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When thinking about what to write about today, I decided to have a look at Wikipedia’s “Born on this day” feature to see if there was anybody food-related on the list. Happy 49th Birthday, Yotam Ottolenghi! And thank you for being born on this day; this blog post wouldn’t exist without you. I’d never heard of him before – I’ve had quite a few years away from doing any real cooking, so haven’t been adding to my recipe book collection.  His food looks gorgeous, really rich and magical, perfect for a feast. Continue Reading »

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Saint Lucy, by Francesco del Ferrarese Cossa,1473/1474. Tempera on poplar panel, 77.2 x 56 cm (30 3/8 x 22 1/16 in.) Samuel H. Kress Collection, National Gallery of Art (Washington).

It’s only since I started working on this post that I realised I didn’t do a blogging project in December last year; it’s lovely not having to be hunting for a new flat in cold weather like I was doing this time last year. I first started December blogging projects in 2014, the theme being Light, followed by 2015’s theme of Christmas Literature. December 13 is the feast day of Saint Lucy, and she was a perfect fit for both themes – you can read the 2014 entry here, and the 2015 entry here. Happily, she is am equally perfect fit this year, as my reading today has produced recipes and rituals galore. Continue Reading »

Today’s post is inspired by a trip to the supermarket to replenish the cereals cupboard. Mr Kellogg must be feeling festive, as the normal Cornflakes packet design now features one of Norman Rockwell’s illustrations of the Christmas carol Deck the Halls, brought together in a book in 1997. The packet also features Clement Clarke Moore’s ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ (1844), which begins

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house       
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;                                  The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,                                In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;                                  The children were nestled all snug in their beds;

Today’s feast is in the next line:

FInal sugarplums
Continue Reading »

Yesterday’s blog post was, quite literally, sugar sweet, so today seems like a good day as any to spice the dish with something rather more sinister.

When I was still in primary school, I occasionally went to the secondary school in which they worked, where, to my delight, there was a school library, run by one of my earliest real life childhood heroes, Mrs MacKay. I spent a lot of time in there, and while I had already read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I was, at age 7, yet to encounter the rest of the Chronicles of Narnia. Mrs MacKay lent me the rest, and, when there was a fire in the school – don’t panic: the library survived intact, and replaced the small amount of smoke-damaged stock. For me, despite the initial horror, there was a silver lining to this dark cloud of smoke, as she sent home with my parents a full set of the Chronicles which smelt only slightly smoky. They were wrapped in strong plastic covers, and still have the typed library cards inside them. They are some of my most treasured possessions.  The Magician’s Nephew and The Silver Chair are my two favourites, and to my mind definitely the strangest.  As a lifelong medievalist (albeit unconsciously, at first), I suspect that part of the attraction are the mysterious women to be found loitering in woods and by lakes; for an authentic medieval example of such a woman, may I direct you to my post about Marie de France’s Lanval, also part of this Christmas Feast blog sequence? Given that C. S. Lewis was a real medieval scholar, not a dabbler like me, I’m pretty sure that such stories were, at least partly, his inspiration for Jadis and the Lady of the Green Kirtle, but that’s a discussion for another day. Now on to the feast! Continue Reading »

While out today at the annual local Reindeer Day festival, I walked past a woman saying

The best way to spread Christmas cheer…

Instinctively, I joined in on the rest of the truly splendid sentence:

… is singing loud for all to hear!

Thus, how could today’s feast not be one inspired by the perfect Christmas film Elf? If you haven’t seen it yet, please go and watch it immediately. Go, now. Go. Are the cotton-headed ninnymuggins gone? Excellent; then I’ll continue! Continue Reading »

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The Snow Queen, by Edmund Dulac, appearing in Stories from Hans Andersen by H. C. Andersen (Hodder and Stoughton, 1911). Via Project Gutenberg.

When it came to writing today’s post, I had it in my head that Gerda in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen had a great variety of food in her travels through the seasons to find Kay. But Andersen makes only passing mentions of the girl’s food. When living in the house with the wondrous flower garden, she is allowed to eat all the cherries she wishes. In a brief aside, these may be one of the ways in which she is enchanted into forgetting Kay, as when mortals, when in faery lands, eat the food and drink made available, and thus forget all about their homes. In the palace, she begins with scraps of bread provided by crows, but leaves on her quest in a coach “well stored with sweet cakes, and under the seat … fruit and gingerbread nuts”. In contrast, the robbers live simply on what they hunt and forage in the forest – rabbits and hares, and the little robber girl herself gives Gerda hams and bread as a leaving gift. There aren’t any details of the food provided by the Lapland and Finland women, but it seems plausible that fish was involved somehow. Continue Reading »

Yesterday’s post (now with English translation!) looked at the surroundings in which a feast is set, in a medieval setting. Today, I move considerably closer in time and in space to home.
Continue Reading »