Friday, 1 February 2008

Six Degrees of Marmalade

For the last couple of days, I have mostly been making Marmalade. It's a curious type of marmalade, based on a Cladia Roden/Nadine Abensur recipie which appears in the brilliant Cranks Bible, but made with a Delia Smith method. I will know next time, not to mix the two. Working from two recipes also led to another fatal hitch, which meant that I used 2kg instead of 2lbs of oranges! So during my maverick marmaladeing session, my musings went a bit like this ...

According to the English dictionary, MARMALADE is a fruit condiment, similar to jam, not necessarily exclusive to oranges, but usually citrus and always cooked with peel. However the word originates from something else entirely. In Portugal, Marmalade (pronounced Marmalada), is what the English would call quince jelly. The word is derived from the Greek Marmelo which means "quince". My marmalade this year is black! I tried a different recipe using soft brown sugar. I also added a pound and a half of honey. It tastes and looks very treacly with orangy bits, not unpleasant but most certainly "adult" in flavour. I used bitter oranges which are extremely tart and grown throughout the Mediterranean region. They have a thick dimpled skin and are higher in pectin than other sweet oranges. They are commonly known as Seville oranges, but they are not restricted to growth in that place. Seville, is a city in southern Spain, the capital of Andalusia, located on the Guadalquivir River. People from Seville are called Sevillianas, and the province of Seville, is called SEVILLA. There is a hotel in Old Havana, Cuba, named after this Province in Spain. It is one of my favourite places on earth, i have been there twice and hope to go again soon. When it opened its doors on March 22, 1908, (100 years ago), it became for a while, Havana´s leading luxury hotel, a playground for gangsters, their molls, the rich and the famous. One of those stars later on, was JOSEPHINE BAKER, the American born entertainer who became a French citizen in 1937. Baker was most noted as a singer but in her early career she was a celebrated dancer. She was given the nicknames "Black Venus" or the "Black Pearl" in English speaking circles, while in France she has always been known in the old theatrical tradition as "La Baker". Josephine Baker, apart from being one of the first exoctic dancers to use feathers in her costume (and therefore giving rise to the popular image of today's showgirl), was at one time in her early career, a friend of my GREAT GRANDFATHER who owned and ran a restaurant near Paris where she would perform. In return for letting her dance there, she gave him a Limoges coffee set painted with 24ct gold rims which is still in the family today. Later in his life, my great grandfather, who was a chef and pattisiere bought a cake and sweet shop on Buckingham Palace Road, London, where one day, one of his regular customers came in, and offered him the Royal Crest to go above the doorway. Unbeknown to him, he had been supplying pastries to Queen Mary! My great grandfather had 5 children, the youngest of whom was my GRANDMOTHER, Antoinette. My nana is the person in my closer ancestry I take after the most. I look like her, i'm built like her, I cook like her, she sews and knits, and organises things, just like I do. I like the same things as her and have the same temper and temperament. She is one of my greatest inspirations, and the happiest times of my childhood were spent with her. Her favourite thing, even at nearly 90, is to bake cakes and make jam. I'm not sure if she ever baked a muffin, though she worked for the Americans in France during the war. Last week, my American born friend Susan (who has just become a British citizen) had a small breakdown. She told me that she resembled a "loosley held together mess". After administering all the relevant words of support and reassurance, I added that she shouldn't worry too much because after all, Muffin Mixture is also a loosely held together mess, which, with a little TLC, soon turns into something delicious, as I was sure she would again be soon. She liked that idea lots, and today through the post, I received from her as a thank you, a box of muffin cases, 100% recycled and biodegradable, along with a fat wadge of muffin recipes from her favourite recipe book. Included was one for MARMALADE MUFFINS with slivered almonds. So for Susan and all the other women out there who suffer terribly from monthly muffin madness, here's to muffin magic with marmalade kisses to help us all feel better.

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