Category Archives: Mothering Sunday

It’s Laetare Sunday, and Mother’s Day in the UK, Father’s Day in Italy

It’s Midlent: The Fourth Sunday of Lent, and halfway through our Lenten journey we get a Sunday whose color is rose, the color of joy, rather than penitent purple. A little break, a small reprieve, in celebration of being midway through. The day is called Laetare Sunday, a name derived from the first few words of the Mass for this day, in Latin: It is Isaiah 66:10: Laetare Jerusalem (“Rejoice, O Jerusalem”). It’s the day when folks in the United Kingdom honor their mothers: Mothering Sunday, they call it. And this year, Laetare Sunday happens to fall on St. Joseph’s Day. San Giuseppe, sacred to Italy, where today is Father’s Day, in honor of the saint who was foster father to Jesus.

I apologize for not writing more this past week, when we honored St. Patrick, of course, and one day before that, St. Urho, whom the Finns know as the saint who drove the grasshoppers out of Finland. Either St. Urho has not gotten as much publicity as Patrick, or he is completely fictional: we’ll leave that up to you. Of St. Joseph, though, we can be certain, and we can be certain, too, that it is a day to find a good Italian bakery and some zeppole to enjoy with your after-dinner espresso tonight. We Italians consume zeppole in great quantities on this day, and there is nothing quite like being in an Italian bakery on this feast day and witnessing the rolling racks filled with zeppole: delicately light pastries filled with custard and garnished with cherries, or their lesser known cousins, sfinci, the same delicate pastry filled not with custard but with sweet ricotta, like cannoli. These things make us swoon this one day each spring. We are a dramatic, operatic people and the Festa di San Giuseppe is one of our annual highlights (and surprise: it revolves around food).

And by Monday it will be spring by the almanac: Balance comes to this old earth Monday, March 20, at 5:24 PM Eastern. Day and night roughly equal from North Pole to South, for just a short time, and then our Northern Hemisphere days grow longer than our nights as we make our way toward the Midsummer Solstice of June. The constant rearrange, so subtle we barely perceive it until we sit back and ponder it in the blocks of time we call seasons. These things will never cease to amaze me.

It was last summer that we were going to have our annual Wayzgoose at the Jaffe Center for Book Arts –– an online video event featuring the fabulous letterpress printer Jennifer Farrell of Starshaped Press in Chicago with music by singer/songwriter and recording artist Patty Larkin and me as host –– but Patty Larkin suffered a terrible accident before we could film the Wayzgoose last summer. It was obvious to me that we had to wait for Patty to recover. “No Patty Larkin, no Wayzgoose.” She had a long road ahead of her, but she did it. Patty’s been touring again, and earlier this winter, she recorded her Wayzgoose concert for us. In the meantime, I recorded my interview with Jen Farrell, and still these past few weeks I’ve been filming and editing, and the last edits will be coming at a more furious pace these next few days, all so we can have the Wayzgoose ready for its March 25 World Premiere. Won’t you join us? You can watch from anywhere in the world, and if you join us at 7 Eastern on Saturday, you’ll be part of a worldwide wave of viewers celebrating good print and good music. Click here to learn more and to watch on Saturday at 7. (The premiere takes place at the Jaffe Center’s website.)

I have a suggestion for your Saturday viewing party: Fix yourself and for those watching with you a steaming plate of waffles. I’ll explain why at the Wayzgoose. The Wayzgoose traditionally falls on Bartlemas, St. Bartholomew’s Day –– a very quirky day in the Round of the Year if ever there was one. And when it came to rescheduling this Wayzgoose, I chose the 25th of March for similar reasons. Trust me: make the waffles, serve them with maple syrup or with ice cream, then sit down with us at 7 on Saturday evening to watch. You’ll love the work of Jennifer Farrell and Patty Larkin’s concert will have you beaming… and you will appreciate the waffle connexion.

So many good wishes for you this day and this coming week!

COME SEE US! Find us on Saturday April 1 at JOHAN’S JOE in Downtown West Palm Beach from 7 AM to 3 PM for a little Springtime Market that Johan’s Joe and Convivio Bookworks are hosting together. We had a Christmas Market last December and it was so much fun and we met so many wonderful people, we’ve decided to collaborate again for Easter. We’ll have all our handcrafted goods for spring and Easter there from Germany, Sweden, and Ukraine.

SAVE ONLINE! At our online catalog, save $10 off your purchase of $85 or more, plus get free domestic shipping, too, when you use discount code BUNNY at checkout. It’s our Zippin’ Into Springtime Sale, good on everything in the shop, now through Easter (and probably a bit beyond, too). CLICK HERE to shop! And don’t forget to use discount code BUNNY at checkout if your order is $85 or more.


Zeppole e Sfinci

Images: Zeppole and sfinci, above. The zeppole are more popular; the sfinci at this bakery are identified by green candied cherries. Top: “Stasera Zeppole” translates to “Tonight Zeppole.” The photograph of a baker’s storefront window was taken by Giovanni Dall’Orto in Syracuse, Sicily.



Waffles & Vintage Roots, & a Springtime Sale

March 29, 2022: Due to a glitch in the software that delivers news of newly-posted chapters of this blog to subscribers, subscribers received notification of this post and the previous post just today. Please note that when I speak about “this Friday” in the post below, I was talking about a Friday that has already passed: The Vintage Roots Market was last Friday and Saturday, March 25 and 26. But we do hope to see you at our next pop-up market! It’s the Taco Fiesta at Bryant Park here in Lake Worth on the Lake Worth Lagoon: Saturday April 9 from 3 to 10 PM. Thank you, John

If you love waffles, we’ve got a day just for you coming up this Friday, which is also going to be the first day of our next pop-up market, the 2-day Vintage Roots Market at beautiful Yesteryear Village at the South Florida Fairgrounds in suburban West Palm Beach. We’ll be there Saturday, as well, with all of our artisan goods from Germany, Sweden, Poland, and Ukraine for Easter and Springtime and Midsummer. And then Sunday brings us a day off and also it brings Midlent: Laetare Sunday and Mothering Sunday. Let’s touch on all these topics today, but how about we begin with the waffles?

Friday is Lady Day: the 25th of March is the Feast of the Annunciation, which marks the visitation of the archangel Gabriel to Mary. Gabriel came to deliver the startling news to Mary that she was to bear a child, a son, and that that child would be the light of the world, the son of God. It is nine months to the nativity, nine months to Christmas. A bit of linguistic confusion in Sweden has made this a day to enjoy waffles, and we, of course, heartily endorse this culinary tradition. Let’s attempt an easy explanation for this phenomenon: The name Lady Day comes out of the tradition of calling Mary “Our Lady” (as in Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Guadalupe, etc). In Sweden, the day is called Vårfrudagen, which follows the same logic, translating essentially to “Our Lady Day.”

But here’s where it gets interesting: Vårfrudagen, in some Swedish dialects, is awfully close in both spelling and pronunciation to Våffeldagen. And while the former translates to “Our Lady Day,” the latter translates to “Waffle Day.” It is this bit of linguistic confusion that has had Swedes, for centuries now, eating waffles on the Feast of the Annunciation. It’s a tradition that has spilled over to wherever Swedes have left their mark, this annual excuse to eat waffles at any time of day on Vårfrudagen––breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We will be joining their ranks today, and we encourage you to do the same. And while we here in the States are partial to butter and maple syrup atop our waffles, the waffles in Sweden today are typically served with whipped cream and lingonberries or cloudberries. There are also savory waffle dishes, and one of our favorites: waffles with ice cream. If you partake on Friday, and I think you should, we encourage you to enjoy yours as you wish. We make no judgements.

The Feast of the Annunciation is, of course, a feast of the Church, as is Laetare Sunday, which follows later this weekend. Laetare Sunday marks the midpoint of our Lenten journey, and as such, the mood is lightened a bit, away from the somber nature of these 40 days and towards a bit of joy. Rose replaces purple for the day. In the UK, it is Mother’s Day, better known there as Mothering Sunday. This was in years past the day for simnel cakes, and most especially, to bring a simnel cake to your mum. Nowadays, the simnel cake has become more of an Easter tradition, but you know us: we like to honor the old ways. So if you find yourself thinking of simnel cake this weekend, now you know why. Whether you make it for Midlent or for Easter, you’ll find many recipes for simnel cake online, including this recipe from the BBC.

But now, let’s get to the Vintage Roots Market: I’m so excited to see folks again! We’ve not been out for a pop-up market since last December’s Christkindlmarkt, and this next market is going to be at one of my favorite places around here: Yesteryear Village. Aside from the technology and the 2022 prices, your visit will be a proper step back in time. Yesteryear Village is a small village made up of some of the county’s oldest buildings, brought together in one place –– kind of like Old Sturbridge Village, but Florida style. Amongst the permanent buildings there you’ll find some old Lake Worth cottages from the early 20th century, an old Florida homestead from the 19th century, a small farm, a church, a printshop, a fire station, a pineapple packing shop, an old schoolhouse, some railroad history, perhaps a penny farthing or two, and so much more. And then this Friday and Saturday you’ll also find there the Vintage Roots Market, which will include Convivio Bookworks in our outdoor tent. We’ll have with us our complete selection of springtime and Easter artisan goods: handmade wooden bunnies from Germany, as well as German baskets and natural Easter grass, Swedish candles, and perhaps most special this year, handmade pysanky eggs from Ukraine. We get them from our friend Kyrylo, who lives in Lviv, in the western part of the country, who in turn supports the artisans who make these traditional Ukrainian crafts. Most of them are women, and most live in remote villages of the Carpathian Mountains (hopefully far from the worst parts of the war being waged there now). This Easter, we are donating all of our profits from these Ukrainian pysanky eggs back to Kyrylo, who, aside from his business in Ukrainian traditional crafts, also has a pizzeria. He’s been making pizza every day to donate to the many refugee camps in Lviv –– people who have left their homes in the more heavily bombarded north, south, and east of Ukraine and headed west to Lviv, which is near the Polish border. Kyrylo’s city typically has 800,000 residents, he tells us. When last we heard from him, last week, he said there were now about 1.5 million in Lviv. Our hearts go out to all the people of Ukraine and we wish them peace and an end to this aggression.

If you can’t join us in person, you’re invited to shop with us online, and if you do, we’re offering a special online/mail order deal right now: it’s our Springtime Stock-Up Sale. Use discount code BUNNY for $10 off your order of $75, plus we’ll ship your domestic order for free. That’s a total savings of nearly $20. We’ve brought in so many lovely springtime goods this year, you really have to see it to appreciate it. Plus lots of brand new tea towels, too! Both the handprinted ones from Kei & Molly Designs in New Mexico, and the embroidered towels by my mom, Millie, who can’t seem to stop embroidering but who also likes to remind me that I’ve got to help her move some inventory! It took me several weeks, but I finally did get all her new hand embroidered tea towels on the website this past weekend. Millie says, “Don’t treasure them, use them.” She’s right. I love using Mom’s towels in the kitchen. If you really want to keep some to treasure, that’s just fine… but buy a few extra to use. These towels are made for that purpose, so please put them to work! Click here to shop!

Image: “Young Woman with a Waffle” by Godfried Schalcken. Oil on canvas, circa 1694 [Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons].


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Halfway through Lent

It is Midlent on Sunday, Laetare Sunday. In the church, colors will switch, just for today, from somber purple to joyful rose: a reward, perhaps, for getting this far in the forty day journey that takes us from Ash Wednesday to Easter. In the UK, it is Mothering Sunday: Mother’s Day. In times past, this was the day to visit your mum and bring her a simnel cake; nowadays, the simnel cake seems more often transferred to Easter Sunday. It’s a beauty of a cake with a long history, hundreds of years, at least to the time of our favored Book of Days poet Robert Herrick, who was probably eating simnel cakes every spring in the 1600s.

It is a light fruit cake, decorated with eleven balls of marzipan: they represent the twelve apostles, minus Judas Iscariot. If you’re interested in making one, here’s a link to a Convivio Book of Days post about Midlent from the past; it includes a fascinating story about the cake’s origins and a link to a recipe from the BBC (which is also the source of the photo).

This time of Lent is known in Italy as la Quaresima, and I always look at the two words and think the Italian is so much more beautiful. It falls off the tongue like a dance, while the word “Lent” is so spare, so empty. Be that as it may, the Italians know it is a lean time. The symbol for la Quaresima is a gaunt old woman, all skin and bones, called la Quaresima Saggia… an old sage, known not for her beauty but for her wisdom. It is a wise person who understands that we must get through lean times, get through trials, to become better versions of ourselves. Back when food sources were less reliable than they are now, this period of late winter into early spring was always a lean time. A Lenten fast was pious to be sure, but it grew out of a matter of necessity.

While the restrictions of Lent in earlier times were stringent, the rules nowadays are much less so (and perhaps this comes as a result of the food of this earth being more plentiful). In times past, it was no meat for 40 days, no eggs for 40 days… pretty much not much of anything for 40 days. One of my favorite things to make each Lent, though, is perfectly acceptable no matter how strict the fast: pretzels. They are a perfect Lenten bread, made, at their most basic, with just three ingredients, all Lenten-friendly: flour, salt, and water. Our recipe adds leavening and shortening to the dough (all Lenten-friendly), plus ale to the water for boiling… and the Church never had a problem with ale, which, for most of our history, was safer to drink than water. As a bonus, there is symbolism, too (and I love symbolic foods), for the classic pretzel shape of this centuries-old bread evokes the prayer posture of early Christians, who prayed with their arms crossed over their chest. Go ahead, try it right now, then look down at your crossed arms: classic pretzel shape. In fact, the name “pretzel” is thought to be derived from the Latin bracellae: “little arms,” essentially. This penitential bread has a history that goes back much further than the simnel cakes mentioned above. People have been making pretzels since at least the 6th century, and some historians think pretzels may be three centuries older yet. Below, you’ll find our pretzel recipe. They’re fun and easy to make and a great project to tackle as a family, for who doesn’t love a warm, soft pretzel? We encourage you to give the recipe a try.

A reminder, too, about our Springtime Stock-Up Sale: at the Convivio Bookworks catalog, $10 off everything in the shop when you spend $65, plus free domestic shipping when you used the discount code BUNNY at checkout. New arrivals and other springtime offerings include handmade paper egg containers from Germany (perfect for your jelly beans and malted eggs come Easter!), handmade wooden bunnies from Germany to help welcome spring, as well as handpainted pysanky eggs from Poland and Ukraine, and handmade chenille chicks from Germany for your Easter basket. “Handmade” is the theme for almost everything we offer. Use the BUNNY discount code also toward all of our Shaker teas and culinary herbs, toward our selection of Ramadan and Eid cards from Hello Holy Days!, toward our beautiful triple layer face masks from Chiapas… everything we sell.

We’re halfway through Lent… enjoy the rosy day. Now go ahead, make some pretzels!

2 cups warm water
6 teaspoons yeast (two 1/4 ounce packages––we recommend rapid-rise yeast)
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
6 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons course salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter (or shortening), cut in pieces, plus more butter for the pan (or vegetable oil cooking spray)
1 bottle ale or beer
1/2 cup baking soda
Course salt for topping, plus poppy seeds & caraway seeds (optional)

Take note, this recipe is best begun the night before you intend to make the pretzels. First, add yeast and 1/2 cup brown sugar to a bowl, then add the warm water. Let yeast mixture get foamy (about 10 minutes).

Next, mix the dough. Mix the flour and course salt in a bowl, then add the butter; mix until crumbly. Add yeast mixture and combine until the water is absorbed. Next, knead the dough on a board (or use a mixer with a dough hook attachment for this step, which makes things a lot easier). Once the dough is smooth and elastic, let it rise in a bowl (it will grow considerably, so use a large one). Wrap the bowl in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or for at least 8 hours.

When you’re ready to shape the pretzels, roll the dough out into a rectangle; it should be about 14 inches in one dimension and 12 inches in the other, which is important if you want pretzels that are uniform in size (and if you don’t care about uniformity, make them any size you wish, which is what we did on Sunday). Cut the dough into twelve 14″ strips. Roll each into a rope double in size (so, at least 28″ long), then form into whatever shape you like. For a classic pretzel shape, form each long rope into a U, twisting the two ends in the middle twice, then fold the twisted portion down and press the ends of the ropes into the circular part of the pretzel to seal. Set each pretzel on the baking board or on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450º F. In a large pot, heat 8 cups water, ale (feel free to have a sip or two, so long as most of the ale ends up in the pot), baking soda, and remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar to a slow boil. Simmer pretzels, one at a time, for about 30 seconds, holding each below the surface with a slotted spoon, if necessary. This step is what gives the pretzels that delicious combination of crusty exterior and soft, chewiness inside. Transfer each simmered pretzel to a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle pretzels with salt, poppy seeds, caraway seeds, or some combination of toppings. Bake in the upper half of the oven for 5 minutes, then rotate baking sheet and bake 4 to 6 minutes longer, until the pretzels are dark brown. When done, cool on a wire rack… but these are best served warm, so let them cool for just a few minutes. You’ll get 12 large pretzels from this recipe. If that’s too many, the finished pretzels freeze really well. To enjoy them later, thaw and reheat in a 300º F oven until crisp.


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