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The Peacock's Tale

The Peacock's Tales

When working with vintage materials I often wonder about the people who originally owned them; daydreaming whilst embroidering is the best way to spend a couple of hours!  I'm fascinated by our folk heritage; ancient traditions, customs, songs and tales reflecting a way of life that has all but disappeared, even from our collective memory.  In The Peacock’s Tales I'd like to celebrate those connections to our past and revel in the seasonality they often reflect.  Do share your stories too; it would be wonderful to hear from you.

By Vivien Massery, Nov 22 2015 10:41AM

Today is Stir Up Sunday, the Sunday before Advent. In the Anglican Church the collect for the day begins "Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord...", hence the name. "It warns the Sussex housewife of the approach of Christmas, and to commence to "stir-up" her plum pudding, and tells the grocer to stock his shop-window with Christmas fruits for sale", so says the Sussex Archaelogical Collections of 1883.

I've never made a Christmas Pudding but I do like to make my own mincemeat and Christmas cake and so my Stir-up Sunday usually involves bags of raisins, sultanas, suet, citrus rinds, brown sugar and copious amounts of brandy. However this year I thought I'd look back to earlier times, a Medieval Christmas, and forgo the mincemeat and fruit cake for a beautifully fragrant and rich gingerbread; a proper gingerbread full of ground ginger, stem ginger and all the other wonderful spices that signify Christmas and it'll be made a little nearer the time. So today, to get in the mood and to mark Stir-up Sunday I'm going to make my Aunty Glad's Ginger Cake; comforting, sticky, delicious and redolent of childhood Sunday afternoon teas in a tiny cottage in Cefn-y-Bedd in North Wales. And, in case you'd like to bake your own gingery goodness, here is the recipe:

Aunty Glad's Ginger Cake

275g (10oz) self raising flour

1 level teaspoon salt

2 level teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/2 level teaspoons ground ginger

1/2 level teaspoon nutmeg

225g (8oz ) demerara sugar

175g (6oz) melted trex (a solid vegetable product for baking)

225g (8oz) black treacle

2 beaten eggs

150ml (1/4 pint) of milk

75g (3oz) sultanas

Grease and line a deep 7" (19cm) cake tin and preheat oven to Gas mark 3, 170 C

Sift together the flour, salt and spices and stir in the sugar. Add the melted trex, treacle and beaten eggs. Beat well then add the milk and sultanas. Pour into the cake tin and bake for one and a half hours or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

And whether you're making mincemeat, puddings or cake don't forget the most important thing, everybody in the family gets to stir the mixture and make a wish! Now what am I going to wish for......

Stir up, we beseech thee,

The pudding in the pot,

And when we get home,

We'll eat it all hot.

(Children's old rhyme)

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"The time has come the Walrus said to talk of many things; of shoes - of ships - of sealing wax-  

of cabbages and kings."

Through the Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll