Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Gimme me some SOUL--Cakes!!

     Celebrations are important times, important as the air we breath.  It brings those far away closer. Mends hearts and completes us. These gatherings always include food.  In the era of having everything we want, whenever we want, what was it like then?  Back then, food signified rites of passage, appeasing the superstitious rumor and fulfilling sanctified and civilized duties.
     We have evolved from traditions, to protein bars and drive-thrus.   Years ago, we were a superstitious bunch of people, that believed on All Hallows Eve, the dead could walk among the living.  Among the these celebrations, was an old English custom called "soul-caking" or "souling".  Singers went out to beg for cakes in remembrance of the dead, it is said that each cake eaten would represent a soul being freed from Purgatory. Before the advent of Catholic and Christian influences, The Druids did things a bit different, they had bonfires honoring the Gods of Harvest, and some say that the cakes were baked for the bonfires, a lottery of sorts: pick the charred cake, and be the sacrifice for a bountiful upcoming year.  Yikes!!! , or to appease a spirit condemned to walk the earth in animal form. 
     Not all was doom and gloom, it was also a time of celebration, costumed dancers or "mummers" made their merry rounds during Halloween and were given soul cakes as payment for their performance.  Myth said that the departed would return to their homes on All Hallows Eve, candles were lit to light their way, while food and drink were placed out for them. 

Here is a children's song from the 19th and early 20th century:
A soul,a soul, a soul cake.
Please god missus a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us merry.
Up with your kettles and down with your pans
Give us an answer and we'll be gone
Little Jack, Jack sat on his gate
Crying for butter to butter his cake
One for St. Peter, and two St. Paul,
Three for the man that made us all.

Soul cake recipe:

3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3 egg yolks
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp allspice
2 tsp malt vinegar
generous pitch of saffron
3 tablespoons currants
milk to moisten

Cream sugar and butter together until fluffy and light, beat in egg yolks, fold in sifted flour and spices, add vinegar and enough milk to make a soft dough.  Form into flat cakes and stud top with currants, in the shape of a cross. Brush with a beaten egg and bake on a well greased baking sheet at 350 F until golden brown.

At first cock-crow the ghosts must go Back to their quiet graves below.~ Theodosia Garrison


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