Today, January 16th …
This day in ancient Rome was the festival of Concordia. Concordia (‘Harmonia’ in Greek mythology) was the goddess of agreement or “concord” (meaning “with one heart”), and seems to be particularly associated with marital harmony.
It was a day of offerings, not feasting, which is a pity if you agree with Samuel Pepys that it is “strange to see how a good dinner and feasting reconciles everybody”. Perhaps your experience agrees more closely with that of the wonderful writer M.F.K. Fisher: "the cold truth is that family dinners are more often than not an ordeal of nervous indigestion, preceded by hidden resentment and ennui and accompanied by psychosomatic jitters"?
If Isabella Beeton is correct, and “there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than badly cooked dinners and untidy ways”, perhaps today we should make a special effort.
In the absence of a traditional food, we must make up our own menu. As an aperitif, let’s start with a modern cocktail:
Take a martini glass, and build and stir:
36 ml vodka, 12 ml blue Curacao liqueur, 12 ml dry vermouth.
Decorate with a maraschino cherry.
From Victorian cookbooks, the savoury course: first, make some dumplings, and serve with:
Put a bit of butter into cold water in a saucepan; dust in a little flour, stirring one way until they are completely mixed; then add some brown sugar and a table-spoonful or so of Vinegar. Continue stirring until the sauce boils; pour it into a basin and serve.
A marital metaphor in a sauce recipe, don’t you think?
Then the dessert, less obviously named:
Pare and core one pound and a half of apples, and boil with three-quarters of a pound of loaf sugar, the grated rind and strained juice of a lemon, and the sixth part of a nutmeg, grated; stir till they become a rich marmalade; then let it go cold. Make a custard as follows: moisten a tablespoon of Oswego [cornflour] with half a gill of new milk; boil a quarter of a pound of loaf sugar in half a pint of milk, and stir into the Oswego while boiling; add four well-beaten eggs and half a gill of thick cream. Butter a pie-dish, lay in the custard and marmalade in alternate layers until the dish is full; bake in a quick oven for twenty-five minutes. Serve, hot or cold.
Tomorrow: Comical food for health.