JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: If it's Sunday, it must be time for another delicious recipe from our own Celia Wakefield. As usual, I got to taste-test this easy-to-make dinner (and by test, I mean I had two large helpings) and you are all in for a treat. Vegetarians, I'm afraid you may have to look away from this sausage-y, bacon-y goodness, but for those of us who like a little meat now and again, oh, my, please give this a try. It pairs nicely with a bottle of red brought from my house!
Happy New Year to you dear Reds and Readers, it’s lovely being invited to join Julia and everyone in January when the year is still new and we can all feel hope and freedom to travel and visit each other.
I have two goals for this year. This is opposed to resolutions, usually I don’t make them, too exhausting, or "intentions" - well I do have some of those but this is about come hell or high water I’ll be there. First, for my younger, taller grandson, Connor, who graduates High School in June like the rest of the seniors around the country. He is heading to Tulane and is thrilled. I am hoping that I might, maybe get to visit him but probably not this year.
But the second is that I will be at NE Crime Bake and I will need lots to help etc as I have never (full disclosure) been to a mystery convention or in fact to any convention around a single topic other than business ones which are not the same, are they? I won’t need a suit will I? But will I need a costume? Or a hat? Perhaps Edith can loan me one, though I do have a big head, literally. But enough of pleasures ahead.
Among the yearly treats we have enjoyed is our visit to see TheRevels at Sanders Theater, Cambridge. In the past Victor and Olivia have performed in Revels when we had a Revels Group in NYC. I always worked backstage. Revels is such a huge part of our Christmas tradition that when they did a pandemic version in 2021 we got the virtual ticket and invited Julia over as she had attended a couple of the live shows pre-pan with us.
How to describe Revels if you haven’t seen it? Of course now, thanks to streaming, one can get a virtual ticket, but in the past you could attend if you lived in or near Hanover, NH, or Seattle, in Washington, D.C. or Houston, or in Santa Barbara, Boulder, Portland, Oregon, and Puget Sound. The chorus is always made up of community people who audition as well as local traditional English dance teams. Though the theme is not necessarily English tradition, there are certain elements which are tradition too and somehow the directors manage to fit in these loved pieces and carols year after year. In fact the year, many years ago, Revels in Cambridge decided not to have the Sussex Mummers Carol to end the show. Well the audience stood and sang it anyway before they left. That’s how traditions begin and a lot of singing and dancing will drive the dark away.
While I don’t want to witter on about what Revels has meant in the life of our family, I do want to share some of the tradition with you. January is the start, but it is a month rather devoid of fun or tradition so let me introduce you to John Langstaff, Revels founder.
John, or rather Jack as we all knew him, was a man with more energy than 10 teenage boys. We first met him in the ’70’s at Pinewoods Camp, a traditional dance and music camp outside Plymouth, MA. It was Family Week and the camp was filled with families of all ages from the grans to the newborns. We were gathered in the large open air pavilion for the morning session when on the hill path above us came the sound of singing and an extraordinary creature appeared. Dressed in black with a tall pointed headdress and a huge circular skirt which stuck out around them and then hung to the ground. This being, the 'Obby 'Oss, hails from Cornwall, England and is part of a very old fertility rite.
Accompanied by dancers dressed in white with red kerchiefs and hankies, everyone danced down to where we all stood singing lustily - "Unite and Unite, now let us all unite for summer is a comin’ in today.” Soon everyone was singing and Jack was leading us. I learned he decided the morning gathering needed a little something. So he had left Camp early, driven back to Cambridge to the Revels costume store and taken the ‘Obby’ costume and other items to do the Padstow May Day processional for us. What fun, what joy and glee.
|They've taken to wearing pants in our modern age.|
In Padstow they gather at one of two Inns at midnight; there are two processionals which weave their way through the streets and huge crowds to celebrate the arrival of May. In times past we read that the ‘Obby had tar on the skirt of the garment. They would ‘capture’ young women by putting the skirt over their heads, where the girls found that the ‘Obby was as nature intended. This was my introduction to Jack, who wanted to share traditions with everyone.
Having bought our Revels virtual ticket and found some space on Julia’s schedule I needed easy dinner. I wasn’t thinking so much of recipes but ease was to the forefront. So I made a dinner tray bake as opposed to a dessert one. Having done some cursory research on tray bakes the origins seem to be Irish bakes made on a cookie sheet and then cut into squares. How can I not after 53+ years know the name for American cookie sheet bakes? But during the pandemic Melissa Clark of NYT and cookbook authorship fame started write up recipes using a cookie sheet and mixing veggies and other ingredients. The term used by Food52 is sheet pan meals, I do think tray bake sounds more beguiling. I don’t know if anyone made any of Melissa’s sheet pan recipes but here is my version. I’m sorry there’s no video to give you all a laugh but nothing in this is complex.
Making my Revels Tray Bake:
Rimmed Sheet Pan lined with foil (to save the washing up)
Sharp chefs knife and cutting board
Rosemary & Thyme or other mixed herbs
1 rasher Bacon per person, or more
1 or 2 Sausages each, we had Irish Bangers
1 or 2 sweet onions cut into chunks (I love sweet onions they don’t make me cry)
Peeled mixed veggies cut into chunks. No thin slices here please
I used the following veggies, but you should use whatever is in your veggie drawer - Carrots, sweet potato, fingerling potatoes, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, whole peeled garlic cloves etc. salt and pepper
Pour about 1/4 C Olive Oil into the bowl and add herbs
I used a frying pan for this as I wanted to spread the veggies around in the oil rather than having them piled up in a mixing bowl. So I only put in enough veggies to cover the bottom of the bowl at a time, then stirred them around with the olive oil and herbs.
Add the rest of the veggies and mix
Add all the oiled veggies onto the baking sheet and spread out
Cover the sausages with bacon rashers
Place in heated oven
Cooking time: Set your timer for 20 minutes, then mix the tray around as much as you can do and turn over the bacon and sausages. If you want the sausages to crisp up remove the bacon on to the veggies only. Cook another 20 minutes and test if the sausage is cooked to 160F and the bacon is crisp. Keep warm or serve with a good helping of a Brit Mystery.