Monday, October 28, 2013

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason,
Should ever be forgot

We're building up to Bonfire Night here in the UK (or Guy Fawkes Night, as it's know), and already I've heard the first few fireworks going off in the streets around my home.  Every day from now until November 5th - the official Guy Fawkes Day - you can here random fireworks going off somewhere, as people celebrate one of the most notorious events in British history.

So who was Guy Fawkes, and why do people still remember him?  Well, here's the history lesson!
During Henry VIII's reign, and the reign of his daughter Elizabeth I, the Catholic religion in Britain was suppressed, often brutally.  When James I came to the throne, Catholics hoped that things might change, as  the King's mother was Mary Queen of Scots, and a Catholic herself.

Unfortunately the penalties for practising Catholicism continued.  The Gunpowder Plot was a desperate attempt on the part of a group of Catholics to rid themselves of the King.   Their plan was to blow up the House of Lords, with King James and all his Parliament in it.
Guy Fawkes was a member of the Gunpowder plot.  Unfortunately for him, the plot was leaked, and Guy Fawkes was caught red-handed in a cellar underneath the House of Lords, with 36 barrels of gunpowder, on November 5th 1605.  He was tortured and hanged, along with his fellow conspirators.

The King decreed November 5th a public holiday, in thanksgiving for the plot being foiled.
Nowadays the political overtones of this day have totally disappeared.  The day is no longer a public holiday, and Guy Fawkes Night has become a family tradition enjoyed by all.  Children still make home made "guys" - a sort of effigy made from old clothes stuffed with straw - and pull them through the streets, asking for "A Penny for the Guy".  (The guy would then be burned on top of the bonfire.)  This sight was very common when I was a child, but is becoming less so now.  Everyone still enjoys the bonfire and fireworks though - whether it's a large, organised event, or just a small party with fireworks and bonfire in your own back garden.

There are some foods that are traditionally eaten at a Bonfire Party.  Baked potatoes are popular - preferably wrapped in silver foil and baked in the bonfire.  There's an art to baking potatoes in this way without burning them.  Personally, I think a microwave is always good!
Toffee apples are also an essential item on the Bonfire Night list.
Here in the north of England, we have our own traditional Bonfire Night fare, consisting of warm pork pie and mushy peas.  On a cold, rainy November night, this is delicious!  And in the rest of England it's common to eat gingerbread, but where I live in Yorkshire we have our own variation on the gingerbread recipe.  It's called Parkin, and I absolutely love it.  You can find ready made Parkin in all the shops in Yorkshire at this time of year, or you can make it yourself.
Here's a recipe.  It's easy!
Yorkshire Parkin
  • 200g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 200g golden syrup
  • 85g treacle
  • 85g light soft brown sugar
  • 100g medium oatmeal
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger

  1. Heat the oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Grease a deep 22cm/9in square cake tin and line with greaseproof paper (baking paper). Beat the egg and milk together with a fork.
  2. Gently melt the syrup, treacle, sugar and butter together in a large pan until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat. Mix together the oatmeal, flour and ginger and stir into the syrup mixture, followed by the egg and milk.
  3. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 50 mins - 1 hr until the cake feels firm and a little crusty on top. Cool in the tin then wrap in more greaseproof paper and foil.  If you can bring yourself not to eat it for a few days - or up to two weeks - it will become softer and stickier.
 Have a great Bonfire Night!

If you enjoy delving into history, then you'll love the heroine of my latest romance, The Antique Love, which is set in an an antiques shop in London.  Here's the blurb!

One rainy day in London, Wyoming man Kurt Bold walks into an antique shop off the King’s Road and straight into the dreams of its owner, Penny Rosas. Lively, spirited and imaginative, Penny takes this handsome stranger for a romantic cowboy straight from the pages of a book. Kurt certainly looks every inch the hero…but he soon brings Penny’s dreams to earth with a thump. His job is in the City, in the logical world of finance—and as far as Kurt is concerned, romance is just for dreamers. Events in his childhood have shown him just how destructive love can be. Now he’s looking for a wife, right enough, but what he wants is a marriage based on logic and rational decisions. Kurt treats Penny like he would his kid sister, but when he hires her to help refurbish his beautiful Victorian house near Richmond Park, it’s not long before he starts to realise it’s not just his home she’s breathing life into. The logical heart he has guarded so carefully all these years is opening up to new emotions, in a most disturbing way…

BUY LINKS:  Muse Bookstore / Amazon CA /Amazon US / Amazon UK Kobo / B&N / Smashwords and other retailers
AUTHOR LINKS: / Facebook / Twitter

Do you have any local traditions in your area?  Or maybe you have a dish or recipes that are only local to you?  And do you enjoy delving into the past and finding out about historical characters?
If so, please let me know - all commenters will be put into a draw to win a copy of The Antique Love!


Unknown said...

Fascinating stuff, Helena! Guy Fawkes Night kind of reminds me of how we celebrated Independence Day when I was a kid. We'd go to my grandparents' house, and everyone would bring their old Christmas trees—which we'd saved from December until July for the HUGEST of bonfires! Gramps (a carpenter) had built a special table for setting off fireworks safely, with multiple supports so he could line them up and set them off in quick succession. With their house being on top of the highest hill in town, the whole neighborhood would stand in their yards and enjoy the show!

margaret mendel said...

Interesting historical post!! And interesting that it lines up with Halloween in the USA. I'm going to try that recipe. It does sound simple to do and delicious. Thanks. Happy Guy Fawkes Night!!

Helena Fairfax said...

Hi Heather, what a great way to use your Christmas trees! I love the smell of pine needles on a bonfire. And I love a good firework display - your grandad sounds like an expert! Great memories :)

Hi Margaret, thanks for coming by. I hope you like the Parkin recipe. It's one of my favourite things about bonfire night. Thanks for your comment!

Rose Anderson said...

Interesting post Helena. We need a Guy Fawkes here in the states! Have fun on your bonfire night. :)

Helena Fairfax said...

Thanks Rose! There have been quite a few storms across the UK today. We're hoping that all dies down in the next week - so we can get our bonfires lit! Thanks for coming by!

Unknown said...

What fun! Hope you have a good time at this years'!

Unknown said...

I lived in Newfoundland for a few years - they still celebrate Guy Fawkes night - I loved the tradition. Now I live in Ontario - they don't celebrate - sad sigh.


Marsha said...

Fascinating post, Helena. I found it interesting that your Guy Fawkes Holiday came at the approximate time as our Halloween. We don't do fireworks, but we do caramel apples.

Okay,Helena, I should know this, but what what the heck is "treacle."? I used to do a reading from Alice in Wonderland and the phrase was repeated often. The receipe sounds similar to what we'd call oatmeal cake or bread. Thanks for sharing. Very interesting.

Helena Fairfax said...

Hi Brenna, thanks! And thanks for taking the time to come by :)

Hi Victoria, thanks for tweeting. I didn't realise they celebrated Guy Fawkes in Newfoundland! How interesting. It's a great tradition - there's something cheerful about fireworks just as the nights are getting longer.

And Marsha, thanks for your comment! Treacle is a very dark, black syrup. It's very like molasses. Maybe if you can't find treacle, you could use molasses in the recipe? Treacle is used quite a lot in traditional English desserts, such as treacle tart. (My husband loves it - he has a very sweet tooth!)

Christiane France - Author said...

My mom used to make Parkin and I loved it. I haven't made it in years but if I can find the ingredients I'll give it a try.

Anna Markland said...

I live in Canada now, and your post took me back to my childhood in the north of England, but I have to take issue with Parkin being a Yorkshire confection. Everyone knows it originated in Lancashire!
Just pulling your leg! (Not!)
Thanks for the memories.

Helena Fairfax said...

Hi Christiane, I hope you can find the ingredients and are able to give it a go. Parkin is such an evocative cake. It brings back memories fo many people! Thanks for your lovely comment!

Hi Anna, my dad is from Manchester so he would agree with you - but I'm going to have to stick up for Yorkshire! Forget The Wars of the Roses - it's now the War of the Parkin! Thanks for coming by!

Linda McLaughlin said...

Thanks for the interesting post, Helena. Guy Fawkes Night sounds like a lot of fun.

Here in California, our big thing is Cinco de Mayo, now celebrated in other parts of the US. It's a political holiday, too, as it celebrates the victory of the Mexican army over the invading French in 1862. Now it's just an excuse to eat Mexican food get drunk on margaritas.

Helena Fairfax said...

Hi Linda, your Cinco de Mayo holiday sounds fabulous! I might celebrate it here, too - margaritas are my favourite cocktail! :) Thanks for the interesting comment. I love to hear about other people's traditions. Thanks for coming by!

Unknown said...

Hi Helena, Thanks for the history lesson. I always wondered at the history behind Guy Fawkes and the bonfires. There's nothing quite like a blazing fire outdoors, especially when everyone is in a festive mood. I hope the storms pass without danger and you can all enjoy your celebrations!

Helena Fairfax said...

Hi Gemma, thanks so much for coming by! I've woken up to a beutiful autumn morning today, so let's hope the weather holds until next week. Fingers crossed!

J.Q. Rose said...

How interesting. I've heard of Guy Fawkes day, but didn't know the background. Poor Guy, but good for you guys! In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, known as the U.P., men took pasties (short a sound) to work when mining or lumbering--not sure which. It is made up of meat and veggies baked in a pastry. Original ones always included turnips. Some folks put gravy on them. Some like ketchup, some nothing. I loved your G Fawkes menu. Mushy peas?? What's that? Have a great Guy Fawkes Day!

Helena Fairfax said...

Hi JQ, thanks for your interesting comment. And how interesting about the pasties! We also have pasties in the UK. They are a speciality of Cornwall, and are known as Cornish pasties. Like your U.P. workers, Cornish miners took the pasties down the mines. The pastry was a convenient way to contain the meat, potatoes and turnips. It's so interesting that "Cornish" pasties are also found in the U.P! I love to hear about these regional traditions. Thanks again for your comment!

J.Q. Rose said...

I'm sure the Cornwall families brought these pasties over from Cornwall and the UP'ers put their own spin on them.