Friday, November 25, 2005

A co-incidence of princesses.

Today, November 25th …

Today is the feast day of St Catherine of Alexandria, patron saint of spinsters, who pray to her in order to avoid her fate of dying unmarried, thus putting themselves, if their prayers are answered, under the patronage of St Monica, whose fate was a long unhappy marriage to an abusive and unfaithful husband.

November 25th was also the birthday in 1638 of the Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza, who was married off to the neglectful and very unfaithful Charles II in 1662, and is credited with bringing tea to England, and introducing it to the court. Being the devout woman that she was, it is unlikely that Catherine complained about her marriage to her saint, but I bet she pondered it over numerous cups of tea.

The Spanish princess Catherine of Aragon became the first wife of Henry VIII in 1509, and actively encouraged the lacemaking industry in England. As a result of confusion of her name with that of the saint, St Catherine became adopted also as the patron saint of lacemakers, who therefore had a holiday on her feastday. They would drink “hot-pot” (warm beer, thickened with eggs and spiked with rum), eat “Cattern Cakes”, and after getting up their appetite by playing games of leaping over candles they would tuck into stuffed rabbit with onion sauce.

Cattern cakes were just “Wiggs” – soft light bread rolls flavoured with caraway seeds, and so called because they were originally “wedges” in shape. There were many variations depending on the degree of enrichment or impoverishment of the dough (eggs, sugar), the recipient (“economical” for farmworkers), or the season (wiggs were popular Lenten food).

Due to a happy confluence of Catherines, it appears that we have an infallible formula for afternoon tea, but to ensure infallibility, we had better use a recipe from “ The lady’s companion, or, an infallible guide to the fair sex …” (1740) for our wiggs.

To make Wiggs.
You must take two Pounds of Flour, and a Quarter of a Pound of Butter, as much Sugar, a Nutmeg grated, a little Cloves and Mace, and a Quarter of an Ounce of Carraway Seeds, Cream and Yest [yeast] as much as will make it up into a light Paste, make them up, and set them by the Fire to rise ‘till the Oven be ready; they will quickly be baked.

P.S don't forget the lace tablecloth.

On Monday … A lusty and masculine food for Rustics.

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