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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Easy Salmon Skewers

For those who have seen the film “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” the book will come as a surprise, but those who love late Paul Torday will acknowledge that it is a masterpiece.

The novel is a satire on the absurdity of British foreign policy in the early years of this century and the unwitty means used by the govern press agency to diverge attention from the real problems in the Middle East.  The main character, Fred is a civil servant that is in charge of the mission of facilitate the breeding of salmons in a river in Yemen. All the characters are there, lovely Harriet, her soldier fiancée, Fred’s cold wife, but the story in the film diverges a lot from the one narrated in the novel. I stop here to avoid to became a spoiler.

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The recipe of today is very easy and it is one of my children favoured (which is a miracle if you consider that my daughter doesn’t like fish). Probably because the soya sauce and the fresh grated ginger marinade take away part of the smell of the fish, while sesame seeds add a crispy texture to the recipe.

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Ingredients:

1 kg. Skinless salmon fillet

½  glass of soya sauce

20 gr. grated fresh ginger

a few tablespoon of sesame seeds

 

Directions:

 

  1. Cut the salmon fillet in cubes as regular as possible
  2. Put the cubes in a bowl and then add soya sauce and grated ginger and let it rest for a couple of hours in the lowest part of the refrigerator
  3. Heat the oven at 180’ C.
  4. Take the bowl from the fridge, add the sesame seeds and mix well so that the cubes will be covered with sesame seeds.
  5. Tread salmon onto skewer and put it in the oven for about 15 minutes.
  6. Serve them hot on steamed rice.

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