The second day of my All Hallows observance was to be spent pretty much house bound getting prepared for the evening’s Dinner for the Dead.
But first things first and I had been planning to organise my photographs for some time and All Hallows seemed the most fitting time to look over old black and white photos and organise them along with some of the information I had been gathering on my family tree over the years. This was to be my genetic and ancestral history in one book…well…as much as I had discovered.
As I organised the photos I found myself noticing features, hair, eyes, height and stature and so on, looking for those I have inherited and trying to figure out from whom. Perhaps my thick curly (unmanageable) hair was from my father’s father? My dark complexion from my Mother’s Father? My slightly Jewish nose from my Great Grandfather. I realised that Death is just a simple case of perspective…my ancestors never truly die all the while I am alive. And with that thought I finally saw the intrinsic link between sex and death…perhaps not so coincidental that All Hallows and May Day are placed on exactly opposite sides of the great wheel.
These small seemingly worthless items are worth more than expensive heirlooms like grandfather clocks or oil paintings and far more important to pass down, for one of the roles of the Witch is to ensure the survival of the stories and lore of our forebearers whether it be magical or otherwise. My paternal Grandmother’s photo has her recipe for Strawberry jam alongside it, the only thing I have of hers written by her own hand, and the first Jam recipe I tried and have ever needed since. My photo album is a long way from being finished, there are stories to write down and place along side the main characters, photos of my more distant ancestors to find…and of course there is the first page, deliberately left blank for the next generation. In many respects it will never be finished.
Out in the kitchen an apple pie was baking made with apples donated by a work colleague who had a glut, lucky given the struggle many fruit growers have experienced this year. Apple pie would be served for dessert along with Blackberry ice cream.
Heat up to 500g of blackberries in a pan along with up to 5 tablespoons of caster sugar (scale accordingly if you have more or less) and a couple of tablespoons water. Simmer for 5 minutes.
(I used the blackberries which had been macerating in Vodka for the last two months strained and boiled for longer to drive off the excess alcohol. I also substituted the water for a few tablespoons of my Rumtopf syrup.)
The blackberries should then be pushed through a sieve and the resulting puree left to cool to at least room temperature.
When ready, whip 300ml of whipping cream until it’s reached a thick dropping consistency, then blend in the fruit puree and pour into a suitably sized Tupperware container. Freeze for 2 hours.
After 2 hours beat the ice cream again and freeze for a further 2 hours before giving a final mash to reduce the ice crystals and give a smooth ice cream.
Freeze until ready to serve.
Main course was to be a roast joint of pork with thick crackling, stuffing, sweet potatoes, roast potatoes and parsnips freshly dug from the garden. My Nan loved crackling and always told me it was “good for the chest”.
Whilst dinner was well underway it was time to lay the table. There were only two of us for dinner, myself and ‘A’ but an extra 2 places were set. One for Fate laid with three knives and another space at the head of the table for the spirits of the dead. My Grandmothers table cloth was laid across their end of the table with a vase of red roses and her blue glass vase with a black candle set inside. Photographs of our distinguished guests of honour were placed around to prompt our memories and remind us of them as we ate.
When ‘A’ got home from work we embarked upon the annual pumpkin carving contest. There was a clear winner in my opinion!
The scooped out seeds don’t go to waste a few good ones were selected to grow on next year whilst the remainder were cleaned and dried for roasting.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are incredibly nutritious being incredibly high in Zinc…so Pumpkin seeds are very good for us boys!
To roast the seeds, once washed and dried on a paper towel, spread evenly over a greased, lined baking sheet and dot with butter. I make both sweet and salty seeds by sprinkling with a few teaspoons of either salt or light brown sugar and then roast in a 200oC oven until browned.
The seeds can be left to cool and stored in jars and make a delicious snack which taste a lot like popcorn
The candles were lit inside the carved pumpkins and placed outside, a sign that All Hallows was in full swing within the house they guarded. The second batches of offerings were placed by the threshold to the house to feed the ghostly procession and then, finally, the table candles were lit and we sat down for dinner.
We listened to music our grandparents enjoyed, Glen Miller’s Moonlit Serenade, Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Roselli’s ‘When your old wedding ring was new’ a song my Nan used to sing to me when I was tiny, after my bath wrapping me up tightly in a fluffy towel until I was ready for bed.
Whilst many people eat the meal for the dead in silence, the so-called ‘Dumb Supper’, in this household we talk, we speak as any family would when gathered round the dinner table. We shared stories and memories of our ancestors, their loss seeming oh too recent but the happy memories we shared over our fine roast pork with all the trimmings, warm mulled cider and apple pie called the beloved dead home to dine with us once more….I could almost hear my dear old Nan sucking away and cooing over her bit of crackling and tipple of sherry!