Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 5 November 2021

Parkin and gingerbread for Bonfire Night

The always interesting online historic cookery site Tasting History this week features Yorkshire Parkin and its association with Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night on November 5th. As a Yorkshireman this added to the interest the site always offers.

It uses a 1915 recipe for Yorkshire Parkin and offered a history, so far as it can be ascertained, of the cake. I must say that I had never heard the one about Filey before and that dragon bones are the origin of Filey Brig.

In the Comments section there is a good suggestion from a viewer as to how the name Thar cakes could have evolved into Parkin as the present name. Thar cakes again is a term hitherto unknown to me.

The video can be seen at 1915 Yorkshire Parkin for Bonfire Night

I do recall one of my uncles, who was a professional baker, making the point that there were considerable local variations in tastes fir baking and that in the area west of Wakefield in and along the Calder Valley ginger and similarly flavoured cakes were more popular than in our area around Pontefract. I am sure that population movement and changes has broken down many of those local differences.
There is another recipe, again from 1915, which is online and from a Canadian presenter. This was made in 2019 and which uses one of several for Parkin from the same cookery book, indicating the variety of methods. It can be seen at 1915 Yorkshire PARKIN Recipe

When I was growing up in Yorkshire in the 1950s and 60s, and coming on my mother’s side from a family who owned a bakery and shops I associate this time of the year not only with Parkin but also gingerbread men and pigs - known as Parkin Pigs - and with brandy snap, which came in tins decorated with a drawing of the church tower at Boston in Lincolnshire - Boston Stump. There was also Bonfire Night Toffee which came to shops in small shallow metal trays and was broken up with a small metal hammer to sell to customers  in broken pieces of slab toffee.

One of the comments on the first recipe refers to the decline in home bonfires and fireworks on this night since the late 1960s. This is an unfortunate consequence of the modern obsession with Health and Safety and an early example of the influence of the nanny state.

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