Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Penny for the Guy

On November fifth in 1605, a plot to blow up the English Parliament was foiled. A dastardly group of conspirators infiltrated the basements beneath parliament from a warehouse next door. Had these recreant hounds succeeded we would, of course, refer to them as courageous heroes fighting for the greater glory of the fatherland. Writing history is a minor joy of winning.

Guy Fawkes was the most notable in the media accounts of the day -- broadsheets and ballads for the most part. And so November 5th is celebrated as Guy Fawkes Day everywhere in England save Yorkshire. They cut to the chase and call it Parkin Day. Neighborhood urchins demand "a penny for the guy" in the day or two before so that they may acquire the materials to build the guy -- an effigy of Guy Fawkes -- which will be burned with gay abandon on communal bonfires. Naturally a certain number of the guy's pennies find their way into the hands of cart men selling cider and parkin, a moist, rich, gingerbread cut into long rectangles that "look lak 'is fingers, luv."
Guy Fawkes is an adopted holiday of mine for two reasons. The socially acceptable one is that it serves as a civics lesson to appreciate our periodic chance to throw the bums out. Which I hope we do Tuesday. The other is Parkin:

The Horizon Cookbook1 is one of my favorites for festal occasions. It provides the starting point, a very good one, for Parkin as follows:
1/2 cup molasses         
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
l egg, beaten
2 cups Flour, sifted
l teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons powdered ginger
3/4 cup sour cream
l teaspoon grated lemon rind
(3-4 cups powdered sugar
mixed with 2-4 tablespoons
lemon juice.)
Heat molasses. Add butter, sugar,
and baking soda and cool.
Beat in the egg.
Resift Flour with baking powder,
salt, and ginger into a large bowl.
Make well and pour in molasses and
sour cream. Work flour into
molasses mixture until smooth.
Add lemon rind and beat well.
Butter and flour a 7 by ll inch
pan and pour in batter. Bake in a
preheated 350° oven for 15 to 20
minutes or until cake springs back
when touched. Cool for about 10
minutes and remove. Ice with sugar
icing. Cut into "fingers." Makes 24.
The phrase in parens is mine to replace a reference to another recipe in the original.
This year's changes include:
Substitute a half cup of rye flour and a half cup of almond flour for one cup of wheat flour. Add 1/2 teaspoon anise, and cinnamon. Cut one or two (or Three or four) slices of fresh ginger root and smash them with the flat of a cleaver or otherwise grate them. Add. I think I got generous with the sour cream. Tchah. Only used a cup of powdered sugar in the icing which is why you can't really see it except in one or two spots and in the shine. It's plenty sweet for me and transparent. The rapidity of their vanishment testified to the accolades of the community.
1Horizon Cookbook, Wendy Buehr & the Editors of Horizon Magazine, American Heritage Publishing 1968. page 675.
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