Expressions of gratitude penned in washable marker are scrawled across the bakery window heralding the arrival of the holiday season. The month of Pie-vember draws nigh and the hits keep coming. On Wednesday night, literal hits led the Chicago Cubs to their first World Series victory since 1908. For those of us who stayed up late to watch the exciting conclusion of the game, more sleep deprivation awaits. This coming Sunday at 2:00 am local time, clocks will be set back one hour allowing you to awaken at dark o’clock until early March. Before you touch that clock dial however, there’s another celebration worth noting.
If by chance it has been a few years since you sat in a Social Studies class, you should still remember, remember, the 5th of November. We would be remiss glossing over the anniversary of one of the earliest pie-rotechnic plots, the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.
Commemorated in England as Guy Fawkes Day or Bonfire Night, Mr. Fawkes’ debacle in an attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament is a very big deal across the pond. Although history paints Guy Fawkes as a bit of a hot head, he was one of a Baker’s dozen of conspirators involved in a plot to assassinate King James I and his ministers. The explosive expert in the group, Fawkes was left to ignite the explosives in the cellar beneath the House of Lords. Upon discovery by authorities, Fawkes was arrested and sent to the Tower of London. Withstanding two days of torture before confessing, he was sentenced to the traditional traitors’ death- a hanging followed by being drawn and quartered. Ouch. Fortunately for Mr. Fawkes, he opted to jump from the gallows prior to the hanging and broke his neck. Sounds like a reason to celebrate, wouldn’t you say?
Bonfire Night celebrations feature elaborate fireworks, campfire cooking and plenty of sweets. Parkin is a cake traditionally eaten at winter festivals and particularly on Bonfire Night. Combining many elements of oat cake, gingerbread and sticky toffee pudding, there are numerous versions of the dessert. Depending upon your roots (Yorkshire or Lancashire) you may prefer a sticky, moist cake or a dense, spicy, oat cake. Originally known as a ‘good keeper,’ the flavors of parkin mellow over time. A cursory glance through Gaskell’s ‘Yorkshire Cookery Book’ features more than a dozen recipes for parkin. Sounds like ideal subject matter for The Great British Bake-Off.
In less than three weeks, my workplace will be in the throes of our own Bake-Off. As I’m rolling pie shells and mentally fumbling through baker’s math of epic proportions, I find myself imagining a parkin-inspired pie.
As a medicinal precaution, it seems sensible to add a generous splash of alcohol to whatever recipe I cobble together. Unable to secure traditional black treacle, I’m opting for dark molasses, a little bit of dark corn syrup and brown sugar. Oats, three kinds of ginger and walnuts will round out the ingredients. Though Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood would deem my hybrid pie the work of a traitor, I hope they can find it in their hearts to pardon my parkin.
As we jump off the scaffold into the holiday season, the Sonos playlist will undoubtedly offer classic 40s seasonal tunes. Personally feeling a little more Guy Fawkes than Guy Lombardo, I could very possibly be pushed to my limit, forcing me to quietly plot my own Thanksgiving week uprising. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be in the cellar.
11/4/2016 11:30:50 am
Wonderful! You've got a nice way of telling a story that brings to mind Bill Bryson. I gobbled this up, sticky treacle and all!
11/4/2016 12:50:41 pm
What a great story! I had no idea. I think I need to go back to Social Studies class.
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Professional Pie-isms & Seasonal Sarcasm