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December 4, 2012

The Boar’s Head
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 04:47 PM * 169 comments

Open Thread 178 has burst into a discussion of holiday music, carols, usw.

In honor of the season, then (and in keeping with our recipe tradition):

The boar’s head in hand bear I,
Bedeck’d with bays and rosemary.
And I pray you, my masters, merry be
Quot estis in convivio.

Caput apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino

The boar’s head, as I understand,
Is the rarest dish in all this land,
Which thus bedeck’d with a gay garland
Let us servire cantico.

Caput apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino

Our steward hath provided this
In honour of the King of Bliss;
Which, on this day to be served is
In Reginensi atrio.

Comments on The Boar's Head:
#1 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2012, 05:16 PM:

Today is the day I am making my fruit cake. Usually I use mostly dried fruit and "lightly sugared" fruit from the health food store. This year I am using almost exclusively fruit I dried myself during the year, whenever there was a surplus. Some pretty odd things came my way though. So I am making it with pears, plums (not prunes, because they are Satsuma plums, not prune plums), figs, strawberries, bananas, home-candied orange peel, and storebought candied ginger and raisins. Because I am doubtful of what would happen to the bananas and strawberries if I soaked them, I am adding them later, with the nuts.

I've squirreled away a couple of other pleasant things to cook with for the holidays, so I won't just be bringing Grey Bears lettuce and celery to all the different dinners and things.

#2 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2012, 05:25 PM:

Crap, should have posted this here instead of in the Open Thread:

The Irn-Bru Snowman Advert.

We need more songs about food. I'm thinking like the various Wassails and also "Quant je voi yver retourner" which has a loving run-down of all the kinds of food the minstrel hopes his (not yet found) rich patron will feed him during the cold weather.

#3 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2012, 05:31 PM:

We were listening to a random internet stream on hawaiian christmas music last night, and one song just did us in: Number One Day of Christmas.

12 days, including 3 dry squid, 5 big fat pigs, 6 hula lessons.

This is a studio version on the youtubes, while the one we heard last night was a live recording.

#4 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2012, 05:33 PM:

Oh yes, this reminds me: Hey, abi! I need the Dutch for "Thank you very much for the lovely nommy gingerbread!"

(Knock on my door Sunday evening, open it to find upstairs neighbor Inke outside bearing a wee plate with a couple of pieces of gingergread.)

#5 ::: Joris M ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2012, 05:51 PM:

@4, Jacque. Not abi, but Dutch. It would be something like "Hartelijk bedankt voor de fantastische en heerlijke ...(and then it gets complicated".

The proper word will depend on what she actually presented, usually ginger bread will most likely be "ontbijtkoek" or more generally "koek", but this time of year it seems more likely you got "taaitaai" or even proper "pepernoten" (which are different from the more common "speculaas"-like "kruidnoten").

#6 ::: D. Potter ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2012, 06:45 PM:

The fifth grade glee club (when I was in fourth grade) sang this for the Christmas pageant back around the middle of the last century.

Hearing it sung always takes me back. (Didn't twig to the Latin bits being Latin for the longest time.)

Since I can't cook boar (ribs, sure; Mom told me how to do that. Boar? Assuming I could buy it? Ha. Hahaha), there may be poppy seed banana nut bread.

#7 ::: D. Potter got gnomed! ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2012, 06:47 PM:

Oh, OK. You can have a slice.

#8 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2012, 06:56 PM:

Ahhhh . . . the Boar's Head is included on the Christmas Revels CD, which is full of great stuff. Never really paid attention to the lyrics. When I break it out later in the month I'll have to give it a closer listen.

I was going to pass on my usual holiday fudge making blitz, what with a house-move starting on Friday, but I'm going to make a batch for my realtors, a sister-team, one of whom attended the closing despite being in the midst of chemo treatments.

#9 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2012, 07:47 PM:

While walking out to the car today, I heard church bells ringing "The Angel Gabriel." That's one of my favorite religious Christmas carols.

Sting did a beautiful version [YouTube link].

#10 ::: Caroline is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2012, 07:48 PM:

Does biryani interest the gnomes?

#11 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2012, 08:09 PM:

I first heard this one on the Chieftain's "The Bells of Dublin" album. After a childhood full of the secular standards, I wound up falling in love with the whole album, but this one and "The Wren in the Furze" especially charmed me.

I incorporated this and the whole boar's head tradition into a Christmas story I wrote on very short notice for a 10/15 submission deadline. Actually I dumped in practically every pre-Victorian English Christmas tradition I could find, as the story was set in 1805. And I wound up titling it from the lyrics of another carol: "Therefore Be Merry, Set Sorrow Aside."

I hadn't ever HEARD that carol before I started scouting around for titles, but TexAnne told me it was her childhood favorite!

I haven't heard back on the story. Probably that means they rejected it, but I guess I should poke them anyway?

#12 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2012, 09:07 PM:

I have two copies of this carol - one from "The Bells of Dublin" where it's performed by the Chieftains and the Voice Squad; the second is from "Ballads and Candles" performed by Maddy Prior and June Tabor. Both of them glorious introductions to this lovely carol, which I enjoy for the fact that it's unashamedly about eating, drinking and making merry.

Which is not surprising. It started as a university carol.

#13 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2012, 09:09 PM:

Lucy @ #1: ...So I am making it with pears, plums,... figs, strawberries, bananas, home-candied orange peel, and storebought candied ginger and raisins.

Heavens to Betsy. That sounds like a fruit cake I might actually eat (assuming it could be managed Gluten-Free, of course).

#14 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2012, 09:26 PM:

Michael #13: I don't know how to make it gluten-free. I am sure it could be done with other flours, of course.
I do occasionally make chocolate cake from garbanzo flour (I used to use chestnut flour but I discovered that the price I bought it at was some kind of loss-leader bait-and-switch operation, never to be matched again). And I just ate fried pancakes of garbanzo flour and masa, that was yum.

#15 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2012, 09:37 PM:

I was singing this just yesterday. I got a last minute call to sing for the garden club consortium tours and spent three hours Sunday and two hours last night boar's heading, wassailing, and other Christmas repertoire vaguely suitable to an 18th century manor house.

#16 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2012, 09:39 PM:

...and my fruitcake baking is being made difficult by the fact that Ann's House of Nut's closed up their retail outlet and moved to Minnesota. King Arthur does have nice stuff but their prices for candied fruit are outlandish.

#17 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2012, 10:31 PM:

Lucy @ #14: Oh, I was just fantasizing about the dried fruit. It's kind of a private kink of mine.

And yeah, there is always a way to make it gluten-free. Whether it's worth eating afterwards, that's another question.

#18 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2012, 10:36 PM:

My coven has a tradition of having a flaming plum pudding for the dessert course of our Yule feast, which is presented while singing the Boars Head carol. We consider it our vegetarian substitute for an actual head of a porcine, which would be impractical anyway. The pudding has been aging for three or four months now, assisted by much brandy, I understand.

#19 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2012, 11:30 PM:

I was once present at an SCA Twelfth Night where the soteltie was a delicious cake in the form of a boar's head. They sang this carol as they brought it in and presented it to the king. With 20C harmonies, but what can you do.

#20 ::: Mishalak ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2012, 11:53 PM:

Michael Weholt @13
In my opinion the very best seasonal gluten free item is the sugarplum.

Toast more than 6oz of almonds, as you will not be able to resist eating a few. Measure out six ounces of the almonds into a food processor and let it go to town until you have more or less coarse crumbs. Toast lightly 1/4 tsp. of anise, caraway, and fennel seeds. Throw them in the food processor with a pinch of salt, 1/4 tsp ground cardamon and 4 oz each of date fruits (dry ones like deglet noor, not soft ones like medjool), prunes, and dried apricots. Process until it starts to come together a bit. Then put it into a bowl with 1/4 cup honey and 1/4 cup powdered sugar. Work it together with your hands, gloved if you prefer, and then form into aprox. tablespoon sized balls. Let dry for a bit and then roll in granulated sugar before serving.

#21 ::: Ellen Asher ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2012, 11:59 PM:

My high school music teacher explained the Boar's Head Carol by telling us the boar had broken into the Latin classroom and eaten all the textbooks.

#22 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 12:17 AM:


One of two I made last January.

Friday next week I give them their final splash of rum and then ship one to my sister and one to my parents.

Hmmm. My parents are In Recovery. Would their be sufficient alcohol left to make it problematical?

#23 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 12:55 AM:

Reposting from Open Thread 178:

There's always the Hawaiian pidgin version of The Twelve Days of Christmas. It can get boring, but not till you hear it for the fifth time in an hour (I'm looking at certain radio stations).

#24 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 02:45 AM:


It's not generally a good idea to serve a booze-flavored cake to an AA member.

#25 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 04:29 AM:

The Boar's Head Carol always takes me back to a wedding one of my relatives had, with a medieval theme (historical accuracy strictly optional, and forbidden wherever it made things less fun). One of the features of the reception was the procession in which a group of guests sang the Boar's Head Carol while presenting a garlanded piggy-bank on a tray.

#26 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 06:20 AM:

Megpie71 @12: Thank you for mentioning Ballads and Candles; I will have to go find a copy of that, as June Tabor and Maddy Prior together are a great goodness.

The Boar's Head Carol gets sung every year, either solo or with anyone else who knows it. The harmonies are a lot of fun. It was probably a bunch of Renfesties who taught it to me, most likely at Wendy Ward's Dickens Christmas Tea, a party of great renown. Wendy didn't have a Christmas tree, so we usually hung ornaments on Michael Ziegahn, which became known as "decking the Ziegahnbaum." Traditions are important.

#27 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 06:20 AM:

Mishalak #20: Hmm, I had thought that "sugarplum" was the old name for what we nowadays call "hard candy", but Wikipedia does not back me up on this -- they describe more-or-less what you do.

Stefan Jones #22: My parents are In Recovery. Would their be sufficient alcohol left to make it problematical?

Probably! :-( Not just the taste, but the odor, is likely to trigger AA folks. Absent prior assurances from their side, I suggest sticking with chocolate, or some of Mishalak's sugarplums, or suchlike.

#28 ::: Dave Harmon, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 06:21 AM:

Still working on my coffee....

#29 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 08:27 AM:

Yesterday afternoon I heard "The Lord of the Dance" on my local NPR station. The announcer described it as "the Appalachian carol", which struck me as interesting. As the hymn tune "Simple Gifts" it's Appalachian, true enough. But Sydney Carter was from that part of western Pennsylvania known as Camden Town.

#30 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 08:40 AM:

Macaronic Christmas carols? Must be time for the Drayneflete Carol:

Alle littel childer syng
Prayses to our yonge kyng
Some syng sherpe and some syng flat
Alma Mater Exeat.

Alle engles in ye skie
Maken loude melodie
With sackbut, organ, pipe and drum
Ad Terrorem Onmium.

Ye poure beastes in ye stalle
Alack, they cannot syng at alle
Ne cock ne henne of either sexe
De Minimis Non Curat Lex.

#31 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 08:41 AM:

But Sydney Carter was from that part of western Pennsylvania known as Camden Town.

And thus not entitled to describe himself as a redneck, which is, after all, an Appalachian Controlée.

#32 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 09:00 AM:

The late, lamented, and, where two or three morrismen are gathered together, vainly impersonated, Fr Kenneth Loveless, always sang
"Our steward hath provided this
In honour of the Queen of Bliss".

If asked about his denomination, he would reply "Very 'igh, boy! Very 'igh!"

I may sing "The Christmas Tree" in the Cross Keys again this Boxing Day.

#33 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 09:16 AM:

Can't have Christmas without "Deck Us All":

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!

Don't we know archaic barrel
Lullaby Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

#34 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 09:24 AM:

Mishalak @ #20:

So that's a sugarplum, eh? Sounds like one of those things where the real thing (your recipe) would be astoundingly good, and any cheapo short-cut product would be ghastly.

#35 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 09:46 AM:

Me, I'm doing duck, plural, for Christmas Dinner - this year again the full disaster with sixteen sitting down in a West Australian December, and no compromises. Baked ham, turkey, ducks, three kinds of pud, including the rum-flamed aged Christmas pudding from my great-grandmother's recipe, with my grandmother's hard sauce.

But I'm going to do one of the ducks straight out of Apicius's cookbook, the recipe headed "Gruem vel anatem" in Book Six. I'll have to substitute for laser root. Apicius doesn't say, but I'll bet the bird should be chopped into portions before the sauce is added to it.

#36 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 10:52 AM:

Lila @ 2 - A few years back I took a stab at a scanning English set of lyrics for "Quant je voi yver retorner". Needed a little padding for the syllable count. As follows:

When I see the snows returning,
For a warm lodging I'm yearning,
If I could a kind host find me
Who'd not to a strict tally bind me.
Who'd serve me pork and beef and mutton,
Roast ducks, pheasants, and venison,
Fat hens and capons, baskets of good cheese.
I'll sit by the fire; let the world freeze.

#37 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 11:33 AM:

Saw an ad on Hulu last night: Apparently they're net-casting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on Xmas.

I'm not a Christian, and by Dec 25th I tend to be middlin' sick of Christmas carols.

But I will have to say, nobody does Christmas Carols like th MTC. (Besides, the name is really cool.)

#38 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 11:42 AM:

Probably going to be couscous royale for Christmas. Ham is out because one of the guests is Muslim; we don't care all that much for turkey; we'd need at least three ducks; and goose is just too expensive.

#39 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 11:49 AM:

Jacque #37:

Our Christmas Eve morning tradition is the King's College Chapel Festival of Lessons and Carols. With our six-hour difference from GMT, it's perfect for drinking coffee and eating Sienese panforte.

#40 ::: Mike McHugh ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 12:00 PM:

For me, Christmas songs always include Christmas Countdown. A combination of assumed attention spans and the need for advertising means it's not played on the radio as often as it used to be.

On a more modern note, I really like Sufjan Stevens' Come On! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance!

#41 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 12:09 PM:

(joins in with theophylact@33)

Tickle salty boss anchovy
Wash a wash a wall, Anna Kangaroo!
Dooby dooby dum dum dooby
Dooby dooby dooby dooby dooby doo doo?

Ducky allus bows to Polly,
Probably Wally would but har'ly do.

Dock us all a bowsprit, Solly
Golly, Solly's cold, and so's old Lou

Duck a salty boss in sorry,
Sorry, sorry kraut and sow-wer stew.

(There are several more incomplete verses in Deck Us All with Boston Charlie, as I recall, but I don't have a copy.)

#42 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 12:20 PM:

We'll probably be making a simple Christmas dinner inspired by Harold and the Purple Crayon: there is nothing but pie.

But there are all nine kinds of pie we like best.

The regulars are generally sienipiirakka (Finnish mushroom pie) pecan tart, ginger pear, sour cream apple, and pumpkin.

The others vary from year to year, but there's generally at least three savory pies in the mix.

Last year I did a mincemeat that was seriously nommy.

Yum, pie.

#43 ::: Mishalak ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 12:55 PM:

Michael Weholt @ #34
Dave Harmon @ #27

Credit where credit is due, I adapted my recipe from one created by Alton Brown. He used figs and I dislike the seediness of figs, thus date fruits. Also I saw no reason to use big sugar crystals when regular granulated sugar produces such a nice frosted effect.

I started making sugarplums two years ago and of all the traditional treats of Christmas they are my favorite. Though I also love an English style pudding, unlike most Americans. The fact that they are gluten free and vegetarian is just a grand bonus, serve them at almost any party to almost anyone except a diabetic.

#44 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 01:27 PM:

Mishalak: I'd avoid serving them to those with nut allergies.

My wife has discovered that almond extract is in lots of holiday cookies.

#45 ::: JennR ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 03:51 PM:

Xopher @ #19: They sang this carol as they brought it in and presented it to the king. With 20C harmonies, but what can you do.
The last time I sang it at a feast, the tenor and I were creating the harmonies on the fly. I have no idea how 'period' it sounded, but we were having fun. (I used to be fairly adept at hearing medieval harmonies, but have fallen out of practice.)

The current caroling oddity is in the cantata we're singing on XmasEve -- O Come Emmanuel to the tune of Wayfaring Stranger.

I have had a couple of requests for mincemeat tarts this year. I guess this means I'll have to make mincemeat this year.

#46 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 03:53 PM:

Having gotten really tired of hearing the figgy pudding* verses of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," I wrote my own alternate lyrics for a version** to be sung at a little Christmas concert I'm doing at a nursing home later this month.

The first verse remains the same; the second and third verse go:

With family and friends around you,
With family and friends around you,
With family and friends around you
To brighten your days.

We wish you a joyous New Year,
We wish you a joyous New Year,
We wish you a joyous New Year
As we say farewell.

It's the final song in the concert, y'see.

*I've never seen a figgy pudding and neither I nor the people listening to me sing about it would know what to do with one. Also, those verses have always struck me as kind of awful and demanding. Give us food or we won't go away!

**John Rutter's SA choral arrangement, which is really lovely.

#47 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 04:48 PM:

tykewriter@32: Good heavens! I remember seeing a performance by Fr Loveless long ago, as a child: and I must have been told the 'very 'igh' story, because I myself often refer to a particularly flamboyant kind of high-churchmanship as 'igh, but I have not been able to work out where I got the usage from.

Was 'Queen of bliss' just his own personal variation, or was he proposing that it was the original? It's not impossible that it would be, since some carols were altered at the Reformation to make them less blatantly Marian - for instance In Dulci Jubilo.

By the way: the version of the Boar's Head Carol now commonly used comes from Queen's College Oxford: hence In Reginensi atrio ('in the Queen's hall'). (The college's name refers to an earthly queen.) I believe the Boar's Head ceremony still takes place there, though no longer on Christmas day. There were other versions, but this is the one which seems to have lasted.

#48 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 04:55 PM:

Mishalak 20: I am positively DROOLING over your sugarplum recipe! And I mean that both as a person who loves chewy goodies like I'm betting they are, and as a maker of same.

Stefan 22: The alcohol really won't go away completely, so you probably shouldn't give it to your parents. And Josh and Dave are right; even alcohol-free imitation rum flavoring would be triggery. (I don't drink but, not being in recovery per se, do indulge in fruitcakes and alcohol-flavored candies, and my friends in recovery are always telling me how they can't do that.)

Dave 27: I hadn't heard that hard candy (UK "boiled sweet") was called by the name 'sugarplum', but I wouldn't give up on the idea just because Wikipedia doesn't support it. If you find out that it IS true please let us know. Sort of thing I'd find fascinating.

Mishalak again, 43: Also I saw no reason to use big sugar crystals when regular granulated sugar produces such a nice frosted effect.

Oh, the mouthfeel and flavor impact is entirely different! A matter of preference, of course, and if/when I make these I'll probably do your version, but it's not like there's no difference.

JennR 45: I used to be able to sing a perfect fifth above a melody line effortlessly (my old choir director called this "singing faux bourdon" but no one seems to recognize that when I say it), but I'm out of practice. Medieval harmony is either parallel fifths (for very early stuff) or simply triadic with NO FOURTHS, which were considered dissonant. Later parallel fifths and fourths were banned from church music (I heard "banned on pain of excommunication," but I frankly doubt that). IIRC. ATMDM. YMMV. Do not bounce Happy Fun Ball.

#49 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 04:59 PM:

Oh, and I was going to say my favorite macaronic carol was "Nova, nova," but then I realized the chorus is entirely in Latin:

Nova, nova
Ave fit ex Eva!
...which only really works for literate people; I doubt the average medieval peasant would get the...what, humor? that.

#51 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 05:05 PM:

re 19: It think it was either the first or second occurrence of our parish's boar's head feast that my wife and I did up a boar's head cake. A year or so later someone donated a stuffed warthog head, which has served ever since with the substitution somewhere along the way of a black felt ear to replace the one the broke off.

#52 ::: C. Wingate is going to bear the gnome's head in hand one of these days ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 05:08 PM:

Not sure what set them off this time...

#53 ::: oliviacw sees more spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 05:45 PM:

Theophylact @38 - what about a Seussian Roast Beast? I always loved the imprecision of that title - it leaves lots of room for the imagination. Some nice venison, a mundane (beef) meatloaf, or just about anything. You might even argue it could accomodate a hearty fish....

#54 ::: oliviacw did not see any spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 05:53 PM:

Sorry, didn't change the name from the last time...

#55 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 06:23 PM:

Thanks * for input RE fruitcake and rum. I'll find another target for it.

#56 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 09:13 PM:

Fragano at @ 29: "the Appalachian carol"

Also no doubt a reference to its use as a motif in Appalachian Spring,

#57 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 09:27 PM:

Persephone @46:

As far as I recall, the extortionary aspect of a lot of wassail songs stems from the fact that the landowners didn't pay their farm workers during the winter.

There was an expectation of hospitality and charity from the rich around the holidays, but that and 6d will get you a cup of cider (heat as needed for the weather, spices extra).

The workers didn't necessarily trust their masters' holiday hospitality to extend far enough to actually cover them, so they added occasional gentle reminders that it was in fact expected. (Mix well, and sprinkle with scare quotes to taste.)

#58 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 09:38 PM:

"Simple Gifts" is a Shaker song. The Shakers have died out, because they were against sexual intercourse under any circumstances, even in marriage. They adopted children and taught them this...can't come up with a word that expresses my revulsion sufficiently. Finally the authorities grew sense and stopped letting them adopt children to abuse them with this grotesque notion.

I do not regret that there are no Shakers anymore. Even though they made nice furniture.

But the tune is beautiful, and to be honest the words aren't exactly full of "don't have sex" message (or anything that isn't pretty harmless even from my point of view).

I thought I knew what happened then, but apparently Sidney Carter was inspired only partly by Jesus and partly by a statue of Shiva when he wrote the "Lord of the Dance" lyric. Apparently he was quite surprised that churches started using it.

Then the neo-Pagans (according to this page, it was Aidan Kelly, C. Taliesin Edwards, and Ann Cass) got hold of it and made a version that starts like this:

She danced on the water, and the wind was Her horn
The Lady laughed, and everything was born
And when She lit the sun and its light gave Him birth
The Lord of the Dance first appeared on the Earth
Then some people decided that the tune of "Simple Gifts" wasn't good enough (or something) and some of them wrote new tunes for it. Leslie Fish's is particularly danceable and "pagan sounding." So a subset of the Pagan community have taken the final step, leaving nothing of "Simple Gifts" in the song at all!

I like what gay Jewish Brooklynite Aaron Copeland did with the melody in "Appalachian Spring," and I'd be astonished to hear someone (well, someone who otherwise likes classical music) say they don't.

#59 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 10:13 PM:

Stephen Sample @57, thanks for the background! That makes a lot of sense. In a setting where historical accuracy is important, I'd be in favor of leaving it as is, but it's such a strange thing to hear in a modern setting. (And this is from a fan of pre-1900 carols!)

Though gentle reminders that the peasants would like heat and housing over the holidays wouldn't go amiss in a modern carol.

Now give us some freaking healthcare,
I've fully paid in my share,
Emergency rooms are all full
And I'd like to live.

And so on.

Xopher @58, I love Copeland's use of Simple Gifts in Appalachian Spring. That's one of the songs on the iTunes playlist I play every morning.

#60 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 10:55 PM:

On the subject of revising songs... does anyone have a good set of lyrics for "The Holly and The Ivy" that actually scan well?

I vaguely remember hearing a version that replaced all the awkward lines when I was much younger, but I can't remember where I heard it, or any of the replacement lines. The only couplet I can dig out of memory is probably wrong, and doesn't show up on any internet searches.

"The holly bears a blossom
as white as [something] snow
But in the cold of winter night
its berries warmly glow"

Honestly, I may have just made up that line myself, because why say one flower is as white as another flower? If you're saying something is as white as something else in a winter song, why not go with the obvious "snow?"

Sadly, the alternate versions I've stumbled upon seem to have the same problem as the most well-known set - they're more interested in conveying a particular message than being singable and having emphasis on appropriate syllables.

#61 ::: Leah Miller cannot stop getting gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 10:58 PM:

I'm going to have to start being more careful, apparently.

#62 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 11:12 PM:

That's "As white as any snow."

#63 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 11:30 PM:

xopher @48: ha, faux bourdon! i learned how to play the piano on a pump organ, so i know exactly what you're talking about.

#64 ::: shadowsong is gnoméd ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 11:31 PM:

alas, alack, my one line post has been held for review. they can have the last dark chocolate caramallow if they'll let my post go free.

#65 ::: Laura Runkle ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 11:47 PM:

Today is both the thirty-second anniversary of the opening night I sang the chorus of The Boar's Head (verses were sung by male soloists) as one of the singers at the head table of our high school's madrigal dinner, and the day that the demolition of the high school was approved. As far as I know, it was the last of the public lab schools still operating.

Boar's Head, along with pieces by John Dowland and Orlando di Lasso, has been running through my head all day. As has the perversion that we made of John Bennet's work. "Weep, o mine eyes, and see snot, and see snot." Thank you for giving my thoughts a less melancholy turn.

#66 ::: Ellen Asher ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2012, 11:54 PM:

Persephone @46:

About a year ago, I ran into a recipe for figgy pudding, so, agog with curiosity, I made it. It involves butter, sugar, eggs, chopped figs, chopped dates (and/or raisins and currants if you like), chopped nuts, a dusting of flour (which could probably be omitted if you need to be gluten-free, though I doubt they worried about that in the Middle Ages), bread crumbs, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, and what you have at the end is basically a fig bar. What you do with it is eat it.

#67 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 12:08 AM:

#58: I first heard "The Lord of the Dance" on Lomax's radio show on WNYC. He'd gotten the notion that it began as an ancient pagan song.

I later read that Sydney Carter's family are fighting the notion that he somehow stole and Christianized it.

This version of the tune, with John Langstaff in the solo, is my favorite, and the YouTube slideshow is a thing of joy.

#68 ::: Paul A. hopes to attract the gnomes to shadowsong's plight ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 01:03 AM:

shadowsong is gnoméd @ #63:

I suspect that the gnomes can't hear you when you speak in that funny accent.

(Less whimsically: I understand that the gnome patrol works by searching for instances of the word "gnome", which would also catch "gnomes" and "gnomed", but would overlook "gnoméd".)

#69 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 01:14 AM:

Stefan, #66: Actually, the thing that's always frosted me about Carter's version is that the original was already a Christian hymn! Yes, there are a lot of Christian songs which are older originals with the serial numbers filed off (*cough*What Child Is This?*cough*), but in those cases the originals are generally secular. "Simple Gifts" was someone else's Christian music, and he did indeed steal it, though not from the pagans.

#70 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 01:18 AM:

Mike McHugh @ #40:

On a similar note, there's "And Yet Another Partridge in a Pear Tree", written by Brian Sibley and performed by Penelope Keith.

It's along the same lines as the Christmas Countdown, except even worse: as the title hints, it goes the full cumulative route: day one, a partridge; day two, two calling birds and another partridge; day three, three french hens, two more calling birds, and yet another partridge; ...

#71 ::: individ-ewe-al ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 05:23 AM:

Xopher @58 and other knowledgeable people: if Carter wrote Lord of the dance partly inspired by Shiva, where do all the verses that are pretty much straight retellings of Gospel stories come from?

Unfortunately that tune, even in Copeland's version, has really bad assocaiations for me. It's a lovely tune, but it's also the "let's beat up the Jews" song that we had to sing in school assemblies when the crazy* antisemitic deputy headmaster wanted to preach about how the Jews killed Jesus. (I live in the UK where explicit religion is allowed in schools, and at aged 8 I was the only Jewish kid mine.)

To refer back to the end of the last OT, I'm another Jewish person who prefers explicitly Christian carols sung well over generic winter holidays soft rock pap. I certainly wouldn't be offended if a colleague happened to sing something that touched a sore point. It's not the song's fault that I had some bad childhood experiences! And most Christmas carols have entirely positive associations for me, I see them as part of my national heritage even if not my religious one.

*Literally crazy; he was institutionalized a few months after his sermons gave me a year of being set on by the bigger kids every time he did one of those assemblies.

#72 ::: individ-ewe-al is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 05:27 AM:

I think I used the definite article in conjunction with the name for my co-religionists. I was kind of quoting the sort of people that the gnomes valiantly defend us against, but forgot about the keyword combination. Sorry, gnomes. You're welcome to doughnuts or mince pies or more ecumenical seasonal foods, I'm celebrating Christmas and chanukah at the same time starting this weekend so there's plenty to go around.

#73 ::: April Grant ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 07:00 AM:

Xopher @58

The Shakers have died out, because they were against sexual intercourse under any circumstances, even in marriage. They adopted children and taught them this...can't come up with a word that expresses my revulsion sufficiently. Finally the authorities grew sense and stopped letting them adopt children to abuse them with this grotesque notion.

Yikes, what an assertion.

I used to work as a guide at Hancock Shaker Village, so I ought to be used to this sort of thing by now, but I can't let this one pass without comment.

The Shakers aren't grotesque. They're also not dead. (They're certainly not going out and making converts anymore, but there are two aged ladies and one middle-aged man living quietly in Maine to this day.) I understand that their no-nookie-ever attitude is... unpopular these days, but to call them abusive adopters is a mistake.

I mean, would you call the orders of monks and nuns who adopt/raise children grotesque? There's no moral difference between them and the Shakers. The Shakers used to call themselves "monks and nuns without bolts and bars" to explain themselves to the outside world. But the extra little differences--men and women living together without nookie, a woman leader, communal cooperation--something about them adds up to a reaction of violent disgust from the casual visitor.

They were a flourishing religious sect in the beginning of the 1800s largely because the contraceptive hadn't been invented yet, sex* and marriage meant pregnancy and tons of kids, and a monastic life looked wonderful to lots of beleaguered parents and worried young single people. That's the lovely appeal of the Shakers--you could live among friends forever, and never have to get married in order to be part of a stable, wealthy home. Or you could go there with your kids and be ensured they'd live to grow up and be educated and well-fed and taught a trade.

Everybody was free to quit the Shakers if they wanted to. That's a myth I want to dispel--they weren't some sort of evil cult leaders keeping children prisoner. You had to choose to be a Shaker, and if you couldn't hack the lifestyle they would gently eject you. Kids who grow up on a Shaker farm aren't automatically Shakers.

Damn, I have to run to work, more later.

*no word on whether the Shakers acknowledged same-sex attraction as existing--I tend to assume they just ignored it all along the line, but who knows. If anyone has a primary source on this I'd love to read it.

#74 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 08:35 AM:

But if anyone wants to convert, they'll certainly be welcomed. Or so I understand.

#75 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 09:02 AM:

Lee@69: But setting one hymn to the tune of another hymn is extremely common. Indeed, I've seen old Scottish psalters where the top half of the page (with music) turns independently of the bottom half (with words) so that you can sing any psalm to any tune (except a few which are in odd metres).

individ-ewe-al@71: I would take it that it's just the concept 'Lord of the Dance' which was inspired by Shiva. The narrative content is certainly totally Christian.

#76 ::: Braxis ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 10:53 AM:

Andrew M @75

Have you ever heard I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue (an Antidote to Panel Games) on Radio 4? One of their best games is One Song to the Tune of Another.

Here's a Christmas themed example.

#77 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 11:28 AM:

76: listen to that sort of thing for a bit and you start noticing it everywhere. My favourite discovery is the words of "Stand by Me" to the tune of the Soviet National Anthem.

When the NIGHT ha-as COME and the LAND i-is DARK
And the MOON is the ON-ly-y LIGHT we-e SEE
I WON'T be a-FRAID, no I WON'T be a-FRAID
Just as LONG as you STA-and, STAND by-y ME

SO, darling darling STAND, by me!
WHOA, darling darling STAND, by me...

#78 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 12:57 PM:

The Sydney Carter song I was most familiar with in my youth was "The Ballad of George Fox": a rip-roaring, foot-stomping Quaker sing-along song.

(I will pause briefly for that particular conjunction of images to resolve themselves in people's brains.)

A brief web search suggests the song was written in 1964 so it must have been still fairly new when I first heard it, although at the time I was given the impression that it was an old traditional ballad. (We sang it off a set of mimeographed lyric sheets stuck inside the cover of A Friends Hymnal and I'm not sure it had author attribution.) One website suggests that it's "a further variant on Lord of the Dance" but that must have been concluded by someone to whom all folk tunes sound the same. The tune for the George Fox song is borrowed from a traditional Morris dance tune "General Monk's March". When I discovered this, I felt a little torqued that Carter never acknowledged the tune's source in any of the sheet music versions I ever saw, claiming it as his own composition. So I guess having the lyrics disseminated without his name attached may have been cosmic justice in some fashion.

#79 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 01:02 PM:

I've been saying for years that the Star Spangled Banner goes much better to The Ashgrove than it does to To Anachreon in Heav'n.

#80 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 02:13 PM:

I am never convinced that Christmastide has arrived until I have heard "The Holly and the Ivy" ("The Sans Carol" will also do) and "In the Bleak Midwinter".

#81 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 04:04 PM:

Hmph. I went looking for "The Ballad of George Fox" on YouTube, and the only thing I could find was a coffeehouse recording, obviously taken with a cellphone camera, of a rocked-up version with the singer screaming completely un-parsable lyrics. I did catch the similarity to "Lord of the Dance" in the music... sort of. Not even worth linking to, phooey.

#82 ::: Jon Baker ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 05:27 PM:

I learned the Boars Head Carol in college. Our eating club (what Princeton has in place of fraternities for feeding upperclassmen) had a lot of Jews in it, so we didn't feel comfortable having a Chistmas Dinner, therefore we had a Medieval Feast. This was food with no New-WOrld ingredients, served in trenchers, with a roast boar's head carried in on a palanquin, to the strains of the Boars Head Carol.

We would dress up in medieval costumes, mostly derived from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. One year I was Patsy the horse, the other year I was a shrubbery.

The shrubbery was relatively easy, I made a small piece of picket fence out of some wood from the lumberyard, wore my green sweater and a few feet of pine garland wrapped around myself. Patsy the horse was harder, since I'm not much at sewing - I made a tabard semi-sewed up the sides, with a sunburst drawn on it, and a hood of scrap denim inside out in lieu of chain mail.

And what happened to the boar's head, not that anyone really tried to eat it? We carried it around campus, invading other eating clubs with it, and eventually someone stuck it on a high shelf on a big spiky steel sculpture (in the Woodrow Wilson fountain, if any fluorospherians know the campus). It stayed up for several days before Maintenance got someone with a ladder to get it down.

We didn't need Tom Lehrer to do silly campus pranks, we did them ourselves (Lehrer made silly campus pranks when my uncle was at Harvard for grad school in 1950)

#83 ::: Jon Baker ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 05:35 PM:

elise @ 26: is that Wendy Ward the weaver, now known as Chava Berkowitz?

#84 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 06:11 PM:

re 58: As far as I can tell the Shiva connection is just a fantasy on the part of various syncretists. I can't find any place where Carter says any such thing.

#85 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 06:44 PM:

April 73: I know of priests who adopt, but they raise their children as ordinary Catholics, without expecting lifelong celibacy. If monks and nuns adopt children and teach them they must be celibate lifelong, yes, I would consider that abusive.

Celibacy should be an adult choice, not an expectation from birth. Sexual choice appropriate to one's basic nature is a fundamental human right, and being adopted doesn't take it away. And yes, I do think some religious teachings cross the line into abuse; the teaching that same-sex attraction means you're going to hell, for example, is abusive to gay people.

The fact that "everybody was free to quit the Shakers" only mitigates this somewhat. You must be aware of what it does to your psyche to have to leave your community and all you've ever known in order to be yourself.

Braxis 76: I call that wrong-tuning, but usually I only do the ones that fit, like "Clementine"/"Ode to Joy"/"Mack the Knife."

C. 84: I wouldn't be shocked. I got that from Wikipedia, which is, as you know, an unimpeachable source (for values of 'unimpeachable' equivalent to 'pretty damned impeachable').

#86 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 06:54 PM:

Here is the "Lord of the Dance FAQ" by the holders of the copyright:

#87 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 07:11 PM:

The holders of the copyright want you to think that the parody is, in their words, a "rip-off." They want to imply that parody is illegal, whereas in fact it is fair use.

#88 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 08:13 PM:

Lee @81 -- I strongly suggest you invest in Lovely in the Dances: The Songs of Sydney Carter, difficult to find as a CD but that link goes to a website that claims to have it. Some of the Usual Suspects of British folk-rock doing some absolutely killer versions of Carter's songs, and a haunting last track sung by Carter himself. There's a long tale of how P+T introduced it to me on a tape without any information, and I'd found them the album title (and a copy to look at) before the weekend ended, without using the Google (it hadn't been invented yet, IIRC -- the album was recorded in 1981, and released on CD in 1997). They were amused.

Some of his best songs are not well known at all, like "Friday Morning."

#89 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 08:19 PM:

(Edited to add -- other sites may be cheaper, so check around!)

#90 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 09:59 PM:

I saw a mid-19th century Methodist hymnal, and it didn't have any written music. Lots of words, though. I suspect they sang whatever tune would fit the words.

#91 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 10:25 PM:

Stefan Jones@22 - The church I went to as an undergrad was a small Southern-based non-denomination, and when somebody's mom was up visiting, she mentioned soaking a fruitcake in orange juice. My wife and I looked at each other puzzled (Orange juice? Southernism?) and then realized that it was probably a Not Drinking sort of Southernism.

I've never actually tried it, and I doubt it has the preservative effects of liquor, even if used as a transport for mass quantities of sugar, but since it's been a few years since we've actually made fruitcake, and the occasional store-bought fruitcakes get eaten before they've been around long enough to need preserving, I suppose I should try it some time. Orange liqueur works reasonably well, and we sometimes use that instead brandy or rum.

#92 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 10:33 PM:

The borrowing of Simple Gifts that really annoyed me was the excerpt from Appalachian Spring used in a car commercial a few decades back. It's one thing for Pagans to borrow a Christian religious tune, considering how many of their tunes we've appropriated, but taking a tune about living a simple unpretentious life and using it to sell fancy cars to keep up with the Joneses somehow seems a bit excessive :-)

#93 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 10:33 PM:

My teatotaling grandmother always covered her fruitcake with apple slices, for whatever that's worth.

#94 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 11:09 PM:

I remember my mother using orange juice on fruitcake. It worked well enough, although it does require keeping the cake well-wrapped.

#95 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2012, 11:24 PM:

The fruitcake in question has had three or four dousings of rum since January. I don't think switching to orange juice for the final splash will help!

But for next time . . .

#96 ::: Braxis ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2012, 04:23 AM:

I would think that all the moisture in orange juice would promote spoilage, rather than retard it. Was it added just prior to eating, as a flavour enhancer?

Adding an orange syrup to cakes is an excellent idea. This Delia Smith recipe, that I first made twenty odd years ago, is still one of my favourites.

7 oz Wholemeal flour
3 level tsp mixed spice
1 level tsp bicarb.
6 oz soft dark sugar
2 size 1 eggs
¼ pint sunflower oil
Grated rind 1 orange
7 oz grated carrots
4 oz sultanas
2 oz desiccated coconut
2 oz chopped walnuts

For syrup glaze:
Juice 1 small orange
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 oz soft dark sugar

Brush loaf tin with oil and line with grease proof paper, make sure the paper comes well above the top of the tin.

Put flour, spice and bicarb in bowl. In another bowl combine the sugar eggs and oil.
Beat until smooth. Gradually fold in the dry ingredients, the orange rind, carrots, sultanas,coconut and walnuts. Stir up well and put in the lined tin. Put in the oven at gas mark 3(300F 150c) for 1 ¾ - 2hrs until well risen and springy to touch

While it is cooking, prepare the syrup glaze. Whisk together the fruit juices and sugar. When the cake comes out of the oven piece the top repeatedly with a skewer or thin knife and immediately pour the glaze over the top. There will be a surplus, hopefully retained by the sticking up grease proof paper, this will soak in given time.

#97 ::: Braxis is partying with the Gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2012, 04:27 AM:

I solemnly promise, if released, a slice of the the delicious recipe contained within.

#98 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2012, 07:27 AM:

Xopher HalfTongue @87: they wouldn't like this one then.

#99 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2012, 10:42 AM:

A gluten-free (but not nut-free) cake: Weiss Bohnentorte or White Bean Torte. This may be a survival from days when they ran out of wheat flour and din't want to use rye for the cake. I've seen German and Austrian recipes that call a bean torte without the ground nuts but with almond extract False Almond Torte.

I've made a version, and it doesn't taste particularly beany; then again, there's a fair amount of competition from other ingredients.

I have no idea if the beans would be musical when served in this manner.

#100 ::: fidelio is hanging with the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2012, 10:43 AM:

And we can totally make the bean torte if you want, O gnomes of security, but I'll need to get the nuts and the apricot jam.

#101 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2012, 11:02 AM:

P J Evans @ 90

I saw a mid-19th century Methodist hymnal, and it didn't have any written music. Lots of words, though. I suspect they sang whatever tune would fit the words.

There are hymnals of similar era that include in the back an index of tunes by metrical structure. The lyrics would then include a brief code for the hymn's metrical structure (e.g., something like "7676 88") and you matched it up with the tune index to identify which standard melodies would fit it well.

I have an early 20th c. Welsh hymnal (probably Methodist but I'd have to check) that uses this system.

#102 ::: Kate Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2012, 11:18 AM:

One of my favorite carols is "In the Bleak Midwinter," especially the lines "snow had fallen snow on snow / snow on snow on snow." Could anything else sound quite so cold?

I have purchased a frozen goose to make for Christmas. I hope someone can give me tips on cooking goose, because this is the first time I've tried it. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've never eaten goose (although I do love duck--which I have also never cooked).

I bought my goose at our local Food Lion. It's free-range and I think it was $23 for a bird that's 11 pounds or so. Walmart had similar-sized frozen geese for $60, not advertised as free-range. What on earth could the difference in price be?

#103 ::: puddle ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2012, 12:50 PM:

"You must be aware of what it does to your psyche to have to leave your community and all you've ever known in order to be yourself. "

But for some of us, that is what we must do, without sexuality coming into it at all. Sometimes, the fit is just so bad, that breathing at all means leaving. All -- friends, customs, family, culture. . . . It also helps if one moves very far away so you become mythical to them, and they, to you.

#104 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2012, 12:57 PM:

Kate @102, I can't come up with any reason for the price difference.

As for cooking the goose, you'll want to start several days before.

1. Thaw it, either in the refrigerator or in regularly-changed cold water.

2. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, large enough in which to submerge the goose. Do so. 30-60 seconds ought to be plenty.

3. Put the goose on a V-rack over a roasting pan or something else with a rim to catch drips.

4. While you've got it there, check for feathers that the processing people missed. With luck, the dip into boiling water will have loosened them enough for tweezers. If not, you'll probably need pliers. (Sorry.)

5. Set the goose, rack, and pan into the refrigerator, uncovered. Leave it there for 24 hours.

6. Season goose as desired -- herbs under skin, apple wedges and/or potatoes in bottom of roasting pan (dry out the roasting pan and line it with foil, clearly!), apples in cavity... whatever you like. Chestnut dressing is one traditional accompaniment. Some people like prunes. Bear in mind that goose is all dark meat. Do NOT add any additional fats beneath the skin as you might for turkey or chicken.

7. Roast. Initial high heat produces the best skin. Consult your favorite general cookbook (Joy of Cooking, Fannie Farmer, How To Cook Everything, etc.) for advice on time and temperature.

8. Let rest for 10 minutes or so before carving.

9. If you have left the bottom of the roasting pan empty, I highly recommend you pour off the fat and save it. Potatoes (or brussels sprouts) cooked in goose fat are an incredible treat.

The initial blanching renders off some of the fat and prevents the meat from being greasy, while leaving enough to keep it moist. The air-drying process promotes a deliciously crispy skin. It's the same way Peking duck is handled.


#105 ::: Rikibeth has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2012, 12:59 PM:

Dear gnomes, I hope you're just interested in my description of preparing a goose. If you have one handy, I'll happily roast it for you.

#106 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2012, 01:23 PM:

Kate Shaw @ 102

The one time I roasted a goose for Christmas I had a lot of people warn me that it would be unbearably greasy. (No doubt part of the attraction back in the days when caloric consumption during winter time was more critical to good health.)

As an experiment, after I'd stuffed the goose with the requisite chopped onions and grapes and herbs and whatnot, I pricked it all over with a small sharp point. (I think I used one of those two-tined corn-holder implements.) Then I made sure it was in a deep roasting pan set on a fairly high rack.

As intended, the majority of the grease was able to drain away into the bottom of the pan during cooking. I had a delicious and non-greasy goose (and a quart of rendered goose fat).

If doing this, I'd advise using a low-temp/slow-roast method to avoid unwanted smoking of the grease as it collects. (I've also become generally enamored of slow roasting, so I may simply be evangelizing on this point.)

#107 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2012, 01:35 PM:

Kate, #102: I bought my goose at our local Food Lion. It's free-range and I think it was $23 for a bird that's 11 pounds or so. Walmart had similar-sized frozen geese for $60, not advertised as free-range. What on earth could the difference in price be?

1) Wal-Mart is no longer committed to having "lower prices", even though their advertising still says that. A lot of their stuff is sold (at best) at about 11¢ under MSRP; you can find better discounts (for better-quality merchandise) at Target. But...

2) The eBay effect. People think that eBay is the place to go for bargains, so they don't shop around. It's easy to find used items on eBay selling for more than it would cost to buy a brand-new one. The same thing happens with Wal-Mart, which now charges what the market will bear -- meaning as much as they can legally get away with and still be able to use the word "discount".

3) Your local or regional Food Lion may have a deal with a local source, so that you don't have 3 or 4 layers of middlemen raising the price.

4) Speculation only -- Food Lion's meat prices may still be depressed as a result of the scandal some years back when they were found to be re-dating old meat and selling it as fresh. (We don't have Food Lion here, so that tends still to be my first mental association to "Food Lion + meat".)

#108 ::: Kate Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2012, 02:27 PM:

Rikibeth @ 104: Thank you! Any recipe that calls for pliers is a keeper. That sounds wonderfully complicated without actually being difficult to accomplish, so I can feel that I did a lot of fussy Cookery without the accompanying exhaustion. I'll have to look into finding chestnuts around here for the stuffing.

Heather @ 106: I'll try the poking-holes-in-before-roasting. By "fairly high rack" do you mean a V-rack in the roasting pan or that you put the roasting pan on a higher-up oven rack? Thanks!

Lee @ 107: Food Lion is so ubiquitous around here that I don't think the meat scandal is on anyone's minds anymore. I do remember it, though. I suspect your #3 may be the solution to the price difference (or at least a big part of it), since it's possible the Food Lion geese were raised and processed locally while the Walmart geese were probably shipped in from another location. I'm just glad I noticed that Food Lion carried geese (I saw them when I was pricing turkeys at Thanksgiving). They carry duck too. Hmm, I wonder if they'll have lamb this spring.

#109 ::: Kate Shaw has been gnomed! ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2012, 02:28 PM:

I promise I will save a piece of roast goose for the gnomes if they don't mind waiting a few weeks.

#110 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2012, 04:20 PM:

Ellen Asher @66, that sounds pretty good! I always thought it must be like plum pudding.

Lee @69, my voice teacher has been resisting my inclusion of Greensleeves in my Christmas concert because it's "not a Christmas carol." She prefers the What Child is This lyrics, but was somewhat mollified when I pointed out that Greensleeves is the original.

#111 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2012, 04:33 PM:

Well, to be fair, there's nothing even vaguely related to Christmas in the "Greensleeves" lyric. I personally think the "What Child Is This" lyric is cheesy, but that's just me.

#112 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2012, 04:47 PM:

Lee, 69; Persephone, 110: "...and the royalties - go to Royalty."</Michael Flanders>

For reference. [beat] For references (although I caught two or three that it doesn't explain (probably because the author didn't realize anyone wouldn't know it)).

#113 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2012, 04:51 PM:

Xopher @111, oh, true! But I'd thought its inclusion in the carol canon was pretty uncontroversial.

#114 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2012, 05:28 PM:

No, I don't think so. I think when you hear the melody among the Christmas carols they're thinking of it as WCIT. I haven't heard the song sung as a carol with the Greensleeves lyrics, ever.

#115 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2012, 05:44 PM:

Persephone, 113: Greensleeves, the tune, is used for the carol What Child Is This. Greensleeves, the text, isn't a carol at all, and shouldn't be on a Christmas program.

#116 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2012, 09:14 PM:

Roast goose:

Apicius (yes, I know I keep coming back to this, but his recipes are delicious, and usually healthy to boot) recommends par-simmering the goose to release fat before roasting, also, but gives this sauce:

1 teaspoon each dried black peppercorns, cumin seeds, celery seeds, thyme leaves, 1/2 teaspoon ginger cut small, 1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds, pinch sea salt. Grind together in a mortar.

Place in small pan, add 1/4 cup finely chopped or ground hazelnuts or almonds, mix, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1 cup strong chicken stock, 2 teaspoons olive oil. Mix, bring to boil, then low simmer for 20 minutes to reduce. The result is a sweet-sour sauce that cuts the richness of the goose to a nicety.

Serve in sauceboat to accompany roast goose.

#117 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2012, 12:02 AM:

Kate @ 108

Rack height and pan size need to work together to avoid having the goose sitting in the rendered fat. (Keeping in mind that I managed to get a quart of fat out of one goose.) So a V-rack may be sufficient (and I do prefer V-racks to prevent the bird from rolling around), but if the pan is just barely large enough for the goose, then it needs to have higher sides, and possibly some way to prop the rack a little higher from the bottom.

(I think I ended up draining off the grease at least once during roasting, but especially if you're doing slow-roasting, it's much better not to open the oven for any purpose.)

#118 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2012, 01:25 AM:

Tom Whitmore and other interested parties, the "Lovely in the Dances: Songs of Sydney Carter" album is even available at Amazon, although there are only 8 CD copies left in stock, it says. Amazon also sells an MP3 version of the album.

#119 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2012, 01:34 AM:

Amusing aside RE roasting birds:

When someone moves out and tosses their household goods, I'm all over the heap left by the dumpsters. A few years back I got a bunch of cooking gear, including a pile of baking things. One of these was a cooling rack which was unfortunately bent. I used it for loaves of dessert bread, with bread topside down.

It wasn't until I baked my first chicken last summer that I realized that this wasn't a bent cooling rack but a very sturdy roasting rack.

#120 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2012, 01:43 AM:

Rikibeth @ 104 - I may have a turkey for Christmas. Some years my employer gives turkeys, some years ham. If so, when I make broth from the carcass and pan deglazing, I'll be skimming into a wide mouthed jar. After a while I'll be spooning turkey fat out of that into another jar. I don't like Brussels sprouts, but potatoes fried in turkey fat are a Good Thing.

The remaining skimmings get poured on to the leftover dressing, which gets reheated under a layer of leftover skin. Any leftover meat not eaten in turkey sandwiches on Turkey Breaking Day gets frozen in sandwich baggies for later meals. Not much turkey gets wasted.

#121 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2012, 01:58 AM:

And mirabile dictu, the Sydney Carter album is even on Rdio, so I can listen to it Right Now.

My parents had a three-booklet set of his songs, In the Present Tense, some with improved piano parts by Donald Swann (of Flanders & Swann fame). Lord of the Dance is the only one I had previously heard sung by someone else.

#122 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2012, 02:46 AM:

Stefan Jones @ 119: Amusing aside RE roasting birds:

I, on the other hand, having no rack and needing to roast a turkey, used a bundt pan. Far more cakes get cooked in this house than birds!

#123 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2012, 06:34 AM:

janetl #122: A bundt pan? Was your turkey a contortionist? (I think of bundt pans as being the ones for ring-shaped cakes.)

#124 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2012, 07:38 AM:

Dave Harmon @ 123, the image I'm getting is of the turkey standing upright with the central spire of the bundt pan inserted in its body cavity. But maybe that's just me.

#125 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2012, 08:47 AM:

Lila #124: I guess that would work. You'd need a pretty big oven for vertical clearance.

#126 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2012, 08:57 AM:

Seconding (or thirding or whatever-ing) that potatoes roasted in goose fat are a culinarily divine thing. My brother-in-law gave me a roast goose for Christmas one year, with the fat as a bonus present. Both bird and potatoes were amazing. Florida pepper went really well with the meat, too.

#127 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2012, 09:00 AM:

Dave Harmon @ 123, I thought the bundt pan was being used as a rack, with the bird resting across the top.

#128 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2012, 09:27 AM:

Melissa, 126: What is Florida pepper? DuckDuckGo and Google aren't helping.

#129 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2012, 12:15 PM:

The turkey was sort of draped over the Bundt pan, set in a larger roasting pan. It was one of the 1/2 size Bundts, so not as tall as you were probably visualizing. I have a "standard" Bundt pan, one that looks like a ring of evergreen trees, two 1/2 size ones, a pan that makes six 1 cup ones, and a pan than makes 12 small ones. It's a personal problem.

Last week, I brought a cake baked in the evergreen trees one to a party at work. I got onto the elevator with a woman from another floor. She looked at the cake carrier and said "Oh, you're a dangerous person!" I said, "When you have a Christmas tree pan, you have to bake the hell out of it in December." She nodded, and deadpanned "Yeah, it's not like anyone bakes for Arbor day."

I have made a note on my calendar, on Arbor day in April, to bake!

#130 ::: janetl has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2012, 12:20 PM:

For either my tendency to add too many spaces after a period, or for a link to the Nordic Ware website. If other people have as much of a weakness for Bundt pans as I do, then I can well imagine that the gnomes are protecting us from ourselves by banning that site.

Dear gnomes, the lemon poppyseed cake will be out of the oven in about 30 minutes. Or I could defrost something from the freezer. Would you like a chocolate cream cheese cupcake, flourless chocolate torte, almond tartlet, oatmeal butterscotch cookie, or Darn Good Chocolate Cake*?

*from Chocolate from the Cake Mix Doctor, and highly recommended.

#131 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2012, 12:42 PM:

I just discovered Tim Eriksen's Star in the East. Well worth a listen, for fans of mountain music.

#132 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2012, 12:48 PM:

Florida pepper, at least from Penzy's, is a lemon pepper blend.

#133 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2012, 01:01 PM:

A question for the Fluorosphere (especially the Dutch contingent): Ever heard of a cookie called a Heertje? I'm wondering why they're called that.

A friend gave me this recipe, and said that she got it from a woman she'd worked with who was Dutch. The ingredients are:

1/2 pound butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
Almond paste, 7 or 8 ounces (however it's being sold in your area)

You combine everything except the almond paste in the usual cookie-making manner. Divide into 4 pieces and chill to make it easier to work with.

These will be baked in a mini-muffin pan, or mini-quiche pan, because the dough is so soft that it would just pool across a pan. They bake up looking like tiny tarts.

Each of those 4 chunks will make 12 cookies. Roll it into a cylinder, and cut in half. Slice that half into 12 equal pieces, and put them into the mini-muffin pan. Take a fourth of the almond paste, and slice it into 12 pieces, and put these on top of the dough. Take the second half of the dough, slice into 12 pieces, and top the almond paste. I flatten the piece of almond paste into a disk so they stack neatly. Decorate the top with some sliced almonds.

Repeat with the other 3 chunks of dough, ending up with 48 cookies.

Bake at 325F for 15-20 minutes. Let cook briefly, and remove from pan before they reach room temperature. Store in the freezer -- they go stale more quickly then most cookies. I try not to have them out for more than a day.

Here's what they look like.

#134 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2012, 03:15 PM:

TexAnne @128, let's see if the gnomes will let me post a link:

Since I've gone on a reduced-sodium diet, this has become my "saltshaker." I particularly like it on poultry + pork.

#135 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2012, 03:20 PM:

The tune of 'Greensleeves' can also be sung to 'The Old Year now away is fled', which is certainly Christmassy and, from the second verse on, religious. I think this, though not the original, goes back further than 'What child is this?'.

#136 ::: Mea ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2012, 03:30 PM:

For a holiday song to sing that is lovely, about hanuka and NOT the dreaded dreidel song, I think this one I'd lovely:

Jewish-Sephardic song, Flory Jagoda - Oco Kandelikas (Eight Candles)

#137 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2012, 08:22 PM:

re: Mishalak's sugar plums @ 20 -

I will not tell you how many of these I surrounded at a holiday open house a few hours ago, other than that it was more than two, and though Mishalak brought a generous plateful, that was more than my fair share.

This is statement, not apology.

#138 ::: Kate Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2012, 08:25 PM:

Dave @ 116 - That sauce sounds divine! I'll try it. The best thing I think I ever ate was smoked duck with candied walnut pieces this summer on a cruise ship. Before then I'd never really liked sweet and savory flavors together, but I'd never really had anything except that nasty sweet and sour sauce from plastic packets either. Now I'm all over it, if I can make it myself.

Heather @ 117 - That makes sense. I have one of those big disposable roasting pans they sell around Thanksgiving for turkeys, the ones with high sides. I can set a V-rack (or possibly a bundt pan!) inside to keep the goose out of the grease.

#139 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2012, 09:02 PM:

janetl #129: Ah, OK. Dave's boggle retreats into its usual figment.

#140 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2012, 01:40 AM:

Anything called Darn Good Chocolate Cake is worth a look. I Googled and found a modified form of it (made into layers, rather than a Bundt pan cake, janetl @ #130).

#141 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2012, 02:19 AM:

Linkmeister @ 140: The version of the recipe that you found left out the chocolate chips, with is a sad thing to do. I highly recommend buying the book. This recipe is wonderful, but so are the cream cheese cupcakes*, and the white chocolate lemon cake is swoon-worthy. There's a chocolate-orange frosting that's wonderful — and the list goes on. Several years ago, I took a series of pastry classes at culinary school. We did cookies, bread, custards, pies, and then there was the cake class. I thought I'd finally learn to make a really good cake from scratch and stop slumming with doctored cake mixes. Well, I learned how to make several proper cakes from scratch, and that I like the doctored cake mix cakes better.**

Darn Good Chocolate Cake is a durable recipe. I have made it as layers, cupcakes, large muffins, full size Bundt cake, and small Bundts. It has always risen just fine, been moist, and the chocolate chips have stayed nicely distributed throughout. The pudding mix and sour cream make it a very sturdy cake batter. You can see some of my notes here.

It's perfectly lovely on its own, which is convenient. You can bring it to a party and not worry that there will be plates and forks — with no frosting needed, you can manage eating a slice in your hand, with just a napkin to catch crumbs. I do like it as a layers, with frosting, mind you, but sometimes I'm lazy. Or I want pretty Christmas trees that I can dust with powdered sugar to look like snow.

*I'm kinda not allowed to show up at family gatherings without these.

**Except for Alton Brown's coconut cake. It's perfect, but a lot of work.

#142 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2012, 06:39 AM:

Though it has veered to food, I find this thread is where I've got to go to place this, which Came To Me yesterday... (It probably doesn't help that I seem to know a different tune than most people for the Bells component, gcbacdcb gcbagf#bg gfedggfe aagfeedd...) Yes, the tempo mismatch needs to be maintained, the bells are about twice as slow as the ships.

I saw three ships come sai-ling in
 I heard the bells on Christmas day
on Christmas day, on Christmas day
 their old familiar carols play
I saw three ships come sai-ling in
 and wild and sweet the words repeat
on Christmas day in the mor-ning
 of peace on Earth, good will to men...

And what was in those ships all three?
 I thought how, as the day had come,
on Christmas day, on Christmas day
 the bel-fries of all Christen-dom
and what was in those ships all three?
 had rolled along th'unbro-ken song
on Christmas day in the mor-ning
 of peace on Earth, good will to men...

The sa-vior Christ and his la-dy
 and in despair I bowed my head
on Christmas day, on Christmas day
 "There is no peace on Earth", I said
the sa-vior Christ and his la-dy
 for hate is strong, and mocks the song
on Christmas day in the mor-ning
 of peace on Earth, good will to men...

And where did sail those ships all three?
 then pealed the bells more loud and deep,
on Christmas day, on Christmas day
 "God is not dead, nor doth he sleep"
and where did sail those ships all three?
 "The wrong shall fail, the right pre-vail"
on Christmas day in the mor-ning
 "with peace on Earth, good will to men!"

Oh they sailed in to Beth-lehem
 then ringing, singing on its way
on Christmas day, on Christmas day
 the world revolved from night to day
oh they sailed in to Beth-lehem
 a voice, a chime, a chant sublime
on Christmas day in the mor-ning
 of peace on Earth, good will to men!

and now I don't think I'll ever be un-hearing it. Luckily, it turns out _The Walrus and the Carpenter_ is in sixes, not eights, so won't fit in as third-lines to make it bells and ships and sealing wax...


#143 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2012, 10:35 AM:

janetl @129:

For the Arbor Day cake, it seems like the cake should include pine nuts, just to match the pan.

#144 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2012, 01:15 PM:

David DeLaney (142): I like that one!

#145 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2012, 01:41 PM:

Stephen Sample @ 143: Excellent idea!

#146 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2012, 04:09 PM:

I just learned about the Straight No Chaser version of 12 Days (so many internets, so little time!)

#147 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2012, 12:34 AM:

This weekend, we've been listening to a giant playlist of more traditional and obscure Christmas music as we've gon about our week delayed tree decorating and cookie baking. The list had the Boar's Head Carol. Hey, I've heard of that one.

Either Lo, How a Rose E're Blooming is entirely cliched bits of Methodist appropriate Christmas offertory/prelude/extra music, or I've heard it many more times than I thought.

We Three Kings is pretty bleak. IIRC, the fifth verse (in the hymnal we used anyway) is perhaps the pinnacle, or the depths, as it is.

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume,
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in a stone-cold tomb.

At one point during the Messiah part of the playlist, my 3 yr old came up and asked "Is this 'Are we like Sheep?'. " Yes kiddo, it is, or close enough. He likes to know the name of the songs that are playing, and apparently I told him that one before. But not that particular recording.

I've been looking for new Christmas music recordings. I'm getting tired of the novelty ones, anything talking about santa, the Retro Tin Pan Alley/Restorating hardware stuff., I'm still happy with the surf style album, oddly enough. What I want is the c.a. 1980 Methodist hymnal carols, sung at a tempo, liveliness, and tunefulness that was rarely achieved growing up, and then only with the most forceful music director when only the choir was singing. Joy to the World should be uplifting, and the last verse should have all the trumpet stops going. 40 BPM is right out. Funny that the music is about all that I retain from growing up in it.

#148 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2012, 12:46 AM:

Heather Rose Jones @78
The tune for the George Fox song is borrowed from a traditional Morris dance tune "General Monk's March". When I discovered this, I felt a little torqued that Carter never acknowledged the tune's source in any of the sheet music versions I ever saw, claiming it as his own composition.

I didn't think of this at the time, but in the songbook "In the Present Tense" he does say. I don't remember if he gives the name, but he says it's a traditional Morris tune and comments that George Fox's preaching might have had to compete with it.

#149 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2012, 12:47 AM:

eric 147: Either Lo, How a Rose E're Blooming is entirely cliched bits of Methodist appropriate Christmas offertory/prelude/extra music, or I've heard it many more times than I thought.

You've heard it too many times. The first arrangement of that (actually "Es ist ein Ros Entsprungen") I ever sang was written by Michael Praetorius in 1609. So it's not made up of bits, at least not recently.

And yeah, WTK is one of the few Christmas (technically, Epiphany) carols that brings in the meaning of the three gifts: they're royal grave goods, a bit of foreshadowing that surprised me when I found out what it was.

#150 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2012, 12:55 AM:

Xopher, eric:

The settings of Es ist ein Ros that I really hate are the ones that square off the rhythm. Why would anyone do that? It's worse than postponing the last line of Ode to Joy to the downbeat.

#151 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2012, 01:21 AM:

It's possible that not only have I heard Lo, How a Rose E're Blooming a lot, it's cliched in the same way that Shakespeare and Casablanca are.

#152 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2012, 01:35 AM:

eric @ #147, have you heard Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass's arrangement of "Winter Wonderland?" It is easily the most unusual version of that chestnut that I've ever heard.

#153 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2012, 06:50 AM:

eric @ #147, Xopher HalfTongue @ #149:

The way I remember it being explained to me, "We Three Kings" connects each of the gifts with a different aspect of Christ's nature: gold for the king of kings, incense for the god, and myrrh, the grave good, for the man who will die as all men must.

And the fifth verse is only bleak if you stop there, which you're not supposed to do; otherwise it's just the contrasting moment of darkness that every great uplifting story contains. You have to go through "sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying" to get to "glorious now behold him arise".

#154 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2012, 08:45 AM:

janetl #141: Except for Alton Brown's coconut cake. It's perfect, but a lot of work.

For two years running, my Mom has treated my nephew to a coconut cake for his birthday. This is known as the "3 day cake", because it takes that long due to multiple stages. I'm told part of it involves "reducing" coconut milk to a fraction of its volume. It is an exceedingly good cake. (And I'm pretty sure Mom enjoys kvetching about the effort involved. ;-) )

#155 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2012, 01:20 PM:

Kate Shaw @102: I hope someone can give me tips on cooking goose

They have really cool wishbones. (Though not suitable for making actual, you know, wishes.) I think I still have a couple from geese we had for holiday dinners back in the '70s. Just the right size and shape to make a pommel for a saddle suitable for one of my Breyer horses....

#156 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2012, 10:13 PM:

Dave Harmon @ 154: Your mom is a rock star! Three days! She must actually do the homemade coconut extract. I don't go that far, but the two times we've baked this cake in this household it was a joint project by my sweetie and I. We start with actual coconuts, and he does the heavy work of tackling them. Thanks to that recipe we now own an oyster knife. I've found that the coconut water in actual coconuts is unreliable — at least those available in Oregon grocery stores — but you can buy bottled, plain coconut water that's fine. The coconut milk and coconut cream are divine. Come to think of it, my burly assistant comes in on that part, too. You use a clean dish towel to gather up the coconut that's been soaking in milk, and squeeze the hell out of it. That cake recipe is kind of Full Contact Baking.

The depth of coconut flavor that results from the real, unprocessed coconut infused into the cake and icing is so lovely. There's just no comparison to what you get from that processed stuff in a bag or can, is there? I wish someone in my family was baking one every year!

#157 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2012, 01:38 PM:

re 147: Eric, you might want to try the Gabrieli Consort's recreation of a Renaissance era Lutheran Christmas mass. Played on good speakers, it will blow you out of the room; the final verse of In Dulci Jubilo starts with a fanfare and then dumps the whole lot of Renaissance instrumentation and singing on top of Roskilde cathedral's killer organ. No 40 BPM on this one.

re various, on "We Three Kings": First, the myrrh verse is verse 4, just for accuracy's sake. Anyway, the most important aspect of frankincense and myrrh is that, together, they make the sacred incense of the Torah that is offered only to the LORD. The gifts signify worship, above anything else.

And in the baking marathon: my fruitcake is made, with me having candied my own orange peel after failing to find a decent, timely, and affordable source. Next year I may candy my own citron if I can find a decent one soon enough.

#158 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2012, 02:07 PM:

C. Wingate@157: re various, on "We Three Kings": First, the myrrh verse is verse 4, just for accuracy's sake. Anyway, the most important aspect of frankincense and myrrh is that, together, they make the sacred incense of the Torah that is offered only to the LORD. The gifts signify worship, above anything else.

They're also portable, comparatively easy to conceal, and are either spendable as-is or have high resale value for their size. So they're not only symbolic, they're also highly practical-- especially for a not-that-well-off couple and kid who are going to need to do a quick relocation to the land of Egypt.

Smart cookies, those kings.

#159 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2012, 09:01 AM:

janetl #156: Not quite homemade extract, but the coconut did end up infused into the cake, to wonderful effect. When I sent Mom your (Alton Brown's) recipe, she agreed it was just as "bad" as the one she used.

#160 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2012, 10:14 AM:

In Herbert Howells' take on The Three Kings, his carol-anthem Here Is The Little Door, we are led into the stable bearing our gifts. The Christ-Child gives us some rather disturbing gifts in return. It was written, or at least published, in 1918.

#161 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2012, 11:54 AM:

tykewriter, that gives support to what I had heard, which is that myrrh was primarily used to make an ointment put on corpses to keep them from stinking between death and burial (which is a shorter time in Judaism than in some other cultures).

#162 ::: Jon Baker ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2012, 02:42 PM:

Xopher @ 161:

However, consider the type of cave burial described in the NT and in the Talmud (roughly contemporary documents from parallel societies in the same area). The body is washed, dressed in a white linen shroud (tabard?), carried out to the burial cave, and laid in a niche carved in the wall of the cave. The cave would have many niches with bodies at various stages of decomposition. The body was left to disintegrate for a year, the bones were collected and placed in an ossuary (bone box), and stored or buried. Biblical examples indicate cave burial without ossuary reburial; perhaps that reflects less population density?

The NT describes women going to the burial cave to cover the body with this myrrh deodorant, and finding the body gone. I suspect this was done so that others coming to use the burial cave while other bodies were quietly rotting, wouldn't be too quickly driven out by the smell.

David Kramer (The Meaning of Death in Rabbinic Judaism) maintains it was only done for a few centuries right around then. I speculate it was because that was the period of densest population in Jerusalem - they ran out of nearby burial space, the ground was mostly solid rock, they didn't have explosives, so they did this to economize on graveyard space. Otherwise, then (as attested by graves at Qumran, which was settled c. 150 BCE - 50 CE) as now, most Jews buried in individual pits.

So, the time for deodorization of Jewish bodies was probably just as long as for early Christian bodies, as the first couple of generations of Christians were mostly Jews and followed Jewish practice more or less. And in either case, longer than a few days.

#163 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2012, 07:14 AM:

So the women who found the tomb empty were there because attending to corpses was women's work? Something which had not previously occurred to me.

#164 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2012, 12:11 PM:

John Baker @162:

"burial shroud" -- aka "winding sheet" or "nine yards of other cloth" (h/t Silver John)

These actually wrap the entire body, head to toe, no similarity to any tabard I've seen. The most well-known example is the Shroud of Turin. Sometimes the face is covered, others not -- may be a religious preference?

I'm not sure when this fell out of favor in burial procedures, or even if it was done anywhere in USA -- I've never seen it in a Christian burial in my lifetime, and there are all those Victorian pictures of the deceased in their best clothes in their coffins with no sign of a shroud.

#165 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2012, 12:53 PM:

Several days late, here's my contribution to the Christmas canon. No, it's not Freddy the Snowman this time, but the Canterbury Carol, which we have seen here before. As long as the twelve days aren't over, I still feel timely.

#166 ::: Kip W — begnomed ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2012, 12:54 PM:

So, self-promotion's a gnoming offense now, eh?

#167 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2012, 04:19 PM:

Lori Coulson #164: I believe it is still done in traditional Jewish burials, but you don't get to see the shroud inside the plain wood coffin, which doesn't get publicly opened. (No embalming, and all that.)

#168 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2012, 07:29 PM:

Heather #101 At least the 1970 Canadian Anglican hymnal still had an index by meter. I just checked and both the Anglican and United Church of Canada current books have metrical indices. Copyright dates 1998 and 1996.

#169 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2012, 08:12 PM:

Henry Troup, Heather:

It's still very common to have a metrical index. I go to quite a lot of concerts in churches, and I often browse through the hymnal while waiting. Metrical indices seem to be standard in hardcover hymnals.

I have been warned, however, that singing a hymn to another tune is a copyright violation (that is, if either the words or tune postdate Steamboat Willie).

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Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.