I am well known, in some circles, for my ‘rabbit hole’ research. Most of the time it centres around possible toxic food items or just what species the original recipe was referring to when it said, ‘yellow bird’, ‘blue crab’, or ‘light mushroom’ or other such subjective terms. These research topics are important for me as I need to know that I am making a dish that is as close to the original as possible and, more importantly, that the dish is not going to poison anyone.
I should also mention that I was specific at the start of my research that I only wanted to redact recipes and cook food. I am not a ‘lifestyles’ type of apprentice. If only I could have stayed that way…
So, enter the ‘Steak Tartare: Mongolians rode with raw meat under their saddles’ legend (which, not surprisingly, is unsupported by any reliable evidence I have found so far and is, more than likely, a mistruth originally designed to sell food in French cafes – more on that in coming blogs).
I had started into a bit of research on trail provisions. I believe that my original question was something like, ‘I wonder: what did the Mongolian outriders and scouts eat?’ This led me to a few sources outlining the origins of Steak Tartare and its supposed beginnings with the Mongol overlords (or was that the Huns…or the Chinese? Just depends on which version you read).
After originally thinking all sorts of unscholarly things, I decided that I would need to investigate…and just like Alice before me, I fell into a rabbit hole. This rabbit hole led to researching Mongolian saddles to ascertain if something could have been stored in the saddle when someone was riding in it. I was fortunate enough to locate a few period saddles and was able to get some specs on them. But what I really wanted was to plunk the thing on a horse and see about its clearances. Sadly, none of the contacted museum curators have been overly helpful here (After all, can’t you hear them, ‘she wants me to do what with this highly valuable piece of history?’). So there was only one way to do this…build a Yuan Dynasty Mongolian Saddle.
Now, I have very few woodworking skills. I passed woodworking in year 7 because I did not cut my fingers off and that was a million or so years ago. So, I enlisted the help of a friend - not only does he work with wood, but he has a nice little workshop on his farm – and my husband.
If you are interested in following this research path, I am going to tag it as the Mongolian Saddle Project on this blog. I plan on posting something about it each Wednesday or thereabouts. I have already started the actual work on the saddle and I will make that my next update. Then I will alternate between my research and my project. I hope to have my mock-up of the wooden saddle tree finished by Easter.