Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Ninth Day of Christmas

January 3 ...

“On the ninth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Nine ladies dancing”

A ‘Lady’ is an elegant woman - aristocratic really - married to ‘a Lord’, who has no job and wears her pearls to breakfast and has servants so she never needs (or wants) to know what goes on in the kitchen – right? Without the capital ‘L’, a lady is a refined, well mannered female, married to a gentleman, who never discusses money, and is always perfectly groomed – never messy and besmirched with flour and eggs – right?

Originally a ‘Lady’ was the ‘loaf-kneader’, meaning in its larger context the one who is responsible for the household, as identified by its most important product - bread. The word comes from the Teutonic word hláf meaning a loaf, combined with the suffix meaning to knead. A ‘Lord’, on the other hand, means the ‘loaf-keeper’, and denotes his responsibility to provide ‘bread’ (in its larger context meaning ‘food’) to those dependent upon him – family, servants, tenants, guests, and the poor. So – the words lady, lord, and loaf all have the same origin, making our choice today quite obvious.

‘On the ninth day of Christmas,
My good friend gave to me
Nine loaves a-rising’

In my browsing to find an interesting recipe for today, I came across some fascinating old bread names, including – wait for it – ‘Bitchiness Bread’! Apparently it is (or was) made with a thin batter (unfermented) made with oats, and cooked into thin soft cakes on a griddle, and is a specialty of Lancashire in the North of England. If anyone can shed any light on the naming of this I would be delighted, as the OED is no help at all.

Realistically, most of us today feel that we don’t have the time or expertise to make bread - which is not realistic at all as the total human time involved in making bread is minimal, and bread dough is very forgiving. There are several ‘real’ breads in the recipe archive, so today, as I was unable to find a recipe for Bitchiness Bread (but Oh! How I would love to!), I give you another very simple unyeasted dough, from the Cookbook of Lady Clark of Tillipronie, whose book was published in 1909, after her death.

Corfu Buttermilk Bread (Mrs. Ellacombe)
This can be made when no yeast is to be got, but requires a very light hand. The proportions are: A small ½ teaspoonful bicarbonate of soda, or a whole teaspoonful of common bread soda, mixed with 1 lb. flour and as much buttermilk as will make it a proper consistency for bakin. The soda must be well bruised and thoroughly mixed into the buttermilk, and then stirred quickly into the flour. Shape into buns twice the size of an egg, then put at once into a quick oven and bake a light brown. This recipe also answers well for making small loves.
Buttermilk scones, made up size and thickness of a crumpet are the same mixture baked on a girdle. Being floured outside they look like untoasted muffins.

“On the ninth day of Christmas
my good friend gave to me
Nine loaves a-rising,
Eight cheeses ripening,
Seven fish a-swimming,
Six eggs a-poaching,
Five golden fruits,
Four keeping cakes,
Three boiling hens,
Two chocolate tarts,
And a partridge in a pear tree.”

Tomorrow’s Story …

The Tenth Day of Christmas.

Quotation for the Day …

I am going to learn to make bread to-morrow. So you may imagine me with my sleeves rolled up, mixing flour, milk, saleratus, etc., with a deal of grace. I advise you if you don't know how to make the staff of life to learn with dispatch. Emily Dickinson, American poet (1830-1886)


Dave Lovely said...

I wonder if these are the same sort of thing as the recipe discussed here. I've seen one reference that suggests they were introduced to Lancashire by Flemish weavers, so maybe the "bitchiness" bit is a corruption of a Flemish word or place-name?

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Dave - thanks for this clue. I love this aspect of blogging and the Internet. I did read that they were similar to Haverbread, so I am sure you are correct. Anyone out there who speaks Flemish who can suggest a connecting word here?

Anonymous said...

Havregryn is Norwegian for oats, if thatis of any help.

The Old Foodie said...

Obermuda: a belated thankyou for this linguistic hint. Must be a legacy of the early Norsemen "visiting" England, do you think?