friday feast: diane wakoski’s “parkin” (+ a recipe)

Happy Halloween!

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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a spot of downton tea with rock cakes


Good Morning!

You’re just in time to join us for some freshly baked rock cakes and a bracing cup of Downton Abbey® Grantham Breakfast Blend. Would you like yours with a splash of honey and almond milk?

Better to stay indoors and chat about Downton than brave the winter of our discontent, which just keeps “gifting us” with more snow, ice, bitter winds, traffic snarls, school closings and slushy messes. We are definitely NOT amused.

Tea and Downton, Downton and tea, what would we do without you?

So, what do you think of Season 4 now that we’re about half way through?

I know some Downton fans have jumped ship — angry and disappointed with Julian Fellowes for the shocking storyline about Anna. Words like “exploitative,” “gratuitous,” “implausible,” and “manipulative” have been bandied about.

For those who have viewed Downton as a means of gentle escapism, this was simply the last straw, some saying the attack on Anna was an assault on the series itself, definitely marking a turning point for better or worse. A devastating turn of events to be sure, with Joanne Froggatt turning in a brilliant performance. It’s interesting how this plotline is unfolding — Bates must temper his smoldering rage with genuine care and concern for Anna. What repercussions? Will justice be served?

via Carnival/ITV

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friday feast: in denby dale, the pie’s the limit!

They’re a bit mad for giant savory pies in Denby Dale. Well, way more than a bit.


Every generation or so, the good folk in this picturesque West Yorkshire village decide to celebrate a notable event in the nation’s history by baking a monster meat and potatoes pie capable of feeding tens of thousands. Yes, you heard right. Tens of thousands.

Women of DD make the crust for the 1928 pie, which raised money for hospital charity and served 40,000 people (via HDE).

And they’ve been at it for over 200 years! Thus far, they’ve baked 10 pies for 9 pie festivals (two pies were made in 1887 because the first went rancid).

This gravy guzzling Northern England tradition began in 1788, when they thought a BIG BIG BIG PIE would be a fine way to celebrate King George III’s recovery from mental illness. The most recent Millenium Pie filled 22,000+ rumbling tummies (a 12 ton whopper at 40 ft. long x 9 ft. wide x 3.5 ft. deep). It was the biggest yet; part of the fun, you see, is to make bigger and bigger pies each time. Where’s my fork?

In 1940 this DD pie pan was melted down for the war effort (via HDE).

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friday feast: tea and bread pudding for jane

“At 9 o’clock she made breakfast — that was her part of the household work —  The tea and sugar stores were under her charge.” ~ Caroline Austen (My Aunt Jane Austen: A Memoir)

It’s December 16th! A most noteworthy date to be sure.

In 1773, an impassioned group of colonists held a certain Tea Party in Boston Harbor, and just two years later, on this very same December day, Jane Austen was born at Steventon Rectory.

Why not celebrate Jane’s birthday with a fine cup of tea and a treat? The Alphabet Soup kitchen helpers are serving English Breakfast Tea by the English Teddy Bear Company. Please help yourself to a steamy cup while reading Jane’s poem.

The Jane Austen Centre calls this 11-stanza verse, “sprightly.” Indeed, it reveals her keen wit and charming powers of persuasion. It was written a few years before she moved to Chawton House with her mother, sister Cassandra and dear friend Martha Lloyd, who later married Jane’s brother Frank. Seems Jane was trying to find a way to have Martha come and visit her.

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