13 September 2020 – The Ides of September

The whole place smells of mixed spice. And I am in heaven. Today I’ve been making Suffolk fourses cakes, which are less like cakes, and more like yeasted currant loaves. And we all know how well I bake with yeast. And today was no different. 

I was aiming to have the bake finished by four, as that’s when the cakes were traditionally served in the fields during the harvest. Fourses is like elevenses, only the food is eaten at tea time, rather than at second breakfast. But as usual, I scuppered myself by forgetting how long proving takes. Although this time I tried a new method, steaming in the oven. While better than propping the bowl up against a hot radiator, I can’t say it made much of a difference.

Anyhow, I who knew kneading for ten minutes would be so dull. And then I got bored waiting for a second prove I knew wasn’t going to work given the first one hadn’t, so it went into the oven at about 1 inch thick. And came out exactly the same. Weighing a tonne. 

I literally had to saw my slice, eventually resorting to breaking it off. And eating it, that was really hard, shards of ‘cake’ scraping at my gums and upper palate, while the noise in my head from the chewing rivalled that of tortilla chips. Think burnt bloomer crust, which I’m pretty certain isn’t how they’re supposed to turn out like. But while the texture hurt, the taste was amazing. Mixed spice and currants. Heaven. However despite the taste, I’m tempted to turn the rest of the cake into a doorstop. Or a self defence weapon. I’m not sure my mouth could stand another shredding. 

But the fourses were definitely an improvement on yesterday’s taste sensation. Thanks to a suggestion by @leelantry, my continuing onion mouth was obliterated by a large handful of parsley in with my breakfast. Which also contained lots of onion. This time cooked. 

Veg Vigil
My mangelwurzels are looking encouraging (I think). I’m now regularly raiding my mustard for garnish. And as my garlic looked dead, I uprooted it to find clusters of mini cloves. I might be needing some more of that parsley soon.

And finally, it’s the Ides of September today. Unlike the Ides of March, September’s isn’t that memorable. Except for the Romans who marked the day by sacrificing sheep, feeding food to statues, and banging a nail into a wall. All of which I could have done, but I fancied baking cakes instead.


I’ve been writing about experiencing folklore and the ritual year every day now for over nine months, with only a couple more months to go before the end of The Everyday Lore Project. If this is your first time reading this blog, a) welcome and b) if you go to the search box and type in any date between St Distaff’s Day (7 January 2020) and now, you’ll find an entry about something folklore related I’ve had a go at. One of my favourites was 13 April 2020. And if you’ve liked what you’ve read, please come back, spread the word by using the share buttons, and subscribe below. Thank you!

Hand on heart, this is me knocking on the bottom of the Suffolk fourses cake after a couple of hours out of the oven.

Resources

Leendertz, L. (2019) The Almanac, A Seasonal Guide to 2020, London, Mitchell Beazley

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

http://www.foodsofengland.co.uk/foursescake.htm

https://blogs.transparent.com/latin/seal-your-fate-the-ides-of-september

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/September_(Roman_month)

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