Happy Hallowe'en! Today's post is dedicated to Samhain soul cakes, and how Donald Trump made Jack o' Lanterns great again. Below the jump, see some pumpkin carving competition winners before - and after - The Donald announced his presidential candidacy. The whole nation is carving Trumpkins in 2016.
Soul cakes and pumpkin-carving are offshoots of cooking, preserving and baking which are part of harvest festivals in the northern hemisphere. To absorb the power of Gaelic Samhain (October 31; pronounced SAH-win), the Catholic Church combined harvest festivals with pagan funerary rites and ancient spring death rituals. In the 5th century BCE, Greek women visited graves with libations and cakes; the Romans adapted that custom to placate lemures, or ghosts, with beans and salted flour cakes during the festival of Lemuria in May. Later traditions from Ireland, to Germany, to Jamaica, to colonial America, buried the dead with small cakes, scones, or biscuits, while mourners drank liquor or port; graveyard ceremonies in Hungary and Estonia also often involved drinking special fortified wines. All of these traditions combined to inspire the American trick or treat candies, chocolates and potato chips. You can see modern recipes for Samhain soul cakes here, here, here, here and here.
The graveside consumption of cakes and wine may have led to the term 'cakes and ale' coined by William Shakespeare in Twelfth Night (1601-1602); merry-making and a wanton good life symbolized by cakes and ale defend us from death. But they also remind us that death is never far away and bring us closer to it:
"Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?"With one line, Shakespeare summarized the religious injunction against the pleasures and temptations of mortal life when one contemplates mortality. Yet contemplating mortality makes us want to indulge. This time of year is about losing and rediscovering a balance between life and death, light and dark. Cakes and wine ease the grief of the living, and calm the spirits of the dead. Overindulge, and religious authorities warn, you will find yourself possessed by forces beyond your will.
My friend C. suggested the BBC Radio 4 recording from 2011, So You Want to Be an Exorcist. Other BBC shows on exorcism are on Youtube, here. The exorcists interviewed for the BBC Radio 4 show claimed nearly anything can open you up to demonic possession, including ouija boards, street drugs, sexual immorality (which can be code for homophobia), astrology, yoga, New Age spirituality, and tarot cards. Apparently, the Anglican Church now has an official exorcist on call in every diocese due to rising demand, which I find hard to believe. It sounds like they realized the Catholic Church has cornered the market, and they want their own Indy 500. I can just see the C of E promotional television series about an Anglican exorcist, starring Helen Mirren. That doesn't exist yet, but you can watch the terrifying new American television FOX series, The Exorcist, online here or here. The trailer is here. In 2010, The Daily Mail reported here on 21st century exorcists.
Samhain soul cakes. Image Source: My Witch's Kitchen.
The Starbucks seasonal pumpkin scone with spiced glaze follows the ancient soul cakes tradition. Image Source: Starbucks via pinterest.
To celebrate the pumpkin harvest, here is a pumpkin scones recipe, inspired by Starbucks. I checked the best cookery book which collects the historic recipes of colonial America, and offer this pumpkin pie recipe, altered and adapted from: Helen Duprey Bullock, A National Treasury of Cookery, vol. 1, Early America (New York, New York: Heirloom Publishing Company, 1967), p. 54.
2 9-inch unbaked pie shells
2 cups mashed cooked pumpkin
3 eggs, well beaten
1.5 cups heavy cream or 1 14-ounce tin of sweetened condensed milk
3 tbsp. rum
0.5 tsp. vanilla extract
0.25 cups granulated sugar
0.25 cups brown sugar
0.18 cups molasses
0.5 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground mace
0.5 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. finely-grated candied ginger or fresh ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
0.5 tsp ground cloves or allspice
Make the pie shells and refrigerate them, or thaw frozen commercial pre-made pie shells in the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, eggs, cream or condensed milk, rum and extract, sugar, salt, spices. Blend well. Pour into chilled pie shells. Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Reduce heat to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 45 minutes.
History Channel's history of Hallowe'en explains the origins of Jack o' Lanterns. Video Source: Youtube.
A pumpkin carved by Scott Cully, "the Northwest's legendary pumpkin carver," Parkplace Mall, Kirkland, Washington, USA (2008). Image Source Mickeleh / flickr via Daily Picks and Flicks.
In 2010, Scott Cully carved a 1810.5 pound pumpkin at the New York Botanical Garden at a 'great pumpkin' event in the Bronx. The pumpkin entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest Jack o' Lantern. Video Source: Youtube.
In 2014, Beni Meier grew the world's heaviest pumpkins in Switzerland, the first weighing 2096.6 pounds. He subsequently broke this record weeks later: "Swiss grower Beni Meier has grown the world's heaviest pumpkin. Beni weighed his behemoth pumpkin weighing in at 2,323 pounds. What was [unprecedented] is that he had pumpkins tip the scales at 2096 and 2,102, both world records, in the weeks prior to weighing his biggest pumpkin." Image Source: Colorado Pumpkins. The Smithsonian explained the science behind growing monster pumpkins in 2015. Meier told Schweizer Bauer some of his secrets, here.
Meier with his winning 2,323.7 pound pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima) - the current world record holder - in 2014 outside Ludwigsburg Palace near Stuttgart, Germany. The giant squash was authenticated by the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth. Image Source: Big Pumpkins.
2016's biggest pumpkin broke Meier's world record, weighing 2,623.5 pounds in a competition in Germany: "Belgian Mathias Willemijns poses with his winning atlantic giant pumpkin after the weight-off at the Giant Pumpkin European Championship in Ludwigsburg, southwestern Germany, on October 9, 2016. Willemjins' pumpkin has the new world record weight of 1.190,5 kg." Image Source: THOMAS KIENZLE / AFP via ABS. BBC reported that a single seed from the super-giant variety costs £1,250.
Pumpkin carving contests and winners - before Donald Trump's candidacy for president. Images Sources: A Beautiful Mess, timeinc, Park West Gallery, Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, Hacin and Associates, South Arkansas University.
Trumpkins. Images Sources: imgflip, Christian Nightmares, The Shark, Yahoo, 9gag, Daily Mail, Jack Morton, Metro UK, imgur.
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