They are large, lurking, and, frankly, annoying. I speak of the oversized zucchini hiding in your vegetable patch. It seems like no matter how hard I look I always miss a few zucchini or I see a small one and figure I’ll come back in a day or two and harvest it once it’s just a little bigger. The next thing I know it is the size of a Louisville Slugger and I’m cursing the thing and looking up zucchini bread recipes.
Here’s the thing: I’m not a huge fan of zucchini bread. But I thought that was the only thing these Godzilla squash were good for. And the texture and seeds do not lend themselves to my current favorite application: grilling with olive oil and serving alongside some halloumi and crusty bread (but that’s another post).
Dear readers, I will be candid: I would really prefer to live some hundred years ago. I would settle for 80, even. Or 120. For all its benefits, including refrigeration, antibacterial agents, and your esteemed selves, the modern age lacks a certain cozy charm to be found now only between the yellowing pages of novels: scenes of tea and toast before the fire, embroidered slippers, long hours of novel-reading, acrostics, baked apples, baked eggs, floral wallpapers, lemon-scented barley-water, candied violets, kippered herring, crumpets, puddings in the nursery…. It is not perhaps surprising that my interest centers on foods, fabrics, and the fireside. I confess that I have tried to recreate that coziness in my modern life. I bake apples. I cook kippers. I light fires at the slightest chill. I rest my feet on an embroidered footstool, and the quantity of novels lying about suggests more leisure time than I actually possess.
It’s time for Wassail, the celebration of cider and orchards on the 12th Night of Christmas, which according to different calendars can be either the 5th or the 17th of January. This custom, which almost died out in England, happens in the dark period of winter when the nights seem to become interminably long. People bearing torches process into an orchard lit with twelve bonfires representing the twelve months of the year or the twelve apostles. They sing to the trees, scare away evil spirits with gunshots or banging old pans, and share a drink of good health from a communal wassail bowl.
Wassail is an old word from Anglo Saxon meaning “Good Health,” and throughout the celebration, participants frequently shout it with lusty exuberance to toast each other and the health of the orchard. Contemporary wassails often include members of the local Morris group, who lend performances of traditional music and dance, as well as outlandish costume and rowdy humor, to the event.
The urge to collect attractive natural things has always been part of my psyche. Pine cones, interesting seeds and leaves, and unusual rocks often make their way into my pockets. Even though I live in Manhattan, I am constantly finding things to collect — especially edible things.
I have had great luck in the city with mushrooms and berries. Greens (mustard, mint, herbs, etc.) tend to grow in places where dogs pee, and there is always a question of what pesticides may have been sprayed. Roots (burdock, carrot) are often not large enough to be worth digging and can be contaminated with pesticides or other soil pollution, too. Digging also can draw attention to an activity that is technically illegal in New York City.
Bridget Sandorford is a freelance writer and researcher for Culinaryschools.org, where recently she’s been researching culinary schools in America. In her spare time, she enjoys biking, painting and working on her first cookbook. You don’t have to be a professional chef to cook like one. You can learn a great many things from the masters […]
David Gay is an independent scholar in Folklore and Medieval Studies who writes about folktales, romances, and the historical ethnography of Europe, in addition to political and economic issues. I am a Quaker and a socialist. The two are very much intertwined in my mind, because they show me both how to move through this […]
Sara is an artist/cook/substitute teacher/camp counselor/ part-time wedding planner at the moment, but who knows what tomorrow will bring. She graduated from the College of Charleston in 2010 and is about to start classes at UNO this fall for a Master’s of Education. She just moved back home to New Orleans from Charleston, SC this […]
Elizabeth is a folklorist, a teacher, a blogger (at www.breadandhoneyblog.com) and a culinary experimenter with a low boredom threshold. She and her partner have recently added a giant puppy to their household; he impedes the experimentation, but she loves him anyway. They used to live in a large, old house with a small, old kitchen […]
Elizabeth is a folklorist, a teacher, and a culinary experimenter with a low boredom threshold. She and her partner have recently added a giant puppy to their household; he impedes the experimentation, but she loves him anyway. They live in a large, old house with a small, old kitchen in upstate New York. Elizabeth blogs […]
Sharyn is a professor of English, avid runner, and champion napper. When not teaching, running, or under her beloved Slanket, she bakes vegan treats and greedily reads her friends’ blogs. Originally from Massachusetts, Sharyn has lived in southern Indiana for the past 8 years and earned her PhD in December 2011. (She’s wicked proud of […]