Saturday 29 November 2014

TV: Nigel Slater and the Pagan History of Cakes

For those kitchen witches who like cakes, there was a very interesting programme on BBC 4 on Thursday called Nigel Slater's Icing on the Cake. It is still available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

The description states: "Nigel Slater takes us on a nostalgic and funny journey back in time exploring the earliest origins of cake in Britain, bringing this tastiest of culinary histories to life."

Apparently, cakes originate back in our pagan past. They were first baked by Neolithic people, although these were mainly grains and fruit mashed up with honey and cooked on a hot stone, so were more like modern cereal bars. Nigel Slater talked to Professor Ronald Hutton who explained that the Anglo Saxons were so into cakes that they named an entire month after them - February was called Solmonath, or "Cake Month".

He also talked about two examples of cake magic and folklore. Dumb Cake was baked in silence by girls who wanted to discover their future husbands. They hoped that after baking the cake and eating it they would dream of who they would marry. On Twelfth Night it was traditional to bake a cake with a pea and a bean in it. Whoever got the bean in their slice was crowned Lord of Misrule while the finder of the pea was crowned Queen.

Christians of history thought that cakes were terribly sinful and should only be eaten at specific festivals - such as Hot Cross Buns at Easter. Even then, the cross on the top was necessary to ward off wickedness. Wicked or not, I do enjoy a bit of cake from time to time and the programme made me want to do some baking myself this weekend.

If you missed Nigel Slater's Icing on the Cake, those in the UK can watch it here:

I would recommend making sure your house is well stocked with cake before watching it though, as I guarantee it will get you craving something sweet and delightful. My late-night search of the kitchen cupboard only came up with a packet of Jaffa Cakes, which - as the documentary discussed - aren't really classed as cakes by everyone.

The picture at the top shows Nigel Slater's Eating for England: The Delights and Eccentricities of the British at Table. The picture at the bottom shows a new book written by kitchen witch Rachel Patterson called Cakes from the Cauldron: A Kitchen Witch Book.

Links and previous related posts
Eating for England: The Delights and Eccentricities of the British at Table
Cakes from the Cauldron: A Kitchen Witch Book

1 comment:

petoskystone said...

In the U.S., one can search on YouTube to see who has downloaded it.