To first read about the research done for this meal, feel free to visit - http://practicalpagans.katalytis.com/2011/oiche-shamhna-feast-%E2%80%93-an-introduction-to-iron-age-irish-food/
While I couldn’t involve my toddler very much in the cooking process for my first official Iron Age inspired Samhain meal it was still an experience worth sharing in the mommy realm of things. Since my son was born I felt as if I have a whole new outlook on my own spirituality, now that I must guide him through my practice and beliefs. Before as a solitary practitioner, learning as I went I could choose to go all in or partially in with certain aspects of my study because I was the only one to worry about. If I simply had a small ritual for [insert fire festival here] I was the only one to answer to (besides the Gods, of course). Now, as I look into my child’s eyes I feel that, since I don’t have a church or specifically face to face Reconstructionist “village” to help raise my son in this tradition, I have to be as well-educated and as well informed as possible. It is going to be my son that assures I stick to my life mantra of the Fianna – “Truth in our hearts, strength in our arms, and fulfillment in our tongues.” It is time to put my money where my mouth is. That is what got me inspired to finally journey through Iron Age food and cook a meal that my ancestors could have possibly enjoyed.
I awoke at 9am to put my thawed beef roast in the slow cooker. Originally I was going to buy a nice steak and have my husband bar-be-que it on the grill (me like fire *bangs on chest*), but I found a really nice roast for a great price so I went the slow cook route. That was the simple task of the whole process as I just turned it on and plopped in the meat. It couldn’t be easier. Well, it could be if someone else was doing it for me, but you get the point.
Next I got out all of the vegetables I was going to add later to the pot. As I am not a fan of cabbage or leeks (I know, bad Irish pagan) and potatoes were not available to our Iron Age Irish ancestors, I chose to go with mainly root veggies. I washed the rutabagas*, carrots and parsnips cleaning them off. Then I took out my knife and peeled them, which was interesting unto itself. The last time I peeled anything I actually had a peeler and it was at my mother’s house. I don’t own a peeler so after one large rutabaga and one mangled carrot I perfected my “with knife” peeling skills and got through the additional vegetables. I also added mushrooms because 1) they would have been available and 2) we add mushrooms to everything so it was definitely the “family touch” to the meal.
After letting the crockpot do its thing for a little over an hour I began working on the Bannock or flat bread. The modern version is a bit closer to today’s Indian fry bread, but I didn’t want to deal with any kind of ancient leavening so I simply made an unleavened version. Utilizing a recipe from celtnet.org.uk I mixed together all-purpose flour (okay, I took liberties with this one because I already had it in the house), ground oats and then added in honey for sweetness and water. I made sure to add the water slowly because I didn’t want to add too much and have a nasty mess that I had to keep correcting. Other than that there wasn’t a whole lot to this recipe so that was good, but I definitely want to experiment further with it may be trying leavening next time. It was just very heavy, but the addition of blackberries and honey** can make anything taste amazing.
While the bannock and meat/veggies cooked I popped the salmon into the toaster oven as I knew it wouldn’t take quit as long to cook. I am a total salmon snob and I prefer it cooked through basically at medium-well, but I hate when the corners get dried out and the inside isn’t cooked through so I cooked it at a lower temperature and checked it every 5 minutes. I was really happy with how this worked and will continue to do that in the future.
While everything cooked I set the table with some really great place mats I got from Goodwill the weekend before that had blackbirds and signs that said blackberries and honey on them with pumpkins on them as well so they were very season friendly. I also put out the butter and sea salt if anyone wanted it and milk to drink (as it was early in the day and I had to work that night, so no mead). Once everything was cooked, a portion was set out for the ancestors and the hubby and I ate.
We tried to give my little man some, but he isn’t too keen on experimenting just yet so he watched as we enjoyed my first Iron Age meal experiment. Rounding out the day, we cleaned up and shared in the ancient Irish inspired American tradition of carving/decorating pumpkins. His little hands don’t work for rutabagas, so we just handed him a pen and let him go to town on his own pumpkin while I carved the one that would sit outside. All in all it was a very Happy Samhain.
*As I have come to find specifically rutabagas (known as turnips in Ireland) are an early 1600s creation and would not be Iron Age specific. (06/07/2011)
**WARNING – Honey should not be consumed by any child under the age of 1 due to the potential for infant botulism. This condition can be fatal.
Author: Blackbird O'Connell
Irish Reconstructionist Parent
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