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Food and Fire


Whilst we’re still in the month of November I want to acknowledge All Soul’s Day, a ceremony acknowledging those who have passed.  Traditional honour of the dead in any culture is about the veneration of our ancestors such as in the Chinese Ghost Festival, Japanese Bon Festival, the Roman custom of Lemuria or the Mexican Day of the Dead.


European traditions are medieval in origin and are practiced worldwide.  Food was baked such as cakes, biscuits and bread to ‘feed the dead’ and candles lit in homes, churches and upon gravestones.

In a book titled A Calendar of Feasts, by Julia Jones and Barbara Deer, it says:  “All Souls’ Day (like All Saints Day and Hallowe’en) has its origins in the ancient Celtic Feast of the Dead, called Samhain.”   “It was kept as a solemn fast day and often bonfires were lit on the hills at night to light the souls’ way  – in many Latin countries, people also used to put candles in churchyards and cemeteries.”

According to some, in many ancient cultures and myths, fire has been known to purify the land with the flames of destruction yet is also capable of the renewal of life through the warmth and comfort of those very same flames.

Jones and Deer state that the poor of the village would offer richer neighbours prayers for the departed in exchange for ‘soul-cakes’ and spiced ale.  In Lancashire, Harcake was offered to visitors on this day.

As a suggestion make a meal, dish or drink that was your soul’s favourite, and celebrate their life by sharing it with friends and relatives on their anniversary, or, try the recipe for Lancashire Harcake taken from A Calendar of Feasts below.


450 grams of oatmeal

50 grams of butter

15 grams of ground ginger

350 grams of golden syrup

1 egg, beaten

A little brown ale

Oven: 180C / 350F/Gas 4

Rub the butter in the oatmeal.  Add the ginger and stir in the syrup.  Beat in the egg and add a little ale.  Grease a tin and pour in the mixture.  Bake for about 1-1.5 hours until firm.  Cool and then cut into squares.  When cold, wrap in grease proof paper and store in an airtight container.  Keep for a week before eating.





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