In Texas, fireworks are strictly sold prior to the Fourth of July and New Year’s Day. But I have recently noticed fireworks for sale in my local supermarket and couldn’t figure out why. It took the neighbors blasting gun-shot sounding firecrackers to realize people are getting geared up for Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night.
Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason, why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.
We can trace the origins for this “plot” to as early as King Henry VIII. When he broke from the Catholic church in the 16th century in order to marry Anne Boleyn, Henry ushered in the English Reformation. Because of this change in national religion, many secret Catholics seethed and hoped the country would revert back to the Roman Catholic Church when Henry passed away.
But, much to the chagrin of the Catholic population, King Edward VI, Henry’s son, reigned as a Protestant. His life was cut short; however, ushering in Queen Mary or Bloody Mary, affectionately nicknamed due to her violent killing of any heretics who still practiced Protestantism. But her reign was also short lived, and Queen Elizabeth I, in 1559, brought back Protestantism to England.
There was a group of provincial English Catholics that still wanted the Roman Catholic Church to be the predominate house of worship. They held out hope that King James I would reinstate the religion when Queen Elizabeth I died. But when he did not, that was the last straw. The group decided to put together the Gunpowder Plot. The plan was to blow up the Houses of Parliament and murder the king.
This group of traitors managed to smuggle in 36 barrels of gunpowder in the underground caverns of the House of Lords. But an anonymous tip alerted the police to what was going on. Guy Fawkes, a born and bred Catholic, was found guarding the explosive supply. After being tortured and sentenced to hanging, he was sent to the scaffold for the city to watch him suffer. But instead of leaving his fate in the hands of an executioner, he jumped from the scaffold, breaking his own neck in suicide.
A year later, King James I passed The Popish Recusants Act which required every English citizen by oath to deny the Pope’s authority over the king.
Now on November 5th, Brits get together for the annual “Bonfire Night” where they symbolically burn Guy Fawkes in effigy and set off fireworks celebrating the preservation of the British government. It seems to be just a continuation of partying and/or night of debauchery after the symbolic hedonism of Halloween.
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Since Jeff and I are becoming more and more British as each day goes by, I feel like I must participate in some small way. We are not going to crash a bonfire, but I have found a recipe that is traditional and a perfect match for the explosive and traditional holiday.
Parkin Cake was first documented in 1728 but was largely not known in the southern regions of England. Northerners turned to oats more often than wheat for sustenance because they were poorer than the rich southerners. And since oats were typically harvested at the beginning of November, these cakes were a symbol for autumn celebration. Over the years, the traditional parkin or tharf cake moved south and became linked to Guy Fawkes Night mainly just due to timing.
Reminiscent of gingerbread, this traditional treat has been enjoyed for centuries to mark the change in season and the celebration of British nationalism. Give the recipe a try and let me know what you think!
Guy Fawkes Parkin Cake
makes 12 slices
adapted from Honest Cooking
100g rolled oats, blitzed into flour
100g gluten-free flour, sifted
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
100g unsalted butter
4 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp molasses (black treacle)
4 tbsp honey (or golden syrup)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 fl oz almond milk, unsweetened
1 inch fresh ginger, fresh
100g apple, diced and skinned
1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 Celsius) and prepare an 8×8 Pyrex pan with butter and flour or baking spray.
2) In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, salt, baking powder and ground ginger. Whisk or combine thoroughly. Add the ginger and diced apple. Combine with a spoon or clean hands until distributed evenly.
3) In a small saucepan, combine the butter, molasses, honey, brown sugar and stir continuously until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved.
4) Slowly pour the liquid into the flour and combine with a spoon. Add the milk and stir until the batter is completely uniform.
5) Pour the batter in the Pyrex pan and cook for 50-60 minutes, checking at 30 to make sure you’re not burning the edges.*
6) Let it cool in the pan for a couple minutes before taking it out of the pan to let it cool completely.
*Note: The bread is baked to be hard, so it will not be a “creamy” taste associated with poundcake. Historically, it is meant to be sealed for 3-5 days and then served when it becomes soft, which the sugar in the honey or golden syrup does over time.
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What do you do and cook on your bonfire nights whether it’s in November, July, or January?