The Golden Log

The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion is an essay written  by the Scottish anthropologist Sir James George Frazer at the end of the XIX century.

Given that we are in the most magic period of the year and I am in my “fantasy” mood I decided to read again some part of this very interesting (yet a bit confusing) essay, to try to understand the origins of “Yule log

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This essay can be downloaded for free at the site of the project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/3623

Here some excerpts that may enlighten the importance on the log during the celebration of the Winter solstice.

“… The custom of kindling great bonfires, leaping over them, and driving cattle through or round them would seem to have been practically universal throughout Europe, and the same may be said of the processions or races with blazing torches round fields, orchards, pastures, or cattle-stalls. Less widespread are the customs of hurling lighted discs into the air and trundling a burning wheel down hill. The ceremonial of the Yule log is distinguished from that of the other fire-festivals by the privacy and domesticity which characterises it; but this distinction may well be due simply to the rough weather of midwinter, which is apt not only to render a public assembly in the open air disagreeable, but also at any moment to defeat the object of the assembly by extinguishing the all-important fire under a downpour of rain or a fall of snow.”

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“… But we naturally ask, how did it come about that benefits so great and manifold were supposed to be attained by means so simple? In what way did people imagine that they could procure so many goods or avoid so many ills by the application of fire and smoke, of embers and ashes? Two different explanations of the fire-festivals have been given by modern enquirers. On the one hand it has been held that they are sun-charms or magical ceremonies intended, on the principle of imitative magic, to ensure a needful supply of sunshine for men, animals, and plants by kindling fires which mimic on earth the great source of light and heat in the sky. This was the view of Wilhelm Mannhardt. It may be called the solar theory. On the other hand it has been maintained that the ceremonial fires have no necessary reference to the sun but are simply purificatory in intention, being designed to burn up and destroy all harmful influences, whether these are conceived in a personal form as witches, demons, and monsters, or in an impersonal form as a sort of pervading taint or corruption of the air”

dav

It is indeed a very interesting book, it helps us to understand the origins of our believes and traditions. Speaking of traditions, in many European countries we find a cake made in the shape of a log: the Christmas Log in the anglophone world, Buche de Noel in France and Tronchetto di Natale in Italy.

I decide to break the tradition and prepare a Savoury Christmas Log with shrimps and smoked salmon, nice on a buffet as well as an entree.

Ingredients

for 6 servings

15 slices white bread

250 gr. ricotta cheese

200 gr. shrimps (boiled and without shell)

150 gr. smoked salmon

Soft cheese (like Philadelphia)

1 tablespoon balsamico vinegar

Salt

dav

Preparation

  • Stack the slices of bread and cut the crusts off.
  • Arrange the slices in a 3 x 3 square and a 2×3 rectangle on Clingfilm, overlapping them slightly.
  • Roll out with a rolling pin until they are all combined together
  •  Prepare a spread combining ricotta cheese and shrimps in a mixer, spread over the square and the rectangle, then cover with slices of salmon.
  •  Roll up and remove the cling film.
  • Cut in half the smaller roll and combine it with the log to form branches
  • Mix soft cheese and balsamico and spread it on the log to create a texture similar to a oak log
  • Garnish with guacamole sauce to imitate mistletoe

ENJOY!

dav

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BULGUR SALAD (UNDER THE TOSCAN SUN, 1)

under the toscan sunUNDER THE TUSCAN SUN: AT HOME IN ITALY is a memoir by Frances Mayes. In this book the author recounts the purchase of her home, Bramasole, in Tuscany. She tells about all the adventures she and her partner had in renovating the house and working in its gardens while enjoying the sights and food of Tuscany. First published in 1996, this memoir helped in starting the worldwide Tuscan-mania that doesn’t seem to fade. A must read if you are planning a holiday in Tuscany or you want just escape a boring raining weekend in winter. But what a  Turkish recipe, as Kısır (bulgur salad) is, has to do with Tuscany and its sun? The fact is that at the moment I am in my home in Tuscany, enjoying the lovely panorama and the fresh vegetable that my father (healthy 85 years old-thanks to the olive oil) grows in the garden. I had fresh tomato, parsley, onions, salad from the garden, excellent organic olive oil from our trees and some fine grounded bulgur I brought from Turkey… The next thing to do was to prepare kısır a typical Eastern Turkey recipe but with fresh, zero-km ingredients from my Tuscan garden. The freshness of the ingredients and the quality of the olive oil (Tuscan olive oil is less acid than average Turkish olive oils), added extra flavor and texture to this recipe, but I assure you it is tasty also with market-fresh ingredient. If you are gluten intolerant, you can use quinoa  instead of bulgur, it taste beautifully also with quinoa that add a crunchy texture to the recipe.

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The view from my home (typical sweet Toscan hills :-))
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The vegetable garden
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Ripe and green tomatoes

 

Ready to enjoy Kısır
Ready to enjoy Kısır

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 spring onions (chopped) and 1 onion (finely chopped)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 plum tomatoes, finely diced
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • the juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tsp mild chilli flakes or Turkish pul biber
  • 1 cup bulgur
  • 5 tbsp chopped parsley
  • salt to taste
  • 2 handful of chopped green salad leaves

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat the water and when it boils, pour it on the bulgur, let it cool
  2. Heat oil in a small saucepan over low-medium heat
  3. Add the onion, and sauteé for a few minutes, until soft
  4. add the tomato paste and mix well and let simmer for 5 more minutes
  5. When the bulgur is cool and soft, add all the chopped ingredients
  6. Season your salad with lemon juice, chilli and salt
  7. Let it set for at least two hours in the fridge.