(The Fight Between Carnival and Lent, Peter Bruegel the Elder, 1559)
I love Lent. Does that make me weird?
To broaden that statement: I love Lent and all the celebrations and observations that surround it. This is the time of year when my foodie tendencies and academic obsessions truly overlap.
Keep in mind that I’m a hardcore history geek. I’ve got fond memories of studying the Catholic liturgical year as it evolved in medieval and early modern Europe. (No, really.) In fact, just typing that sentence makes me want to curl up with a copy of of Peter Burke’s Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe.
Burke’s fabulous book covers 300 years of major social change in Europe (specifically, 1500 to 1800). He theorizes that many of the old Catholic festivals–especially carnivale right before Lent–served as social steam valves. Hierarchies temporarily overturned. People from all economic classes participated together. Everyone got a day off work. Community! Relaxation! Celebration!
And then the Protestant Reformation and Industrial Revolution had to go and jack things up. (Of course, we also got mass literacy and widespread political enfranchisement out of the whole deal. So at the end of the day, I think it’s a win.)
You may be wonder what any of this has to do with menu-planning. The answer is: pancakes. That’s right. I’ll be making pancakes this Tuesday because, while I love me some 21st century rights and responsibilities, I also want a medieval sense of festivity in my life.
Pancakes are the traditional food served on Shrove Tuesday, otherwise known as Fat Tuesday. Why? Because pancakes use up fats and eggs that weren’t allowed during the Christian ritual fasting season of Lent (which starts the following day). Check out this excellent British source for more information.
As evidenced by my plans to eat pork this week, we won’t be going full vegetarian for Lent. But we will probably be eating more fish- and plant-based meals. In the near future, prepare to endure a bit more pontificating as I use history and ritual to make meal-planning decisions! (Sorry in advance.)
Thank you all for enduring my nerdy history lecture! Enjoy this week’s recipes.
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Vegetarian Meal: Pesto pasta with a yummy green salad
Fun Food: broccoli served alongside steamed saeu buchu mandu (otherwise known as shrimp and Asian chive dumplings)
The Big Easy: fried rice (in which, among other things, I plan to dump leftover Asian chives and tofu from this week’s food adventure recipe…) I never use a recipe, but if you need one to get you started, check here.
Fight Freezer Frump: pork chops with garlic-sauteed kale and apple sauce