Sugar Spun Run photo.
Diverse and indigenous cuisine brought by the many ethnic people to St. Maarten from all over the world piques our interest. To this end, we are on a quest to find where it comes from, if it is used for celebrations, if it is exotic to some but everyday food to others. Anything to do with keeping the body and soul nourished with that which is produced from good old terra firma, is what makes the world go around.
Remember, remember, the 5th of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.
This very British bit of history was one of our favourites when young. Mainly because of the fireworks we either had or went to see. At that age, we had no idea about the back story, but we could all repeat the nursery rhyme.
The event was always held on the Fifth of November and usually at a neighbour’s house, if not at our house. The build-up was fun. For the preceding week, young lads (usually no girls as I remember) would trundle down the roads singing their version of a ditty whilst pulling a small homemade cart. On the cart was a scarecrow type stuffed material figure. The children all carried tin cans hoping households would put small change therein.
As youngsters, we would wait eagerly at our gates for these wee bands of “hooligans” to come by and “ooh” and “ahhh” over their “guy”. My favourite “guy” was the time they had a very small youngster in the cart – a real one – that put on a very good floppy, scarecrow-like performance, calling out “Penny for the guy” – their coffers grew that year!
The song they chanted sounded deliciously exotic, I had no idea it was Afrikaans – “guy het e harra knee, guy het e harra knee!” I was grown up when I realized they were singing “Guy het nee hare nie” – meaning the guy has no hair!!! No wonder the wee lad they used that year had a shorn head!
Guy Fawkes went down in history. Also known as Guido Fawkes (he was called that during his time in Spain), he was born and educated in York; his father died when Fawkes was eight years old, and his mother married a recusant Catholic.
Fawkes, by then a converted Catholic, went to Spain and fought in the Eighty Years' War against Protestant Dutch reformers in the Low Countries. His initial idea was to go to Spain to seek support for a Catholic rebellion in England, but he was unsuccessful. However, he did eventually meet a man who had similar ideas and they returned to England where he was introduced to others who had plans to assassinate King James I and restore a Catholic monarch to the throne.
The Gunpowder Plot conspirators rented a room underneath the House of Lords where they stockpiled gunpowder. Fawkes was placed in charge. The conspirators were zealous Roman Catholics enraged at King James I for refusing to grant greater religious tolerance to Catholics.
These conspirators planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament (in the Palace of Westminster) during the state opening of Parliament, intending to kill the king and Members of Parliament in order to clear the way to re-establishing Catholic rule in England. The ever-present threat of the plague delayed the opening of Parliament from July until Tuesday, November 5.
The group of conspirators had initially stored gunpowder in this room, but after a few months away, they returned to find it was not good anymore, so they carried in and hid more barrels of gunpowder beneath firewood.
The conspirators were betrayed when the authorities were sent an anonymous letter to search Westminster Palace. They found Fawkes guarding the explosives. After some serious questioning involving torture in the Tower of London, they finally heard him confess that the plans were to blow up the King and the House of Lords – and having done that, they hoped to install a Catholic Princess on the throne.
Fawkes was just 31 when he was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The story goes that at his execution (end of January); he jumped and broke his neck avoiding the agony of the rest of the sentence.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, 'twas his intent
To blow up the King and the Parliament
Three score barrels of powder below
Poor old England to overthrow
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match
Holler boys, holler boys, let the bells ring
Holler boys, holler boys
God save the King!
The other conspirators were either killed resisting capture, or were tried, convicted, and executed. Parliament declared November 5 a National Day of Thanksgiving, and the first celebration of it took place in 1606. Since that fateful night, his effigy has been traditionally burned on a bonfire commemorating the failure of the plot.
These days, Bonfire Night is celebrated with parades, fireworks, bonfires and food. In communities around the world, there are often professional firework displays to go to – so much better than to have all those awful injuries from ineptly set up fireworks at home. As children, we would sometimes be driven to watch displays. One of the ones I remember was when we lined the beach front, sitting in our cars, eating our delicious finger food and settling back to watch the naval ship start their fireworks. Two or three beautiful rockets later, there was a large spark of explosions coming off the side of the ship – and that was it! Yes, the paper reported the next day that a match had inadvertently been dropped in the wrong place.
Home fireworks night affairs were so much fun for us children and I suspect for the adults too. A fire would be made in the centre of a ring of chairs for the adults and a tent set up for the young ones. Watermelon fights were a highlight for a couple of years till we got older (preteens) and did not enjoy our “outfits” getting messed up with watermelon juice. All ages loved the sparklers, as I think we all still do.
Marshmallows – There should always be marshmallows to toast over an open fire. Bought ones are good, but homemade one’s rock. Be very careful when you work with hot sugar.
3 large egg whites
13 leaves gelatine
700g white caster sugar
1½ TBL liquid glucose
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
Vegetable oil for the tin
100g icing sugar
4 TBL cornflour
Whisk egg-whites until soft peaks form, set aside
Put gelatine in a deep bowl, cover with 200ml cold water – this is to soften it.
Put caster sugar, liquid glucose and 300ml water in a large, high-sided saucepan.
Cook over a medium-high heat until the mixture reaches 130° C on a sugar thermometer.
Take pan off the heat.
Add gelatine and the water to the hot sugar.
Wear oven gloves so you don’t get burnt if the mixture bubbles up and spits.
Stir until the gelatine has dissolved; carefully pour the mixture into a heatproof jug.
Beat the softly beaten egg-whites until stiff peaks form.
Keep whisking on slow while slowly pouring in the warm syrup in a steady stream.
Keep beating until it is smooth and shiny.
Add the vanilla seeds.
Continue to use mixer, whisking about 8-10mins until the mixture is thicker.
Line a 25cm x 35cm baking tin/glass dish with cling film and brush with oil.
Mix icing sugar and cornflour together.
Sieve a third of the mixture into the tray to coat the inside.
Pour in the marshmallow mixture, level with a spatula and leave to set for 2 hours.
Spread a large sheet of baking parchment over your surface and sieve another third of the cornflour sugar mix over it.
Turn set marshmallow onto the dusted sheet.
Peel away cling film.
Dust with more cornflour/sugar mix.
Dust a sharp knife and cut marshmallow into squares about 3x3cm.
Keep sieving the icing sugar/cornflour mix as you go.
Store in paper cups (sift over more of the powdered mix) in airtight containers or eat immediately.
Parkin – this much-loved bake gets better as it ages, if it lasts longer than a few days!
200g butter, cubed + extra
100g soft light brown sugar
200g golden syrup
250g self-raising flour
1 TBL ground ginger
½ tsp mixed spice
100g porridge oats
4 balls stem ginger, chopped, plus 2 TBL syrup from the jar
Melt butter, sugar, treacle and syrup in a pan, continually stirring, until butter has melted and everything is combined.
Remove from heat, cool 5-10 minutes.
Meanwhile butter and line a 22cm square tin.
Heat oven to 350° F.
Whisk flour, spices and oats in a bowl.
Pour over butter and sugar mixture, stir together well.
Add pinch of salt, crack in the eggs, stir in the milk, stem ginger and syrup.
Mix again very well.
Transfer mixture to tin then place in preheated oven.
Bake 50 minutes+ until a skewer comes out clean.
Cool in tin.
Wrap Parkin in baking paper and then in foil.
Keep well wrapped for one week in a cool place.
It will become stickier the longer you leave it.