Showing posts from October, 2020

Ghoulish Cocktails & Bonfire Sparklers

Although Covid-19 has put put paid to a lot of the conventional activities of Hallowe'en, Mischief Night and 5th November, we still have plenty scope for making fun at home. Indeed, home is the best place to rediscover the joyful spirit of those celebrations, as they were family celebrations before they became bigger ones. If you have children, this might be a great time to introduce them to the cultural roots behind the festivals. Hallowe'en in the UK has its origins in the Celtic festival of Samhain, a "thin time," when the world of the living and that of the dead were brought close together. Among the festivities were simple games, playing tricks & practical jokes, and dressing up. Like many Pagan festivals, the beliefs and activities of Samhain were given a Christian gloss by the fifth and sixth century missionaries as a way of explaining and promoting their faith. The "thin time" sits comfortably with the theology behind All Saints' and All Soul

After Dinner Drinking

You know how it is: you've had a lovely dinner and a fine selection of wines; you're not ready to finish just yet as you're enjoying the company and want to relax a little before everyone's on their way, but you're not sure more wine has the right feel about it. Just as the aperitif developed to "open up" the appetite to the dinner that follows, so many countries have created "digestive" drinks to relax the body and aid digestion, so that diners aren't waddling home uncomfortably full. One for the road needs to be a small one, and small ones are often strong ones. A friend coined the term "sippy-sippy drinks," which I think gleefully captures the style of these strong, sometimes very sweet drinks that are not to be approached lightly. Many cultures serve neat spirit at the end of the evening. It's certainly true that brandy, whiskey and such have a warming, relaxing effect on the way down. Whether they make any difference to you


 " He was a bold man that first ate an oyster." Jonathan Swift I wrote last week about preparing octopus for the table. I'm quite convinced that more people would eat cephalopods like octopus and squid if they knew how to prepare and cook them. I'm less sure that's the case with oysters. For all their aphrodisiac reputation, they're not the prettiest thing; not the sort of thing you would look on and assume to be delicious. I suspect the first person to eat an oyster was not so much bold as hungry, and willing to try anything for the sake of filling their belly. Oysters were once so plentiful in British waters that they were eaten only by the poor, having little or no value. It is only with over-fishing and habitat destruction that they have become rare enough to entice the rich. One mistake people make when they first try oysters is they imagine they must be served raw. We all know this is the popular way to serve them, but there are many delicious recipes fo