On May 24th …
May 24th was the birthday of Queen Victoria, and was celebrated throughout the Empire by her Majesty’s loyal subjects, including the Bavarian explorer Ludwig Leichhardt, stuck somewhere in the far north of Australia on this day in 1845, and half-starving.
It was the Queen's birth-day, and we celebrated it with what - as our only remaining luxury - we were accustomed to call a fat cake, made of four pounds of flour and some suet, which we had saved for the express purpose, and with a pot of sugared tea. We had for several months been without sugar, with the exception of about ten pounds, which was reserved for cases of illness and for festivals. So necessary does it appear to human nature to interrupt the monotony of life by marked days, on which we indulge in recollections of the past, or in meditations on the future, that we all enjoyed those days as much, and even more, than when surrounded with all the blessings of civilized society; although I am free to admit, that fat-cake and sugared tea in prospectu might induce us to watch with more eagerness for the approach of these days of feasting.
The empty sugar bags were saved in anticipation of celebrating the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo on June 18th , when they were boiled up with their tea.
Leichhardt’s “Fat Cakes” could not have been as elegant as this recipe in Dorothy Hartley’s classic book “Food in England”.
Take some of the dough from the bread. Roll it out a quarter of an inch thick, dot with dabs of cold stiff lard aobut the size of half walnuts, sprinkle with crystallised sugar, and fold the dough into three, or end to end, pinching the sides together to keep in the air. Fold it over once more from the side and roll again, beginning to roll from the open end, so as to imprison the little pockets of air within the dough. Do this three times, putting the dabs of lard between the bubbles showing through where the first dabs were imprisoned. The last time strew very lightly (over the sugar and lard) with spice – barely a breath of nutmeg or a suspicion of cinnamon or allspice (spice very delicately indeed, a sthe lard takes up the aroma strongly).
Roll out to the size of the baking-tin, marking it across and across, for lardy cakes should be broken down their cracks, never cut. Bake in a hot oven.
Tomorrow: Lettuce revisited.
Quotation for the Day …
Traveling carries with it the curse of being at home everywhere and yet nowhere, for wherever one is some part of oneself remains on another continent. Margot Fonteyn