24 August 2012

24 August - St. Owen; Periwinkles Forestiere

Weather –As Bartholomew’s Day, so the whole autumn.

If Bartelmy’s day be fair and clear, Hope for a prosperous autumn that year.

St. Bartholomew brings the cold dew.

If it rains this day, it will rain the forty days after.

Thunderstorms after Bartholomew’s Day are more violent [compared to what?]

If the morning begins with a hoar frost, the cold weather can be soon expected and a hard winter.

St. Bartholomew’s mantle wipes dry all the tears that St. Swithin can cry.
Yesterday was the last of St. Swithin’s Forty Days and the weather should be more settled now.  Should be. On the other hand:
June, too soon;
July, stand by;
August, it must;
September, remember;
October, all over…
                                                         (rhyme for hurricane months)

Today we celebrate…
The apostle St. Bartholomew, who preached the Gospel of Christ in India.  He passed thence into the Greater Armenia, where, after converting many to the faith, he was flayed alive by the barbarians, and beheaded by order of king Astyages, and thus he terminated his martyrdom.  His sacred body was first carried to the island of Lipara, then to Benevento, and finally to Rome in the island of the Tiber, were it is venerated by the pious faithful.


At Rouen, St. Owen, bishop and confessor.  Saint Ouen (died 683) was the bishop of Rouen, France, for forty-four years. Prior to that, he had served as chancellor to the Merovingian king Dagobert I, in company with Eligius (Eloi), another devout servant of the king. The two became good friends.  

Ouen is believed to have compiled the Salic Law [which among other things kept women and their descendents from inheriting the French crown, and contributed to such conflicts as the Hundred Years War].  After the death of the king, both Ouen and Eloi considered themselves free to pursue other vocations, and when Ouen was consecrated bishop of Rouen in 640, Eloi was consecrated bishop of Moyon.

Ouen worked hard to eradicate the pockets of paganism in his diocese, in between which he gave the ruling monarchs his expertise in diplomacy.  He wrote the life of his friend Eligius, before succumbing to an illness contracted on his last diplomatic journey.

The Saint-Ouine fair that was held in the spring in Brittany was familiarly known as the Periwinkle Fair (from the large amounts of periwinkles for sale) and as the Whistle Fair (from the large numbers of whistles and other noisemakers available to those who just love to make noise).  The fair was held in St. Malo until a fire destroyed much of the town in the 16th century, whereupon it was moved to the island of Grand Bé, where a chapel devoted to St. Ouen was frequented by wives praying for the safe return of their seafaring husbands and turning the chapel cross to the quarter whence the wind should come.

So in honor of Saint Owen of Rowen, let us enjoy periwinkles.

Periwinkles are like snails.  It takes a tidy few to make a mouthful.  At St. Ouine’s fair, they were sold in large bowlfuls, and that is what it would take to make a decent meal.  Unfortunately, the work needed to produce a decent meal or even a decent mouthful is enough to discourage those who are not dedicated escargot-philes.   This is very, very SLOW FOOD.

Caveat: If you find your periwinkles along our northeastern shores, pay attention to warnings about safe days to harvest shellfish.  In the Smallest State, we have to put up with our neighbor to the east pouring their sewage into the local waters, and occasionally the shellfishing is banned. 

To prepare, bring periwinkles to a boil in salted water and boil briskly for about 20 minutes.  Drain.  Pick them out of their shells.  Now you can

  • dip them in garlic butter (accompanied with a good bread and a good wine)
  • use them as you would clams in a sauce for pasta

Saute 24 mushroom caps (or broil them) until soft.  Fill each cap with a couple or a few unhoused periwinkles (how many is left up to you). 

Whip ½ cup of sweet butter until soft, then add 1 crushed garlic clove, ¼ cup of finely chopped parsley, and a dash of salt and pepper (to taste).  Place a pat of the butter mixture on the periwinkles, and then broil until the butter is melted and the mushrooms are hot.

The recipe says that it serves 4, which means six mushroom caps per diner.  Add salad, bread, wine, beer, and good company.  Makes a fine dinner, I reckon.