30 June 2012

30 June - Saint Paul; Baked Swordfish

Weather - If it is bright and clear on St. Paul’s day, we will have full bellies and full purses.


Peter the Apostle and Paul the Doctor to the Gentiles have themselves taught us Thy law, O Lord.
In all the earth their voice has gone forth.
And their words unto the ends of the earth.

O God, whose right hand raised up blessed Peter the Apostle when he was walking on the waves, lest he be submerged, and saved his fellow apostle Paul from the depth of the sea when he was shipwrecked for the third time, hear us graciously and grant that we may pursue the glory of eternity by the favors of both.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, O God, world without end.  Amen.


Saint Paul is celebrated on the same day as Saint Peter (29 July), but as mentioned before, two major celebrations on one day, with a pontifical Mass at one church for Saint Peter, a solemn procession, and a pontifical Mass at another church for Saint Paul, got to be too much, and Pope Gregory split the celebration into two days.

Of Paul’s martyrdom, The Golden Legend relates:
“And as he was led to the place of his passion in the gate of Hostence, a noble woman named Plautilla, a disciple of Paul… met there with Paul, which weeping, commended her to his prayers.  To whom Paul said: Farewell, Plautilla, daughter of everlasting health, lend to me thy veil or keverchief with which thou coverest thy head, that I may bind mine eyes therewith, and afterwards I shall restore it to thee again…. Then when he came to the place of his passion, he turned him toward the east, holding his hands up to heaven right long, with tears praying in his own language and thanking our Lord, and after that bade his brethren farewell, and bound his eyes himself with the keverchief of Plautilla, and kneeling down on both knees, stretched forth his neck, and so was beheaded.”

The church of San Paolo alle Tre Fontane, in Rome, is built over three fountains which tradition ascribes to the three places where the head of St. Paul fell and bounced after being cut off by the executioner.  It is said that the waters vary in warmth, the first, where the head fell, being hottest and the springs of the two bounces successively cooler.

In iconography, Paul's usual attribute is a sword, signifying both his spiritual warfare and his martyrdom.  When he holds it upright, it is the 'good fight' that is represented; point down, it is his death.  He may also hold a book, and sometimes even twelve scrolls representing his epistles.

Glads with sword-like leaves

Gardening: Gladiolus, which comes from the Latin for sword, is a suitable flower for St. Paul.  The tall varieties can reach grow as much as five feet, although two foot high plants are the usual. Start planting the corms in mid-spring (May if you have long cold winters (like the Smallest State), April if you live in warmer climes), staggering the planting every week or two, to get a succession of blooms.  Choose a very sunny spot in the garden.  Since they don’t winter-over well, especially in the northern tier of states (meaning you would need to dig up the corms in the fall and store them until spring), you might want to plant them in a raised bed where you can easily retrieve the corms.


And, of course, what would be more suitable for today’s dinner than swordfish?  This sport fish can be fixed any number of delicious ways – sautéed in a little butter, broiled, baked… it dries out easily, so remember to brush it with melted butter if you broil or bake, and thereafter baste it with pan drippings or more melted butter.  This recipe for BAKED SWORDFISH uses mayonnaise to keep the fish from drying out.

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Dust swordfish steaks with salt and pepper.  Spread each generously with mayonnaise and sprinkle first with instant minced onion and then with fine dry breadcrumbs or crushed cracker or corn flake crumbs. [I’ve tried using fresh minced onion – tastes good, but it is a lot of work]

Bake for about 30 minutes.  Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

To drink?  Well, if you don’t want to take Saint Paul’s advice and ‘take a little wine for thy stomach’s sake’, how about St. Pauli Girl?

Tintoretto, Martyrdom of St. Paul. c 1556.  Madonna dell’Orto.
The woodcut is from a 1489 Dutch edition of The Golden Legend.

29 June 2012

29 June - Saints Peter and Paul; Broiled Haddock

Weather – If it rains on the day of Saints Peter and Paul, it will rain for the next 30 days.
It always rains on St. Peter’s day

[so, putting two and two together…]

[there was a light shower this morning in my part of the Smallest State… enough to make the grass wet]


“At Rome, the birthday of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, who suffered martyrdom on the same day, under the emperor Nero.  Within the city the former was crucified with his head downwards, and buried in the Vatican, near the Triumphal way, where he is venerated by the whole world.  The latter was put to the sword and buried on the Ostian way, where he receives similar honors.”
Roman Martyrology

Tradition says that Peter, escaping from certain execution in Rome, met Jesus on the Appian Way:
“The brethren then, when the prison was opened, prayed Peter to go thence, and he would not, but at the last he being overcome by their prayers went away.  And when he came to the gate…which is called Sancta Maria ad passus, he met Jesu Christ coming against him, and Peter said to him: Lord, whither goest thou?  And he said to him: I go to Rome for to be crucified again, and Peter demanded him: Lord, shalt thou be crucified again, And he said: Yea, and Peter said then: Lord, I shall return again then for to be crucified with thee.  This said, our Lord ascended into heaven, Peter beholding it, which wept sore.  And when Peter understood that our Lord had said to him of his passion, he returned…”  The Golden Legend

And of course, he was condemned.  As a non-citizen of Rome, he could be killed in any way that the Romans chose, and they chose crucifixion.

“…when Peter came to the cross, he said: When my Lord descended from heaven to the earth he was put on the cross right up, but me whom it pleaseth him to call from the earth to heaven, my cross shall show my head to the earth and address my feet to heaven, for I am not worthy to be put on the cross like as my Lord was, therefore turn my cross and crucify me my head downward.  Then they turned the cross, and fastened his feet upward and the head downward.”   The Golden Legend

Thus was born into heaven the Prince of the Apostles.

Gardening: The spring-blooming Cowslip is called St. Peter’s Keys, because the flower-head suggests a bunch of keys (suggests being the operative word) and keys are a symbol of Saint Peter. Supposedly, a German legend says that Saint Peter found some impure souls trying to sneak into heaven through a back gate, and this so upset him that managed to drop his Heavenly Keys.  Where they landed, cowslips bloomed.

Of course, once the ideas of keys took hold, the next belief was that the flower could reveal hidden treasures.

Plant it in the autumn in a sunny spot in your garden so that it can winter over and provide a bright spot of color come spring.


Last year, I gave you a recipe for Flaked Haddock Newburg (haddock being one of the fishes carrying the fingerprint of St. Peter).  This year, try BROILED HADDOCK FILLETS.

Butter a shallow baking pan or broiler rack.
Divide a grapefruit into twelve sections.

Wipe 1 ½ pounds of haddock fillets with a damp cloth, then dust both sides with salt and pepper (1 teaspoon of salt, 1/8 teaspoon of pepper total).  Place fillets on baking pan or rack.

Mix together ¾ cup of soft bread cubes or crumbs with ¼ teaspoon of dried thyme.  Melt 2 tablespoons of butter; stir in bread-crumbs until moistened.  Sprinkle over the fillets.  Top fillets with grapefruit sections.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter; brush butter over grapefruit sections.

Set oven temperature to low broil (400º).  Place the pan under the broiler and broil for about 25 minutes or until the fish is flaky.

Artwork: The woodcut is from a 1489 Dutch edition of The Golden Legend
The Martyrdom of St. Peter is from the Breviary of Martin of Aragon c 1400, Bibliothèque Nationale de France.  The others have no information with them.

24 June 2012

24 June - Nativity of John the Baptist

Weather:  If it rains on St. John's Day, nuts will go bad and wicked women will thrive; however, apples, pears and plums will not be hurt.

Midsummer rain spoils hay and grain.

If it rains on St. John's Day, we may expect a wet harvest.

If it rains on St. John’s Day, it will rain another four weeks.


Gardening: The best hay is made before midsummer

St. John’s Day is considered a good time for sowing, and when the sun shines on his day, nuts will be abundant during the coming year [this being an election year, an abundance of nuts is a sure bet.]

If you lop a tree on St. John’s Day it will wither.

Cut your thistles before St. John, 
you will have two instead of one 
[so leave those thistles standing another day]

Up to St. John’s day, wine is fit only for peasants 
[in other words, the wine of last year’s vintage is not good until after Midsummer.  Fine.  Along with the thistles, leave last year’s vintage alone for another day.  Or be a peasant with me.]


Blessed be the Lord God of Israel;

Because he hath visited and wrought the redemption of his people:
And hath raised up an horn of salvation to us, in the house of David his servant:
As he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets, who are from the beginning:
Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us:
To perform mercy to our fathers, and to remember his holy testament,
The oath, which he sware to Abraham our father, that he would grant to us,
That being delivered from the hand of our enemies, we may serve him without fear,
In holiness and justice before him, all our days.

And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest:
For thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways:
To give knowledge of salvation to his people, unto the remission of their sins:
Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high hath visited us
To enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death:
To direct our feet into the way of peace.

The Canticle of Zachary    Luke 1:68-79

The woodcut above is from a 1489 Dutch edition of The Golden Legend.  In it we see St. Elizabeth looking peaceful after her ordeal; an attendant smiling; the Virgin (also smiling) holding St. John; another attendant, steadying the baby's head [Our Lady was a virgin, after all; she might not have known how to hold babies]; and St. Zachary writing “His name is John”, for the benefit of those who wanted to name the boy after him.

That Mary stayed for the birth of John is not specifically mentioned in the Bible [so from whom did Luke get the story?], but the author of the early 14th century work, “The Life of Christ” (attributed to St. Bonaventure) stated that:  “When Elisabeth’s full time was come, she was happily delivered of a son, which our Lady received in her arms, and swaddled with becoming care.  The infant, as if conscious of the majesty of its nurse, fixed his eyes steadfastly upon her, so taken with her beauty, that when she delivered him again to his mother, he still looked towards her, as if he could take delight in none but her, while she delighted in playing with him and embraced and sweetly kissed him.”  Another legend of the Virgin says that she prolonged her visit, received the child in her arms, and presented him to Zachary.  These and several other meditations influenced the iconography of this scene.


St. John is one of three whose birthday is celebrated by the Church – the other two being Our Lord and the Virgin Mary.  As such, the festivities were large and varied, with pomp and ceremony, with dancing, feasting, and (of course) bonfires.

Naturally, that good Protestant Naogeorgus couldn’t let the day pass without bemoaning those silly Papist customs:

"Then doth the joyful feast of John the Baptist take his turn,
When bonfires great, with lofty flame, in every town do burn,
And young men round about with maids do dance in every street,
With garlands wrought of Motherwort, or else with Vervain sweet,
And many other flowers fair, with Violets in their hands,
Whereas they all do fondly think, that whosoever stands,
And through the flowers beholds the flame, his eyes shall feel no pain.
When thus ‘til night they danced have, they through the fire a-main,
With striving minds, do run, and all their herbs they cast therein,
And then with words devout and prayers they solemnly begin,
Desiring God that all their ills may there consumed be;
Whereby they think through all that year from agues to be free.
Some others get a rotten wheel, all worn and cast aside,
Which covered round about with straw and tow, they closely hide;
And carried to some mountain’s top, being all with fire light,
They hurl it down with violence, when dark appears the night,
Resembling much the sun, that from the Heavens down should fall,
A strange and monstrous sight it seems, and fearful to them all,
But they suppose their mischiefs all are likewise thrown to hell,
And that from harms and dangers now, in safety here they dwell.”

The heck with him!  Wear yellow today (the color of the sun), renew your baptismal vows, build a (fully protected) bonfire, dance, and feast your friends. 

And give thanks to God for his continuing mercies.

For a fuller explanation, please see The Catholic Encyclopedia: St. John the BaptistCatholic Culture: June 24 has more information and several activities and recipes for celebrating this feast.   Fisheaters beautifully ties together the story of John and the customs surrounding his day, including a blessing for St. John's Bonfire.

23 June 2012

23 June - More Midsummer Night Love Charms

I published a slew of love charms for Midsummer night here, and added a few variations.  Midsummer Night Traditions has also been updated.

Here is another to add to the collection:

Pluck a sprig of St. John’s Wort tonight and stick it in the wall of your bedroom.  Should it still be fresh and green in the morning, you may reckon on gaining a suitor within the year.

[Should it remain fresh and green, it means your walls are damp, and you can also reckon on having mold within the year.]

There is a down-side to this.  Should the sprig droop, the belief is that the seeker after knowledge would also pine and wither away.

On the St. John’s Wort

The young maid stole through the cottage door,
And blushed as she sought the plant of power;
“Thou silver Glowworm, O lend me thy light!
I must gather the mystic St. John’s Wort tonight,
The wonderful herb whose leaf will decide
If the coming year shall make me a bride.”
And the Glowworm came
With its silvery flame,
And sparkled and shone
Through the night of St. John,
And soon has the young maid her loveknot tied.

With noiseless tread, to her chamber she sped,
Where the spectral Moon her white beams shed.
“Bloom here – bloom here, thou plant of power,
To deck the young bride in her bridal hour!”
But it drooped its head, that plant of power,
And died the mute death of the voiceless flower;
And a withered wreath on the ground it lay,
More meet for a burial than bridal day.

And when a year was past away,
All pale on her bier the young maid lay!
And the Glowworm came
With its silvery flame,
And sparkled and shone
Through the night of St. John,
And they closed the cold grave o’er the maid’s cold clay.

T. Forster, The Perennial Calendar (1824), p. 310.


[This charm is not for those with dickey tickers:]

Before retiring to bed tonight, place three pails full of water in your bedroom, then pin to your nightgown or pajamas [do, please, wear something] three leaves of green holly opposite to your heart.  Then go to sleep.

If the charm works, you will be awakened from your first slumber by three yells “as if from the throats of three bears”, followed by many hoarse laughs.  When these have died away, the form of a man will appear.  If he is to be your future husband, he will change the position of the water pails.  If not, he will leave without touching them.

Then go back to sleep, if you can.

19 June 2012

19 June - Birth of Prince James of Scotland

Weather - If it rains on the day of Saint Protais and Gervais, it will rain for forty days after.

Today in 1566, the future King James VI of Scotland and I of England was born to Mary, Queen of Scots and her husband King Henry (aka Lord Darnley), in Edinburgh Castle.

That the child was born alive and healthy and of a goodly size was no thanks to his father, who, the previous March, had entered into a pact with certain rebellious nobles to murder his wife’s private secretary in her presence, with the tacit understanding that if – you know – the Queen (six months pregnant at the time) somehow – you know – DIED in the confusion, either directly or by a miscarriage, Henry would – you know – become king of Scotland in his own right, instead of merely the queen’s husband.

The murder of Rizzio is well-known, as is Queen Mary’s escape from almost certain death at the hands of the rebels (one of whom held a pistol to her stomach and threatened to fire) and her grueling five-hour ride to safety.

Three months later, again in command, with the assassins hiding at a safe distance, the queen ceremoniously entered her well-appointed lying-in chamber in Edinburgh Castle, according to the use of the time, on the 3rd of June.  In the intervening time, as she waited for the birth, she wrote out her will, summoned her principal nobility (those who had not been ordered to quit the realm) to come to Edinburgh, took the air within the precincts of the castle and at least once beyond it (always with an eye out for those who might return and finish the murderous night of the previous March), and wrote a preliminary letter to the Queen of England announcing the arrival of an heir, leaving a blank to be filled with either “son” or “daughter”, as God would be pleased to grant her.

On Wednesday, the 19th day of June, between nine and ten in the morning, the queen was safely delivered of a fair and goodly son, after a long and hard labor which further threatened her already frail health.  The blank space in the letter to Elizabeth was filled in, and between eleven and twelve that morning, Lady Boyne came to James Melville and told him that their prayers being granted, he must carry Mary's letter to London with all diligence. "It struck twelve hours," says Sir James, "when I took my horse, and I was at Berwick that same night.”

King Henry, known better to us as Lord Darnley, wrote immediately to Mary’s uncle, the Cardinal of Guise:
“From the Castle of Edinburgh, this 19th day of June, 1566, in great haste. Sir, my uncle,—Having so favourable an opportunity of writing to you by this gentleman, who is on the point of setting off, I would not omit to inform you that the queen, my wife, has just been delivered of a son, which circumstance, I am sure, will not cause you less joy than ourselves; and also to inform you how, on this occasion, I have, on my part, as the queen, my said wife, has also on hers, written to the king, begging him to be pleased to oblige and honour us by standing sponsor for him, by which means he will increase the debt of gratitude I owe him for all his favours to me, for which I shall always be ready to make every return in my power.
So, having nothing more agreeable to inform you of at present, I conclude, praying God, monsieur my uncle, to have you always in His holy and worthy keeping.
Your very humble and very obedt. nephew,
Henry R.
Please to present my commendations to madame the Dowager de Guise."

At two o'clock the same afternoon, Henry, attended by his equerry Sir William Standen, came to visit the Queen and see his child.  Knowing, as she did, that her husband was not to be trusted and even at this hour might endanger the eventual succession of her child by a petty act of malice, Mary forestalled any possible claim of illegitimacy by assembling a numerous company in her chambers for the purpose of witnessing the presentation of her child to her husband for his public affirmation of paternity.  Holding the baby in her arms and uncovering his face, she presented him to her husband.

"My Lord, God has given you and me a son whose paternity is of none but you.  Here I protest to God, and as I shall answer to Him at the great day of judgment, this is your son, and no other man's son; and I am desirous that all here, both ladies and other, bear witness.”  In her own spurt of malice, she could not forbear adding,  as Henry kissed the baby and acknowledged him, “For he is so much your own son that I fear it may be the worse for him hereafter." A remonstrance from her husband that she had promised to forgive all and forget all then opened the floodgates of reproach. "I have forgiven all," she replied "but can never forget.  What if Faudonside's pistol had shot?—what would have become of him [her son] and me both? or what estate would you have been in?  God only knows, but we may suspect."

For the rest of the day, and for several days after, the intelligence was received everywhere throughout Scotland, with sincere demonstrations of joy.  The happy tidings of the safety of the Queen, and the birth of the Prince of Scotland, were announced by a triumphant discharge of the castle guns and hailed with unbounded transports of joy in Edinburgh; bonfires blazed the same night on Arthur Seat and the Calton Hill, which were repeated on all the beacon stations through the length and breadth of the land.

On the following day, all the nobility in the town, the civil dignitaries, and a vast concourse of citizens, went in solemn procession to the church of St. Giles, and offered up thanksgiving for so signal a mercy shown to the queen and the whole realm.  The Protestant divine Spottiswood was deputed to wait on the queen, and testify to the gladness of the Kirk for the birth of the Prince, at the same time desiring that he should be baptized after the manner practised in the Reformed Church.  Mary, a staunch Catholic, was determined to have her son christened according to the rites which had governed the baptism of Scottish princes for centuries, but she received Spottiswood in her lying-in chamber, and accepted his congratulations very graciously. In a politic move of toleration, she placed her son in the arms of the venerable man, who immediately knelt and delivered a short but very eloquent prayer in behalf of the newborn heir of Scotland.  At the conclusion of the prayer, Spottiswood playfully addressed the little prince, desiring him to "say Amen for himself," to which the baby made some little cooing murmur as if in response to the prayer of the delighted Presbyterian minister.

When the news was conveyed to England, it was far from being heard with so much satisfaction. Melville arrived in London four days after leaving Edinburgh and found queen and court at Greenwich.  Everyone knows how Elizabeth received the news – one minute dancing, the next sinking down in an excess of emotion exclaiming that the Queen of Scotland was lighter of a fair son, and that she was but a barren stock.  On the following day, she consented to be godmother to the new prince of Scotland, and although she could not attend the christening in person, would send both honorable lords and ladies in her place.

In September, Mary’s infant son was established in a princely household in Stirling Castle, with the Earl of Mar as his governor, Lady Mar as his governess, and Lady Reres in charge of his chamber.  A certain Mistress Margaret Little was his head nurse, with four or five women under her  as "keepers of the royal clothes.”  Five ladies of distinction were appointed to the honorable office of "rockers" of the prince's cradle.  For his kitchen, James had a master-cook, a pastry-cook, a foreman, and three other servitors, also one for his pantry, one for his wine, and two for his ale-cellar.  He had also three valets de chambre, a "furnisher of coals," and five musicians. For this household there was a fixed allowance of provisions, consisting of bread, beef, veal, mutton, capons, chickens, pigeons, fish, pottages, wine, and ale.

The following memorandum written by Queen Mary concerning the furnishing of the prince’s chamber was found in David Hay Fleming’s book,  Mary Queen of Scots: from her birth to her flight into England.  Fleming notes that “this is apparently the order for the furnishing of the first nursery of the infant Prince at Stirling.”

I have provided a translation below based on the Dictionary of the Scots Language.

"Ane Memoriall of sik necessaris as are neidfull and requeseit for my Loirde prince chalmer.

First tuay cofferis.
Ten hankis off gold and ten hankis of silver the fynest that can be gottin.  Threttie elnis of fyne camberage.
Four pound of fyne suyng threide.
Sax pound of secundar threid in divers sortis.
Fourtie tuay elne of blew ostage to be ane cuvering of ane bed and ane cannabie to the Laidie Reres.
Sax elnis of plaiding to lyne the cuvering with.
Tuelf ellis of fustean to be ane matt and bowster with ane codde.
Tuay stane of woll to put in the matt.
Ane stane of fedderis to put in the bowster.
Auchtein elnis of camves to be the pavilyeas and the cuvering of the pavilyeas.
Five elnis of blankattis. And the trees of ane bedde.
Tuay skenyeis of girdis to bind up the bedde.
Thre scoir elnis of small linnyng to be schetis to the Ladie Reres and the maistres nureis.
Fyftein elne of blew plading for to mak ane cannabie to the rokaris.
Twentie four elnis of fustean to mak tuay mattis and tuay bowsteris.
Nyn elne of camves to dowbill thame.
Four stane of woll to the tuay mattis.
Tuay stane of fedderis to the bowsteris.
Threttie sax elnis of camves to be the tuay pavilyeasis and the tuay cuveringis.
Four skenye of girdis to bind thame with.
Tuay cuveringis of tapestrie.
Tuelf elnis of blankattis.
Sax scoir elnis of linnyng for to serve in my Loirde prince chalmer and to be schetis to the rokaris.
Tuelf elne of rownd cleith to be schetis to the servandis that lyis on my Loirde prince uter chalmer.
Ane cuvering.
Aucht elnis of camves to be ane pavilyeas.

Thesaurire, forsamekle as this memoriall being sein be yow, we chairge yow thatt sik necessaris as ar contenit in this former memoriall ye caus the sammyn be ansourit incontinent, becaus the sammyn is requesit and verray neidfull to be had. And this ye feill nocht to do, but ony delay as ye will mak us thankfull service. Subscrivit with our hand, at Striuiling Castell, the fyft of September 1566.
Marie R."

A Memorandum of such necessaries as are needful and requisite for my Lord prince’s chamber

First, two coffers.
Ten hanks [as in a coil or loop, like yarn] of gold and ten hanks of silver, the finest that can be got.  Thirty ells of fine cambric.
Four pounds of fine sewing thread.
Six pounds of second-quality thread in diverse kinds.

Then material for a bed for Lady Reres:
Forty-two ells of blue serge to be a covering for a bed and a canopy for [the use of ] the Lady Reres.
Six ells of woolen cloth to line the covering with [plaiding, a woolen cloth of which plaids are made]
Twelve ells of fustian to be a mattress and bolster with one cushion [this would be the upper mattress]
Two stone of wool to put in the mattress [a stone being 28-32 lbs]
A stone of feathers to put in the bolster.
Eighteen ells of canvas to be the palliasse and the covering of the palliasse [a sack of course cloth which was stuffed with straw, chaff, feathers, etc., for use as a mattress.  For Lady Reres, this would be the lower mattress]
Five ells of woolen cloth for blankets.  And the wood of one bed.
Two skeins of banding to bind up the bed [as in the criss-crossed rope of a rope-bed]
Sixty ells of fine linen to be sheets for the Lady Reres and the head nurse.

Then furnishings for two beds for the Rockers, the attendants whose duty it was to rock a child in its cradle; in the case of royal infants, women of rank:
Fifteen ells of blue woolen cloth to make a canopy for the rockers.
Twenty-four ells of fustian to make two mattresses and two bolsters.
Nine ells of canvas to line the same.
Four stone of wool to the two mattresses.
Two stone of feathers to the bolsters.
Thirty-six ells of canvas to be the two palliasses and the two coverings.
Four skeins of banding to bind the same with.
Two coverings of tapestry.
Twelve ells of woolen cloth for blankets.
One hundred twenty ells of linen for use in my Lord prince’s chamber and to be sheets for the rockers.

The servitors who slept in the outer chamber were not forgotten:
Twelve ells of round cloth to be sheets to the servers that lie in my Lord prince’s outer chamber.
A covering.
Eight ells of canvas to be a palliasse.

Treasurer, forasmuch as you have seen this memorandum, we charge you to furnish immediately the same necessities as are contained in this memorandum, because they are requisite and very needful.  Do not fail to do this, without any delay, if you would give us pleasing service.  Signed by our hand at Stirling Castle, the fifth of September 1566.
Marie R.

Meanwhile, Mary recovered her health and planned the christening of her son to be held in December, choosing the names Charles James, James Charles, and his hereditary titles, Prince and Steward of Scotland, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Lord of the Isles, and Baron of Renfrew, to be proclaimed three times by heralds, at the sound of trumpets. ‘Charles’, of course, was in compliment to her brother-in-law Charles IX of France, one of the godfathers; and ‘James’, because, as she said, her father and all the good kings of Scotland, his predecessors, had been called by that name.

Within a year, however, it all changed.  King Henry would be murdered, Queen Mary forced to abdicate and flee to the ‘protection’ of the queen of England, and the baby Charles James, James Charles crowned as King James VI of Scotland.

17 June 2012

17 June - Sow Your Swedes Today

Traditionally, this is the day to sow swedes.  But before you go looking for your Nordic neighbors, this is a swede:
swiped from Wikipedia

Aka swedish turnip or rutabaga (itself a Swedish word).

“A root vegetable which belongs to the Mustard family and is closely related to cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, and turnips.  Rutabaga is larger than the turnip, has smooth yellowish skin and flesh, and smooth leaves.  The flesh has a typical sweet flavor.  There are white varieties of rutabaga, but the yellow is the best known.”  Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery (1966), Vol. 10, p. 1574.

Rutabagas have been food for both man and beast for a couple of centuries.  Cattle love them, and in reasonable amounts, rutabagas, like turnips, are good for them.  They are a late crop, and keep well, so are good for feeding livestock over the winter.  However, one farmer says that turnips give cattle bad breath, so it's likely swedes will also.  Don't go getting friendly with the cows when they've been in the turnip patch.

Rutabagas are also good people food, and can be cooked in any way that turnips are cooked.  I like them mashed with onions, butter, and salt, myself, but they can also be boiled, fried, baked, pickled, and even eaten raw. 

So when your swedes show up, or you pick up one at the farmer’s market, try RUTABAGA AU GRATIN:

(For some reason, saying “first prepare your swede by washing it” sounds like a near occasion for sin, so I will stick with its Swedish name.)

First prepare your rutabaga by washing it well (it is a root vegetable after all); pare it, then cube it.  A nice sized rutabaga will produce about 4 cups cubed, which is what you need for this recipe.

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Bring a pot with 1 inch of salted water to a boil (a teaspoon of sugar improves the flavor as well), add the rutabaga, and cook, covered, until it is tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.  Drain.  Put the cooked rutabaga in a shallow baking dish.

Shred sharp cheddar cheese to equal 1 cup.

In a saucepan, melt ¼ cup of butter; stir in ¼ cup of flour.  Gradually stir in 2 cups of milk, and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth.  Add the shredded cheese and stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the cheese sauce over the rutabaga.  Mix ½ cup of soft bread crumbs with 2 tablespoons of melted butter; sprinkle them over the sauce.

Bake in a hot oven for about 15 minutes.

(and never forget the rutabaga's champion, Les Nessman...)

15 June 2012

15 June - Valdemarsdag; Smorrebrod

Weather: If Saint Vitus Day be rainy weather, it will rain for thirty days together.

If it rains on St. Vitus’ day, the year will be fruitful.
                 on the other hand
When it rains on St. Vitus’ day, half of the grapes will be destroyed.
When St. Vitus’ day is rainy, the oats will not thrive.

Gardening: It is traditional to sow cabbages today.

This is Valdemarsdag – Valdemar’s Day – in Denmark, honoring one of their greatest kings and their country’s flag.

Valdemar II “the Victorious” (1170-1241), was the younger son of Valdemar I, “the Great”.  After his elder brother’s death in 1202, he was proclaimed king with the general consent of the nation. In his own age and in those immediately succeeding his death, he was looked upon as the perfect model of a noble knight and royal hero.

The first half of his reign was an almost unbroken period of conquest and prosperity. Valdemar was invested by the Emperor Frederick with Holstein, Lauenburg, Schwerin, and other north German provinces which he had conquered, while the Pope granted him sovereignty over all heathen lands that he might convert to Christianity.   With this in mind, he embarked in 1219 on a crusade against the pagans of Estonia and their allies who were devastating the fledgling Christian communities there.

“For this purpose a most formidable naval armament was equipped, such as had never been known in the North. The fleet is said to have consisted of 1400 vessels of various descriptions; 500 were of the small light barks called snekker, containing, besides the steersman and rowers, one man-at-arms, with an archer; other 500 were long ships, called dragons or serpents, each carrying 120 men; the remaining 400 were left behind for the defense of the seacoasts. The monarch was accompanied with the flower of his nobility and prelates…”  and an army numbering, in one account, about 60,000 men.

This was terrifying enough to the locals, and they immediately capitulated.  Or said they did.  Some three days after this feigned submission, they attacked the Danes on the 15th of June while the king and his army were at Mass.

Tradition says that the hard-fought battle was going against the Danes, when a red cloth with a white cross on it dropped from the sky, a miracle which put new heart into the Danish forces, so that they were able to defeat the Estonians.  This cloth – the Dannebrog – became the national standard.

In the years before his death, Valdemar worked to codify the mixed and heterogeneous legislation which up to this time was made at the local level.  The Code of Jutland was published at the national assembly of the Dannehof in 1240, and continued in force until 1687, when new laws were framed.

An amusing tale is told of Valdemar, in which Saint Anders, upon petitioning the king on behalf of the people of Slagelse, was told that the king would give them as much land as the holy man could ride round “on a colt a day old, during the time the king was in the bath.  He took the king at his word, and rode with such speed that the courtiers were obliged, from time to time, to run to the king in the bath, saying that if he did not make haste, St. Anders would ride round the whole country. To this act the town of Slagelse is indebted for its extensive town fields.”

Valdemar’s death in 1241 was followed by internal struggles between his three sons and a period of decay, so that his reign seemed a golden age, the height of Danish glory, when her ships ruled the waves and her warriors conquered wherever they fought.  Despite the loss of his German territories, he was regarded as the greatest of the Danish conquerors, and the most patriotic of their early kings.

So in honor of Valdemar and the Danes, fly a Danish flag and enjoy the open-faced sandwiches called SMØRREBRØD, literally “buttered bread”. 

Rye is traditional, sour rye preferred, but I’ll admit to heresy and say that I’ve also used rye crisp bread – though only for appetizer-size smorrebrod.  The first layer on the bread is butter or a savory dripping from roast pork or bacon in which onions have been fried.  After that, it is up to you.  Thin slices of raw, cooked, or smoked meat (roast beef, pâté, sausage, bacon), cooked or smoked fish and shellfish (including pickled herring), cheeses like Camembert or Danish Blue… topped with colorful garnishes: scrambled or sliced hard-boiled eggs, sliced fresh tomato, pickled cucumbers, fried onions, lemon slices, sprigs of dill or parsley…  Endless possibilities.

My favorite is Roget Laks, smoked salmon with raw onion rings, followed by a spread of Camembert topped with slices of cooked bacon and fresh tomato.  And then there’s… never mind.  Check out the smorrebrod recipes here, with photos and instructions on how to set up each creation.  He even includes instructions for curing salmon.

These are good for lunch, of course, but you can also make a festive dinner out of them, by passing the buttered bread, and then the toppings, so that everyone may build their own.  Pour a good Danish pale lager into a pilsner glass and enjoy.

Image: Coin minted for King Valdemar II of Denmark, swiped from Wikipedia.

11 June 2012

Advertisement for an American Heiress, 1896

In the decades after the American Civil War, newspapers and illustrated journals published fulsome articles about the growing number of American heiress marrying European nobility.  Multi-columned reports detailed the ancestries of the happy couple, the wedding finery, the magnificent receptions, the splendid trousseaux, and sometimes even the marriage contracts.  Dowries are nothing new, and titled fortune-hunters existed long before Regency novels.  Many an impoverished family was rescued by the quick infusion of American dollars, and the young ladies received titles with which to dazzle the rest of Ward McAllister’s ‘400’.

Duchess, comtesse, princesse, baroness, lady this-and-that… well, why not Queen?  This article from London, published in our local weekly newspaper in 1896, advertised for an heiress for the young king of Serbia, Alexander I.  Of course, it is full of the British pawky sense of humor - who had certainly seen their noble houses succumb to an American invasion - but who knows?   Would Alexander have been averse to American millions?

Empty Throne Waiting for a Rich American Girl

"LONDON, ENGLAND, April 17 – The boy king, Alexander of Servia, needs ready money very badly, and he has decided that an American heiress will solve all the troubles of his bankrupt kingdom.  A throne is, therefore, awaiting any American girl who has sufficient wealth to meet the requirements.  This is probably the first time in American history that such an opportunity has been offered.

Along with the distinguished title of queen goes a palace, a crown, a collection of royal jewelry of stupendous antiquity and a number of castles scattered throughout Servia.  Servia is one of the kingdoms that sprung up out of the ruins of the Roman empire.  The people are Slavonic, with some slight traces of the Roman influence.  For centuries it was strong and independent, and then the great power of the Turkish empire forcing its way into eastern-Europe overwhelmed it. From the fourteenth century, it was a Turkish province and only at the end of the last century did it begin to assert its independence.

The king has great personal powers, is Commander in Chief of the Serivan army, and supervises acts of the national Legislature.  His queen would share to a great extant in many of his powers.  She would be mistress of a large palace in the capital, Belgrade, of the castle of Topschider, and a splendid park near the capital, and of many other residences.  She would have a great suite of ladies of the bedchamber, courtiers and chamberlains at her disposal, for although Servia is poor, there is no lack of officials with high-sounding titles.

She would receive at her court the homage of noblemen who held their feudal estates before William the Conqueror invaded England, even before the eastern empire had gone to ruin and the philosophers of Greece had ceased to teach.

The terms of the marriage contract are to include an unconditional transference to the king of a large sum of money – at least ten millions.  Servia is a very poor country, and that would go far toward maintaining its monarch in good style and enabling him to open his Legislature, the Skuptochina, in a handsome suit of clothes."

Heiresses!  This could be you!
Apply Royal Palace, Belgrade
Ten million dollar donation requested

Alexander was born August 14, 1876, the son of King Milan Obrenovic and his wife, Queen Natalja.  King Milan abdicated in 1889 when Alexander was 13, leaving his son to rule under a regency.  In 1893, the teenage king decided that he was old enough to rule on his own and got rid of the regency in a bloodless coup.  At the time when the above article was published, he was nearing his twentieth year.

While on a visit to his mother in 1896, he met and fell in love with one of her ladies-in-waiting, Madame Draga Mashin, a widow some twelve years his senior.  He seems to have had a penchant for older women, as he was said to have fallen in love with a 33-year old countess when he was fifteen and insisted on marrying her.  Wiser counsels prevailed then, but in 1900, by sending his father, the ex-king, out of the country to negotiate a marriage with a German princess, he managed to marry Draga before anyone could stop him.  This was not a popular move.

The couple was childless, and rumors abounded that one of Queen Draga’s brothers would be named heir to the throne.  Whatever the truth of that, it was used as a springboard for another palace coup, and on the morning of 11 June 1903,  King Alexander I & Queen Draga were barbarously assassinated.

He might have done better with an American heiress.

Photo: King Alexander I and Queen Draga.  Swiped from Wikipedia.

10 June 2012

10 June - Day of Portugal

Weather – If it rains on St. Margaret’s day, it will rain for fourteen days.
(this is the feast of St. Margaret of Scotland in the old calendar; in the new calendar, it is 16 November)

Today is the Dia de Portugal, de Camões e das Comunidades Portuguesas

(and the Communities Portuguese can be anywhere in the world. The Smallest State, with a large Portuguese population, usually has a large celebration to match on the weekend closest to the 10th.)

This is the national day of Portugal, honoring the descendents of Lusitania, their history and their achievements. 

The date was chosen in honor of Luís Vas de Camões, Portugal’s greatest poet, who died on this day in 1580.  He is best remembered for his epic poem, Os Lusíadas, a pæon of praise for Portugal’s voyages of exploration and discovery, most notably those of Vasco de Gama.  Read a summary of the book at Wikipedia, and the entire poem online (in English) at Project Gutenberg.

Go Lisbon has a concise history of Portugal, with places to visit from each era of its history. While you are there, check out the other pages - culture, nightlife, cuisine, and fado, not forgetting The Age of Discovery – How Portugal started globalization.

And if your area has a Portuguese celebration, go!  The food is just marvelous, and the music will have you on your feet.

In honor of the Voyages of Discovery, have SARDINHAS DE CALDEIRADA, a stew made with sardines and/or other kinds of fish (use what you have).

Salt the fish by placing 2 pounds of fish on a platter or pan; sprinkle with ½ to 1 teaspoon of salt.  Cover and let it stand for about 3 hours (I put mine in the refrigerator).

Slice 2 large onions.
Chop fresh parsley to equal ¾ cup.

Brown the onions in ½ cup of olive oil.  Add the chopped parsley, salt and pepper to taste, 2 cups of tomatoes (a 1 pound can will do – I use crushed tomatoes), 1 cup or an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce, 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper, ½ cup of white wine (give the rest to the cook) and 1-1/2 cups of water.  Simmer for about 30 minutes.

Add the fish and simmer until the fish is cooked, about 10 minutes.

Serve with bread, and (if the cook left any) the white wine.

 Bom apetite!

08 June 2012

8 June - Festival of Mens; Bouillabaisse

Weather:  If it rains on Saint Médard’s day, there will be another forty days of wet weather.

If on the eighth of June it rain
It foretells a wet harvest, man sain.

If it rains on St. Médard's day, it will rain for forty days, unless it is dry on St. Barnabas [and then all bets are off]
If it rains on St. Médard's day, there will be a wet harvest.
If it rains on the day of Saint Médard, we will not have wine nor lard.

[oh, boo!  No rain!  No rain!]


The Mind has its own goddess too.  I note a sanctuary
Was vowed to Mind, during the terror of war with you,
Perfidious Carthage. You broke the peace, and astonished
By the consul’s death, all feared the Moorish army.
Fear had driven out hope, when the Senate made their vows
To Mind, and immediately she was better disposed to them.
The day when the vows to the goddess were fulfilled
Is separated by six days from the approaching Ides.
                                                                                                                                           Ovid, Fasti, Book VI

Today, the ancient Romans invoked Mens, the female personification of the mind.  Later she became a goddess of the mind and right thinking, with a sanctuary on the Capitol.  The object of her worship, according to Sir William Smith, was that the citizens might always be guided by a right spirit. 
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography, Mythology, and Geography (1871), p. 502

I think this is a perfect day, in the midst of the season when many are calling upon their (probably depleted) brain reserves to pass tests and competitions, to serve Brain Food, which to me has always meant fish and shellfish.  And there is no better way to get a goodly variety of brain food than by enjoying BOUILLABAISSE

A true bouillabaisse should contain at least eight different kinds of fish/shellfish, and the fish should be a mix of those considered heavy (cod, haddock, sea bass) and more delicate types (sole, flounder, perch).  Traditional bouillabaisse includes eel, but I am not fond of eel, and always leave it out.  I’m also not good with lobsters, so any lobster meat added is already removed from the shells and merely heated through.  That is not traditional, though, so I will add the directions for lobsters.

As with all good peasant dishes, the amounts are general, as are the ingredients – use what you have and what you like.

Fish and shellfish
Keeping your light and heavy fish separate, cut 3 pounds of mixed fish into serving sized chunks.
If you are adding eel, you already know how to prepare it, and how much you want.  Cut it into 3-inch pieces.
If you are adding lobster, split 2 pounds of them down the middle, head to tail, on the underside and remove the intestines.  Break off the claws and crack them.  Cut the tail and body into pieces.
Wash 3 dozen clams.
Devein and shell 1 pound of shrimp.

Thoroughly clean 3 leeks and cut the white portions into small pieces.
Peel and chop 2 large onions and 3 garlic cloves.
Peel and seed 3 tomatoes (I use nice, large Roma tomatoes) or substitute 2 cups of tomato juice.

Make a bouquet garni: into a cheesecloth bag, put 1 teaspoon of thyme, 1 bay leaf, 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley,  ½ tablespoon of chopped celery leaves, and 1 teaspoon of rosemary.  If you’d rather add the herbs without the cheesecloth bag, then do so.

Dissolve a pinch of saffron in a cup of dry white wine.  Save the remaining wine for dissolving the cook later, or use it to give her courage in facing lobsters.

In a large cooking pot or kettle, heat 1/3 cup of olive oil and add the vegetables (including the tomatoes, but not the tomato juice), cooking them for a few minutes.  If you are not using the bouquet garni, add the teaspoon of thyme now.  Otherwise, drop in the bouquet garni.  Arrange the heavy fish (and the eel if you are using it) on the vegetables and cook for about 8 minutes.

Arrange the delicate fish and the lobster pieces on the previous layer; pour over it the wine mixed with saffron, and season with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste.  Cover the whole mess with fish stock, clam broth, or water (or all three).  If you didn’t use tomatoes, add the tomato juice now; if you didn’t use the bouquet garni, add the remaining herbs now. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

Add the clams and the shrimp (this is where I also add the lobster meat which someone has already thoughtfully removed from the shell); cook until the clam shells open.

That’s it.  Spoon the ingredients into bowls (large, flat soup plates show off your masterpiece nicely) and ladle broth on top of each serving.  Serve with thick slices of French Bread, toasted or not, to aid in getting every delicious morsel.

Here’s to your brain, and right thinking.