Monday, October 27, 2008

Seven years ago, I put together a book of recipes and traditions for my own children. I used sources from all over the net, never thinking to try to credit them all, for I never really intended the book to go outside my own family. However, I think we need traditions. So I'll be publishing the monthly chapters of my book here on my blog. If you find something you wrote in it, let me know and I'll give you thanks and tell everyone. :)

October 27: Juan Seguin, Hero of the War for Texas Independence

"A victim to the wickedness of a few men... a foreigner in my native land; could I be expected to stoically endure their outrages and insults?" he wrote in 1858. "I sought for shelter amongst those against whom I fought; I separated from my country, parents, family, relatives and friends, and what was more, from the institutions, on behalf which I had drawn my sword, with an earnest wish to see Texas free and happy."
In honor of Col. Juan Seguin, let’s serve:
Puerco Pibil (Slow-Cooked Pork)
· 5 T. annatto seeds
· 2 t. cumin seeds
· 1 T. whole black pepper
· 8 whole allspice berries
· 1 t. cloves
· 2 habanero peppers
· 2 T. salt
· 8 cloves garlic
· 1/2 c. orange juice
· 1/2 c. white vinegar
· 5 lemons, juiced
· 1 shot (1 1/2 oz.) tequila
· 5 lbs. pork butt
· banana leaves
grind the dried spices (annatto, cumin, black pepper, allspice, and cloves), thoroughly mince the habenero peppers, after removing the seeds
1. combine orange juice, vinegar, lemon juice, tequila, dried spices, minced habenero, salt, and garlic in a blender. Liquify.
2. cut pork into 2 inch squares, place in a large ziplock bag, and fill with the marinade
3. let marinate for at least twenty minutes (overnight is fine, too)
4. line a 9" x 12" pan with banana leaves, pour pork & marinade in, cover with more banana leaves, cover tightly with foil
5. cook at 325 degrees F. for four hours and serve over rice.

October 28: Feast of Saints Simon and Jude

Not very much is known of either of these Apostles, except that Simon was called "the Zealous," and Jude was the brother of James the Less, and that they preached and were martyred in Persia. Over the years great devotion has grown up around Saint Jude as the Saint of the impossible. As prayers to Saint Anthony restore lost articles, so prayers to Saint Jude restore or revivify the most difficult of spiritual causes for persons, or groups, or nations. Saint Jude has proved a powerful patron in more than one instance, for example in the case of the City of St. Jude in Alabama, founded to aid materially and spiritually the Negro race, and which has well fulfilled that mission. Saint Jude might make a fine patron for the United Nations, over endowed with material patrons, but sadly lacking in those of the spirit. Regarding popular celebration of the feast of Saint Simon and Saint Jude, there has arisen some confusion through the centuries. In Italy a "foletto," which translated, means holy goblin, was often confused with Saint Simon because of a similarity in names, and Jude was confused in people's minds with Judas. Another reason for the confusion is that the feast of these saints comes so close to All Hallow's Eve that it partakes a little of its traditions. From the old association with goblins and witches and feasts of the dead, there has come down to us a cake often eaten in Scotland and England in honor of Simon and Jude. In Scotland, it is known as a Dirge Cake, in England as a Soul Cake, and the recipe is on November 2nd, the feast of All Souls.

October 31: All Hallows' Eve

A soul! A soul! A soul for a soul cake!
Come save a soul for a soul cake!
One for Peter and two for Paul
And three for the Good Lord who saved us all.

Put your hand in your pocket and draw out your keys
Go down to the cellar and draw what you please!
Give us cakes and ale and good strong beer
And we’ll come no more souling until next year!

The old English custom of "soul-caking," or "souling," originated before the protestant revolt, when poor singers went about on All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, November 1 and 2, to beg for cakes in remembrance of the dead. The souls were prayed for, the poor folk fed, and everyone gained a great deal.
Allhallows e'en, or eve, a night of pranks and fun , was celebrated with games and treats. Young people bobbed for apples and told ghost stories.
When you, my children, were very young, and I was very young and impressionable as well, we lived in an all-protestant neighborhood where most of our neighbors went to “worship” at least three times each week. About 30 years ago, anti-Halloween hysteria was high amoung these folks. Skeletons, monsters, all manner of “Halloweenish” symbols were carefully cataloged and their ties to satanism documented. Many little audio cassettes by former “satanists” made the rounds, and, of course, hidden amoung the condemnations of Halloween was much finger pointing at the Holy Catholic Church…
I’m rather ashamed of the fact that I succumbed to the general alarm at the time…and rather gleeful that my temporary solution was to dress you all as saints, which was fun, and at least as horrific to many of my neigbors as the skeletons and pirates had been…
Of course, as the years went by and I contemplated things like the Gargoyles atop the Cathedrals (much lamented by the anti-halloweeners) and the Chapel of Bones in Portugal, I realized that every generation goes through these things and I decided bones and monsters were not going to draw you into the devil’s web---after all, most of your forefathers are bones, and many would have done better to have had a monstrous exterior and a pious soul. I truly loved your saint costumes (remember Forrest’s tonsure? That’s dedication!) but I loved the Halloween of 1992 when you boys dressed as Clinton, Bush and Perot---complete with huge cardboard ears for Crockett. I loved Stuart’s “legally blond” costume, and Siggy’s Axel Rose, Robert Smith and even last year’s pirate…I don’t find it at all odd that none of you has ever had a desire to dress as a witch or vampire, for we eschew things which are intrinsically evil. But the ado about Halloween will probably strike you as well when you are young parents---I’m not going to worry about your decisions. Halloween for me will always be night of fun when we can visit the neighbors in town, stroll around in the twilight, admire the kids’ costumes, and look forward to The Great Pumpkin...
Here is a recipe for Soul Cakes, which differs somewhat from the one given forAll Souls…

Makes 12 to 15 2-inch soul cakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, ground fresh if possible
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground fresh if possible
1/2 teaspoon salt
Generous pinch of saffron
1/2 cup milk
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup currants
For the Glaze:
1 egg yolk, beaten
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine the flour, the nutmeg, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Mix well with a fork.
Crumble the saffron threads into a small saucepan and heat over low heat just until they become aromatic, taking care not to burn them. Add the milk and heat just until hot to the touch. The milk will have turned a bright yellow. Remove from heat.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon (or use an electric mixer with the paddle attachment). Add the egg yolks and blend in thoroughly with the back of the spoon. Add the spiced flour and combine as thoroughly as possible; the mixture will be dry and crumbly.
One tablespoon at a time, begin adding in the warm saffron milk, blending vigorously with the spoon. When you have a soft dough, stop adding milk; you probably won't need the entire half-cup.
Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead gently, with floured hands, until the dough is uniform. Roll out gently to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Using a floured 2-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out as many rounds as you can and set on an ungreased baking sheet. You can gather and re-roll the scraps, gently.
Decorate the soul cakes with currants and then brush liberally with the beaten egg yolk. Bake for 15 minutes, until just golden and shiny. Serve warm...with ale. And good strong beer.

In Ireland, Tyrone, Cavan, and other counties indulge in boxty dishes on Halloween, and also in many verses about them. One runs: Boxty on the griddle, Boxty on the pan, The wee one in the middle It is for Mary Anne. Boxty on the griddle, Boxty on the pan-- If you don't eat boxty, You'll never get your man. And another: Two rounds of boxty baked on the pan, Each one came in got a cake in her han'; Butter on the one side, Gravy on t'other Sure them that gave me boxty Were better than my mother. These boxty dishes include boxty dumplings and boxty bread and boxty pancakes (for the latter see Shrove Tuesday).

Boxty Bread

1 lb. raw potatoes
1 lb. cooked potatoes
Wash and peel the raw potatoes and grate them onto a piece of cheesecloth. Then squeeze them out, catching the liquid in a dish which must be allowed to stand so that the potato starch may settle. Mash the cooked potatoes over the raw, and season with salt. Pour off the potato liquid carefully; then scrape up the potato starch at the bottom of the dish and add to the potato mixture. Work in enough flour to make a good dough and knead for a few minutes; then roll out, cut into cakes, and bake on a hot griddle.

Boxty Dumplings
Use the same ingredients and follow the same procedure as for Boxty Bread. When the dough has been kneaded, instead of rolling it out, form into small balls the size of an egg, drop them into boiling salted water and cook them for forty- five minutes. Serve with a sweet sauce.

In Scotland a special cake is made, and charms wrapped in paper are stirred in before it is baked. These are the usual ring, button, thimble, and coin, with the addition of a horseshoe for good luck, a swastika for happiness, and a wishbone for the heart's desire. In England, as also in the United States, it is a night for feasting before an open fire, on cider and nuts and apples, and was formerly known as Nut Crack Night. Far back in history runs the list of games played on that night, many of them still popular, such as bobbing for apples in a tub of water, or trying to take a bite from one swinging on a cord.
Familiar is the sight of the small boy coming home with a bag full of edibles--candies, cakes, nuts, gum, enough for several meals--and a good stack of pennies. Grown-ups, whose duty for the evening seems to be to provide the handout, might spend their own evening by making it a Nut Crack Night. Sitting before a bright hearth fire, they can feast cider, apples and nuts. And soul cakes, and boxty.

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