No tricks here today, just a rich, spicy, scrumptious treat — parkin!
I was compelled to bake a batch of this Yorkshire gingerbread after reading Diane Wakoski’s evocative, affecting poem.
Her musings about the Brontës brought back my own fond memories of visiting Haworth – absolutely fascinating how creative genius can flourish in such a carefully circumscribed, isolated world.
Sip a cup of hot tea, have a good bite of parkin, and find comfort in the words of this generous poet. The “small things” are not so small after all.
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by Diane Wakoski
Simple bread for tea. Oh think of those mornings
of early rising, the coke fire to be built in the grate; think
of the skirts of soft muslin, over petticoats that drape
softly around plump bodies; oh think of the Yorkshire moors
which were so open and damp, so green and rolling,
held the spirit’s desire for freedom where Wesley’s religion
flourished as did the fantasies of love that girls
like the Brontës cherished. Men were the prisons, and the
and men who didn’t want to be
the worst imprisoned, Branwell
covering his pain with laudanum.
I saw those small rounded loaves, sitting
in the bakery window, just
the size of the clay circles
in which we, in Kindergarten imprinted our hands,
and sent off to be baked
in a kiln and glazed (mine was green and shiny, like a new spring
and I, always the scholar of new foods,
rolled their names around my tongue for an entire day:
“parkin, parkin, parkin,” imagining
I would wear my black woolen cloak swirled around me
for a tramp onto the hearth, and carry in a large pocket
underneath the cloak, a loaf of parkin, an apple, a bit of cheese.
I didn’t know what it tasted like, until teatime, when I ate
half a mince pie, hot and sweet,
and a bit of parkin — oh gingerbread,
slightly chewy just blunted with a little molasses,
the energy of it would wave through you
as you walked in the damp cold, seeing a world
of ups and smooth downs.
I imagined one of the girls
pulling it out of the oven early in the morning,
and the smell of it
coming up through the stairway to my bedroom
where I was still snuggled and bundled into the covers of night,
with a steaming pot of tea on the table
next to the bed, the fire in the grate lit for me
by some earlier riser. So small,
the fire, the tea, the parkin,
then the freedom of the walk.
when you consider the human condition; everything,
when you consider war,
or urban poverty,
Forget about love and its absence,
or lack of recognition for your work. Forget about
unsympathetic relatives or boring
jobs and daily life.
Remember these small things
“Grateful,” don’t be grateful.
Such a chore.
Just remember the small things: the parkin,
the fire in the grate,
the cup of tea,
the walk on the moors,
or even this human
comfort — sitting here with words,
with the yew bushes in the Michigan backyard,
covered with pillowy snow,
the bird feeder abandoned by even
our unshowy birds, but now filled,
a small thing,
waiting for the cardinals and blue jays and infinite flocks of
to discover we’re back and offering
the small things,
cracked sunflower seeds
(“50 pounds of oilers,” I hear the clerk say). Everything
has its vocabulary. Another small pleasure.
Sally’s voice from out of the Pacific, dripping with plum jam
“remember the small things, the cup of tea…”
thought about them as we walked in Haworth village,
as we’ve come home to our small lives
and the small things,
“the small things,” as Sally called them,
which save us from
~ from The Butcher’s Apron: New and Selected Poems (Including “Greed: Part 14”), Black Sparrow Press, copyright © 2000 Diane Wakoski. Posted by permission of the author.
* * *
Diane’s poem took me right back to the ups and smooth downs of Haworth’s Main Street, the moors in the distance, the Parsonage dining room where Charlotte, Emily and Anne did most of their writing, the children’s study where they once played with toy soldiers and penned their miniature books, the spartan kitchen where Emily may have baked the family parkin.
The Brontës’ first foray into publishing was a book of poems that only sold 2 or 3 copies. A small step on the way to becoming literary icons. Small words in the space of a poem can mean everything.
* * *
🔥 PARKIN, PARKIN, PARKIN 🔥
The sweet, sticky version of parkin enjoyed in Northern England contains oats. Both oats and treacle are longtime dietary staples in the region, and it is thought parkin may have evolved during the time of the Industrial Revolution.
Though eaten throughout the year, parkin is always a part of Bonfire Night on November 5, a night of revelry celebrating Guy Fawkes’s failure to blow up Parliament in 1605.
Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.
We see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
In addition to oatmeal, authentic Yorkshire parkin calls for black treacle and golden syrup, which can be found in food specialty stores or sometimes in the imported aisle of your supermarket. If unobtainable, substitute molasses and corn syrup.
Key to a good parkin is aging. You must use the fullest extent of your self control to not eat your parkin for a minimum of 3 days after baking. Wrap it well and store in a tin. A week’s aging is best to let the flavors fully develop and the bread will have time to reach its optimal moist stickiness. 🙂
You can eat it plain as a snack with tea, or with warm custard or ice cream as a dessert. Either way, it might just set your imagination to dreaming of meeting Heathcliff on the moors or Mr. Rochester at Thornfield Hall. Ever wonder how such seemingly sheltered young women wrote such passionate love stories?
It all began with those small crumbs of parkin they ate when they were little . . . 🙂
* * *
Recipe for Traditional Yorkshire Parkin
- 8 oz/220g soft butter
- 4 oz/110g soft, dark brown sugar
- 2 oz/55g black treacle/molasses
- 7 oz/200g golden syrup/corn syrup
- 5 oz/120g medium oatmeal*
- 7 oz/200g self raising flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 4 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice/pumpkin pie spice
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 2 tablespoons milk
1. Heat the oven to 275 F/140 C/gas 1.
2. Grease an 8″ x 8″ square cake tin.
3. In a large heavy-based saucepan melt together the butter, sugar, treacle, and golden syrup over a gentle heat. Do not allow the mixture to boil; you simply need to melt these together.
4. In a large, spacious baking bowl stir together all the dry ingredients. Gradually add the melted butter mixture stirring to coat all the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
5. Gradually beat in the eggs a few tablespoons at a time. Finally, add the milk and again stir well.
6. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and cook for 1-1/2 hours until firm and set and a dark golden brown.
7. Remove the parkin from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. Once cool, store the parkin in an airtight tin for a minimum of 3 days up to a week before eating it. The parkin will keep up to 2 weeks in an airtight container.
*I used rolled oats, which I pulsed in the food processor a few times for a medium texture.
FYI: “Parkin” is diminutive for “Peter” and “Haworth” is pronounced hah-worth rather than hay-worth.
~Adapted from Elaine Lemm’s recipe at aboutbritishfood.com.
* * *
The lovely and talented Linda Baie is our Poetry Friday Roundup host this week at TeacherDance. Please take her some parkin and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere. Wear and swirl your black woolen cloak if you like. A-haunting we will go!
* * *
This post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food related posts. Settle down with a cup of hot tea and enjoy visiting all the participating blogs. 🙂
Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.