25 October 2011

25 October - Saints Crispin and Crispinian; Crispin Apple Crisp

At Soissons, in France, in the persecution of Diocletian, the holy martyrs Crispin and Crispinian,  noble Romans. Under the governor Rictiovarus,  after horrible torments, they were put to the sword,  and thus obtained the crown of martyrdom. Their  bodies were afterwards conveyed to Rome, and entombed with due honors in the church of St.  Lawrence, in Panisperna. [Although a Kentish tradition holds that their bodies were thrown into the sea and washed ashore in the vicinity of Lydd.]

Today is the feast of Saints Crispin and Crispinian,  patrons of shoemakers, cobblers, tanners, saddle-makers, and other who work with leather.  They were 3rd century Romans, perhaps brothers, perhaps even twin brothers, who settled in Soissons (northern France) and set about preaching and converting the inhabitants by day, and making shoes by night.  They were denounced as Christians, tortured, and beheaded.  You can read the story of Crispin and Crispinian in the Golden Legend.

The most famous mention of Saint Crispin and Saint Crispinian is in the speech of Henry V before the Battle of Agincourt (1415), as written by Shakespeare:

"This day is call'd the feast of Crispian: 
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, 
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age, 
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say, "To-morrow is Saint Crispian:"
Then will he strip his sleeve, and show his scars,
And say "These wounds I had on Crispin's day."
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day; then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words,
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter, 
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so base,
This day shall gentle his condition: 
And gentlemen in England, now abed,
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here;
And hold their manhoods cheap, whiles any speaks 
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day." 
William Shakespeare, The Life of King Henry V, Act IV, Scene iii.

"In France a cobbler's kit of tools was known as his Saint-Crepin. The bootjack was St. Crispin's stole, the awl St. Crispin's lance.  Of a person too tightly booted it is said that he is "in the prison of St. Crispin."  Formerly the cobblers worked at night with a large spherical bottle full of water between them and their candle or lamp.  This was known as St. Crispin's lamp, and its invention was attributed to Crispin himself.William S. Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs (1898), p. 294.

This was the high holiday of the shoemakers.  The guild, dressed in their best, marched to the church with banners and music, where a High Mass was celebrated. A banquet followed, over which the rule of 'King Crispin' held sway, with dancing to round out the festivities.

A good way to celebrate today would be to donate a pair of shoes to the local homeless shelter, woman's shelter, Saint Vincent de Paul Society, Goodwill, or any of a number of good causes.  Clean out your closet, or go and buy a stout pair of shoes, and take them to one of the aforementioned.  You will be in my prayers for your charity.

For tea or dessert tonight, The Feast Day Cookbook (by Katherine Burton and Helmut Ripperger) suggests a Fruit Cobbler in honor of the cobbler saints, with a recipe easy enough for cook's helpers to attempt.  In the same vein, I propose:

(Ahem! Thou shalt not groan in mental anguish, neither shalt thou roll thy eyes, lest The Widow box thy ears for thy effrontery!)

Crispin Apples look like large Golden Delicious.  Of course, any good cooking apple will do.

Preheat oven to 375° F.   Grease a square pan, 8" x 8" x 2".

Wash, dry, peel, core, and slice 4 Crispin Apples [or any cooking apple; last year I used 5 small Macintosh Apples.  This year I have an abundance of Granny Smiths].  Arrange apple slices in the greased square pan,

In a bowl, mix together 2/3 cup of packed brown sugar [3/4 cup if you are using very tart apples], 1/2 cup of flour, 1/2 cups of oats, and 3/4 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg.  Stir in 1/3 cup of softened butter or margarine [or you can cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, if it is not softened enough to mix easily with the dry ingredients]; mix well together.

Sprinkle topping evenly over apples.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown and apples are tender.  Serve warm [ice cream goes really well with warm apple crisp, trust me].

And for your drinking pleasure, perhaps Crispin the Saint ("Elevated Hard Apple Cider") from the Crispin Cider Company.