Liz: welcome to bread and thread, a podcast about domestic history. I’m Liz.
Hazel: I’m hazel. we’re two people who studied archaeology together and love history. So what’s been going on what’s been made in your house?
L: so if you don’t mind I’d like to start the making and baking this week because I finished my reversible chameleon
H: oh yes I have seen pictures of this and it’s amazing
L: if you want to see pictures of my beautiful reversible chameleon they’re on my Instagram which is _invisible_goats_ because I’m invisible goats everywhere no matter how many underscores I need.
H: but you can see them
L: yes you can’t if you’re listening to this but I am perceivable but also cause it was mayday before this recording nick and I made scones and in the midst of all this got some clotted cream it was just a good time
H: well done
L: how about you?
H: yeah well i tried to have a little mayday celebration normally I would go to Hastings, which is a small town on the south coast they have an amazing mayday celebration with lots of people dressed in green and somebody in a massive tree costume and processions and stuff and ceilidhs as well
L: do they have a maypole?
H: there is a maypole it’s a good time lots of music lots of dancing but as you can guess I didn’t do that this year which makes it about a year since I’ve been to a ceilidh which is terrible but I tried to have a bit of a celebration at home so I made myself a crown of leaves and ivy and stuff, my mum made a tiny maypole we put it out in the front of the house with stuffed toys dancing around it which I think people enjoyed
L: that is very cute
H: I’ve also been making stuff I made some wild garlic pesto
L: oh cool
H: with a tiny patch of wild garlic just round by my house, I made a pizza.. this is going to sound extremely fancy. I made this wild garlic pesto which is amazing, it’s not as it’s quite garlicky but not in the same way as cultivated garlic. Would recommend going to get some if it’s near you – and I made pizza with that as the sauce and it was good times. Very woodlandy.
L: so in that vein of woodlands and plants which are traditionally considered weeds I would like to talk to you about dandelions.
H: awesome, I’m excited for this I know one or two uses of them but not really that many or why so yeah tell me about dandelions
L: so general introduction to the concept of dandelions, members of the genus teraxicum and the name means lion’s tooth because of the tiny petals, although they’re yellow so the lions are not practising good oral hygiene
H: do you know when they got that name?
L: I don’t know exactly when but high medieval we know it was used then. I haven’t been able to find anything earlier. It comes from middle French. Dandelions have existed for at least 23 m years. it’s just one of those things where nature went this works and left it at that
H: well if it ain’t broke, and the dandelion ain’t broke
L: dandelions grown most of temperate Eurasia so we find that in Greek medicine Chinese medicine and actually adopted by some native Americans after it was introduced in the US. They took it over for medicinal purposes but dandelions do what dandelion want, so now they’re firmly established in the US.
H: they established themselves quite well
L: including in my yard. I don’t have a garden I live in an industrial terrace but we have dandelions
H: I guess after several million years they’re going to be pretty hench
L: it’s dandelion and buddleias you’ll find pretty much everywhere. One use of them is as a diuretic. This is a clean podcast so I can’t give the english folk name for dandelions, but it’s a word meaning urinate -a bed. there’s a way a lot of parents discouraged picking dandelions is to tell them it’ll make them wet the bed. And there’s an old wives tale in Northern Italy that they grow where dogs pee.
H: I like that a dog looking out at a field of dandelions and thinking my work here is done
L: but the fact the effect is so well known that everyone associates them with urine not just cause of the colour but because of this thing is kind of beautiful to me it’s the urine flower
H: wow a true moment of global unity. Are there any other uses?
L: dandelions have a lot of food uses as you might’ve guessed from their colouring they have ea lot of vitamin C and A so they’re quite nutritionally good for you. Dandelions are one of the things along with pine needles that if you don’t have citrus you can have them.
H: how does the diuretic effect get activated do you just eat it?
L: just having like bits of the plants cause dandelion and burdock is a British pop that uses dandelion root, I don’t think that’s a diuretic or it’s a mild one. But when we say diuretic in this case it’s less like a purgative and more just reducing water retention and swelling.
H: I guess if you drink enough of anything you get a diuretic effect
L: they’re edible, you get them in some salads apparently they have a lightly peppery taste like rocket but also a little bitter like spinach
H: I feel like I’ve eaten dandelion salad at some point I feel it’s something my mum would do
L: it’s big in Crete apparently and the roots are used in herbal drinks and used as an alternative to coffee. I’ve only had dandelion root as an alternative to Dandelion and Burdock
H: I vote for Liz to make dandelion coffee in the interests of science
L: I cannot get to the roots without digging up the flagstones and I think my landlord would be against that.
H: you could always vandalise public parks
L: maybe my park is a building site right now because they’re doing flood works.
H: well in the future there’s always vandalism
L: so the context you’ve probably heard of dandelions in is dandelion wine
H: yes and I think I did mention that in the other episode yeah, I’ve never had it or anything
L: so that’s made combining dandelion petals with generally with some citrus and hot water and letting it go for a while I guess but you can also combine that liquid with pectin or something high in pectin to make dandelion jelly which was apparently was a big thing during the depression in parts of America and tastes similarly to camomile tea. There was a great video about dandelion jelly from Emmy made in japan and also deep fried dandelion flowers
H: that doesn’t sound too bad actually
L: yeah there are many forswore that taste really nice, nasturtiums come to mind just cause that’s the flower I’ve had but there are others
H: yeah I’ve had nasterciums primrose
L: you can candy rose petals can’t you?
H: sorry you cut out there
L: candying rose petals
H: yeah they were a popular sweet once. And violets, sugared violets
L: yeah I’ve come across that. One thing is how against dandelions we are nowadays
H: yeah so many weedkiller ads targeting dandelions
L: yeah, evil gangster dandelions one time dandelion sandwiches was once a delicacy among victorian gentry., which is interesting as they basically invented middle class people having lawns
H; yeah and also I’ve always thought of dandelions as – I’ve heard of dandelion wine and dandelion coffee, I’ve always seen it as the peasant alternative, but it’s interesting how it became a posh people thing
L: it’s a classic posh thing the poor have something nice, we must take it. So that was the bread part of dandelions but the thread part is very small. The dried flowers can be used as a yellow dye and there’s been some research – have you ever broken a dandelion stem and had the white stuff ooze out? that’s actually a form of latex,. there’s scientists in Germany that created a high latex varietal they’re trying to use to create biodegradable tyres.
H: wow, of all the things I expected to hear today. Does anyone know when they’ll be available?
L: the article I saw was 2016 and they said testing would be over the next few years so not for a while but in our lifetime we’ll have dandelions tyres. I hope they’re yellow
H: the future is bright, the future is dandelion.
L: I realise they would naturally be white but i want them to be yellow
H: I like the idea of a sports car with bright yellow tyres
L: if they coloured them could be a status symbol like check out my yellow tyres
H: it would be like the red sole on whatever the designer is…
L: louboutins which I only know because of that one GIF of emma Thompson tossing her high heels over her shoulder. But that is a brief intro to why dandelions are good actually, aside from the fact that bees like them and bees are important
H: let them have dandelions, smile at the bees, let hem have dandelions they do so much. I might try to dye with dandelion. When do dandelions go?
L: ours are already starting to go
H: I’d better get some quick then
L: i[‘m sure no one would object to on your daily outside time plucking a load of dandelion heads
H: I’m sure but the mowing the green spaces and the verges thing is so insistent they get mowed down before you can get them, because apparently we can’t have a bit of long grass on the side of a road cause it would look terrible
L: we need to talk to the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology and see if we can get some of their latexy dandelions
H: please we need them for our podcasting purposes
L; if we get 100 patrons….
H: thank you for that information, good to know
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Nick: do you want to truly understand the tripe monster from space? Do you want to know what happens when you compress an egg? We don’t have the answers to these questions but we do have a podcast about bad and weird films. Pod 9 from Outer Space. Starring me, Nick, and Liz, who is not me.
L: so what’s in the local larder today?
H: so being Easter not long ago I was gonna talk about hot cross buns.
L: I love a hot cross bun
H: I love a hot cross bun too everyone loves a hot cross bun
L: nick do you love hot cross buns?
N: I love a hot cross bun
H: yeah see I was right, nick is every person. OK so for anyone who hasn’t had the incandescent joy of a hot cross bun they are small buns like sweetbread they’re quite small like the palm of your hand they’re normally filled with cinnamon they have raisins in sometimes they have candied peel in them as well and they have a cross on the top made of flour and water and normally you cut them in half and you toast them and you put butter on them and eat them hot with butter spread on it they’re delicious honestly
L: it’s like a toasted teacake but more so.
H: I guess it’s a cakier teacake if that makes sense
L: I know what you mean but I’ve had hot cross buns
HP: it’s a cross between a bread and a cake but I can confirm they’re delicious they’re also very old traditionally eaten at Easter time because the cross is meant to represented the cross of the crucifixion, but they went back a long way because In Saxon times they’d eat bread with crosses in as well, it would represent hang on… trying to find where I put the note, apparently the cross was also a pre Christian symbol symbolising the four quarters of the moon and the earth
L: what does that mean?
H: I don’t know exactly what it means maybe the stages of the moon the waxing and waning and new and full which was quite important I the Celtic festivals and there was originally a Celtic festival at Easter time I haven’t studied religious history or anything so i can’t really make too many claims bout whether or not Easter is a coopted pagan festival but the hot cross bun is something that goes back to pre Christian times and it’s a symbol used in both traditions. So the hot cross bun was eaten at other times of the year as well they were popular street food at a lot of different times in fact under Elizabeth I the hot cross bun was banned apart from a few special occasions because it was too catholic. That might be why we don’t associate it with other times of the year that much today, although people do eat hot cross buns, you can get them year round still, but they’re more popular at Easter. Another fantastic tradition this is my favourite fact is that there’s a superstition that hot cross buns baked on good Friday don’t go off and so you can keep them for up to a year and there is a pub in London where there are just hot cross buns hung up above the bar that are about 100 years old.
L: I mean even if they haven’t moulded they’d be rock hard
H: you would have thought. Apparently they’re not totally decayed but they must be you must be able to do pretty good damage with them by now
L: break a window
H: the pub is the widow’s son it’s in Bromley, there’s a story about a widow who lived there with her son and the son went off to sea and the mother waited for him and every year she baked a hot cross bun but he never came home so she kept them all and then they just ended up with all these buns. I’m not entirely sure of the truth of that story
L: but it’s one to add to the Bread and Thread road trip we’ll one day do
H: apparently a fire in the pub destroyed half the buns
L: at least they still have half
H: the good news is the bun tradition has been revived and to this day you can see the buns at the widow’s son in Bromley. Buns are more expensive than they used to be. there’s a song about hot cross buns used to be one a penny, two a penny
L: there’s a good skipping song about it
Sung together, haphazardly:
Hot cross buns, hot cross buns
One a penny two a penny hot cross buns
if you have no daughters give them to your sons
One a penny two a penny hot cross buns
L: good luck editing that, nick
H: can you make us sound good?
L: I always wondered about the if you have no daughters bit
H: maybe daughters get preference
L: always some superstition about future husbands, always is
H: yeah if you keep the bun for a year you[‘re sure to be married either that or you’ll have a very hard bun. There is a lovely superstitiont though about sharing the buns that it’s supposed to if you share the bun it ensures lasting friendship
L: that is pretty great
H: there’s also a legend about a monk from St auburns being the original person who did the cross on the bun but there’s not really any proof of that so.. yeah despite the legends surrounding the hot cross bun the myth and the mystery it’s probably one of the longest running recipes
L; that’s pretty wild
H: it’s been traditionally eaten about a thousand years. Which is quite impressive.
L: are hot cross buns a big thing outside of britain?
H: I don’t know if they’re as big a thing but I think in Australia and the us and probably canada as well I think they’re a thing and I think they are associated with Easter. We have relatives in Australia and they sent pictures of eating hot cross buns.
L; did the traditions get exported
H: I think the tradition did get exported to countries the British emigrated to in large numbers.
L: that’s a generous way of putting colonised, were awful to, terrible in
H: yes, but you know … buns. Yeah. So the recipe varies a little but the bun thing the cross thing is a thing. I made some buns a few weeks ago I used Mary berry’s recipe which is always a good bet so go for that if you get the urge make some buns, keep them a year, hang them in the living room.
L: then share with your friends see if you’re still friends
H: good test of friendship if you eat the year old bun and you’re still friends you’re going to be friends for a while. So there you go, buns.
L: that was enlightening, thank you.
H: there’s always a wild fact or two hiding in regional bread
L: this is why I love the local larder segment
H: it has so many applications there’s always something unexpected in the local larder
L: we hope you enjoyed today and don’t feed your friends baked goods. If you want to suggest a local larder you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
H: you can also @ us at @breadandthread on twitter
L: and don’t forget if you sub to our patreon you can get recipes and instructional videos and we will see you next time