Tag Archives: Laetare Sunday

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].


Tagged ,

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.


Tagged ,

Waffles & the Measuring of Days

Who knew, when it began, that 2020 would become the year of small pleasures? With the 25th of March, I can offer you a small pleasure we can all rally around: waffles. The 25th is Lady Day, the Feast of the Annunciation. And through a matter of linguistic misunderstanding, the day has become known as Waffle Day. That part I’ll explain later. For now, though:

W A F F L E S !

Waffles have a very long culinary history. If we’re being loose about definitions, we can take their provenance all the way back to Ancient Greece, where savory flat cakes were cooked between heated plates. There is a connexion, too, to the communion wafers that nuns make for churches (and certainly some shared etymology in the words wafer and waffle). But the classic cake that we think of when we hear the word waffle was a staple in many parts of Europe for centuries, and especially in the Netherlands, where waffles developed their distinctive honeycomb pattern in the 13th century. The Dutch cooked waffles quickly on heated patterned irons… and still we cook waffles this way today.

The “Belgian” that we so associate with waffles today is not so much an origin story as it was clever marketing: one of the food vendors at an early 20th century World’s Fair was a waffle maker who made and sold his waffles and rather than offer his customers forks and knives, he showed them how to eat them the same way his Belgian mother taught him: out of hand. It was a bit of a novelty, so he gave them a new name: Belgian Waffles. Clever guy.

Now, back to Waffle Day. The 25th of March brings an important religious celebration––the Feast of the Annunciation, also known as Lady Day––and in a strange twist of linguistic fascination, it has become a traditional day for waffles. For this tradition, we traipse from the Netherlands across Germany and Denmark, bound for Sweden, where Lady Day becomes Our Lady Day, or Vårfrudagen. Which, as luck would have it, is awfully close in both spelling and pronunciation in some Swedish dialects to Våffeldagen, which means “Waffle Day.” As a result, Swedes, for centuries, have been eating waffles on the Feast of the Annunciation, which marks the day that the angel Gabriel came to Mary to deliver the news 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 was a day of high significance in ages past: For centuries, throughout Catholic Europe, the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25 was considered the start of the new year. Even Ancient Rome celebrated the new year at the spring equinox. But eventually the original Roman calendar, used for centuries, fell out of sync with realtime astronomical events. Time is a tricky thing. We know it’s there and that it spirals on and yet its measurement in hours and days and years is a construct that we invented. And so Julius Caesar, when he instituted the Julian calendar that was designed to correct the original Roman calendar, set January 1 as New Year’s Day. This he did in honor of Janus, the Roman god who looked backward and forward, into the past and into the future. Things continued on this way for many more centuries until the medieval Church, which saw things differently from Rome, moved New Year’s Day back to March 25, in concert with Lady Day.

But even the Julian calendar was flawed and as the centuries passed, this became strikingly apparent. Easter was falling out of sync with spring. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar, which reformed the Julian calendar and corrected its miscalculations. It is the calendar we use to this day, much more accurate and in sync with the sun, although it still drifts a bit with meanderings that are corrected by complex rules (for instance, only millenia years that are divisible by 400 include leap year).

With the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, October 4, 1582 was followed by October 15, 1582 (a necessary step to put the calendar back in its proper season). Pope Gregory also moved New Year’s Day back to January 1. It seems folks were still celebrating the old Roman date anyway, at least popularly if not officially, and this move made New Year’s Day official.

But all this reform, coming from a Catholic pope, was not welcome in Protestant England; Queen Elizabeth was not about to take orders from Rome about how her days were to be measured. England (and her colonies in America and elsewhere) continued with the old Julian calendar and continued marking March 25 as the start of the new year for nearly 200 years more, until Parliament passed the Calendar Act of 1750, and in 1752, January 1 became the official new year and Wednesday, September 2, 1752, was followed by Thursday September 14, and we begin at this point and for a long while after to see British and American almanacs listing the dates of holidays and including their Old Style dates, as well.

It all gets very muddy and confusing. And, to be honest, much more than I ever cared to tell you about. But hey, here we are, confined to our homes with time on our hands. Calendars seem almost unimportant these days, no? I suspect most people felt the same way in earlier, simpler times. As long as the church in town rang its bells to help us keep track of our days, what matter was it to the rest of us what time it was or what day?

Aside from the waffles and aside from the Christian celebration of the Annunciation, the traditional March 25 date of this holiday has long held significance in the calendar. The 25th came on the heels of the Vernal Equinox: a time of new beginnings. The equinox still today brings the traditional Persian new year, Nowruz, a celebration that has only ended but a few days ago. But the 25th of March has long been considered a mystical day in Judeo Christian tradition. It was considered by many through history as the first day of creation, the day of the expulsion from Eden, the day the Israelites passed through the Red Sea, the day of the beheading of John the Baptist, and the day of Christ’s crucifixion.

All this in the midst of lent, our annual season of penance and reflection. It was Laetare Sunday this past Sunday. Clergy were saying mass to cameras in most places, not people, but if you saw them they were dressed in rose vestments. Laetare Sunday marks the midpoint of lent, a pause in the somberness. Purple, the color of lent, is replaced by rose. In the UK, it was Mother’s Day. Midlent there is traditionally a Sunday to visit your mum and bring her a simnel cake. Again, a pause for joy.

Lady Day offers us a bit of that, too. We may be nine months to the Nativity but we are nine months, as well, to the Winter Solstice. In the cyclical year, this is the season of opening and rebirth. The open earth receives the seeds that burst forth into new growth. Mary conceives her child at this season magically, having “known not a man,” just as the earth goddess of the old ways did at this same time of year. And so the Vernal Equinox brings both rebirth (the Green Man, leafing out in plants across the landscape) and conception (the Sun Child, who will be born at the Winter Solstice). The connections between Pagan and Christian roots are deep indeed and this, perhaps, is just as it should be: all our history, bound up together into one very long, fascinating spiraling story. Sometimes that story says, “Here: stop, have a waffle.” No need for forks or knives.

Image: “Vrouw met een wafel bij een raam” (Woman with a Waffle by a Window) by Godfried Schalcken. Oil on panel, circa 1668. [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.


Tagged , ,