Were we living in Ancient Rome, today we would be preparing for Parentalia, the religious festival in honour of the dead – specifically the deceased from one’s own family. The festival lasted nine days, and during this time, families would make offerings of food - grain, bread, wine, salt etc – as well as flowers (especially violets and roses) at the tombs of their ancestors.
We have no such national festival today, at least in our modern Western culture. We do sometimes honour our ancestors however, (at least, our female ones) in quite a different way. If we are lucky, we have tatty old handwritten notebooks containing their family-famous recipes – and if we are very lucky indeed, their names live on in the recipe titles. Perhaps you are the proud guardian of of Aunt Gertrude’s famous Braised Okra with Rhubarb recipe, or Cousin Aggie’s Deep Fried Banana Muffins?
I would like to think that we might all consider cooking one of these family recipes, in our own private Parentalia week. If you do not have a scruffy, stained, hand-me-down cookbook, then do not let your descendants feel the loss – start one yourself immediately. In the meanwhile, feel free to adopt the following more generic “family” recipes, taken from various sources.
We have previously enjoyed “Mum’s Delight” from The Calendar of Puddings, by the Country Women’s Association of South Australia (undated but late 1950’s?), and from the same source I give you:
Rub one tablespoon butter into 1 cup S.R. flour and ½ cup sugar. Make into a soft dough with one beaten egg and ½ cup milk. Bake in a moderate oven, in greased piedish, about 40 minutes. This is nice with apples, jam, or treacle underneath.
The amazing Eliza Acton gives us, in her Modern Cookery for Private Families. 1845, the following:
The Good Daughter’s Mincemeat Pudding.
Lay into a rather deep tart-dish some thin slices of French roll, very slightly spread with butter and covered with a thick layer of mincemeat; place a second tier lightly on these, covered in the same way with the mincemeat; then pour gently in a custard made with three well-whisked eggs, three-quarters of a pint of new milk or thick cream, the slightest pinch of salt, and two ounces of sugar. Let the pudding stand to soak for an hour, then bake it gently until it is quite firm in the centre: this will be in from three-quarters of an hour to a full hour.
And finally, from Cassells’ Dictionary of Cookery (1870’s), here is:
Take a sound white cabbage and a young cauliflower. Divide the latter into small sprigs, and cut the cabbage into thin shreds, in the same way as cabbage is cut for pickling. Spread them out on separate dishes, and cover them with salt. Let them remain forty-eight hours, then set the pieces of cauliflower on a sieve, and let them drain before the fire. Squeeze the salt from the cabbage with the hands, and put the cabbage and cauliflower in layers in pickle-bottles or jars. Boil as much vinegar as will amply cover them, allowing an inch of whole ginger, broken into pieces, half an ounce of mustard seed, and half an ounce of pepper, to every quart of vinegar. Let these ingredients boil together for two or three minutes, and when cold, pour them into the bottles. A tablespoonful of turmeric may be mixed with a little cold vinegar and added to the rest while boiling. Put the spices at the top of the pickles, and cover the jars closely. Fresh vinegar must be added when necessary.
Tomorrow’s Story …
Raisins of all sorts.
Quotation for the Day …
My family dumplings are sleek and seductive, yet stout and masculine. They taste of meat, yet of flour. They are wet, yet they are dry. They have weight, but they are light. Airy, yet substantial. Earth, air, fire, water; velvet and elastic! Meat, wheat and magic! They are our family glory! Robert Tristram Coffin (1892-1955)