Thursday, 29 August 2019

Fairy Tale Friday--The Horse's Skin (Portugal, 1888)

 Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.

This week we look at a tale collected by Portuguese philologist Francisco Adolfo Coelho. What’s a philologist? I had to look it up because this was the only information I could find about Coelho.

Philology is more commonly defined as the study of literary texts as well as oral and written records, the establishment of their authenticity and their original form, and the determination of their meaning.

The story of The Horse’s Skin was published in  Tales of Old Lusitania from the Folk-Lore of Portugal, in 1888 and  translated by Henriqueta Monteiro for the English speaking market.

This is a fascinating tale with elements of Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, a pinch of Rapunzel and a quite bit of the Donner Party. Our heroine is but one of three unnamed sisters (why do they rarely have names?) whose father decides to remarry.  The woman he chooses doesn’t want his daughters around and so he takes them all out what looks like a holiday, but really is abandoning them in a tower far away with no food so they can starve to death. Father of the year he is not, but I suppose it is better that he didn’t try to have sex with his own flesh and blood.

There is no food and so the eldest offers herself as a meal and promptly dies in order for her two sisters to eat her dead body and therefore stay alive. The middle sister follows suit and our heroine partakes of the flesh of her second sibling. Then she gets some spunk and decides to get rescued out of the tower by going to the top and waving her handkerchief at some passing sailors. I do not understand why they couldn’t have pulled the hanky trick before and saved on the cannibalism, but hey-ho.

The hanky waving from the top of a tall tower does the trick and she is immediately spotted by the sailors who rescue her. She packs a trunk with some of her dead sister’s best dresses and they take her far away. She gets a job as the King’s water bearer and disguises herself in clothes made out a horse’s skin so that none would recognise her wealth and high status having once been a princess, but the rough garment seems to be well cut as the text says:

One day as she entered the palace yard, carrying a pitcher of water poised on her head in a light and graceful manner, which showed off her elegant figure…

She pretends to not be interested in the ball, but secretly attends wearing some of her dead sister’s gear and of course the King falls for her. The story ends with a wedding as you would expect after a lost ring is matched to its owner.

While she has no name, I liked this tale because she does have spunk. She doesn’t take the easy way out and be a martyr and drop dead to be eaten. She wipes her tears and finds a solution.

The Horse's Skin source

This is the story of a wicked king, who was a widower and had three daughters.

Many years had elapsed since his queen died, and he began to feel lonely without a partner in life, and one who could occupy the vacant seat beside him on the throne, so he resolved to visit a certain court where a princess lived, whom he admired, and to make an offer of marriage to her.

The princess, who was selfish and only cared for her own comfort, asked the king before accepting his offer, what he intended to do with his daughters, as she did not want them about her in the palace.

"If my daughters," replied the king, "are a hindrance to our union, I can soon dispose of them, and send them where you will never see them or hear of them."

On his return to the palace he said to his daughters, "Get ready at once to go with me to the Tower of Moncorvo, where I will show you what you have never seen before in your life."

The daughters, full of confidence in their father, and not suspecting any treachery, readily prepared to accompany him, and after travelling many leagues arrived at the celebrated tower.

When the king had them safe in the castle, he said to his daughters, "Remain here, whilst I pay a short visit to a friend and worthy subject, who lives in this neighbourhood. On my return I will take you back to the palace."

The wicked king, who only made up this excuse to blind his daughters to his real intentions, fastened the great gates of the tower as he went out, so that his daughters could not possibly escape. He supplied them with food every day until his marriage day, but after that he never concerned himself about them anymore but left them to their fate.

Hours passed, and days came and went, and still no succour arrived, and they began to be in a dreadful state, without a morsel of food or water to refresh them.

And so it happened that one day, when they had given up all hopes of being relieved, and were nearly dead from starvation, the eldest of the princesses said to her sisters, "Why should we all starve? The best thing you two can do is to kill me and feed upon me as long as I afford you sustenance." She had hardly said these words when she dropped down dead from want.

A few days after this sad event the surviving princesses were again short of food, and nothing was left them but to die. Then the second sister, remembering what the first one had so generously done, followed her example, and suggested that her younger sister should kill her for food; and when she had finished uttering the last words of her advice she also dropped down and died.

The poor young girl, now left alone in the large dreary castle, felt very disconsolate, and rent the air with her lamentations. But after a while, being of a courageous mind, she thought to herself that weeping was no remedy for her woes, and that she must devise some means of escape from her prison before she became faint again with want.

She now set about examining the various rooms of which the castle was composed, and when she reached the top of the watchtower she looked out and saw a ship sailing on the ocean. Overjoyed at the sight, she at once began to make signals, waving her handkerchief in hopes of attracting the notice of someone in the vessel.

The sailors were not slow to perceive the signal, and calling up their captain, drew his attention to it. 

The captain, who was a humane and chivalrous man, directed the ship towards the spot, and effected an entrance by scaling the wall of the fortress. On reaching the watchtower, the captain and the sailors that accompanied him were shocked to see a maiden of such rank and beauty treated worse than a common criminal. They took her up tenderly and lowered her into the vessel and sailing to a port of safety they landed her, together with a chest in which she had packed some of her own and her sisters' dresses.

As she stood on the seashore, she glanced around her, and felt the wretchedness of her situation, without a home or friends to whom to apply for shelter. She had not been long immersed in these melancholy thoughts when she perceived an old woman coming towards her, whom she felt sure was a good benevolent person.

She approached her and addressed her thus: "My good woman, do you know of anyone that would give me shelter and a meal for today? I am willing to work for it."

"If you want employment come and draw water from the well and help me to carry it to the house I work for; there you will get a meal, and in the evening, you can take up your quarters in my little cottage."

"Tell me first," replied the princess, "what house it is you work for?"

"Oh! I draw water for our king's palace."

The young maiden consented to help the old woman, but as she could not work in her fine clothes, she had a garment made for her of the skin of a horse, and thus disguised she did not think that anyone would take her for a princess.

Every day she went to the well and helped the old woman to draw water and carry the pitchers to the palace; and from the odd garments she wore everyone in the palace called her "Horse-Skin."

One day as she entered the palace yard, carrying a pitcher of water poised on her head in a light and graceful manner, which showed off her elegant figure, a page, who had often noticed her beauty, and secretly suspected that the girl was not born to do this drudgery, and that there was some mystery about her, accosted her very respectfully, and said: "Do you know that our good king is going to give balls for three nights running, so that he may choose himself a wife from among the dancers? The prettiest girl is to carry off the prize, and the king, as a mark of his choice, is to give her a ring -- and what a ring that will be! I wish you could manage to go."

"What have I to do with balls, a poor girl like me? It is all very well for princesses and fine people. I shall turn in at my old woman's tonight, as usual."

When the princess had done her work she went home, and that evening being the first night of the balls at the palace, she dressed herself in her eldest sister's clothes, and went to the ball. When she entered the ballrooms, which were brilliantly lighted up, all eyes were turned upon her, and before the end of the dance she was pronounced by all present as most beautiful.

The king was not long in discovering her charms, and caused great jealousy among the ladies by asking her again and again to dance with him, and loading her with delicate and polite attentions. 

But she slipped out of the palace early, before the king had time to notice her absence.

The next day Horse-Skin was again toiling and carrying water to the palace as if nothing had happened. As she entered the palace yard the page again accosted her, and repeated what he had said the day before.

"Have I not told you, man, that all this does not concern me? What is it to me whether the king gives a ball or not? I shall go home to my old lady and spend the evening resting after my hard work."
The princess went to the second ball in her second sister's dress, which set off her beauty even more than the first had done. A number of partners were anxious to dance with her, but they had little chance, for the king mostly danced with her.

He treated the princess with the profoundest respect as he gazed on her loveliness and dared not ask her who she was. But she with her usual discretion left the ballroom at a moment when the king's attention was engaged by other guests; and next morning, as usual, Horse-Skin was at her duties in the palace.

The page once again came up to her and said in a beseeching tone: "Do, Horse-Skin, go to the last ball, which is to take place in the palace tonight, for the king is to give the ring tonight to the fairest lady and the one he admires most! You should have seen what jealousy there was among the ladies that attended the ball last night; they say it is useless for them to go to the ball again, as the king would not so much as look at them or speak a word to them. All his interest was centred on a lovely and mysterious maiden who attended the last two dances, and who, I assure you, has nearly turned the king's brain with love; you should see her smile, her coral lips, her star-like eyes -- the very image of yours, I declare! -- and the fascinating manner in which she danced -- there -- I only wish I was a prince to marry her!"

The princess's only reply to all this, was: "Leave me alone; what matters it to me whom the king admires? Tonight I shall be at my old woman's, as usual."

At the last ball the princess wore her own robes, the colour, stuff, and make of which harmonised with her beauty still more than did her sister's garments; and as she mingled among the invited in the state apartments that night, she outshone all the other ladies -- princesses, marchionesses, duchesses, and squires' daughters -- like a brilliant gem of the first water.

The king, fairly captivated, danced with her alone, and towards the end of the evening gave her the ring, as the sign of his having chosen her to be his spouse and queen. And though he had set several of his court courtiers to watch and see which way she took when she left the palace, the princess eluded their vigilance, and departed without being noticed even by the sentinels at the palace gate.

Next day the king was sorely puzzled and grieved when, on making enquiries, he found that no one in the palace could give him the slightest information about the lady to whom he had given the ring, in token of his admiration and choice. He ordered a search through all the country round, to find out, if possible, who the maiden was; but all was of no avail, for the damsel could not be discovered high or low.

At this the king, from grief and disappointment, sickened, and lay in a stupor for days together, until the physicians began to fear he would not live much longer. One day Horse-Skin met his majesty's nurse and asked her how the king was.

The nurse said the king was so ill that he was not expected to live through the day, all through the violent passion his majesty had conceived for the damsel to whom he had given the ring, and of whom no traces could be found. "And," said she, "unless the cruel girl makes herself known to his majesty soon, we shall lose our beloved king."

The nurse was at the time carrying some broth to give to the king; and Horse-Skin took this opportunity to drop the ring into the basin, without the nurse perceiving her. Great was the king's surprise when he discovered the ring; and the nurse being asked who had put that ring in his broth, replied that she did not know, and that the only person that had come near her, when carrying the basin, was poor Horse-Skin.

The king then sent for Horse-Skin and bade her tell him who had given her the ring which she had dropped into the basin.

"If your majesty will allow me to leave your presence for a few minutes, I will tell you, on my return, who gave the ring to me."

She had not been absent long when she returned to the king dressed in her own rich garments, and adorned as she had appeared at the last ball in the palace.

She stood before the king, and said, "Does your majesty know me now?"

"Of course I do, you are the same sweet damsel to whom I gave the ring."

"Very well," said the princess, "I am she who dropped it in the broth, and I am your humble servant, Horse-Skin."

"Explain yourself, you are still a mystery to me."

Thereupon the princess related the history of her life, which she did amid tears and sobs, as it brought back to her mind all she had suffered since her cruel father had deserted her and her sisters.

The king from being sad, was now delighted to have found his lost love, and soon recovered from his illness, and was once more full of health. The king then led her to a magnificently furnished chamber where she was to remain until his marriage with her, as he would not let her return to the old woman's cottage.

The happy pair were married amid great rejoicings, and the king and his beautiful bride were heartily welcomed by his subjects, who had mourned his absence from state affairs. They reigned happily for many long years.

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned for a tale of a Princess in Cat Skins.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

What We Ate Wednesday--Sweet Potato, Sour Apple and Mango Soup

Hello lovelies! This soup was an an unexpected throw together after a friend gave us some very tart (and I do mean VERY TART) Bramley apples. The obvious choice was to make them into an apple crumble, but I didn't want to use all that sugar (and you would have needed lots of sugar. Did I mention how sour these apples were???) but I decided to make a soup out of some things I already had on hand.

Let me just preface this by saying  that it is *really* not soup weather yet. It is hot and humid from all the summer rain and I was loathe to put my oven on for fear of spontaneously combustion. If I were still living in Louisiana this wouldn't be an issue as I would just crank on the air conditioning, but we have no AC in Wales (SOB!) so it takes something special to make me heat up the house.

And this is special. The soup was delicious. And if i served it with brown rice it made enough to feed 2 greedy vegans for two nights. The second night I just added a tin of haricot beans and a squeeze of lemon juice to perk it up. could use fresh mango in this soup if you can get it or afford it. I happened to have a tin of mango in juice in my cupboard and so i used that. I ended up added it juice and all to the soup as the apples were so tart. (Have I mentioned the apples and their lack of sweetness??) That little bit of sweetness helped balance the tartness and the soup was perfect. The juice in my tin of mangoes was pineapple and passion fruit--it really added a little tropical flavour but if you are opposed to tinned mango in juice then I guess add extra vegetable stock and you will have a slightly more tart soup.

I never heard of Bramley apples until we moved to the UK. They are called cooking apples here as they are not sweet enough to eat on their own. (See, it's not just me!) If I was in the US, I would probably use Granny Smith apples (which are tart, but edible) and skip the juice.

Also i don't peel my sweet potato or my apple. It all gets blended up anyway.

Sweet Potato, Sour Apple and Mango Soup

Preheat you oven to 200C/400F
In your biggest roasting pan add the following:

1 chopped onion
500g chopped sweet potato (which was 3 med/small ones for me)
2-3 sour apples, chopped
1 TB fennel seeds

Roast for 30 minutes without stirring. The sweet potatoes will stay in chunk shapes, but the apples will turn to applesauce if you stir, so there is no point in giving it a stir half way through.

5 cups vegetable stock (add an extra 3/4 cup veg stock if not using the juice)
1 tin of mango in juice or one chopped mango

 Then add all of that roasted goodness to the veg stock and the mango and bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes to let the mango soften then blend til smooth with an immersion/stick blender  (or leave it chunky--this is your soup, do what you want).

Then add salt and pepper to taste. I didn't think it needed any salt. But I do love me a bit of pepper so I put some in.

Add a tin of white beans if you need to feed more people.

This was well worth heating up the house.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Fairy Tale Friday--Ass'-Skin (Basque, 1877)

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.

This week we look at a Basque tale collected by Wentworth Webster who was an Anglican clergyman, scholar and collector of folk tales. Webster travelled extensively and eventually settled in the Basque country which is located in the western Pyrenees, straddling the border between France and Spain on the coast of the Bay of Biscay. During his stay, he collected traditional Basque tales from the local people and  published these stories in  Basque Legends in 1877.

This is an interesting tale which lacks the incestual theme of some of our other Cinderella variants, but none the less has some interesting insights. It’s not a particularly well told tale, in my opinion. There is some confusion as to who we are talking about. The story mentions the King as well as the Queen-mother and her son. At first, I was thinking the King and Queen were the parents of the son who would be the one to pursue her. After careful reading and rereading, it seems the King is the son and the Queen is his mother.

This tale begins with our heroine working for another King and Queen. Her name was Faithful, and she lived up to her name as she was honest and true. However, she is falsely accused and imprisoned for a crime she didn’t commit. Clearly, this King and Queen do not believe her to faithful. She is to be executed and in shades of Snow White she is sent out to the forest to be killed and her bloody heart brought back as proof. As in Snow White, the huntsmen have sympathy with the girl and allow her to go free. As ass is killed instead for the bloody proof and she asks them to flay the ass so that she may wear the skin as a disguise since she is technically a wanted criminal.

She gets a job tending the geese with another King (the one of the difficult to understand relations) and after a while is approached by an old woman who acts as magical helper. She is offered two magical nuts and a peach that when split open offer her the accoutrements she needs for the ball to catch the King’s eye.

When the king discovers that Ass Skin has been to the ball he says "If you return there again, I will kill you on the spot," but this does not deter our resourceful heroine. Instead of a shoe we have a ring and her true identity is revealed. At their wedding she tells the tale of her false accusation and imprisonment and her husband the King runs his sword through his own uncle as he was the one who did her wrong. It all felt a bit like the “red wedding” in Game of Thrones.

It ends with a very bizarre religious ending (Webster was a clergyman, after all) that feel a bit tacked on. It ends with everyone dying and going to Heaven, so I guess that counts as a happy ending.
Ass'-Skin source

Like many others in the world, there was a king and a queen. One day there came to them a young girl who wished for a situation. They asked her her name, and she said, "Faithful."

The king said to her, "Are you like your name?" and she said, "Yes."

She stopped there seven years. Her master gave her all the keys, even that of the treasure. One day, when the king and queen were out, Faithful goes to the fountain, and she sees seven robbers coming out of the house. Judge what a state this poor girl was in! She runs straight to the treasury and sees that more than half the treasure is missing. She did not know what would become of her -- she was all of a tremble. When the king and queen came home, she told them what had happened, but they would not believe her, and they put her in prison. She stays there a year. She kept saying that she was not in fault, but they would not believe her. The king condemns her to death and sends her with four men to the forest to kill her, telling them to bring him her heart.

They go off, but these men thought it a pity to kill this young girl, for she was very pretty, and she told them that she was innocent of this robbery; and they say to her, "If you will not come any more into this land, we will spare your life."

She promises them that she will not be seen again in those parts. The men see an ass, and they tell her that they will carry its heart to the king.

The young girl said to them, "Flay this ass, I pray you; and, in order that no one may know me, I will never take this skin off me."

The men do so, and go off to the king, and the young girl goes to look for some shelter. At nightfall she finds a beautiful house. She asks if they want someone to keep the geese.

They tell her, "Yes, yes, yes."

They put her along with the geese and tell her that she must go with them every day to such a field. She went out very early in the morning and came back late. It was the king's house, and it was the queen-mother and her son who lived there.

After some time there appeared to her one day an old woman, who called to her, "Faithful, you have done penance enough. The son of the king is going to give some grand feasts, and you must go to them. This evening you will ask madame permission, and you will tell her that you will give her all the news of the ball if she will let you go for a little while. And, see, here is a nut. All the dresses and things you want will come out of that. You will break it as you go to the place of the festival."

That evening she asked permission of her mistress to go and see the festival which the king is going to give, for a short time only, and that she will return directly and tell her all that she has seen there.

Her mistress said, "Yes."

That evening she goes then. On her way she breaks the nut, and there comes out of it a silver robe. 
She puts it on, and goes there, and immediately she enters all the world looks at her. The king is bewitched, he does not quit her for an instant, and they always dance together. He pays no attention at all to the other young ladies. They enjoy the refreshments very much. Some friends of the king call him, and he has to go there; and in this interval Faithful makes her escape to the house.

She tells the queen how that a young girl had come to the ball, how she had dazzled everybody, and especially the king, who paid attention to her alone, but that she had escaped.

When the son comes to the house, his mother says to him, "She escaped from you then, your young lady? She did not care for you, doubtless."

He says to his mother, "Who told you that?"

"Ass'-Skin; she wished to go and see it."

The king goes to where Faithful was and gives her two blows with his slipper, saying to her, "If you return there again, I will kill you on the spot."

The next day Ass'-Skin goes with her geese, and there appears to her again the old woman. She tells her that she ought to go to the ball again this evening -- that her mistress would give her permission. "Here is a walnut; you have there all that is necessary to dress yourself with. The king will ask you your name: Braf-le-mandoufle [Beaten with the slipper]."

In the evening she asks permission of her mistress, but she is astonished (at her asking), and says to her, "You do not know what the king has said -- that if he catches you he will kill you on the spot?"

"I am not afraid. He will be sure not to catch me."

"Go, then."

She goes off, and on the way she breaks the walnut, and there comes out of it a golden robe. She goes in. The king comes with a thousand compliments and asks her how she had escaped the evening before without saying anything to him, and that he had been very much hurt at it.
They amuse themselves thoroughly. The king has eyes for her alone. He asks her her name. She tells him, "Braf-le-mandoufle." They feast themselves well, and some friends having called to him he goes to them, and the young lady escapes.

Ass'-Skin goes to tell the queen that yesterday evening's young lady had come, but still more beautiful -- that she had escaped in the very middle of the ball. She goes off to her geese. The king comes to his house.

His mother says to him, "She came then, the young lady you love? But she only loves you so-so, since she has gone off in this fashion."

"Who told you that?"


He goes off to her and gives her two kicks with his slipper, and says to her, "Woe to you if you go there again; I will kill you on the very spot."

She goes off to her geese, and the old woman comes to her again and tells her to ask permission again for this evening -- that she must go to the dance. She gives her a peach and tells her that she will have there all that is necessary to dress herself with. She goes then to ask her mistress if she will give her permission, like last night, to go to the ball.

She says to her, "Yes, yes, I will give you leave. But are you not afraid lest the king should catch you? He has said that he will kill you if you go there."

"I am not afraid, because I am sure that he will not catch me. Yesterday he looked for me again, but he could not catch me."

She goes off then. On the way she opens her peach, and finds there a dress entirely of diamonds, and if she was beautiful before, judge what she is now! She shone like the sun. The king was plunged into joy when he saw her. He was in an ecstasy. He did not wish to dance, but they sat down at their ease on beautiful arm-chairs, and with their refreshments before them they passed such a long time together. The king asked her to give him her promise of marriage. The young lady gives him her word, and the king takes his diamond ring off his finger and gives it to her. His friends call him away to come quickly to see something very rare, and off he goes, leaving his lady. She takes advantage of this opportunity to escape.

She tells her mistress all that has passed -- how that this young Lady had come with a dress of diamonds, that all the world was dazzled by her beauty, that they could not even look at her she shone so brightly, that the king did not know where he was for happiness, that they had given each other their promise of marriage, and that the king had given her his diamond ring, but that the best thing of all was that today again she has escaped him.

The king comes in at that very instant.

His mother says to him, "She has not, she certainly has not, any wish for you. She has gone off with your diamond ring. Where will you go and look for her? You do not know where she lives. Where will you ask for a young lady who has such a name as 'Braf-le-mandoufle!' She has given you her promise of marriage too; but she does not wish to have you, since she has acted like that."

Our king did not even ask his mother who has told her that. He went straight to bed thoroughly ill, and so Ass'-Skin did not have her two kicks that evening.

The queen was in great trouble at seeing her son ill like that. She was continually turning over in her head who this young lady might be.

She said to her son, "Is this young lady our Ass'-Skin ? How else could she have known that you had given your promise to one another, and that you had given her the ring too? She must have been very close to you. Did you see her?"

He says, "No," but remains buried in thought.

His mother says, "She has a very pretty face under her ass'-skin."

And she says that she must send for her, and that he must have a good look at her too ; that he shall have some broth brought up by her.

She sends for Ass'-Skin to the kitchen, has the broth made for her son, and Ass'-Skin puts in the middle of the bread the ring which the king had given her. The lady had her well dressed, and she goes to the king. The king, after having seen her, was still doubtful. He drank his broth; but when he puts the bread into his mouth he finds something (hard), and is very much astonished at seeing his ring. He was ill no longer. He goes and runs to his mother to tell her his joy that he has found his lady. He wishes to marry directly, and all the kings of the neighbourhood are invited to the feast; and, while they were dining, everyone had some fine news to relate. They ask the bride, too, if she had not something to tell them.

She says, "Yes," but that she cannot tell what she knows that it would not please all at the table.

Her husband tells her to speak out boldly; he draws his sword, and says, "Whosoever shall speak a word shall be run through with this sword."

She then tells how a poor girl was servant at a king's house; how she remained there seven years; that they liked her very much, and treated her with confidence, even to giving her the keys of the treasure. One day, when the king and his wife were out, robbers entered, and stole almost all the treasure. The king would not believe that robbers had come. He puts the young girl in prison for a whole year, and at the end of that time he sends her to execution, telling the executioners to bring her heart to the house. The executioners were better than the king; they believed in her innocence, and, after having killed an ass, they carried its heart to the king; "and for the proof, it is I who was servant to this king."

The bridegroom says to her, "Who can this king be? Is it my uncle?"

The lady says, " I do not know if he is your uncle, but it is that gentleman there."

The bridegroom takes his sword and kills him on the spot, saying to his wife, "You shall not be afraid of him anymore."

They lived very happily.

Sometime afterwards they had two children, a boy and a girl. When the elder was seven years old he died, telling his father and mother that he was going to heaven to get a place there ready for them. At the end of a week the other child dies too, and she says to them that she, too, is going to heaven, and that she will keep their place ready; that they, too, would quickly go to them. And, as she had said, at the end of a year, at exactly the very same time, both the gentleman and lady died, and they both went to heaven.

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned next week for the tale of a Horse-Skin.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

What We Ate Wednesday--Saucy Chickpeas (two ways)

Hello lovelies! This week we had a meal that was inspired by the cookbook Green by Elly Pear. My friend Jo has been showcasing recipes from this beautiful cookbook on Facebook and so I borrowed a copy from the library to check it out. The first recipe in the book was one for rose harissa chickpeas. But i fell at the first hurdle as I could not find rose harissa paste at the supermarket. I searched online and the brand she recommended was nearly £5 for a jar. I really liked the recipe--it had all the things we love--onion, garlic, chickpeas, red pepper and leafy greens. But it needed a savoury, flavourful paste to pull it all together.

Suddenly, I had a thought. I could just substitute curry paste. I had some in my fridge so decided to give it a go and voila! Success! This was a quick and easy meal that we spread over two meals--once over brown rice and once as a soup.

Saucy Chickpeas (two ways)
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper chopped
3-4 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 heaping tsp tomato puree
1 tin of tomatoes
2 TB curry paste (I used Balti) 
2 tins chickpeas, drained and rinsed
half a cup of vegetable stock
100g kale or spinach (3 big handfuls)
juice of half a lemon
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Brown rice to serve

1. Cook your onion and pepper in a splash of oil or water and then add your garlic.
2. Then add your spices, tomato puree, curry paste, chickpeas and tin of tomatoes. Bring to the boil and then let simmer until your rice is cooked.
3. Remove half of the chickpea mixture and store in the fridge for the next day. Add the kale or spinach and the half a cup vegetable stock and simmer until greens are wilted and reduced.
4. Squeeze on the lemon juice and taste for salt and pepper. Save your other half of the lemon for tomorrow.

The next day:
Chickpea mixture from the fridge
1 tsp smoked paprika
3 cups vegetable stock
100g kale or spinach (3 big handfuls)
juice of the other half a lemon
sea salt and pepper to taste

Garlic bread to serve

1. Bring the chickpeas mixture, paprika, and vegetable stock to the boil then simmer until piping hot. Add the greens and cook until they are wilted and reduced. Add the lemon juice and taste for salt and pepper.

That's it. Two tasty meals for the price of one.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Fairy Tale Friday--The She-Bear (Italy, 1634)

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.

This week we begin looking at tales that are more animal centred. We have previously looked at Donkeyskin by Charles Perrault because it was one of the earliest (and most famous) versions of this story. For the next few weeks we will look at similar versions, with different animals.

The tale of The She-Bear was collected by Italian author Giambattista Basile in his Pentamerone: Lo Cunto de li Cunti, meaning The Tale of Tales in 1634. You may remember Basile from his early version of Cinderella (one of the earliest literary versions of this tale) entitled Cenerentola.

This is an unusual version, told in his typical florid style. There are some unintentionally hilarious descriptions in it.

It begins with the death of the mother who was the “mother of beauty.” She may have beautiful externally, but she was a hot-headed vengeful spitfire internally. On her deathbed she proclaims:

"Give me a promise that you will never marry, unless you meet one beautiful as I have been; and if you will not so promise, I will leave you a curse, and I will hate you even in the other world." 

The father does and then after a bit of over the top gnashing and wailing suddenly realises he only has a daughter and not a son. This prompts him to survey all the women in the land and catalogue their faults. He then realises “why go out for a hamburger when you have steak at home” and realised his daughter Preziosa would be the perfect surrogate for his boy-child.

Obviously, she is distressed at this. The old woman who brings her cosmetics see that her father is being a complete ass and offers her this help:

When your father comes to you this evening -- donkey that he is, wanting to act the stallion -- put this piece of wood into your mouth, and you will at once become a she-bear.

And so she does, frightening her father on their wedding night as he crawls into bed with her which allows her to escape. The son of the king sees a giant bear in the forest but soon realises how tame she is. She walks up to him wagging her tail like a friendly dog and he takes a liking to this furry companion and brings it home.

Later, when she thinks no one is about she takes the wood from her mouth and is seen by the prince. She quickly transforms back but now he knows her secret and pines away raving like a madman about the bear. His mother, thinking the bear has bitten him, asks for the bear to be killed. But like in Snow White, no one can bring themselves to do it because the bear is so kind and gentle and so Preziosa is returned to the woods. The prince goes mental and the bear is brought back.

The prince asks the bear to cook and clean and care for him which she does. Despite her huge bear paws, she manages to do all the housework like a good wife including nipping to the garden to gather roses. He is burning with desire for the bear and begs for a kiss. No one seems to bat an eyelid at this because the bear was so good at housework. He passionately kisses the bear and the piece of wood falls away and her true form is revealed.

I find this tale really interesting because in all the other tales I have ever read, the woman in the animal disguise is considered repulsive and it is only in her true form that she is marriage material. In this, I think he might have married the bear.
Image result for she bear

The She-Bear source

Now it is said that once upon a time there lived a king of Roccaspra, who had a wife who for beauty, grace, and comeliness exceeded all other women. Truly she was the mother of beauty, but this beautiful being, at the full time of her life, fell from the steed of health, and broke the threads of life. But before the candle of life was finally put out, she called her husband, and said, "I know well, that you have loved me with excessive love, therefore show me a proof of your love and give me a promise that you will never marry, unless you meet one beautiful as I have been; and if you will not so promise, I will leave you a curse, and I will hate you even in the other world."

The king, who loved her above all things, hearing this her last will, began to weep and lament, and for a while could not find a word to say; but after his grief subsided, he replied, 

"If I ever think of taking a wife, may the gout seize me, and may I become as gaunt as an asparagus; oh my love, forget it. Do not believe in dreams, nor that I can ever put my affection upon another woman. You will take with you all my joy and desire." And while he was thus speaking, the poor lady, who was at her last, turned up her eyes and stretched her feet.

When the king saw that her soul had taken flight, his eyes became fountains of tears, and he cried with loud cries, buffeted his face, and wept, and wailed, so that all the courtiers ran to his side. He continually called upon the name of that good soul and cursed his fate, which had deprived him of her, and tore his hair, and pulled out his beard, and accused the stars of having sent to him this great misfortune. But he did as others do. A bump on the elbow and the loss of a wife cause much pain, but it does not last. The one pain disappears at one's side, and the other into the grave.

Night had not yet come forth to look about the heavens for the bats, when he began to make count on his fingers, saying "My wife is dead, and I am a widower, and sad hearted without hope of any kind but my only daughter, since she left me. Therefore it will be necessary to find another wife that will bear me a son. But where can I find one? Where can I meet a woman endowed with my wife's beauty, when all other females seem witches in my sight? There is the rub! Where shall I find another like unto her? Where am I to seek her with a bell, if nature formed Nardella (may her soul rest in glory), and then broke the mould? Alas! in what labyrinth am I! What a mistake was the promise I made her! But what? I have not seen the wolf yet, but I am running away already. Let us seek, let us see, and let us understand. Is it possible, that there is no other donkey in the stable except for Nardella? Is it possible that the world will be lost for me? Will there be such a plague that all women will be destroyed and their seed lost?"

And thus saying, he commanded the public crier to proclaim that all the beautiful women in the world should come and undergo the comparison of beauty, that he would take to wife the best looking of all and make her the queen of his realm. This news spread in all parts of the world, and not one of the women in the whole universe failed to come and try this venture. Not even flayed hags stayed behind, they came by the dozen, because, when the point of beauty is touched, there is none who will yield, there is no sea monster who will give herself up as hideous; each and everyone boasts of uncommon beauty.

If a donkey speaks the truth, the mirror is blamed for not reflecting the form as it is naturally; it is the fault of the quicksilver at the back. And now the land was full of women, and the king ordered that they should all stand in file, and he began to walk up and down, like a sultan when he enters his harem, to choose the best Genoa stone to sharpen his damascene blade. He came and went, up and down, like a monkey who is never still, looking and staring at this one and that one. One had a crooked brow, another a long nose, one a large mouth, and another thick lips. This one was too tall and gaunt, that other was short and badly formed, this one was too much dressed, another was too slightly robed. He disliked the Spanish woman because of the hue of her skin; the Neapolitan was not to his taste because of the way in which she walked; the German seemed to him too cold and frozen; the French woman too light of brains; the Venetian a spinning wheel full of flax. At last, for one reason or another, he sent them all about their business with one hand in front and another behind.

Seeing so many beautiful heads of celery turned to hard roots and having resolved to marry nevertheless, he turned to his own daughter, saying, "What am I seeking about these Marys of Ravenna, if my daughter Preziosa is made from the same mould as her mother? I have this beautiful face at home, and yet I should go to the end of the world seeking it?" Thus he explained to his daughter his desire, and was severely reproved and censured by her, as Heaven knows. The king was angry at her rejection, and said to her, "Be quiet and hold your tongue. Make up your mind to tie the matrimonial knot with me this very evening; otherwise when I finish with you there will be nothing left but your ears."

Preziosa, hearing this threat, retired to her room, and wept and lamented her evil fate. And while she lay there in this plight, an old woman, who used to bring her cosmetics, came to her, and finding her in such a plight, looking like one more ready for the other world than for this one, enquired the cause of her distress. When the old woman learned what had happened, she said, "Be of good cheer, my daughter, and despair not, for every evil has a remedy. Death alone has no cure. Now listen to me: When your father comes to you this evening -- donkey that he is, wanting to act the stallion -- put this piece of wood into your mouth, and you will at once become a she-bear. Then you can make your escape, for he will be afraid of you and let you go. Go straight to the forest, for it was written in the book of fate, the day that you were born, that there you should meet your fortune. When you want to turn back into a woman as you are and will ever be, take the bit of wood out of your mouth, and you will return to your pristine form."

Preziosa embraced and thanked the old woman, told the servants to give her an apron full of flour and some slices of ham, and sent her away. When the sun began to change her quarters like a bankrupt strumpet, the king sent for his minister, and had him issue invitations to all the lords and grandees to come to the marriage feast. They all crowded in. After spending five or six hours in high revelry and unrestrained eating, the king made his way to the bed chamber, and called to the bride to come and fulfil his desire. But she put the bit of wood into her mouth, and instantly took the shape of a fierce she-bear, and stood thus before him. He, frightened at the sudden change, rolled himself up in the bedding, and did not put forth a finger or an eye until morning.

Meanwhile Preziosa made her way toward the forest, where the shadows met concocting together how they could annoy the sun. There she lay in good fellowship and at one with the other animals. When the day dawned, it happened by chance that the son of the King of Acquacorrente should come to that forest. He sighted the she-bear and was greatly frightened, but the beast came forward, and wagging her tail, walked around him, and put her head under his hand for him to caress her. He took heart at this strange sight, smoothed its head as he would have done to a dog, and said to it, "Lie down, down, quiet, quiet, there there, good beast." Seeing that the beast was very tame, he took her home with him, commanding his servants to put her in the garden by the side of the royal palace, and there to attend to and feed her well, and treat her as they would his own person, and to take her to a particular spot so that he might see her from the windows of his palace whenever he had a mind to.

Now it so happened that one day all his people were away on some errand, and the prince being left alone, thought about the bear, and looked out of the window to see her. However, at that very moment Preziosa, believing she was utterly alone, had taken the bit of wood from her mouth, and stood combing her golden hair. The prince was amazed at this woman of great beauty, and he descended the stairs and ran to the garden. But Preziosa, perceiving the ambush, at once put the bit of wood into her mouth, and became a she-bear once more. The prince looked about but could not see what he had sighted from above, and not finding what he came to seek, remained very disappointed, and was melancholy and sad hearted, and in a few days became grievously ill. He kept repeating, "Oh my bear, oh my bear."

His mother, hearing this continual cry, imagined that perhaps the bear had bit him or done him some evil, and therefore ordered the servants to kill her. But all the servants loved the beast because it was so very tame, even the stones in the roadway could not help liking her, so they had compassion and could not think of killing her. Therefore they led her to the forest, and returning to the queen, told her that she was dead. When this deed came to the prince's ears, he acted as a madman, and leaving his bed, ill as he was, was about to make mincemeat of the servants. They told him the truth of the affair. He mounted his steed and searched backward and forward until at length he came to a cave and found the bear.

He carried her home with him and put her in a chamber, saying, "Oh you beautiful morsel fit for kings, why do you hide your passing beauty in a bear's hide? Oh light of love, why are you closed in such a hairy lantern? Why have you acted this way toward me, is it so that you may see me die a slow death? I am dying of despair, charmed by your beautiful form, and you can see the witness of my words in my failing health and sickening form. I am become skin and bone, and the fever burns my very marrow, and consumes me with heart-sore pain. Therefore lift the veil from that stinking hide, and let me behold once more your grace and beauty; lift up the leaves from this basket's mouth, and let me take a view of the splendid fruit within; lift the tapestry, and allow my eyes to feast upon the luxury of your charms. Who has enclosed in a dreary prison such a glorious work? Who has enclosed in a leather casket such a priceless treasure? Let me behold your passing grace and take in payment all my desires. Oh my love, only this bear's grease can cure the nervous disease of which I suffer." But perceiving that his words had no effect, and that all was time lost, he took to his bed, and his illness increased daily, until the doctors feared for his life.

The queen, his mother, who had no other love in the world, sat at his bedside, and said to him, "Oh my son, where does your heartsickness come from? What is the cause of all this sadness? You are young, you are rich, you are beloved, you are great. What do you want, my son? Speak, for only a shameful beggar carries an empty pocket. If you desire to take a wife, choose, and I will command; take, and I will pay. Can you not see that your sickness is my sickness and that your pulse beats in unison with my heart? If you burn with fever in your blood, I burn with fever on the brain. I have no other support for my old age but you. Therefore, my son, be cheerful, and cheer my heart, and do not darken this realm, and raze to the ground this house, and bereave your mother."

The prince, hearing these words, said, "Nothing can cheer me, if I may not see the bear; therefore, if you desire to see me in good health again, let her stay in this room, and I do not wish that any other serve me, and make my bed, and cook my meals, if it be not herself, and if what I desire be done, I am sure that I shall be well in a few days." To the queen it seemed folly for her son to ask that a bear should act as cook and housemaid. She believed that the prince must be delirious; nevertheless, to please his fancy, she went for the bear, and when the beast came to the prince's bedside, she lifted her paw and felt the invalid's pulse. The queen smiled at the sight, thinking that by and by the bear would scratch the prince's nose. 

But the prince spoke to the bear, and said, "Oh mischievous mine, will you not cook for me, and feed me, and serve me?" And the bear nodded yes with her head, showing that she would accept the charge. Then the queen sent for some chickens, and had a fire lit in the fireplace in the same chamber and had a kettle with boiling water put on the fire. The bear took hold of a chicken, scalded it, dexterously plucked off its feathers, cleaned it, put half of it on the spit, and stewed the other half. When it was ready, the prince, who could not before eat even sugar, ate it all and licked his fingers. When he had ended his meal, the bear brought him some drink, and handed it so gracefully that the queen kissed her on the head. After this the prince arose, and went to the salon to receive the doctors, and to be directed by their judgement. The bear at once made the bed, ran to the garden and gathered a handful of roses and orange blossoms, which she scattered upon the bed. She fulfilled her various duties so well that the queen said to herself, "This bear is worth a treasure, and my son is quite right in being fond of the beast."

When the prince returned to his chambers and saw how well the bear had fulfilled her duties, it was like adding fuel to the fire. If he had been consumed himself in a slow fire before, he was now burning with intense heat. He said to the queen "Oh my lady mother, if I cannot give a kiss to this bear, I shall give up the ghost." The queen, seeing her son nearly fainting, said to the bear, "Kiss him, kiss him, oh my beautiful bear, do not leave my poor son to die in despair." Then the bear obediently neared the prince, who took her cheeks between his fingers, could not stop kissing her on the lips.

While thus engaged, I do not know how it happened, the bit of wood fell from Preziosa's mouth, and she remained in the prince's embrace, the most beautiful and ravishing being in the world. He strained her to his bosom with tightly clasped arms, and said, "You are caught at last, and you shall not escape so easily without a reason." Preziosa, reddening with the lovely tint of modesty and of shame, the most beautiful of natural beauties, answered, "I am in your hands. I surrender my honour to your loyalty. Do with me what you will." The queen asked who this charming woman was, and what had caused her to live such a wild life. She related to them all her misfortunes, and the queen praised her as a good and honoured child, and said to her son that she was well satisfied that he should marry the princess. The prince, who wanted nothing else, at once announced his betrothal to her. Kneeling before the queen, they both received her blessing, and with great feasting the marriage took place. Thus Preziosa demonstrated the truth of the proverb: "Those who do good may expect good in return."

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned for the tale of an Ass-Skin.