Feb 102016
 

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Today is the feast day of St Paul’s Shipwreck (San Pawl Nawfragu) which is a public holiday in Malta, especially in Valletta, Marsalforn, and Munxar. I am not sure why this date was chosen. The event is described in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 27:27-28:5), the tail end of the book. The chronology of events in Paul’s life is endlessly disputed by scholars because what facts can be gleaned from letters that we are reasonably certain were written by Paul are not always in agreement with Acts. According to Acts Paul arrived in Jerusalem on his fifth and final visit in 57 with a collection of money for the community there. Acts reports that he was warmly received, but goes on to recount how Paul was warned by James and the elders that he was gaining a reputation for being against the Law, saying “they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews living among the gentiles to forsake Moses, and that you tell them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs.” (Acts 21:21) Paul underwent a purification ritual in order to give the Jews no grounds to bring accusations against him for not following the law. But he then caused a stir when he appeared at the Temple, and he escaped being killed by the crowd only by voluntarily being taken into Roman custody. When a plot to kill Paul on his way to an appearance before the Jews was discovered, he was transported by night to Caesarea Maritima. He was held as a prisoner there for two years, until a new governor reopened his case in 59.

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When the governor suggested that he be sent back to Jerusalem for further trial, Paul exercised his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar, so he was transported to Rome. During the journey, vividly described in Acts, the shipwreck occurs. This passage is notable in that it is one of the so-called “we” passages – written in the 1st person plural. There is no scholarly consensus concerning these passages. They could be a deliberate forgery to suggest that the author of Acts was an actual eyewitness, or they could be redactions based on older, fragmentary primary material written by an eyewitness. I incline towards the latter, but this is more of an educated guess than anything else. Here’s the passage:

27:27 On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. 28 They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet deep. 29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 30 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. 31 Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away.

33 Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. 34 Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” 35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 Altogether there were 276 of us on board. 38 When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.

39 When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. 40 Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. 41 But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf.

42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.

28:1 Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2 The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. 3 Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.

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There is a special celebration in Valletta on Malta at the Collegiate Parish Church of St Paul’s Shipwreck on this day. The church hosts fine artistic works, including the magnificent altarpiece by Matteo Perez d’Aleccio, as well as paintings by Attilio Palombi, and Giuseppe Calì. The wooden titular statue of St Paul was carved in 1659 by Melchiorre Cafà, the brother of Lorenzo Gafà who designed the dome. The statue is paraded through the streets of Valletta on the feast day of St Paul’s Shipwreck even (and appropriately) during heavy rain One can also view the relic of the right wrist-bone of St Paul, and part of the column from San Paolo alle Tre Fontane, on which the saint was reputedly beheaded in Rome.

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For this feast day I have chosen the unofficial national dish of Malta, rabbit braised in red wine and garlic. Given the name, you scarcely need a recipe, but here goes. The trick is to use A LOT of garlic. This recipe calls for three BULBS, not cloves – whole bulbs.

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Rabbit with garlic & wine (Fenek fit-tewm u l-inbid)

Ingredients

1 rabbit cut into 6 or 8 pieces
500ml red wine
3 whole garlic bulbs, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 bay leaves
salt and pepper

Instructions

Place the rabbit pieces in an earthenware pot and cover with the wine. Refrigerate overnight.

In a large, heavy skillet gently sweat the garlic in the olive oil. Do not let it take on color.

Remove and reserve the garlic, leaving the oil in the pan. Heat the oil on medium-high, remove the rabbit pieces from the wine, and brown them in the oil on all sides – reserving the wine.

Place the rabbit, garlic and bay leaves in an ovenproof casserole. Cover with the wine, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and bake at around 375°F for an hour or until the meat is tender. Check the liquid level periodically to make sure that the wine is reducing to a thick sauce, but not drying out. Uncover towards the end if it is not reducing sufficiently.

Serve with boiled new potatoes and marrowfat peas.

Serves 4

Sep 212015
 

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Malta achieved its independence on this date in 1964 (Independence Day) after intense negotiations with the United Kingdom, led by Maltese Prime Minister George Borġ Olivier. Under its 1964 constitution, Malta initially retained Elizabeth II as Queen of Malta and, thus, nominal head of state, with a Governor-General exercising executive authority on her behalf. In 1971, the Malta Labour Party led by Dom Mintoff won the General Elections, resulting in Malta declaring itself a republic on 13 December 1974 (Republic Day) within the Commonwealth, with a president as head of state.

I’m going to give you a slightly lengthy (sorry) historical overview of Malta because the island nation is exemplary of the histories of so many nations of Europe which for thousands of years have been pushed and pulled in numerous directions as one invader after another took over, before settling into self rule. My point is, of course, that each wave of invaders left its mark on local cuisine which developed its own style out of this crucible of influences. You can skip to the recipe on rabbit in red wine if you like. There you will glimpse why the dish is important to Malta’s self identity.

Pottery found by archaeologists at Skorba resembles that found in Italy, and suggests that the Maltese islands were first settled around 5200 BCE by Neolithic hunters and farmers who had arrived from Sicily, (possibly the Sicani). The extinction of indigenous dwarf hippos and dwarf elephants has been linked to the earliest arrival of humans on Malta. Prehistoric farming settlements dating to Early Neolithic period were discovered in open areas and also in caves, such as Għar Dalam. The population on Malta grew cereals, raised domestic livestock and, in common with other ancient Mediterranean cultures, worshiped a fertility figure represented in Maltese prehistoric artifacts exhibiting the proportions seen in similar statuettes, such as the Venus of Willendorf. The culture apparently disappeared from the Maltese Islands around 2500 BCE. Archaeologists speculate that the temple builders fell victim to famine or disease.

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After 2500 BCE, the Maltese Islands were uninhabited for several decades until the arrival of a new influx of Bronze Age immigrants, a culture that cremated its dead and introduced megalithic structures, or dolmens, rather smaller than those of the Sicani, to Malta. In most cases there are small chambers here, with the cover made of a large slab placed on upright stones. They are claimed to belong to a population certainly different from that which built the previous megalithic temples. It is presumed the population arrived from Sicily because of the similarity of Maltese dolmens to some small constructions found in other islands of the Mediterranean sea.

Phoenician traders, who used the islands as a stop on their trade routes from the eastern Mediterranean to Cornwall, joined the local population on the island. The Phoenicians inhabited the area now known as Mdina, and its surrounding town of Rabat, which they called Maleth. After the fall of Phoenicia in 332 BCE, the area came under the control of Carthage, a former Phoenician colony. During this time the people on Malta mainly cultivated olives and carobs, and produced textiles.

During the First Punic War of 264 BCE, tensions led the Maltese people to rebel against Carthage and turn control of their garrison over to the Roman consul Sempronius. Malta remained loyal to Rome during the Second Punic War and the Romans rewarded it with the title Foederata Civitas, a designation that meant it was exempt from paying tribute or following the rule of Roman law, although at this time it fell within the jurisdiction of the province of Sicily. Punic influence, however, remained vibrant on the islands with the famous Cippi of Melqart, pivotal in deciphering the Punic language, dedicated in the 2nd century BCE.

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By 117 CE, the Maltese Islands were a thriving part of the Roman Empire, being promoted to the status of municipium under Hadrian. When the Roman Empire split into Eastern and Western divisions in the 4th century, Malta fell under the control of the Greek speaking Byzantine Empire from 395 to 870, being ruled from Constantinople. Although Malta was under Byzantine rule for four centuries, not much is known from this period. There is evidence that Germanic tribes, including the Goths and Vandals, briefly took control of the islands before the Byzantines launched a counterattack and retook Malta.

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Malta became involved in the Muslim–Byzantine Wars, and the conquest of Malta is closely linked with that of Sicily that began in 827 after admiral Euphemius’ betrayal of his fellow Byzantines, requesting that the Aghlabid dynasty invade the island. The Muslim chronicler and geographer al-Himyari recounts that in 870, following a violent struggle against the occupying Byzantines, the Muslim invaders, first led by Halaf al-Hadim, and later by Sawada ibn Muhammad, looted and pillaged the island, destroying the most important buildings, and leaving it practically uninhabited until it was recolonized by the Muslims from Sicily in 1048–1049. It is uncertain whether this new settlement took place as a consequence of demographic expansion in Sicily, as a result of a higher standard of living in Sicily (in which case the recolonization may have taken place a few decades earlier), or as a result of civil war which broke out among Muslim rulers of Sicily in 1038. The Muslims introduced new irrigation, some fruits and cotton – and the Siculo-Arabic language was adopted on the island from Sicily which would eventually evolve into the Maltese language, the only Semitic language of Europe (heavily influenced by Italian dialects), and the only Semitic language to use the Roman alphabet. The Christians on the island were allowed freedom of religion; they had to pay jizya, a tax for non-Muslims, but were exempt from the tax that Muslims had to pay (zakaat).

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The Normans captured Malta in 1091, as part of their conquest of Sicily. The Norman leader, Roger I of Sicily, was welcomed by the native Christians. The notion that Count Roger I reportedly tore off a portion of his checkered red-and-white banner and presented it to the Maltese – forming the basis of the present-day Maltese flag in gratitude for having fought on his behalf – is founded in legend. The Norman period was productive; Malta became part of the newly formed Kingdom of Sicily which also covered the island of Sicily and the southern half of the Italian Peninsula. The Catholic Church was reinstated as the state religion with Malta under the See of Palermo, and some Norman architecture sprung up around Malta especially in its ancient capital Mdina. Tancred of Sicily, the last Norman monarch, made Malta a feudal lordship or fief within the kingdom and installed a count of Malta. As the islands were much desired due to their strategic importance, it was during this time the men of Malta were militarized to fend off capture attempts; the early counts were skilled Genoese corsairs.

The kingdom passed on to the House of Hohenstaufen from 1194 until 1266. During this period, when Frederick II of Hohenstaufen began to reorganize his Sicilian kingdom, Western culture and religion began to exert their influence more intensely. Malta formed part of the Holy Roman Empire for 72 years. Malta was declared a county and a marquisate, but its trade was totally ruined. For a long time it remained solely a fortified garrison. A mass expulsion of Arabs occurred in 1224 and the entire Christian male population of Celano in Abruzzo was deported to Malta in the same year. In 1249 Frederick II decreed that all remaining Muslims (who were not Moors) be expelled from Malta or forced to convert.

For a brief period the kingdom passed to the Capetian House of Anjou, but high taxes made the dynasty unpopular in Malta, due in part to Charles of Anjou’s war against the Republic of Genoa, and the island of Gozo was sacked in 1275. A large revolt on Sicily known as the Sicilian Vespers followed these attacks, that saw the Peninsula separating into the Kingdom of Naples.

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Malta was ruled by a Spanish Aragonese dynasty from 1282 to 1409. Relatives of the kings of Aragon ruled the island until 1409, when it formally passed to the Crown of Aragon. Early on in the Aragonese ascendancy, the sons of the monarchy received the title, “Count of Malta”. During this time much of the local nobility was created. However, by 1397 the bearing of the title “Count of Malta” reverted to a feudal basis with two families fighting over the distinction, which caused some conflict and led the king to abolish the title. Dispute over the title returned when the title was reinstated a few years later and the Maltese, led by the local nobility, rose up against Count Gonsalvo Monroy. Although they opposed the count, the Maltese voiced their loyalty to the Sicilian Crown, which so impressed Alfonso V of Aragon that he did not punish the people for their rebellion. Instead, he promised never to grant the title to a third party, and incorporated it back into the crown. The city of Mdina was given the title of Città Notabile as a result of this sequence of events.

In 1530, Emperor Charles V of Spain gave the islands to the Knights Hospitaller under the leadership of Philippe de Villiers de L’Isle-Adam, Grand Master of the Order, in perpetual lease for which they had to pay an annual Tribute of one Maltese Falcon. These knights, a military religious order now known as the Knights of Malta, had been driven out of Rhodes by the Ottoman Empire in 1522.

The Knights, led by Jean Parisot de Valette, Grand Master of the Order, withstood a siege by the Ottomans in 1565. The Knights, with the help of Spanish and Maltese forces, were victorious and repelled the attack. Speaking of the battle Voltaire said, “Nothing is better known than the siege of Malta.” After the siege they decided to increase Malta’s fortifications, particularly in the inner-harbor area, where the new city of Valletta, named in honor of Valette, was built. They also established watchtowers along the coasts – the Wignacourt, Lascaris and De Redin towers – named after the Grand Masters who ordered the work. The Knights’ presence on the island saw the completion of many architectural and cultural projects, including the embellishment of Città Vittoriosa, the construction of new cities including Città Rohan and Città Hompesch and the introduction of new academic and social resources.

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The Knights’ reign ended when Napoleon captured Malta on his way to Egypt during the French Revolutionary Wars in 1798. Over the years preceding Napoleon’s capture of the islands, the power of the Knights had declined and the Order had become unpopular. This was around the time when the universal values of freedom and liberty were promulgated by the French Revolution. People from both inside the Order and outside appealed to Napoleon to oust the Knights. Napoleon’s fleet arrived in 1798, en route to his conquest of Egypt. As a ruse Napoleon asked for safe harbor to resupply his ships, and then turned his guns against the Knightd once safely inside Valletta. Grand Master Hompesch capitulated, and Napoleon entered Malta.

During 12-18th June 1798, Napoleon resided at the Palazzo Parisio in Valletta. He reformed national administration with the creation of a Government Commission, twelve municipalities, a public finance administration, the abolition of all feudal rights and privileges, the abolition of slavery and the granting of freedom to all Turkish and Jewish slaves. On the judicial level, a family code was framed and twelve judges were nominated. Public education was organized along principles laid down by Napoleon himself, providing for primary and secondary education. He then sailed for Egypt leaving a substantial garrison in Malta.

The French forces left behind became unpopular with the Maltese, due particularly to the French forces’ hostility towards Catholicism and pillaging of local churches to fund Napoleon’s war efforts. French financial and religious policies so angered the Maltese that they rebelled, forcing the French to depart. Great Britain, along with the Kingdom of Naples and the Kingdom of Sicily, sent ammunition and aid to the Maltese and Britain also sent her navy, which blockaded the islands.

General Claude-Henri Belgrand de Vaubois surrendered his French forces in 1800. Maltese leaders presented the island to Sir Alexander Ball, asking that the island become a British Dominion. The Maltese people created a Declaration of Rights in which they agreed to come “under the protection and sovereignty of the King of the free people, His Majesty the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland”. The Declaration also stated that “his Majesty has no right to cede these Islands to any power…if he chooses to withdraw his protection, and abandon his sovereignty, the right of electing another sovereign, or of the governing of these Islands, belongs to us, the inhabitants and aborigines alone, and without control.”

In 1814, as part of the Treaty of Paris, Malta officially became a part of the British Empire and was used as a shipping way-station and fleet headquarters. After the Suez Canal opened in 1869, Malta’s position halfway between the Strait of Gibraltar and Egypt proved to be its main asset and it was considered an important stop on the way to India. This was a vital trade route for the British and thus, the Maltese people took great advantage of the alliance aand several culinary and botanical products were introduced in Malta, including wheat (primarily for bread making) and pigs.

In the early 1930s the British Mediterranean Fleet, which was at that time the main contributor to commerce on the island, moved to Alexandria as an economic measure and to be out of range of Italian bombers.

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During World War II, Malta played an important role owing to its proximity to Axis shipping lanes. The bravery of the Maltese people during the second Siege of Malta moved King George VI to award the George Cross to Malta on a collective basis (unique a the time) on 15 April 1942 “to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history”. Some historians argue that the award caused Britain to incur disproportionate losses in defending Malta, as British credibility would have suffered if Malta surrendered, as British forces in Singapore had done. A depiction of the George Cross now appears in the upper hoist corner of the flag of Malta.

Post-war Malta saw increasing calls for independence which was granted, after considerable political turmoil in 1964.

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Malta’s history and geography had a major influence on its cuisine. Having to import most of its foodstuffs, being positioned along important trade routes, and having to cater to the resident foreign powers who ruled the islands, opened Maltese cuisine to outside influences from very early on. Foreign dishes and tastes were absorbed, transformed and adapted. Italian (specifically Sicilian), Middle Eastern and Arabic foods exerted a strong influence. The presence in Malta of the Knights of St John and, more recently, the British brought elements from farther afield.

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The Knights came from many European countries; particularly, France, Italy and Spain. They brought influences from these countries. Aljotta, for example, a fish broth with garlic, herbs, and tomatoes, is the Maltese adaptation of bouillabaisse. The Knights’ contacts and wealth brought also food from the New World; it has been suggested that Malta may have been one of the first countries in Europe (after Spain) where chocolate was first tasted.

The British military presence and, later, mass tourism from the U.K., introduced British food products, condiments and sauces such as English mustard, Bovril, HP Sauce and Worcestershire sauce which are still a subtle, but pervasive, presence in Maltese cooking. While the Maltese word “aljoli” is likely to be a loan word, the Maltese version of the sauce does not include any egg as in classic Italian aioli; instead it is based on herbs, olives, anchovies and olive oil. Similarly, while the Maltese word “taġen” is related to “tajine,” in Maltese the word refers exclusively to a metal frying pan.

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There are a number of junctures in which development in Maltese cuisine related to issues of identity. The most significant example is the traditional Maltese stuffat tal-fenek (stewed rabbit), often identified as the national dish, which quite possibly started off as a form of symbolic resistance to the hunting restrictions imposed by the Knights of St John. The dish was to become popular after the lifting of restrictions in the late 18th century (and by which time the indigenous breed had multiplied and prices dropped) and the domestication of rabbits.

Stuffat tal-Fenek

Ingredients

3 lb rabbit (including liver and kidneys), cut into serving portions (4 to 6)
2 onions, peeled and sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled
3 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tsp tomato paste
4 potatoes, peeled and quartered
5 carrots, peeled and sliced
7 oz peas
2 bay leaves
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
light stock
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup red wine
flour
olive oil

Instructions

Season the flour with salt and pepper. Dredge the rabbit portions in flour. Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat and sauté the rabbit pieces, a few at a time until lightly browned on all sides.

Add the onions, carrots, potatoes, garlic and tomatoes to the pot. Pour about half the wine over the ingredients and bring to a simmer. Add the bay leaves, stock to cover, and tomato paste. Add the liver, kidneys and peas and simmer, covered, for about one and a half hours or until the rabbit is tender. If the sauce starts to dry out, add more wine. The sauce should thicken as it reduces much like coq au vin.

It is common to start the meal with some of the rabbit sauce served over spaghetti as a first course. The rabbit with vegetables and more sauce is the second course.

Mar 192014
 

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Today is the feast of Saint Joseph. It is a feast or commemoration in all the provinces of the Anglican Communion, and a feast or festival in the Lutheran Church as well as a feast in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions. Saint Joseph’s Day is the patronal feast day for Poland as well as for Canada, persons named Joseph, Josephine, etc., for religious institutes, schools and parishes bearing his name, and for carpenters. It is also Father’s Day in some Catholic countries, mainly Spain, Portugal, and Italy.

March 19 was dedicated to Saint Joseph in several Western calendars by the tenth century, and this custom was established in Rome by 1479. Pope St. Pius V extended its use to the entire Roman Rite by his Apostolic Constitution Quo Primum (July 14, 1570). Since 1969, Episcopal Conferences may, if they wish, transfer it to a date outside Lent.

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Jesus is identified in the Gospel of Matthew 13:55 as the son of a τέκτων (tektōn) and the Gospel of Mark 6:3 states that Jesus was a tektōn himself. Tektōn has been traditionally translated into English as “carpenter,” but is a rather general word (from the same root,τέχνη, téchne, (skill), that gives us “technique,” “technical,” and “technology”) that could cover skilled producers of objects in various materials, even builders. But the specific association with woodworking is a constant in Early Christian tradition. Justin Martyr (died c. 165) wrote that Jesus made yokes and ploughs, and there are similar early references.

John Dominic Crossan in The Historical Jesus puts tektōn into a historical context more resembling an itinerant worker than an established artisan, emphasizing his marginality in a population in which a peasant who owns land could become quite prosperous. Other scholars have argued that tektōn could equally mean a highly skilled craftsman in wood or metal, perhaps running a workshop with several employees. Geza Vermes has stated that the terms ‘carpenter’ and ‘son of a carpenter’ are used in the Jewish Talmud to signify a very learned man, and he suggests that a description of Joseph as ‘naggar’ (a carpenter) could indicate that he was considered wise and highly literate in the Torah.

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In Joseph’s day, Nazareth was an obscure village in Galilee, about 65 kilometers (40 mi) from Jerusalem, and barely mentioned in surviving non-Christian texts and documents. Archaeology over most of the site is made impossible by subsequent building, but from what has been excavated, and from tombs in the area around the village, it is estimated that the population was at most about 400. It was, however, only about 6 kilometers from the city of Tzippori (ancient “Sepphoris”), which was destroyed by the Romans in 4 BCE, and thereafter was expensively rebuilt. Analysis of the landscape and other evidence suggest that in Joseph’s lifetime Nazareth was to a degree dependent on Tzippori, which had an overwhelmingly Jewish population, although with many signs of Hellenization. Historians have speculated that Joseph, and later Jesus, might have traveled daily to work on the rebuilding. The large theater in the city has been suggested specifically, although this has aroused much controversy over dating and other issues. Other scholars see Joseph and Jesus as the general village craftsmen, working in wood, stone, and metal on a wide variety of jobs.

March 19 always falls during Lent, and traditionally it is a day of abstinence. This explains the widespread custom of laying out St. Joseph tables on this day to provide food for all comers, but the dishes are always meatless. Different countries have very specific customs associated with the feast as follows:

Italy/Sicily

In Sicily, where St. Joseph is regarded by many as their patron, and in many Italian-American communities, thanks are given to St. Joseph (San Giuseppe) for preventing a famine in Sicily during the Middle Ages. According to legend, there was a severe drought at the time, and the people prayed for their patron saint to bring them rain. They promised that if he answered their prayers, they would prepare a large feast to honor him. The rain did come, and the people of Sicily prepared a large banquet for their patron saint. The fava bean was the crop which saved the population from starvation and is a traditional part of St. Joseph’s Day altars and traditions. Giving food to the needy is a St. Joseph’s Day custom. In some communities it is traditional to wear red clothing and eat a Neopolitan pastry known as a Zeppole (created in 1840 by Don Pasquale Pinatauro of Naples) on St. Joseph’s Day.

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Upon a typical St. Joseph’s Day altar, people place flowers, limes, candles, wine, fava beans, specially prepared cakes, breads, and cookies (as well as other meatless dishes), and zeppole. Foods are traditionally served containing bread crumbs to represent sawdust since St. Joseph was a carpenter. Because the feast occurs during Lent, traditionally no meat was allowed on the celebration table. The altar usually has three tiers, to represent the trinity.

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On the Sicilian island of Lipari, The St. Joseph legend is modified somewhat, and says that sailors returning from the mainland encountered a fierce storm that threatened to sink their boat. They prayed to St. Joseph for deliverance, and when they were saved, they swore to honor the saint each year on his feast day. The Lipari celebration is somewhat changed, in that meat is allowed at the feast.

Some villages like Avola used to burn wood and logs in squares on the day before St.Joseph, as thanksgiving to the Saint. In Belmonte Mezzagno this is currently still performed every year, while people ritually shout invocations to the Saint in local Sicilian dialect. This is called “A Vampa di San Giuseppe” (the Saint Joseph’s bonfire).

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Spectacular celebrations are also held in Bagheria. The Saint is even celebrated twice a year, the second time being held especially for people from Bagheria who come back for summer vacation from other parts of Italy or abroad.

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In Italy March 19 is also Father’s Day.

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Malta

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This is one of the public holidays in Malta, known as Jum San Ġużepp. People celebrate mass in the morning, and in the afternoon go for a picnic. It is a liturgical feast in particular Sunday in summer. However, the city of Rabat celebrates the traditional Maltese feast on the 19th of March, where in the evening a procession is also held with the statue of St Joseph. On this day also the city of Żejtun celebrates the day, known as Jum il-Kunsill (Zejtun Council’s Day), till 2013 was known as Jum iż-Żejtun (Zejtun’s Day). During this day a prominent person from Żejtun is given the Żejtun Honor (Ġieħ iż-Żejtun). In past years the Żejtun Parish Church has celebrated these feast days with a procession with the statue of Saint Joseph.

Spain

In Spain, the day is a version of Father’s Day. In some parts of Spain it is celebrated as Falles.

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The five days and nights of Falles leading up to 19 March are a continuous party. There are a number of processions daily: historical, religious, and comedic. Crowds in the restaurants spill out into the streets. Explosions can be heard all day long and sporadically through the night. Foreigners may be surprised to see everyone from small children to elderly people throwing fireworks and noisemakers in the streets, which are littered with pyrotechnical debris. The timing of the events is fixed and they fall on the same date every year, though there has been discussion about holding some events on the weekend preceding the Falles, to take greater advantage of the tourist potential of the festival or changing the end date in years where it is due to occur in midweek.

La Despertà

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Each day of Falles begins at 8:00 am with La Despertà (“the wake-up call”). Brass bands appear from the casals and begin to march down every street playing lively music. Close behind them are the fallers, throwing large firecrackers in the street as they go.

La Mascletà

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The Mascletà, an explosive barrage of coordinated firecracker and fireworks displays, takes place in each neighbourhood at 2:00 pm every day of the festival; the main event is the municipal Mascletà in the Plaça de l’Ajuntament where the pyrotechnicians compete for the honor of providing the final Mascletà of the fiestas (on 19 March). At 2:00 pm the clock chimes and the Fallera Mayor (dressed in her fallera finery) will call from the balcony of City Hall, Senyor pirotècnic, pot començar la mascletà! (“Mr. Pyrotechnic, you may commence the Mascletà!”), and the Mascletà begins.

La Plantà

The day of the 15th all of the falles infantils are to be finished being constructed and later that night all of the falles majors (major Falles) are to be completed. If not, they face disqualification.

L’Ofrena de flors

In this event, the flower offering, each falla casal takes an offering of flowers to the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of the Abandoned. This occurs all day during 17–18 March. A statue of the Virgin Mary and its large pedestal are then covered with all the flowers.

Els Castells and La Nit del Foc

On the nights of the 15, 16, 17, and 18th there are firework displays in the old riverbed in Valencia. Each night is progressively grander and the last is called La Nit del Foc (the Night of Fire).

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Cabalgata del Fuego

On the final evening of Falles, at 7pm on March 19, a parade known in Spanish as the Cabalgata del Fuego (the Fire Parade) takes place along Colon street and Porta de la Mar square. This spectacular celebration of fire, the symbol of the fiesta’s spirit, is the grand finale of Falles and a colorful, noisy event featuring exhibitions of the varied rites and displays from around the world which use fire; it incorporates floats, giant mechanisms, people in costumes, rockets, gunpowder, street performances and music.

La Cremà

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On the final night of Falles, around midnight on March 19, these falles are burnt as huge bonfires. This is known as La Cremà (the Burning), the climax of the whole event, and the reason why the constructions are called falles (“torches”). Traditionally, the falla in the Plaça de l’Ajuntament is burned last.

Many neighborhoods have a falla infantil (a children’s falla, smaller and without satirical themes), which is held a few metres away from the main one. This is burnt first, at 10:00 pm. The main neighborhood falles are burnt closer to midnight; the burning of the falles in the city centre often starts later. For example, in 2005, the fire brigade delayed the burning of the Egyptian funeral falla in Carrer del Convent de Jerusalem until 1:30 am, when they were sure all safety concerns were addressed.

Each falla is laden with fireworks which are lit first. The construction itself is lit either after or during the explosion of these fireworks. Falles burn quite quickly, and the heat given off is felt by all around. The heat from the larger ones often drives the crowd back a couple of metres, even though they are already behind barriers that the fire brigade has set several meters from the construction. In narrower streets, the heat scorches the surrounding buildings, and the firemen douse the façades, window blinds, street signs, etc. with their hoses to stop them catching fire or melting, from the beginning of the cremà until it cools down after several minutes.

Away from the falles, people dance in the streets, the whole city resembling an open-air dance party, except that instead of music there is the incessant (and occasionally deafening) sound of people throwing fireworks around randomly. There are stalls selling products such as the typical fried snacks porres, xurros (churros), and bunyols (doughnuts), as well as roasted chestnuts or trinkets.

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The Philippines

In the Philippines, many families keep a tradition in which an old man, a young lady, and a small boy are chosen from among the poor and are dressed up as St. Joseph, the Virgin Mary, and the child Jesus, respectively. They are then seated around a table set with the family’s best silverware and china, and served a variety of courses, sometimes being literally spoon-fed by the senior members of the family, while the Novena to St. Joseph is recited at a nearby temporary altar.

United States of America

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In New Orleans, Louisiana, which was a major port of entry for Sicilian immigrants during the late 19th century, the Feast of St. Joseph is a city-wide event. Both public and private St. Joseph’s altars are traditionally built. The altars are usually open to any visitor who wishes to pay homage. The food is generally distributed to charity after the altar is dismantled.

There are also parades in honor of St. Joseph and the Italian population of New Orleans which are similar to the many marching clubs and truck parades of Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day. Tradition in New Orleans also holds that by burying a small statue of St. Joseph upside down in the front yard of a house, that house will sell more promptly. In addition to the above traditions, some groups of Mardi Gras Indians stage their last procession of the season on the Sunday nearest to St. Joseph’s Day otherwise known as “Super Sunday,” after which their costumes are dismantled.

Saint Joseph’s Day is also celebrated in other U.S. communities with high proportions of Italians such as New York City; Utica, NY, Syracuse, NY, Buffalo, NY, Hoboken, NJ, Jersey City, NJ; Kansas City, MO; and Chicago; Gloucester, Mass.; and Providence, Rhode Island, where observance (which takes place just after Saint Patrick’s Day) often is expressed through “the wearing of the red,” that is, wearing red clothing or accessories similar to the wearing of green on Saint Patrick’s Day. St. Joseph’s Day tables may also be found in Rockford and Elmwood Park, Illinois. Polish-Americans, especially those in the Midwest and New England, who have the name Joseph celebrate Saint Joseph’s Day (Dzien Swietego Jozefa) as an imieniny (name day). As a symbol of ethnic pride, and in solidarity with their Italian counterparts, Polish Catholic parishes often hold Saint Joseph’s Day feasts or Saint Joseph’s Tables similar to Italian ones

In the Mid-Atlantic regions, Saint Joseph’s Day is traditionally associated with the return of anadromous fish, such as striped bass, to their natal rivers, such as the Delaware. St. Joseph’s Day is also the day when the swallows are traditionally believed to return to Mission San Juan Capistrano after having flown south for the winter.

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People in Sicily prepare their tavole di San Giuseppe, their ‘St Joseph’s tables’, which display the earth’s bounty and represent the householders’ gratitude for the saint’s continued protection. The foods are meant to be shared with the poor. Three disadvantaged children are invited into the home; often these three are dressed in bed sheets to represent the Holy Family and they are treated as guests of honor. Called virgineddi, they eat from the many dishes on the table, which include pastries and breads, because St Joseph is patron saint of pastry chefs and fry cooks. They always have maccu di San Giuseppe, a stew with five kinds of legumes and many other vegetables and herbs.  Borage, which provides a green element, is a perennial herb with large green leaves that grows easily in most climates and soils.  It is not usually available in markets.  Substitute other leafy greens.

Legume Soup for Saint Joseph’s, or Maccu di San ‘Gnuseppi is, says Pino Correnti in his Il Libro d’Oro della Cucina e dei Vini di Sicilia, “a ritual soup for San Giuseppe and also a custom handed down from the celebrations of the spring equinox in classical time: the housewife clears her pantry of the leftover dried legumes in the expectation of the new harvest to come.” Once in a while when I clean out my pantry I make something similar with the tail ends of packs of legumes and whatnot – always different; always delicious.

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Maccu di San ‘Gnuseppi

Ingredients:

10 ozs/300 g shelled dry fava beans
8 ozs/200 g shelled dried peas
4 ozs /100 g dried chickpeas
6 ozs/150 g dried beans
4 ozs/100 g lentils
2 bunches of borage (or spinach or chard)
¾ oz/20 g fennel seeds
1 frond (lacy top) fennel
1 medium-sized onion
2 sun-dried tomatoes
extra virgin olive Oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
croutons made by dicing day-old bread and sautéing the pieces in olive oil

Instructions:

Set all the legumes except the lentils, which cook quickly, to soak in lightly salted water the night before.

The next day drain them, and set all the legumes to boil in a big pot of lightly salted water, adding the onion, tomatoes, and greens, chopped, after about two hours. Continue simmering for another couple of hours, by which time it will be ready.

Check seasoning, and serve over the croutons, with a cruet of extra virgin olive oil for people to drizzle over their soup.

Nov 302013
 

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Today is the feast of Andrew the Apostle, called in the Orthodox tradition Protokletos, or “First-called,” Christian Apostle and the brother of Saint Peter. The name “Andrew” (Greek: Andreia, “manhood, valour”), like other Greek names, appears to have been common among the Jews, Christians, and other Hellenized people of the region. Unusually, no Hebrew or Aramaic name is recorded for him. He is considered the founder and the first bishop of the Church of Byzantium and is consequently the patron saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

The gospels state that Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter. He was born in the village of Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee. Both he and his brother Peter were fishermen by trade, hence the tradition that Jesus called them to be his disciples by saying that he will make them “fishers of men.” At the beginning of Jesus’ public life, they were said to have occupied the same house at Capernaum.

The Gospel of John says that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist, whose testimony first led him, and another unnamed disciple of John the Baptist to follow Jesus. Andrew at once recognized Jesus as the Messiah, and hastened to introduce him to his brother. In the gospels, Andrew is referred to as being present on some important occasions as one of the disciples more closely attached to Jesus. Andrew told Jesus about the boy with the loaves and fishes (John 6:8), with Philip told Jesus about the Greeks seeking Him, and was present at the Last Supper.

Eusebius in his church history quotes Origen as saying Andrew preached in Scythia. The Chronicle of Nestor adds that he preached along the Black Sea and the Dnieper river as far as Kiev, and from there he traveled to Novgorod. Hence he became a patron saint of Ukraine, Romania and Russia. According to tradition, he founded the See of Byzantium (Constantinople) in 38, installing Stachys as bishop. According to Hippolytus of Rome, he preached in Thrace, and his presence in Byzantium is also mentioned in the apocryphal Acts of Andrew, written in the 2nd century. Basil of Seleucia also knew of Apostle Andrew’s mission in Thrace, as well as Scythia and Achaia. This diocese would later develop into the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Andrew is recognized as its patron saint.

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Andrew is said to have been martyred by crucifixion at the city of Patras (Patræ) in Achaea, on the northern coast of the Peloponnese. Early texts, such as the Acts of Andrew known to Gregory of Tours, describe Andrew as bound, not nailed, to a Latin cross of the kind on which Jesus is said to have been crucified; yet a tradition developed that Andrew had been crucified on a cross of the form called Crux decussata (X-shaped cross, or “saltire”), now commonly known as a “Saint Andrew’s Cross” — supposedly at his own request, as he deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus had been. According to Judith Calvert “The familiar iconography of his martyrdom, showing the apostle bound to an X-shaped cross, does not seem to have been standardized before the later Middle Ages.”

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Relics of the Apostle Andrew are kept at the Basilica of St Andrew in Patras in Greece; the Duomo di Sant’Andrea, Amalfi in Italy; St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Edinburgh in Scotland; and the Church of St Andrew and St Albert, Warsaw in Poland. There are also numerous smaller reliquaries throughout the world. St Jerome wrote that the relics of St Andrew were taken from Patras to Constantinople by order of the Roman emperor Constantius II around 357 and deposited in the Church of the Holy Apostles. The head of Andrew was given by the Byzantine despot Thomas Palaeologus to Pope Pius II in 1461. It was enshrined in one of the four central piers of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

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In 1208, following the sack of Constantinople, those relics of St. Andrew and St. Peter which remained in the imperial city were taken to Amalfi, by Cardinal Peter of Capua, a native of Amalfi. The Amalfi cathedral (Duomo), dedicated to St. Andrew (as is the town itself), contains a tomb in its crypt that it maintains still contains the rest of the relics of the apostle.

In September 1964, Pope Paul VI, as a gesture of good will toward the Greek Orthodox Church, ordered that all of the relics of St. Andrew that were in Vatican City be sent back to Patras. Cardinal Augustin Bea along with many other cardinals presented the skull to Bishop Constantine of Patras on 24 September 1964. The cross of St. Andrew was taken from Greece during the Crusades by the Duke of Burgundy. It was kept in the church of St. Victor in Marseilles until it returned to Patras on 19 January 1980. The cross of the apostle was presented to the Bishop of Patras by a Catholic delegation led by Cardinal Roger Etchegaray. All the relics, which consist of the small finger, the skull (part of the top of the cranium of Saint Andrew), and the cross on which he was martyred, have been kept in the Church of St. Andrew at Patras in a special shrine and are revered in a special ceremony every November 30.

Cypriot tradition holds that a ship which was transporting Saint Andrew went off course and ran aground. Upon coming ashore, Andrew struck the rocks with his staff at which point a spring of healing waters gushed forth. Using it, the sight of the ship’s captain, who had been blind in one eye, was restored. Thereafter, the site became a place of pilgrimage and a fortified monastery stood there in the 12th century, from which Isaac Comnenus negotiated his surrender to Richard the Lionheart. In the 15th century, a small chapel was built close to the shore. The main monastery of the current church dates to the 18th century.

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Apostolos Andreas Monastery (Greek: ????????? ???????) is a monastery dedicated to Saint Andrew situated just south of Cape Apostolos Andreas, which is the north-easternmost point of the island of Cyprus, in Rizokarpason in the Karpass Peninsula. The monastery is an important site to the Cypriot Orthodox Church. It was once known as “the Lourdes of Cyprus,” served not by an organized community of monks but by a changing group of volunteer priests and laymen. Both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities consider the monastery a holy place. As such it is visited by many people for votive prayers.

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Andrew is also revered in Malta. The first reference regarding the first small chapel at Luqa dedicated to Andrew dates to 1497. This chapel contained three altars, one of them dedicated to Andrew. The painting showing “Mary with Saints Andrew and Paul” was painted by the Maltese artist Filippo Dingli. At one time, many fishermen lived in the village of Luqa, and this may be the main reason behind choosing Andrew as patron saint. The statue of Andrew was sculpted in wood by Giuseppe Scolaro in 1779. This statue underwent several restoration works including that of 1913 performed by the Maltese artist Abraham Gatt. The Martyrdom of Saint Andrew on the main altar of the church was painted by Mattia Preti in 1687.

The official stance of the Romanian Orthodox Church is that Andrew preached the Gospel in the province of Dobruja (Scythia Minor) to the Daco-Romans, whom he is said to have converted to Christianity. There have been some ancient Christian symbols found carved in a cave near Murfatlar. These have been used for propaganda purposes in the communist era as part of the ideology of protochronism, which purports that the Orthodox Church has been a companion and defender of the Romanian people for its entire history.

Early Christian History in Ukraine holds that the apostle Andrew is said to have preached on the southern borders of modern-day Ukraine, along the Black Sea. Legend has it that he travelled up the Dnieper River and reached the future location of Kiev, where he erected a cross on the site where the St. Andrew’s Church of Kiev currently stands, and prophesied the foundation of a great Christian city, Jerusalem of the Russian/Ukrainian land.

About the middle of the 10th century (possibly earlier), Andrew became the patron saint of Scotland. Several legends state that the relics of Andrew were brought by divine guidance from Constantinople to the place where the modern town of St Andrews stands today (Gaelic, Cill Rìmhinn). There are good reasons for supposing that the relics were originally in the collection of Acca, bishop of Hexham, who took them into Pictish country when he was driven from Hexham (c. 732), and founded a see, not, according to tradition, in Galloway, but on the site of St Andrews.

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According to legend, in 832, Óengus II led an army of Picts and Scots into battle against the Angles, led by Æthelstan, near modern-day Athelstaneford, East Lothian. The legend states that he was heavily outnumbered and hence whilst engaged in prayer on the eve of battle, Óengus vowed that if granted victory he would appoint Saint Andrew as the Patron Saint of Scotland. On the morning of battle white clouds forming an X shape in the sky were said to have appeared. Óengus and his combined force, emboldened by this apparent divine intervention, took to the field and despite being inferior in numbers were victorious. Having interpreted the cloud phenomenon as representing the crux decussata upon which Saint Andrew was crucified, Óengus honoured his pre-battle pledge and duly appointed Saint Andrew as the Patron Saint of Scotland. The white saltire set against a celestial blue background is said to have been adopted as the design of the flag of Scotland on the basis of this legend.

Andrew’s connexion with Scotland may have been reinforced following the Synod of Whitby, when the Celtic Church felt that Columba had been “outranked” by Peter and that Peter’s brother would make a higher ranking patron. The 1320 Declaration of Arbroath cites Scotland’s conversion to Christianity by Andrew, “the first to be an Apostle.” Numerous parish churches in the Church of Scotland and congregations of other Christian churches in Scotland are named after Andrew. The national church of the Scottish people in Rome, Sant’Andrea degli Scozzesi is dedicated to St Andrew.

My profile image here is taken from a larger photo of me beside the font of Iglesia San Andreas (Presbyterian) in Buenos Aires, where I was baptized in 1951.

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Andrew is the patron saint of several cities and countries including: Barbados, Scotland, Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Patras in Greece, Amalfi in Italy, Luqa in Malta, and Esgueira in Portugal. He was also the patron saint of Prussia and of the Order of the Golden Fleece. The flag of Scotland (and consequently the Union Flag and that of its commonwealth countries) feature St Andrew’s saltire cross. The saltire is also the flag of Tenerife, the former flag of Galicia and the naval jack of Russia.

The feast of Andrew is observed on November 30 in both the Eastern and Western churches, and is the national day of Scotland. In the traditional liturgical books of the Catholic Church, the feast of St. Andrew is the first feast day in the Proper of Saints.

Here is an excerpt from the page on St Andrew in the Lowland Scots edition of Wikipedia:

St Andra’s Day is the feast day o Saunt Andra an is celebratit on 30th November ilka yeir.

Saunt Andra is the patron saunt o Scotland an St Andra’s Day (Scots Gaelic: Latha Naomh Anndra) is Scotland’s offeicial naitional day. In 2006, the Scots Pairlament waled ti mak the day a Bank Haliday. Syn 2002, St Andra’s Day haes been Scotland’s offeicial banner day anaw, meinin that the Saltire Banner wul flee frae aw Scots Govrenment biggins wi a bannerpaul. Houme’er, Unitit Kinrick Govrenment biggins in Scotland wul flee the Union Banner, an anerlie flee the Saltire Banner gin thar is mair nor the ae bannerpul.

Full page is here:

http://sco.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saunt_Andra

I bet you didn’t know there was a Scots Wikipedia. Scots is now considered a language in its own right, distinct from English.

Scottish cuisine is as wrongfully maligned as its English counterpart by the ignorant.  As in England, cooking in Scotland suffered a setback in the 20th century because of shortages caused by the world wars, but is now firmly back on its traditional footing.

During the Late Middle Ages and early modern era, French cuisine played a role in Scottish cookery due to cultural exchanges brought about by the “Auld Alliance,” between Scotland and France against England, especially during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary, on her return to Scotland, brought an entourage of French staff who are considered responsible for revolutionizing Scots cooking and for some of Scotland’s unique food terminology. Many Scots cooking terms are derived from French:

“Ashet” from “Assiette” (a large platter).

“Cannel” from “Cannelle” (cinnamon).

“Collop” from escalope (cutlet).

“Gigot” from gigot (leg of mutton).

“Howtowdie” from Old French “Hétoudeau” (a boiling fowl).

One of my favorite soups is Scotch broth, made with a base of barley and lamb, plus carrots, onions and leeks.  I always make it when I have a bone left over from roast leg of lamb.  It can also be made cheaply with lamb neck bones.  Here’s my recipe from memory.  Amounts of ingredients are up to you. I wing it.

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Scotch Broth

Put a lamb bone with plenty of meat still on it, or 1-2 lbs of lamb neck bones, in a large pot, with 2 cups of pearl barley, some chopped fresh parsley, lots of freshly ground pepper, and salt to taste.  Top with water or light stock and simmer one hour.

Add diced carrot, onion, and leek (green and white parts) and simmer another hour, or until the barley is properly soft.

Add a few extra grinds of pepper and chopped fresh parsley. Simmer another 5-10 minutes and serve piping hot in deep bowls.