve been served for a wedding feast.
As I was looking at that going, “Oh, I’d love to adapt that for this book,” I realized I didn’t want to tell people to go out and buy eight pounds of pork and four packages of bacon and have, you know, a half pound of ginger thrown in there. I think people would shy away from it.
[Clinking of utensils]
BOGAEV: And you know, we should say that we wanted to do a pork pasty because of Titus Andronicus, right? Titus bakes Chiron and Demetrius into a pie and he serves them to their mother. And, as I said, your recipe calls for two pounds of diced bacon and I just added two pounds of lean ground pork to that.
TUFTS: Right. Yeah, so I guess I don’t know who the bacon would be, I guess the bacon would be Chiron and pork would be Demetrius, in that case. I don’t know.
BOGAEV: And they’re equal? Two pounds of Chiron and two pounds of Demetrius.
BOGAEV: Or was one of them bigger?
TUFTS: I mean, their sort of equally awful, those characters. The threat that Titus issues to Chiron and Demetrius is just brilliant writing too. “I will ground your bones to dust, and with your blood and it, I’ll make a paste, and of the past a coffin I will rear and make two pasties of your shameful heads.” And I thought—when I was looking for various food references and came across that one—I thought, “Oh this is going in the book, no doubt.”
[Sounds of mixing]
BOGAEV: And you know, that brings me back to a question I wanted to ask you which is that, you’re not a scholar but you’ve done a lot of scholarly work for this. So, what did you think in the beginning? Was it like, you thought it would be fun to cook all these foods that appear in the plays? Or was it more for you like a Julie and Julia, the movie, you know? Like, you would learn from Shakespeare?
TUFTS: I suppose it was a little bit more like Julie and Julia; I’m going to make my way through this text and I’m passionate about it. But no, I’m not a scholar by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, but I do think that actors are hungry researchers when we approach plays.
With Shakespeare, you know, we’re not just reading the play, we’re combing the text for the irregularities and the meter of the verse. We’re looking up these brilliant words that nobody uses anymore, and we are kind of mining the text for any clues to tell us what’s going on and who these characters are. And as we do that, in many ways, we are performing the role of a researcher. We’re doing many things that researchers do.
BOGAEV: Well we are also doing many things here. I just added four tablespoons of sage. And now I’m going to get to the ginger. This is a ton. I’ve never added four tablespoons of sage to anything, not even stuffing. But this is two teaspoons, now, of ground ginger, which sounds very Elizabethan.
TUFTS: Right, and the ginger, I think, is great because the heat of that ginger is going to kind of take you out of all of the enormous amount of fat that you’re dealing with.
BOGAEV: The fat?
TUFTS: It’s going to kind of say, “You know what? We’re going to help your stomach a little bit with this ginger.”
BOGAEV: Yeah, it’s like a prophylactic amount of ginger.
[Clapping hands to clean them]
BOGAEV: We need some salt here. I know, a whole tablespoon of salt. And, oh, two tablespoons of white wine vinegar.
TUFTS: Mm-hmm, again the white wine vinegar is going to help. That acid is going to help a little bit. And so, the salt, I was going to say, is negotiable, because depending on what kind of bacon you’re using— obviously the Elizabethans would not have used a smoked bacon, like most Americans are going to be using. Our smoked bacon is significantly saltier than basically a roast pork belly which is what the Elizabethans would’ve used.
[Cracking of eggs]
BOGAEV: I’m cracking my eggs now and putting my white vinegar in the eggs. This amount of meat… only someone with a lot of wealth, you know, a very wealthy person in Shakespeare’s time would be able to make this, right?
TUFTS: Oh yes, I think that—what I tried to include in the book was a spectrum of recipes based on what people would’ve been able to afford.
BOGAEV: You know, we’ve been talking on and on about pasties and we’ve never defined what it is for people. Here we are in America. What is a pasty, and what makes it a pasty?
TUFTS: Well, a pasty is going to be any pastry that’s filled with really anything, but most of the time we associate it with meat. And, in a contemporary pasty, like a Cornish pasty you would get today, it’s going to be pastry that encases a cooked meat. That’s very different than a Shakespearean pasty where the meat goes into the pastry uncooked and then it and the pastry are cooked together. So essentially, it’s just meat baked in pastry.
BOGAEV: Excellent. And now I’m adding my eggs mixed with white wine vinegar.
[Stirring and scraping]
TUFTS: So, the eggs, in this case are much like in a pâté. The eggs are going to kind of bind it as it cooks to keep it from separating too much.
BOGAEV: Yeah, meatball, right?
TUFTS: Yeah, meatball, exactly.
BOGAEV: So, you have a lot of great quotes about meat, while we’re in this meat phase.
TUFTS: Oh, yeah, yeah of course. So, one of my favorite quotes is from Henry the IV, Part Two. In Henry the IV, Part Two there’s this character, Justice Shallow. Justice Shallow places an order. He says, “Some pigeons, Davy, a couple of short-legg’d hens, a roast joint of mutton, and any pretty tiny little kickshaws, tell William cook.”
I love that line so much because one, it gives us a very authentic and of-the-era menu. It’s a menu that people would not eat now; most Americans have no idea what a kickshaw is, and I can count on one finger, the number of times I’ve eaten pigeon. So it’s really evocative of a time. And then it also tells us so much about this wonderful character. I love that quote because we get a real sense of who Shallow is, based on how particular he is with his order.
Let me think… oh, Falstaff at one point refers to his troops as bacons, which I love. He calls them, as they’re setting off into battle to fight Hotspur’s troops—
BOGAEV: Why? Because they’re arranged in marching order like long strips of bacon? Or they’re meat, they’re just meat for war?
TUFTS: Yeah, I think easily disposable food, and so as they’re setting off to battle, he says, “On, bacons, on.” And you could imagine the level of moral that those troops would have after they’ve been referred to as cannon fodder.
BOGAEV: I mean, that doesn’t exactly make me feel good about life. Sacrifice.
TUFTS: Yeah, there’s a big difference between, “On, bacons, on,” and, “Once more into the breach dear friends,” you know?
BOGAEV: Yeah, vast amount. Okay, what you’re hearing is me trying to mix my butter. It’s just a frightening amount of fat. I don’t even know why I’m adding more fat to this bucket of fat. But anyway, butter goes into this mixture: four tablespoons.
TUFTS: Yeah, actually, to be totally honest, you know, I don’t entirely know why the butter would be added in in this case. However, I wanted to keep these recipes as authentic to what I had chosen from the book or from the various resources.
BOGAEV: Yeah, I respect that.
TUFTS: And so, I was like, “Well, I could remove this butter,” but I thought, “Well, let’s keep it in so that people can actually get a taste of what this would’ve been like, as close as possible. “
BOGAEV: No, I definitely respect that.
TUFTS: But that also might explain life expectancy for Elizabethans, versus today.
BOGAEV: Well I hope we’re not recreating that for anyone. I didn’t realize, until I took a look at some of the recipes for the pastry that meat pies in Shakespeare’s time was all about the meat, right? In fact, as you point out in the book, the pastry, in some cases is just like a traveling container for the meat. You wouldn’t even eat it.
TUFTS: Yeah, what we call the cold butter short crust, like we have now with an apple pie; those types of pastries weren’t introduced until much later. This era was the beginning of the introduction of the cold butter short crust. So, that means that prior to this time, many of the crusts that were used, they were purely used for insulation and then also to provide a kind of beautiful presentation when something was brought out to the table. And this era is the introduction of those things where you get an edible crust.
BOGAEV: Okay, and ours is meant to be eaten. And now I am finished.
TUFTS: Oh, absolutely.
BOGAEV: I’ve finished my meat—anyway, my meat filling.
BOGAEV: And I assume you are too.
TUFTS: Well done. I am, yes.
BOGAEV: Now I’m going to put this in the refrigerator, right? While we make our crust.
[The refrigerator door opens]
BOGAEV: Okay, let me get all my ingredients here. I need some flour. I need to get all this sage out of the way. I have my scale out. I’m measuring my butter, and now I’m going to cut it up.
TUFTS: Yes, and as you cut up the butter—and now, you’re a baker so I feel like I might be just preaching to the choir—but I generally using larger slices because then that allows for it to be a little flakier in the long run.
BOGAEV: Yes, the shmear, the shmear. The hand. I like the heel-of-the-hand shmear.
BOGAEV: And while I’m doing this, you know, we’re talking about Shakespearean cooking, because this is a Shakespeare cookbook. But what eras of English cooking are you really drawing from and writing about here?
TUFTS: Well, the era that I call Shakespearean cuisine—and again, I’m coining a term not as a scholar—I’m coining it just for research purposes. What I call Shakespearean cuisine really begins with the court of Henry VIII, so around 1508 to around 1660 or so.
[Clacking, and soft chopping]
TUFTS: Now those are two time periods that predate and outlive Shakespeare. But I wanted to have things that—just like we eat food that was popular in the 1950s, and that our food is going to evolve a little bit over the next 50 or so years—I feel like having those two times before and after Shakespeare is not harmful. It’s still going to be very much what Shakespeare would’ve eaten. And then I’m calling, sort of the era, Shakespearean because he’s the single most important figure to come out of that era. So that’s why I sort of name it that.
But yeah, the cuisine begins, for me, really begins around the court of Henry VIII. Now, why? Because the court of Henry VIII was the beginning of, kind of, introduction of French ingredients to the Elizabethan—not the Elizabethan, but the English table. Henry VIII’s cooks had spent time in France and then come back and brought French things that they had learned.
In addition to that, this was also the beginning of a big international influence that the English had. They suddenly went from being this isolated island, to dealing with Spain and Portugal, and Northern European countries. And then we also see ingredients—because of journeying across the Atlantic to North America—we see ingredients coming from South America and Peru, up through Virginia and then to England. Then after Charles II is when it starts to make another big shift.
BOGAEV: That is so interesting. Wasn’t there also a fuel shortage at this time and that meant that ovens were changing as well, and how the English cooked everything; cooked their meat?
TUFTS: Yeah, so there was a fuel shortage for timber; there was a timber shortage. That meant that they had to kind of rethink how ovens were going to be fueled. And so, ovens were redesigned to accommodate coal, but coal has different oxygen requirements, and so the ovens had to be redesigned to accommodate the flow of oxygen for coal.
So, coal was placed in this vertical, kind of grid iron, and it would be packed into that. Then, the meats that were roasted on a spit would be roasted directly in front of that grid iron that contained the coal. So that meant that roasts were cooked via radiant heat, as opposed to direct heat underneath all of the meats. And, as a result, England gained this identity that exists to this day of being a, kind of, nation of roast meats.
BOGAEV: Oh, that is amazing. Okay, I’m measuring out my water that I’m going to mix with egg for the pastry. It’s 70 grams of water.
BOGAEV: And I do take issue with you in this recipe. There’s no salt in the crust.
TUFTS: There is no salt in the crust.
BOGAEV: What is that about?
TUFTS: I don’t know.
BOGAEV: That’s a deal breaker for me.
TUFTS: I have to say that I couldn’t find anything that gave an indication of, like, were they opposed to it? What was the deal? I mean, salt would’ve been a very expensive ingredient for most people, but again, this entire meal would’ve been expensive. So, I don’t know. You won’t be lacking for it when it comes to the filling.
BOGAEV: Now that’s for sure.
TUFTS: But in terms of what salt can add to a dough and its stability and its ability to prevent gluten from developing, yeah, you definitely miss that.
BOGAEV: Okay, so hold on a second. Okay, you can tell I’m focusing on making good crust now. You don’t want a heavy hand with your crust. I think that even back then as a chef and a housewife, you got a very bad name if you had a heavy-handed crust.
TUFTS: Is that true?
BOGAEV: I’d imagine.
TUFTS: Yeah, I would imagine as well. One thing you might notice in this is that the ratio of water to flour in this particular crust is much lower than it would be in a sort of modern pie crust. Like if you think of the modern three-to-one dough, you would have 300 grams of flour to 100 grams of water, but here it’s 450 grams of flour.
BOGAEV: It’s a very dry.
TUFTS: Yeah, it’s very dry. But the egg adds a little bit of moisture, and it’s still fairly stable, so it’s not going to crumble apart on you.
BOGAEV: No, that’s true. What is the shape for this huge festival pasty? Is it like a big moon or a half moon or an oval? What is it?
TUFTS: I would say it’s a circle with kind of a large disk, about the size of a record or so, with the base layer. And then you’re going to put the pork on top of that base layer, and then—I guess you would say—a larger circle for the top layer that will fold over the pork. So, it’s going to be like a giant mound, just to remind you of how appetizing it is to eat a mound of pork.
BOGAEV: I pictured it like Sweeney Todd, but this is much grander. Okay, I didn’t figure into our conversation how much goop I’d have on my fingers. But I have a nice disk here, and you—in your recipe you want us to refrigerate this for an hour. And you say make a big disk.
TUFTS: Yeah, I say sort of shape it into a flat disk. It just makes it easier for rolling out later when it’s time to make the two parts.
BOGAEV: Okay, now, for the purposes of our conversation, I actually made my crust earlier. So, by the magic endowed in me by broadcasting, I’m now going to go get my pre-chilled crust so that we can make our pasty.
TUFTS: Oh great.
BOGAEV: And also, I think it’s probably important to preheat an oven about now, right?
TUFTS: Yeah, generally, I’d say.
BOGAEV: How did people even know how hot their oven was back then?
[Water running and dishes clanking]
TUFTS: Oh, it’s crazy. I think about the intuition that bakers might have had or must have needed in order to determine the appropriate temperature for baking because things are exacting. I mean, you know, they’re not making souffles at this point, but they still require some element of precision. If you’re using a giant hearth oven, how on earth do you do that?
[Electronic notes of an oven being turned on]
TUFTS: What I had read in this brilliant book, kind of about this whole era’s food history, was that bakers would take a stick and run it along the external surface of the hearth oven. Then depending on the quality of sparks that that stick made as it was dragged across the surface of the hearth, would determine how hot the oven was. You just got sort of really good at reading. It’s sort of like divining almost; you got really good at reading the stick to determine how hot your oven was.
BOGAEV: Isn’t that amazing to think how much knowledge people had kind of in their senses, in their fingertips. I mean, and a recipe back then… well, there would be no recipe; it would just be mix meat with spices, some sage, and make a dough.
TUFTS: Exactly. The recipes, no quantities were really given, or if quantities were given, they were so—for our purposed prohibitively—enormous quantities. And it’s not like today cookbook culture where, you know, everybody has access to precision.
BOGAEV: I’m getting ready to roll out my disk of dough.
BOGAEV: Okay, so this, we roll out to about a quarter of an inch, is the direction. I’m just going to call this done.
TUFTS: And you can roll it a little thinner even, too. I would recommend, given how dry the dough is, you know, it doesn’t have to be exact.
BOGAEV: And now, let’s put it on a baking sheet, with a lot of parchment paper because I imagine it’s just going to release cups of grease.
TUFTS: Oh yeah.
BOGAEV: Have you already done your top crust?
[Ripping of parchment paper]
TUFTS: I have done my top crust. I have laid it over the top and now I’m kind of figuring out how I want to artfully put something on top.
BOGAEV: Okay. That’s good. That is good. I want to ask you an authenticity question.
BOGAEV: Because it always comes up in almost all of our conversations about Shakespeare, particularly in production. Just how authentic do you try to stay to Shakespeare? And how much did you think about that when you were writing a cookbook?
TUFTS: I mean, authenticity is a question that we come up against all the time. When we’re putting on a play, and then certainly in the creation of this book. Authenticity is so tricky because it’s something you want to honor, but you also have to ask yourself like, “How authentic are we trying to be? How far into the past do I actually want to go? Do I want to just give a taste of the past? Or do I want to try to almost… like we’re going to the past as much as we can.”
But it’s tricky because sometimes, authenticity can actually alienate rather than invite, rather than include. And the audience for a so-called very authentic production, might be utterly lost. That kind of authenticity might be brilliant. It also might, at the very best, be kind of like museum theater.
But again, you know, it’s a question that you have to come back to. You can’t just say, “No, I’m going to ignore authenticity.” We have to go back to it because a lot of that original meaning can influence character choices and things like that. When it comes to the cookbook, it’s a lot of that same question. I’m going, “How authentic do I want to be?” Much like with Shakespeare, what I sort of went back to was the words. For me the words are the beginning and end of it all. As long as we are saying those words and conveying as much of a true and original meaning as we can with those words, then that’s where we should, at the very least, begin.
And so, I’m going back to the words of these 400-year-old cookbooks. But I also don’t want to be so authentic as to say, “The only way in which we can ever be successful with cooking Shakespearean food is if we’re cooking it in a hearth oven. And, by the way, when you come over to my house for dinner, you’re not allowed to talk until I speak because I’m your social better. And, also, you can’t use a fork, you have to do everything with a pointy knife and spoon!” It’s, like, I think we can make a few concessions here and there when it comes to dining customs, and then also, preparation, some technique; things like that. But I wanted to keep the words, just like with Shakespeare, as true to the original text as I could.
BOGAEV: Yeah, but at a certain point it becomes fetishistic.
BOGAEV: As opposed to fun, right?
TUFTS: Yeah, exactly, yeah. You know, you say fetishistic and I say sort of, like, preventatively dorky. Like, I just go, “What’s that? Like, really? Who’s really interested in this?”
BOGAEV: Well, just a practical question, how exactly did you look through or comb, or search Shakespeare’s text looking for the food references that you quote?
TUFTS: Well, I had originally thought, “Surely there’s some sort of companion out there. There’s got to be like an Oxford companion to food in Shakespeare, or some kind of concordance.” But I couldn’t find anything and so I thought, “Well I’m just going to have to sort of do this manually.”
Each of us as an actor as we work on Shakespeare, we carry with us, what’s called the lexicon, the Shakespeare lexicon, the A-to-Z lexicon. What it is, is a giant two volume dictionary that has all of the words, unique to Shakespeare, or who’s meanings are unique to Shakespeare, and then it gives the meaning and then the plays in which those words appear. So, I thought, “Well, what I’ll do is I’ll just open up the lexicon and I’ll look up food. I’ll just look up food and see what comes up.” And then of course you get Twelfth Night right away with, “The music be the food of love play on.”
And then I looked through the lexicon for just other food words and then it would bring up plays and then often those plays would have a whole stream of things surrounding something. So, for example, you know, you look up “pasty,” and you’re going to get Titus Andronicus and then you’re also going to get something from The Merry Wives of Windsor. So you’re including cross-referencing those things with the plays. But it was a very manual process, just sort of play-by-play, speech-by-speech. It was a way to get really intimate with the plays in a practice that I hadn’t done before at all.
BOGAEV: What did you find that you didn’t know and that you really loved?
TUFTS: I mean, there were so, so many things. Kickshaws—I had always thought, always; I would hear the actor playing Justice Shallow talk about kickshaws, and in my dim thinking, I thought a kickshaw was like a type of bird. I know idea that it was basically a Shakespearean hors d’oeuvre.
BOGAEV: And remind us, when you say it was a Shakespearean hors d’oeuvre, what exactly was it?
TUFTS: So, kickshaws are a kind of English bastardization of the French phrase quelque chose. Quelque chose meaning, “something or somethings,” but what it is, is it means, like, “Little somethings.” So, they’re little bites, and they can be anything. They can be sweet, they can be savory, they can be little pasties.
BOGAEV: Oh, so it’s an amuse-bouche?
TUFTS: It’s kind of like an amuse-bouche, exactly.
BOGAEV: Well, thank you for telling that story, because while you were doing that, I managed to fill the pie with a ton of meat.
TUFTS: Well done.
BOGAEV: I can’t even fit it all in. And now I’m crimping it, as best I can.
BOGAEV: Do you make it look like a pie with little pie crimps on the sides to seal?
TUFTS: I mean, it certainly helps to use the tines of a fork to do that crimping. Because, again, it’s going to be releasing so much moisture that, the better seal you’ve got, the happier your cleanup will be.
[Repeated clicking of a timer]
BOGAEV: Okay, I’m putting this in the oven. I can sense with the hair on the back of my neck that my oven wasn’t at exactly 350 degrees.
TUFTS: Well, you are a true Elizabethan cook.
BOGAEV: You know, so, of course I made one of these earlier, because we don’t have time to sit around and wait for this thing to cook which, it cooks forever. It cooks for, what? Two hours.
TUFTS: Two hours, I mean, since you’re dealing with raw meat, you might as well be extra, extra sure.
BOGAEV: Oh yeah, I bet your heart was in your throat when you wrote these directions. I mean, I’m a little afraid two hours might not be enough with all that meat I stuck in there.
TUFTS: Oh, I think it’s definitely enough. I think there’s nothing… yeah.
BOGAEV: Full confession, I put the meat on the wrong crust and had to scoop it up again and stick it. Okay. Okay, I think it’s time to try the pasty that we made earlier.
TUFTS: Oh boy, all right.
BOGAEV: Okay, here we go. It’s time to try… I got to say, I’m looking at this thing.
TUFTS: Oh no, oh no, oh no.
BOGAEV: First of all, it looks like a big round pot pie, really.
BOGAEV: I mean it wasn’t formed; it doesn’t have sides. It’s not elegant, I would not serve this at my banquet.
TUFTS: No, it’s not remotely elegant.
TUFTS: But again, you have a variety of techniques. I mean some of these pasties would’ve been artistic creations, but probably largely inedible. And then some of them are not artistic creations but perfectly delicious. And this might be neither so, who knows?
BOGAEV: Yeah. Okay, the crust is beautiful, it’s very flaky.
BOGAEV: John, I commend you on the crust, although it will taste like nothing, since there’s no salt in it. I drained it on paper towels.
TUFTS: Oh, okay.
BOGAEV: Wow, it’s even holding its bottom crust, which amazes me since so much fat drained out of it. I have managed to get out a perfect slice. This is beautiful, it looks like a pie slice.
BOGAEV: And the meat, well… the meat is quite well done. The bottom crispy. It smells great, and, you know, while it was cooking, it smelled fantastic.
TUFTS: Yeah, and I think all that ginger—I mean, it’s significant. But yeah, I love the smell of it.
BOGAEV: I’m trying the top crust, I love it. I love it—and ham-fistedly, I’m setting up my last question which is, if music be the food of love, then what is food?
TUFTS: What is the food that is my music in this cookbook? Is that what you’re asking?
BOGAEV: Yes, yes, yes, yes.
TUFTS: Yeah, I suppose… interestingly my favorite thing in the book is something that gains no mention in Shakespeare at all, but is a recipe that was written by a woman who was a contemporary of Shakespeare’s. Her name was Elinor Fettiplace and she wrote this book about, kind of, managing a large household. And in the book, she has a recipe for a pistachio cheesecake, which to me was a revelation.
BOGAEV: That sounds delicious.
TUFTS: One, that cheesecake was a thing, I had no idea. Two, that pistachio, kind of, blended in with cheesecake was also a thing! To me, that seems so contemporary. But in fact, it is this wonderful invitation of 400-year-old flavors because you have the pistachio, and the cheese, and the cream, and the eggs, but then also the flavor of a little bit of ginger and some mace and some nutmeg. And then those things combine to just create this incredible kind of perfume that’s much sharper than a New York style cheesecake and much more refined, which to me was a huge surprise. Because, again, if you’re thinking of something like this pork pasty, you’re not thinking about refined cuisine. And it lets you know just how refined the Elizabethans could be when they were making this food. So, for me, that recipe and those others that highlight kind of the delicacy and the lightness of the era; those ones are my music.
BOGAEV: Well, thank you so much. Thanks so much for all of the fascinating tidbits you just fed us and this huge meat concoction I now have to get off my hands.
TUFTS: Oh man, that’s how I’m going to put it on the menu, huge meat concoction.
BOGAEV: No, it was wonderful. It really was a delight. Thank you so much for coming and talking on the podcast.
TUFTS: My pleasure, and I’m so glad that you invited me to do this. It was an absolute pleasure talking with you.
WITMORE: John Tufts has performed more than 20 plays as a member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He’s also performed Off-Broadway with Primary Stages, Ensemble Studio Theatre, and the Mint Theater Company; and regionally, with The Guthrie Theater, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Seattle Rep, Arena Stage, and the Actors Theatre of Louisville.
His cookbook, Fat Rascals: Dining at Shakespeare’s Table, is available at his website, John-Tufts.com. That’s John-Tufts—T-U-F-T-S—.com. John was interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.
Our podcast, “Make Two Pasties,” was produced by Richard Paul. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster. Ben Lauer is the Web Producer, with help from Leonor Fernandez.
We had technical help on this episode from the spouses of our principals: Professor and actor Christine Albright-Tufts in New York and Software Engineer Chris Spurgeon in Los Angeles.
As always, please rate and review Shakespeare Unlimited on Apple Podcasts.
Shakespeare Unlimited comes to you from the Folger Shakespeare Library. Home to the world’s largest Shakespeare collection, the Folger is dedicated to advancing knowledge and the arts. You can find more about the Folger at our website, folger.edu. Thanks for listening. For the Folger Shakespeare Library, I’m Folger Director Michael Witmore.