Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Cakes and Ale.

Today I continue the theme for the week, and give you the January 5 entry from Books and My Food (1904) by Elisabeth Luther Cary. On this day Cary takes as her inspiration the idea of ‘cakes and ale’, via the well-known quotation (given below) from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

The phrase ‘cakes and ale’ as a metaphor for earthly pleasures is generally attributed to Shakespeare, but it is in fact a great deal older. It appears several times in a version of the ancient Egyptian ‘Book of the Dead’ – a funerary text (actually a roll of papyrus) containing instructions and advice to help the deceased person negotiate the passing into the afterlife.The following extracts are taken from the version known as ‘The Papyrus of Ani’ (written in about 1240 BC), as translated by E.A.Wallis Budge in 1913.

Let there be given unto me bread-cakes in the House of Refreshing, and sepulchral offerings of cakes and ale, and propitiatory offerings in Anu, and a permanent homestead in Sekhet-Aaru, with wheat and barley therein-to the Double of the Osiris, the scribe Ani.

Hail, O ye who give cakes and ale to perfect souls in the House of Osiris, give ye cakes and ale twice each day (i.e., in the morning and in the evening) to the soul of
the Osiris Ani, …..

Cakes and ale and joints of meat from those which are on the altar of Ra shall be given to him [the deceased person], and his homestead shall be among the fields of the Field of Reeds, and wheat and barley shall be given unto him therein, and he shall flourish there even as he flourished upon earth.

And he [the deceased] shall present as offerings oxen, and feathered fowl [geese], and incense, and cakes and ale, and garden herbs.

The following quote suggests its modern metaphorical usage:

… says the deceased to the god Thoth: “But let the state of the spirits be given unto me instead of water, and air, and the satisfying of the longings of love, and let quietness of heart be given unto me instead of cakes and ale.”

And here is Cary’s entry, and recipe, for today, January 5th.

“Dost think because thou art virtuous there shall be no more cakes and ale?”
SHAKESPEARE (“Twelfth Night”)

For good little nut-cakes cream half a cupful of butter and a cup and a half of sugar; add the yolks of two eggs and beat all together. Sift two cupfuls of flour into which has been stirred a teaspoonful and a half of baking powder. Add to the butter, sugar, and eggs a cupful of milk, and then the flour. At the last stir in a cupful of chopped pecan or hickory nuts and fold in lightly the whites of the eggs, beaten to a stiff froth. Bake in patty pan[s], ice and sprinkle chopped nuts thickly over the icing.

Today is also the 11th day of Christmas, which you can read about HERE.

Quotation for the Day.

Better beans and bacon in peace than cakes and ale in fear.
Aesop’s Fables.


Unknown said...

Maybe not very relevant to the topic at hand but "Cakes and Ale" is also the title of a much-loved (by me for one) Maugham novel.

Meredith said...

Cakes and Ale is also the name of a very good restaurant in Decatur, Ga, which happens to be having a "Twelfth Night" themed Sunday supper this weekend!

The Old Foodie said...

Bob - I have not read it, not sure why as I love Maugham - have added it to my reading list!
Meredith: this is a bit belated, but did you go to the supper?

Anonymous said...

I love that line from Twelfth Night, and those nut-cakes sound quite plausible.

Of course, while the ancient Egyptians are unlikely to have influenced Shakespeare, Budge's 1913 translation probably, consciously or un-, reflects the phrase WS made popular. Further, in the Book of the Dead, the offerings are quite literal: baked goods and brewed drink.

The Old Foodie said...

bklynharuspex - there are not too many "new" ideas under the sun, are there?