Sunday, 1 August 2010
The past is a different country...
Today is 1st August, also known as Lammas Day but I confess that until yesterday I didn't know what that actually meant. I could vaguely remember that there's a Lammas Fair in St Andrews in August but I strongly suspected that it was named after the day and not the other way round!
But yesterday I found out via an article in the Herald newspaper. And no, it's got nothing to do with llamas!!
Lammas Day is one of the traditional days associated with our agrarian past, in the days before we became an industrial - or as we are now, post industrial - society. Like Whitsun, Candlemas, Quarter Days and Harvest Festivals, Lammas has its roots (oh, pardon the pun!) in the agricultural traditions our ancestors used to follow when we were more closely tied to the earth and the seasons than we now are. (And no, I couldn't have told you when Whitsun was either before I looked at Wikipedia but I did know, courtesy of Philip Larkin, that it was some time in the summer.)
Get on with it, I hear you shout! Ok, Lammas Day is a day of celebration for bread, wheat and all things bakery. It was traditionally the first day of the wheat harvest - at least in the northern hemisphere - and the day, presumably, when we could start stocking up again on that oh-so important staple - flour. It's no accident that the best known prayer of the Christian faith includes an entreaty for daily bread, and the term 'breaking bread' has come to be understood as a ritual of sharing and trust.
Where would we be in our modern hectic full speed lives without the ubiquitous sandwich, pizza, breakfast slice of toast, biscuits, pies, muffins, cupcakes, pasta and noodles. Even our traditional Christmas dinner requires bread sauce and stuffing to be complete! Life on the go would be much less manageable, and convenience foods would be far less, well, convenient. And our coffee/tea breaks would be that bit less naughty.
Spare a thought then for the coeliacs and wheat intolerant amongst you. That's what life is like for those of us who can't tolerate the staff of life. When you stop and think about it (as indeed I now do on an almost daily basis) it's amazing just how many things have wheat in them and are therefore out of bounds. Some are obvious (sandwiches, rolls and wraps of all descriptions; anything with pastry; almost all cakes; most things in batter) while others are less so (soy sauce; semolina; anything with white sauce; most gravies; mustard powder; even some ice creams - no, I don't know either!). It can make life a bit complicated at times.
Nowadays there are many replacements and alternatives - corn, rice or potato flour; rice or millet pasta; quinoa instead of cous cous to name but a few. There are also some amazing brands and ranges, even in the most everyday supermarket, that make life that little bit less dull. Special mention to Tesco and Sainsbury for their gluten free ranges, and newcomer Marks & Spencer (although here's a hint, guys. If you have a 'free from' range - stock it in one place and don't mix it up with wheaty goodies, otherwise it defeats the purpose of having a range - ie you still have to read the ingredients list just to be sure!). Even some coffee shop chains are getting in on the act. My other recent discovery (and great joy) is a gluten free bread that actually tastes like 'real' bread - take a bow, Genius loaves!
So after all that, you can imagine I'm fairly non-plussed about the whole point of today!!
In case you were wondering - the rest of the quote in the title is "they do things differently there". Prize - ok just some kudos - if you know where it comes from.
In case you were wondering 2 - extreme bloating and fairly violent gas is the consequence of indulging in wheaty substances for me. Not, as I told my impressionable young nephew, turning green and growing horns!!
By the way, this has nothing whatsoever to do with Lammas, wheat, bread, coeliac disease or anything sensible. I just found it while I was looking for a picture of llamas. Enjoy!