12 November 2020 – Old Samhain

Let’s just call today a homage, a modern interpretation if you will, a fudge. Because almost nothing about my stagpag was either stag or pag. 

We’re back to Samhain again, this time Old Samhain also known as Hollantide in the Isle of Man. However I went further north to the Isle of Skye for my stagpag action. Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities describes stagpag as a ‘creamy porridge with various [divination] knick-knacks inside’ (p.308), however I couldn’t find any other reference to it, let alone a recipe. I mean, I know how to make porridge, I just wanted to make it as authentic as I could. And when I say authentic, I mean a creamy porridge that contains no oats. Or cream. Obviously.

But then I rewound back to (new) Samhain/Halloween, and found a recipe in Cattern Cakes and Lace for a Scottish porridge-like pudding called Fortune-Telling Crowdie, a creamy oatmeal dish made with knick-knacks, sugar and rum. Which sounded suspiciously similar. And so it was game on.

First I had to find my knick-knacks: A coin for wealth (my crooked sixpence), a ring for marriage, a button for a bachelor, a thimble (my kiss) for a spinster (or prison, as one source put it), and a wishbone for my heart’s desire. Now, strangely enough, I didn’t have a wishbone hanging around, so I found a skull and cross bone pendant and a heart charm, and figured I’d decide on the appropriateness of each later on in the process. 

Second I had to sterilise them. The thimble alone had at least 25 years’ worth of dirt on it, plus it’s been living in my coat pocket since 6 March. So into the Milton they went, and I went in search of some oat free, dairy free substitutes.

The recipe called for double cream, but after the Great Clotted Cream disaster of 26 June, I couldn’t face faffing around with xanthum gum again. But luckily I found some vegan ‘mascarpone’. If you search crowdie without the fortune telling bit, you’ll be directed to a type of cheese, so using mascarphony (I’m trade marking that) kind of made sense. The fake oatmeal was much more straightforward: millet flakes. In fact, millet flakes make a half decent porridgesque breakfast. 

Back to the charms and a strange orange was blossoming off the thimble. So I washed everything and dunked them into boiling water for a second sterilising. Quickly followed by a third sterilising in the oven. I was worried the button would melt, so it was a very low heat.

The mascarphony™️ was slightly more solid then expected so I softened it in the microwave. Next I mixed in the millet flakes I’d toasted, before adding some coconut sugar and a slug of rum. Then I whipped them all up together, tipped the gloop into my tansy bowl, and Bob was my lobster. Apart from a bit of chilling. 

Somewhere between putting the crowdie in the fridge and taking the charms out of the oven, I lost my nerve. I’ve never really seen the attraction of putting non-food stuffs into food unless they’re cutlery, or tooth picks. And despite the thrice sterilisation, the thought of a 100 year old coin ensconced in my pudding did not fill me with joy. Plus with my luck I’d swallow it and I don’t believe that’s a conversation I’d like to have with my doctor. So I subbed my charms for different types of nuts (we are a household of many nuts). 

Nuts properly dunked below the surface, I took a spoonful. Nowt. Second. Nowt. Third a walnut, which went in place of the sixpence, so therefore I can expect some wealth! Because the crowdie tasted like gritty, boozy deliciousness, I also had a fourth spoon and bit into the hazelnut which represented the button, or bachelor. So maybe this means the bachelor predicted by the Trial of the Three Dishes I’m to wed, will be rolling in it? 

I carried on eating the crowdie for a bit longer but the other nuts stayed hidden. Finally, I popped my thimble back into my coat pocket and the sixpence by my bedside for safe keeping. While I don’t want to lick cream off them, or have the Heimlich Manoeuvre performed on me as a consequence of an ill-fated swallow, I am still very fond of them. Just not in my food.


The Everyday Lore Project has been running since St Distaff’s Day on 7 January 2020 and will run until 12th Night on 6 January 2021. During this time, I have been doing a lot of cooking based on the ritual year, and almost all of it has turned out unsuccessfully. However, this doesn’t deter me. Coming up later this month, I’m attempting St Edmund’s Buns, Stir Up Sunday, rice pudding, Cattern cakes and Tandry Cakes. So don’t forget to subscribe, or you might miss out on the further adventures of Calamity Grain. And tell your friends. After all, everyone needs a laugh at the moment. Even if it is at my expense.

Resources

Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Jones, J. and Deer, B. (1987) Cattern Cakes and Lace, London, Dorling Kindersley Limited

https://tour-scotland.blogspot.com/2007/08/tour-scotland-food-fortune-telling.html

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