Bread and Thread Spooky

Opening music

Liz

Hello and welcome to bread and thread a podcast about food and domestic history. I’m liz.

Hazel

And I’m hazel. We’re two friends who studied archaeology together and love history and also making and baking things so what have you been up to liz?

LIZ

(singsong)

I bought a crochet pattern for a horseshoe crab. It’s lifesize.

HAZEL

WHAT? Hold on, lifesize to a horseshoe crab?

LIZ

Yeah

HAZEL

Ok how big is a horseshoe crab?

LIZ

Like 50cm across.

HAZEL

Oh that’s ok for some reason when you said lifesize I thought human lifesize.

LIZ

You have a very limited definition of life.

HAZEL

I dunno just… I have visions of this.

LIZ

I would absolutely adore a six foot horseshoe crab toy.

HAZEL

Who wouldn’t want a six foot horseshoe crab they could curl up to sleep on?

LIZ

I have been getting very into kaiju.

HAZEL

What is that?

LIZ

Godzilla type giant monsters.

HAZEL

Cool I didn’t know there was a name for them.

LIZ

So what have you been doing?

HAZEL

I have been rendering down some beeswax from our bees so I can make candles.

LIZ

Nice!

HAZEL

Yeah I’ve figured out how I can do it without everything going everywhere and having a really waxy kitchen.

LIZ

Does that mean you’re going to have spooky candles for halloween?

HAZEL

I hope so I’m going to colour some in with food colouring –

LIZ

I’ve seen some things that say very much do not do that.

HAZEL

Oh why?

LIZ

There’s different kinds obviously but a thing can happen where it all gathers at the bottom then the food colouring just catches fire.

HAZEL

Maybe I’ll just do some research for the best thing to colour candles with.

LIZ

Yeah I don’t know what the best thing is but it’s not food colouring.

HAZEL

Ok I stand corrected, maybe I’ll do not that.

LIZ

But speaking of halloween this episode will be going up I think on the 28th of october? We were going to do ersatz foods but we can’t not do halloween…. So hazel what spooky thing have you been researching?

HAZEL

I am going to talk about the history of pumpkin carving and also a little bit about all souls day and traditions to do with that cause it’s lesser known.

LIZ

Even though it’s what halloween is named after?

HAZEL

Yeah, so on that note apparently halloween was first proclaimed as a christian festival in the year 998. I’ve never really thought that much about the origins of halloween as a christian festival…

LIZ

I’m trying to work out why that year sounds familiar.

HAZEL

Sounds like 1998. Stuff happened then.

LIZ

True.

HAZEL

So yeah that’s quite a long time ago, this is fairly well known stuff.. but um. So thenight before all souls day or all saints day which is all about honouring martyrs and saints in america and britain particularly is because it’s quite a catholic festival, so I think the reason it’s not such a popular festival in america and britain today is cause it’s more a catholic festival, I think it’s still celebrated in other places, ireland I think you mentioned…

LIZ

Yeah I think I’ve heard about it in ireland.

HAZEL

Yeah so there’s a few traditional things related to that, although it declined as a catholic holiday in the uk there are traditions from it that continued, some still continue. I thought that would be    a fun thing to talk about.

LIZ

I am excited for this spookiest of episodes.

HAZEL

Oh-ho-ho… So halloween corresponds with the celtic festival samhain, which was apparently the end of summer, and going into that transitional time between autumn and winter which was apparently also known as a liminal time so I think that’s how the whole thing about the veil is thin that kind of thing like spirits of the dead were thought to be closer than at other times of the year. It’s also to do with the year coming to an end.

LIZ

I think dia de los muertos is derived from all souls too – a syncretism of all souls and indigenous tradition.

HAZEL

Oh cool I think there are many similar traiditons around the world that are to do with these transitional times, and the idea the dead are closer at these times than other parts of the year. A lot of the information or the things I want to talk about today is from a book called festivals families and food, which is excellent especially if you have kids, but still if not, it has lots of traditions in it it focuses on the christian festivals but it also has a lot of information about older traditions and where they came from and a lot of folklore in it so it is a really cool book. The tradition of carving pumpkins is a really old one or the tradition of carving things, cause the original things that were carved were turnips… And neeps in scotland – which are not turnips as I found out today. I was today years old when I found out a neep is a swede. So turnips and swedes were carved, as well as potatoes.

LIZ

I’m going to post some pictures of carved turnips cause they’re so creepy.

HAZEL

They are like little shrunken heads. They’re fantastic. I had no idea potatoes were also carved, and I think it would be quite tricky to hollow out a potato.

LIZ

It’d keep the kids busy.

HAZEL

I guess, I was chatting with my dad about this earlier, that we were doing an episode on carving things tonight, and apparently people carve potatoes and he was just like oh yeah I used to do that when I was a kid. What?? So can you please tell us if you’re listening whether you’ve heard of potato carving as a halloween tradition cause I would like to know.

LIZ

Also send us pictures of your jack o’ lantern I’d like to see them.

HAZEL

Yes we’ll start a gallery. So carving root vegetables is a tradition that probably is super ancient apparently the name jack o lantern comes from an irish folk tale which is the tale of stingy jack, he carries around a turnip lantern.

LIZ

Beautiful.

HAZEL

He’s a ghost, but the tradition of carving various root vegetables into faces and putting a light inside them is probably a very very old one and it originally is a celtic tradition from ireland and scotland where people would carve swedes or turnips or potatoes, there’s not a lot of information on this but it’s a way of warding off spirits and less beneficial spirits that were around at this time of the year so apparently people would do things in the north of england like put rowan on the door to keep away witches and bad guys, they would also put vegetables outside with scary faces on.

LIZ

Can I just say – you kinda lumped the potatoes in with the turnips, but we didn’t really get potatoes until the same time as pumpkins so somebody looked at the variety of new world vegetables and said that potato looks easy to hollow out.

HAZEL

That is – I think probably I don’t think carving pumpkins really caught on in britain until we got it back as a tradition from america. The potato was the one that was adopted as food first so people just had those more. So potatoes were around but pumpkins don’t grow as well here which idk maybe that’s true cause we’ve got a pumpkin in the garden and it’s pretty small. We didn’t have the big carving varieties of pumpkin until pretty recently.

LIZ

Yeah the carving pumpkins taste not of much.

HAZEL

They’re not great for eating, in fact there are so many varieties of pumpkin and if you haven’t you absolutely should try them and they are all sorts of shapes and sizes. When I was a kid we had the habit of going to this farm in slinden in west sussex, the owner was a friend of my granddad’s and they had a fantastic idea for marketing their pumpkins and squashes every year. On the roof of their barn they made this massive picture out of their pumpkins and squashes.

LIZ

It’s awesome.

HAZEL

Then they would just set up all of their wares and vegetables, people would come to see the picture and buy pumpkins and stuff. They had postcards. I’m going to try to find one and put it up on twitter it was amazing. One year they did a witch flying past a moon and loads of different stuff it was amazing.

LIZ

It sounds amazing it’s taking decorative gourds to an extreme.

HAZEL

That road gets dangerous kids, don’t mess around with decorative gourds.

LIZ

Not even once.

HAZEL

There are so many varieties that taste better than carving pumpkins. There’s not much you can do with them after you’ve carved them anyway, you can roast the seeds I guess but once you burnt a candle in it and had it on your porch a couple days it’s not going to be great to eat anyway.

LIZ

Yeah you can eat the bits you’ve cut out but it won’t be great, what you want is one of those green ones.

HAZEL

Mm or one of the flying saucer ones.

LIZ

I haven’t had those ones. Gotta go on a pumpkin mission.

HAZEL

Gotta microwave it for a bit and put some butter on.

LIZ

You’ve making me hungry I’ve just eaten and now I’m hungry.

HAZEL

What was I talking about before I got onto the myriad varieties of pumpkin?

LIZ

Carving potatoes.

HAZEL

Oh yeah so it being a celtic tradition in ireland and scotland this tradition carried throughout it being a christian festival, it lost the fear of the unknown aspect and became a fun thing to do and the tradition of trick or treating also started in britain but in scotland it was called guising.

LIZ

Oh you’re wearing a guise.

HAZEL

Yeah I guess! It’s like a lot of holidays in that kids would go around dressed up knocking on doors asking for stuff. It’s like guy fawkes night where people would dress up and get a penny for the guy. I don’t think people would say trick or treat at this point but that’s where it started. Going around the neighbourhood in costumes with your turnip lantern of course. So in the 19th century when there was massive immigration from scotland and ireland into america that’s where pumpkins started to be carved, they got into america and found pumpkins which are kind of perfect for carving scary faces on and putting lights in. They were so much better than turnips. They became the vegetable of choice for making into a jack o lantern and it’s got to the point where that tradition has come back again and that’s the popular vegetable here too. I’ve never carved a turnip and I think I’m going to give it a go this year. But I think I’ll carve a pumpkin too, there’s more canvas you know? More creative space.

LIZ

Also I appreciate how many times you said popular vegetable in the past 10 minutes.

HAZEL

So that’s the origins of pumpkin carving and the history thereof but halloween isn’t just about pumpkin carving there’s a lot of other folk traditions that perhaps have been forgotten that tie in to the older origins. Across the celtic world samhain wasn’t this pan celtic festival but it seems each region had a slightly different one. But they all had an element of prophecy and predicting the future. It seems a lot of halloween traditions that survive in this book there’s a lot of them and this was published in 1982 so I’m gooing to assume people were still doing things like this in at least 1980… In halloween traditions there’s some predicting the future, mostly predicting who you’re going to marry… Because…

LIZ

Yeah there’s an agatha christie book is a halloween party where the inciting event is all the girls of the town doing this scrying thing to find out who they’re going to marry.

HAZEL

I had never heard of this book.

LIZ

It’s one of my favourite christies.

HAZEL

It’s a perfect combination of things. Yeah so there’s apple bobbing which is the most well known game, which is fun even if someone looks ridiculous doing it. If you haven’t played it it’s when you get a big bowl of water and put apples in it and everyone has to have their arms tied behind their backs and the first person to pick up an apple with their teeth is the winner. Always good fun. It also says here that if you stick two apple seeds on your cheeks and put the name of your suitors on each one the one that sticks the longest loves you the most.

LIZ

I love that so much.

HAZEL

Which I kind of want to get everybody around the table doing that cause that would be hilarious.

LIZ

Next year we’ve got to have a proper halloween party. Especially cause it’s 3 days before my birthday, I love doing proper halloween things.

HAZEL

Awesome.

LIZ

Next year.

HAZEL

Yeah for sure. Halloween times. There’s also a lot of foods involved mostly pumpkin related. I’ve never had a pumpkin pie, cause I’m slightly nervous- I always used to think it was a savoury pie and I was ok with that then I found out that pumpkin pie is a dessert and that freaked me out a bit.

LIZ

It is really nice though, you know like a butternut squash where it’s really sweet? It’s like that, butternut squash and pudding spice.

HAZEL

I’ll try it I can’t promise any more. So a lot of things involved in predicting the future also involve apples or nuts because those are things that are around in the autumn in the northern hemisphere and the less appreciated sister of halloween or all hallows eve is all saints day or all souls day traditionally in the christian calendar the day of appreciating the saints, also kind of folkloric things and traditions that went along with it. Apparently it was traditional on the eve of all souls to keep kitchens warm and leave food in it at night, for any wandering spirits and soul cakes were given out on all souls day.

LIZ

Soul cakes like the soul cake duck in discworld?

HAZEL

As far as I can… Like the soul cake duck… Soul cakes are kind of little cookies made of flour, butter, sugar and spices so there’s little bun kind of cookie bun things and they were apparently distributed to visitors and especially distributed to the poor on all souls day which apparently is the origin of going souling on the end of october or first day of november so that could be another origin of the trick and treat tradition.

LIZ

Interesting. I’m surprised we haven’t had just one really out there explanation there’s always one – this specific guy in the 1400s.

HAZEL

I didn’t catch all that.

LIZ

It’s weird for this podcast to not have a thing where when you don’t know where something comes from to not have this one story of this guy in the 1400s called mr trick o treat…

HAZEL

And his brother mr jack o lantern. I guess it started with stuff like cake and small change and things and then it’s easy to see it evolving into sweets and chocolate and things it kinda makes sense. So yeah apparently it’s acceptable to ask for soul cakes at this time so I guess that’s where that comes from –

LIZ

So when my parents didn’t let me go trick or treating cause it was begging they weren’t entirely wrong.

HAZEL

I guess? But you’re kids so it’s not wrong.

LIZ

But you’re supposed to do it!

HAZEL

This is the one day it’s ok.

LIZ

Sweets from strangers day.

HAZEL

Everyone agrees it’s fine cause it’s fun!

LIZ

It’s fine cause there’s ghosts.

HAZEL

Official ghost begging day.

LIZ

Petition to rename halloween to ghost begging day.

HAZEL

I think you’ll be particularly interested in my last halloween related fact, so lancashire parkin which is if you’ve not had a parkin before –

LIZ

Sticky treacle cake. It’s the stickiest thing you can get the crumbs from it and make a whole new cake that’s how sticky. I am making that november’s patreon recipe.

HAZEL

Oh yes I’m going to try making some this year… So lancashire parkin was apparently once called parcake which it says here is originally named for the norse god odin or ha and eaten on all souls day.

LIZ

That sounds fake.

HAZEL

I have not been able to verify this but it’s cool.

LIZ

I’ve always heard it should be eaten on bonfire night.

HAZEL

Yeah it does say has since been associated with bonfire night.

LIZ

Alongside treacle toffee.

HAZEL

They’re close together and I wouldn’t be surprised if the tradition of having bonfires that time of year was already a thing.

LIZ

Yeah it’s the bonfire and treacle zone you need the calories.

HAZEL

The light and fire and telling scary things to go away time and yeah lancashire parkin is definitely an autumn winter food.

LIZ

Really craving it now. My great grandma’s parkin recipe is amazing it’s so sticky.

HAZEL

Mmmm…. Sticky grandma.

LIZ

Why?

Probably bad plug

LIZ

Hi it’s liz here, the internet rebelled so I’m just going to be recording the local larder on my own today. So because we were doing a halloween thing I thought we’d look at candy corn which is one of the most controversial foods at this point. Originally it was called chicken feed cause it looked like corn kernels and it was invented in the 1898 which I didn’t think it was that old and this was a point where corn wasn’t a staple in most americans diets but the idea of little fondant sweets that looked like food was a big thing in agricultural areas you could also get little pumpkins and things made of the same substance which was buttercream even though it’s not buttercream it’s always been a marshmallowy fondanty mush which that sounds bad but I like candy corn personally idk if hazel does idk if hazel’s had it we don’t really get it much apart from shops that sell american sweets, I tend to avoid them cause I don’t like most american sweets especially the chocolate idk what you guys did to choclate but stop it; the process for making it now is the same as then but more mechanised. I find it interesting that it didn’t really become a thing until the post war period but that makes sesne cause that’s also the time we’re getting a lot more corn syrup in american food it’s homegrown and won’t be affected by a world war, cause we’d already had two and it didn’t exactly look like that would be it for a while. You get adverts calling it things like buttersweet candy corn. Idk think anyone now would call it buttery. I’ve heard poeple compare it to candle wax which I don’t think si what they’re going for. What has the exact same texture though is when I had braces I got given this wax stuff I could put on to make it rub less and that’s the exact same texture as candy corn, just roll it around in sugar and it would be indistinguishable I swear. So in the 50s 60s is when it becomes associated with autumn specifically cause that’s the point where trick or treating is where it takes off. They used to sell It individually wrapped as give it to trick or treaters it’s small and cheap. There is a national candy corn day the day before halloween. You can get it in other colours – valenstines one, and also a christan one red and green and I think the idea is it looks like a little christmas tree but it’s the same shape so Idk how much it looks like that and how much it looks like a failed attempt at a watermelon slice. So that’s my brief history of candy corn. If you have enjoyed the podcast and want to suggest an idea you can email breadandthreadpocast@gmail.com and tweet breadandthread on twitter and if you want to support us we have a patreon it’s just breadandthread you can get access to bread and thread recipes. If you subscribe at the 10 dollar level we will make a personal bonus episode on whatever topic you want. Go ahead and do that I’m looking forward to see what our listeners interests are. So thank you for listening and we’ll talk to you again soon.

Closing music.

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