Almond Thins

I first realised all this panic-buying was getting serious when I got a phone call from the biscuit aisle of our local Sainsbury’s. The shelves weren’t completely empty, my housemate told me, but it was slim pickings. We both laughed incredulously as she listed the few types of biscuit the other shoppers had left us. In the end I went with these Almond Thins:


C. was shopping for me because like many people in our part of South London, I’d had to self-isolate with coronavirus symptoms. I still can’t be sure what I experienced was the virus but several days of odd fiery fevers and chest issues make it likely, and poor Southwark has been hit very hard. Both the sickness and isolation have felt like a battle at times and I was lucky my symptoms were relatively mild. We’re not really used to sweating it out through long periods of feverishness, which would have been a much commoner feature of life in medieval times. The night the worst of the fevers broke I woke to blessed stillness to hear a bird singing outside my window and just at that moment it was the loveliest sound in the world.

Another milestone of recovery was the return to coffee and biscuits. I might never have discovered the all-buttery consolations of the Almond Thins were it not for the present crisis, just as I might never have discovered the goodness and faithfulness of so many people in my life if I hadn’t been ill. From both far and near, friends and family have prayed for me, messaged me, cooked for me, brought me food or paracetamol and just generally cheered me on through the days I’ve felt anxious or vulnerable. The last few weeks may have been short on biscuits but they have been very rich in love.


Walking round the neighbourhood on my daily constitutionals it’s good to see signs of hope and solidarity, from the cheery messages on local businesses to the brightly painted rainbows in children’s houses inspired by the andrà tutto bene pictures in Italy (a motto Julian of Norwich would have loved). Yes, we’re all still reeling from the disruption to our old patterns of life, but it helps that we’re in this together and so many people are finding creative ways of reaching out to one another even when we’re physically apart.

From BL Royal 20 C V

Plague is one experience no sane person would ever want to share with the Middle Ages yet here we are exposed to what would have seemed a very medieval anxiety once. Familiar works like Everyman, the Danse Macabre and even the Divine Comedy were all shaped by the necessity of navigating death someday, though to Christians it was never an end but a doorway. The whole Memento Mori tradition, often seen as morbid in our own time, was meant to help people live more purposefully in the here and now. 

Part of this hard-won wisdom is learning to separate the things that matter from the things that don’t matter. Saving lives matters more than leaving the house whenever we want to and we’ve a new appreciation of the value of many ‘low-skilled’ jobs. Many of the things that preoccupied us a few weeks ago have come to seem trivial, old grudges not worth holding on to. Minor irritations and inconveniences are put in their proper place. ‘Stay safe’ is the new ‘Kind regards’.

Souls are like athletes writes Thomas Merton, and this Lent it feels like we’ve all been given our own marathons to run. Yes, our lives will never be the same again, and for a time they may feel thinner and more constricted, but at the end of this I pray we’ll emerge richer in ways we can’t see right now. “I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, even as your soul prospers,” the apostle John wrote in one of his letters and this is my prayer for us all in the coming months.

Further Reflection

So many medieval writers offer comfort in times of trouble and sickness. These last weeks I’ve been drawing from Julian of Norwich (Malcolm Guite’s post on her work might be a good way in if you haven’t read her) and, in a later age, John Donne. Texts available free with other out-of-copyright works from Project Gutenberg.

Has the plague closed your theatre? Many wonderful institutions have been releasing content to help us keep our spirits up through the lockdown. Thursday night is now theatre night thanks to the National Theatre. You can also visit a museum from your living room, listen to beautiful music from the Berliner Philharmoniker or watch an opera streamed from the Met in New York.

Make a call. Write a letter. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. There’s so much we can do to support each other even from a distance, so keep on reaching up and out.

From BL Stowe MS 955, Le Petit Livre d’Amour

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Czech Poppy Seed Biscuits

My amazing Czech friend has been baking again, although these excellent specimens aren’t a traditionally Bohemian biscuit but a recent recipe from a Czech magazine. Makovky can be translated as little poppy seed biscuits and these come with a nice sticky centre of lemon curd. Crushed poppy seeds are a common ingredient of Czech baking and give the biscuit dough its marble-like appearance here. Maybe it’s all the scalloped edging, but to me there’s something baroque about their elegance such that they wouldn’t seem out of place on the dressing table of an eighteenth-century belle (or indeed the coffee table of a twenty-first-century one!)


It took me a while to think of an appropriate sentence for the Makovky but their flower-like appearance reminded me of that passage on combating worry in the Sermon on the Mount: Consider the lilies of the field. In medieval Europe the lily flower or fleur-de-lis was the heraldic emblem of the French crown as well as having more general associations with the purity of the Virgin Mary, which is why images of the annunciation often include a lily or background of lilies.


Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are…

Jesus uses the illustration of the lilies rather differently in his sermon. Knowing how prone we humans are to fret about the many things we can’t control, he asks his hearers to stop, look and listen to all the signs of life humming around them, to consider the flowers of the field (or scattered about the hard shoulder of the motorway or pushing their tiny heads through the urban concrete sprawl) and what their brief lives tell us about the one who made them.

…and if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

It’s a good question. Sometimes I feel our peace of mind is continually being sabotaged by the pace of modern life, our own worries for the future and the anxieties that fuel the news — but the more our thought-lives centre on these fears, the more power they have to rob us of our joy and equilibrium. Faith can feel like an impossible ask when worries intrude, which is why taking time out to fill our minds with healthier, happier things is vital. And as we do, we find that faith is less something we have to work up than a trust we’re invited to relax into. Consider the lilies of the field

Further Delectation

Consider more lilies (and medieval reading culture) in these medieval annunciation scenes or read up on the history of the fleur-de-lis and its role in heraldry.

It’s the perfect time of year for creative biscuit making and the BBC Good Food site has a wealth of easy creative recipes.

Consider the rich and vibrant colour-scapes of this medieval annunciation from the Netherlands (from the met museum) notable for its careful observation of plant life:


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Ballerina Biscuits

Appropriately enough given its Norse associations, late November’s biscuit is the gift of a cat called Master Loki and comes to us fresh from the bracing climes of Norway, a favoured holiday destination of Master Loki’s staff. The name of this species is Ballerina and it won’t surprise you to know that the word means the same thing in English as Norwegian or that it is on long-term loan to us from the Italians, who are generous like that. In its size, compactness and solidity the Ballerina has much in common with the popular biscuit brands of Britain, but with one intriguing difference that makes it a paradox of biscuit design: its two very different sides. Here’s the recto:


And here’s the verso:


As you can see, this is less yin and yang than Pushmi-Pullyu or perhaps two mass-produced biscuits for the price of one. Not that my tastebuds were at all put out by the incongruity, but intellectually I couldn’t quite grasp the reason for combining these two apparently unrelated designs.

The reason for the name also intrigued me and with a bit of imagination the recto side does look a bit like a tutu. Here’s a little reminder of what other famous ballerinas get up to from the wonderful Gina Storm Jensen, a Norwegian dancer who performs with the Royal Ballet:

Like their biscuity namesakes, human ballerinas combine two excellent characteristics you don’t often see operating together elsewhere: grace and strength. It takes sensitivity and understanding of the way the body moves through space to be able to create motions this exquisitely graceful, and it takes many hours of work to build up the levels of fitness and stamina needed to hold each position and execute each step with precision and care.

It feels like grace and strength of a less visible kind are badly needed in our world at present. ‘Patient endurance is what you need right now,’ counsels the writer to the Hebrews and I think it’s good advice for us. It’s so easy to be caught off balance when temptations to irritation, weariness and worry seem to be coming at us from so many angles. Stepping carefully through the trying days, especially when we are feeling tired or provoked in our spirits, can be a challenge, but I’ve never seen the value of holding our positions with strength and grace quite so much.

Further Delectation

Here for the dancing but having trouble keeping your balance? Try the Biscuit Ballerina – with a cup of tea and a smile.

Learn how to step carefully through the world the medieval way… (a German academic shows us how it’s done!)

The loveliest medieval poem I know of about a little white cat (trans. Seamus Heaney).

Interested in the early Norwegians? Eleanor Barraclough writes about the Vikings as travellers, raiders, converts and chameleons in History Today (the image below is from a C14th MS reproduced there).


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This week’s star biscuit is from the Alsace region of France and a present from my sister and brother-in-law who were holidaying in Colmar. The name, Bredele, means something like ‘little breadies’ in English and sounds more Germanic than Gallic in origin which makes sense given how close Alsace is to the border. The smooth, slightly convex topping looks a bit like a macaron to the casual observer but the consistency is tougher and the biscuit itself very dry and sweet and light. These anisbredele are particularly noticeable for their strong hit of aniseed (green aniseed according to my French colleague). Here they are perched on a windowsill in the office next to their elegant gift bag:

IMG_1184Bredele are treat biscuits enjoyed as Christmas cookies or petits four in France. The earliest recipes date back to fourteenth-century Strasbourg so they come with an excellent medieval pedigree also, but I have to admit I’ve only had one or two so far as liquorice is one of the few flavours I genuinely can’t abide. (This is an eccentricity of my own though and I’m pleased to say they’ve been popular with office mates who don’t share my prejudices!)

fullsizeoutput_8bfIn settling on a medieval-style sentence for the bredele, I couldn’t help remembering the famous line in the Lord’s Prayer: give us this day our daily bread. I doubt the most free-wheeling translator has ever stretched this into daily bredele, but the idea leads to an interesting question: is it OK to ask God for the little things as well as the big?

While it’s possible to under-think prayer maybe the greater danger comes from over-thinking it and in our efforts not to be childish in our prayer requests we can forget to be childlike as Jesus taught. In the gospels he tells his disciples to bring their needs to God as simply and directly as little children to their father and to trust that he is better than the best of human parents and intimately concerned with the smallest details of our lives. This may come as a surprise to those more used to relating to God as Our Emergency Service that Art in Heaven, but it invites us to a conversation about our evolving needs and yearnings with a father who loves to give us good things when we ask.

Further Delectation

Here for the bredele? You can find an aniseed-flavoured bredele recipe here or a  general recipe here for those less fond of aniseed. The clerks and historians can also read about all things bredele-y at

Be a source of delight to others: if you’re lucky enough to be able to bake or buy your own biscuits, you might consider giving some to food banks this autumn. It can make a child’s day when you donate biscuits as well as the usual staples (a good way to be an answer to someone else’s prayers!)

Check out these medieval bakers in a French breviary from the early 1500s. This illustration is for the month of December so perhaps they’re busy making Christmas biscuits (following the astrological calendar, it also sports a fantastical goat in a shell…)


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Franska Vafflor

It’s been a long, long time since our last biscuit. Five weeks to be exact but the good news is that the fast is soon to be followed by a feast of new entries from the continent. First, these wonderful Franska Vafflor from Olivia, a Danish-made biscuit whose name translates as French Waffles. As I haven’t been able to find an equivalent biscuit in France I’m wondering whether these waffles stand to France as English muffins to England. These ones are sandwiched with vanilla cream and are the closest thing to a doughnut I’ve ever had in biscuit form. The outer layers have the texture of crisp fried pastry and while they taste very nice indeed I recommend you stop after three to avoid a sugar rush.

IMG_1160.JPGThe abundant richness and sweetness of the Vafflor feels especially appropriate for this day in the Anglican Church’s Calendar, in which we celebrate a man who is perhaps the sweetest of all seventeenth-century writers, Thomas Traherne. I first met him through his Centuries of Meditations, which are full of passages like this one:

“You never enjoy the world aright, till the Sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens, and crowned with the stars: and perceive yourself to be the sole heir of the whole world, and more than so, because men are in it who are every one sole heirs as well as you. Till you can sing and rejoice and delight in God, as misers do in gold, and Kings in sceptres, you never enjoy the world. Till your spirit filleth the whole world, and the stars are your jewels; till you are as familiar with the ways of God in all Ages as with your walk and table: till you are intimately acquainted with that shady nothing out of which the world was made: till you love men so as to desire their happiness, with a thirst equal to the zeal of your own: till you delight in God for being good to all: you never enjoy the world…”

Reading the meditations feels like escaping from the smog of the big city into the open country on a clear autumn night. Almost at once you’re breathing easier and seeing further, instead of crowded trains or cramped ceilings the roof above you is a net of stars. And you feel again what a strange and wonderful thing it is to be alive and to have a little seat as a sentient spectator in the theatre of this vast, sprawling, mind-dazzling universe (you see, it’s catching…) Traherne’s writings are suffused with his awareness of a ‘joy unspeakable and full of glory’, to quote the apostle Peter. Centuries on, his attempts to speak of that glory can still move us now.

While the Centuries itself was never published in his lifetime, its theme of revelling in the joy of existence is the more remarkable when you consider its author’s upbringing amid all the dread, anxiety and upheaval of a Civil War. ‘A Christian is an oak flourishing in winter,’ Traherne writes, echoing the opening of the Psalter with its declaration that those who delight in God’s law are like trees planted by a river. You may have to dig deep for it, but the joy is still there waiting to be found.

Further Delectation

I can’t think of much more delectable than the Centuries themselves. You can read them for free here.

While I couldn’t find a recipe for Franska Vafflor these ones were made by Karen Volf.     (This Danish vanilla butter cookie recipe looks jolly nice too!)

And not forgetting the middle ages, here’s a little image of Bartholomew Anglicus contemplating the beauty of the world in BL MS Royal 17 E III:


That’s all for this week, folks… Stay tuned for more biscuits in future.

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Dark Chocolate Gingers

In last Sunday’s evening service we were invited to try a short session of contemplative prayer with the help of an icon or a passage from the bible. Imagine my delight when the gentleman next to me rose to his feet and announced that he was moving to the back of the church to meditate on the biscuits. Which just goes to show you never know when a stranger might appear with a word from the Lord…

Message (and messenger) by catapult. From the BNF MS of Jean de Wavrin’s histories of Britain.

For a while now I’ve been eager to meditate on Dark Chocolate Gingers. Border Biscuits make some particularly fine ones and as they’d previously always been available in my local supermarket it never crossed my mind that they might disappear from the shelves without notice. Having hunted and failed to find them elsewhere, I was all set to do a post on the Dark Chocolate Ginger Night of the Soul when my friend Cath found me a new brand from Sainsbury’s. Honesty compels me to admit these are Not-Quite-As-Dark Chocolate Gingers but the lower cocoa content is more than made up for by the thickness of the chocolate coating, not to mention its jaunty stripes.

Sainsbury’s Dark Chocolate Gingers on a Roof Terrace in Peckham.

I’ve known biscuit lovers who dislike ginger, but I’ve always loved its pep and fieriness. The hospitable warmth of gingerbread is one of the great joys of Christmas and the McVities ginger nut (less fashionable than it used to be) gloriously dunkable with tea. Another brilliant ginger creation, Marks and Spencer’s stem ginger cookies, belongs in my mind to that stratosphere of gustatory pleasures in which you might enjoy a choice marmalade after a leisurely breakfast. The Dark Chocolate Ginger strikes me as more of a late morning luxury or happy after-thought to an evening meal. Ginger could be expensive in the Middle Ages and while not as sought after as pepper, it was valued for its medicinal benefits more than its culinary ones. A strong dose of ginger can be a shock to the system, but as a winter spice it can also be deliciously warming, healing and cleansing – like truth itself when it’s let loose on the world.

August Bank Holiday cornfield near Tudeley-cum-Capel.

If ginger stands for truth, then chocolate and ginger together make a good advert for speaking the truth in love. Our ability to receive truth increases when we sense the truth-teller is not out to score points for themselves or condemnation for others but genuinely trying to find a path towards collective healing and freedom. This can be a hard path to follow when you’re feeling hurt and angry (or timid or selfish) but anything less is neither truthful nor loving in the long run.

Further Delectation

Spice up your life (or spruce up your knowledge) with this short survey of winter spices in the Middle Ages.

Enjoy George Herbert’s beautiful meditation on The Way, the Truth and the Life, the equally wonderful music of Vaughan Williams, and a singing monk lost in Grand Central Station:

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Grisbi Extreme Chocolate Cookies

Biscuits can be a lot like buses – after a dearth of specimens to sample I suddenly got three through at once. The first is from a new friend of mine called Dāvis, a fan of the bestiary in Latvia. I posted him some biscuits a few months ago to help him through his medical exams and he kindly returned the favour with these Grisbi Extreme Chocolate cookies from Matilde Vicenzi. These chunky flat Italian creations certainly live up to their name as they really are very chocolatey. The weather was so hot when I opened the packet I opted to try them out on the terrace with tea and ice cream…

IMG_0951While I don’t like ranking biscuits any more than people, I have to say this is chocolate of a high order and so rich it makes for the perfect dessert biscuit (more on that elusive genre at a later date). The gooeyness of the centre was an unexpected surprise, especially for an Italian biscuit as these tend to be dryer than the British sort. Anyone eyeing it from the outside could be forgiven for imagining it was the same texture all the way through and I must say I’m intrigued by the combination of outer crumbliness and inner creaminess its makers have managed to pull off.

IMG_0956For the moral I couldn’t help but think of the prophet Samuel’s words when choosing a new king for Israel: ‘People judge by outward appearances but the Lord looks at the heart.’ Leaving aside the fact that the Lord’s choice, David, was apparently good-looking as well as goodhearted (some kings get all the luck), Samuel’s words are a sober reminder that what impresses on the surface does not necessarily make the best criteria for judging an individual’s worthiness or fitness for office.

I expect it’s almost as rare for a people to find a true leader as it is for God to find a man after his own heart, yet that is the astonishing epithet applied to David in the Bible. And as far as we can tell the forging of this extraordinary heart came about long before anyone but God knew who David was, in the long conversations they had together with no-one but the sheep to overhear them. We can eavesdrop a little on some of those conversations in the Book of Psalms, many of which are believed to have been written by the king over the course of his lifetime. Here’s an image of him in the throes of composition from an early 15th century Italian manuscript:

Image from New York’s Met Museum

What’s refreshing about the David of the Psalms is his no-holds-barred abandon in expressing himself to God: every joy and confidence, every doubt and fear and angry thought let out into the wild and starry open. ‘Slap all my enemies in the face!’ he prays in Psalm 3, something we don’t sing in churches very much. We can admire a great soul like Gandhi for his commitment to non-violence, but David’s radical honesty about the state of his soul shows us something of what it means to have a great heart. Despite all his faults and failures, it’s hard not to love the David who mourned and the David who danced, the David who argued and pleaded and repented without caring what anybody thought of him. The David, above all, whose heart God saw and loved, and the David to whom he gave an everlasting kingdom.

Further Delectation

A lovely setting of one of David’s Psalms by John Michael Talbot.

Some beautiful medieval Psalters from the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum.

In need of a vaguely medieval laugh this week? Nothing to do with kings or biscuits, but here’s my favourite post from The Toast‘s Two Monks series on medieval bestiaries


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The Malted Milk

So I promised my friend Naomi I’d profile the Malted Milk, but so far I’ve held off because (whisper it) I find it hard to get excited about biscuits like these… What is it that draws so many of us to anything resembling chocolate and away from the plainer sorts of biscuit lauded for their lower calories? It takes a special kind of individual or perhaps self-restraint to choose a Malted Milk over a Chocolate Hobnob, and yet there’s no sign of the former disappearing from the supermarket shelves anytime soon.


The first thing to note about this biscuit is its curiously homespun quality: its well-known emboss design of grazing cows resembles a cave painting more than the industrial precision of the Oreo and for that very reason there’s something charmingly unselfconscious about it. I find such comfortable rusticity reminiscent of a lost Eden, a place where cows (or sheep?) may safely graze and biscuits be consumed in peace and quiet.

‘When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?’ asked preacher John Ball, the voice of socialism in the 1380s. Chaucer’s Ballad of Gentilesse turns the same question on its head by suggesting true nobility is a spiritual condition within the reach of each of us. It does feels a little odd seeing Adam, the original bad boy of Genesis, held up for emulation as the Father of Gentilesse in this poem but Chaucer is here talking about pre-Lapsarian or unfallen man as he might have existed in that legendary time before Paradise was lost. A state of perfect innocence before the Malted Milk became shackled to a blues song…

Margin illustration from John Lydgate’s The Fall of Princes (BL Harley MS 1766)

Thankfully the story of Adam and Eve doesn’t end with their expulsion from Paradise and medieval theology sets great store by the concept of Felix Culpa or the Fortunate Fault. Even the teenage Mary’s decision to accept the task of bearing the Messiah (‘Be it unto me according to thy word’) forms a crucial part of the reversal of human fortunes through the sacrifice of Jesus and a particular kindness of God’s to make salvation hinge on a woman’s obedience as well as a man’s. From weal to woe to weal again and from greater woe to greater weal — as a meta-narrative it’s all so beautifully constructed and what God does on that large canvas for all of us he loves to replicate on the smaller canvases of our individual lives, turning even our Valleys of Weeping into places of refreshing.


Further Delectation

Read more about the history of Malted Milk with a cup of Horlicks and a Malted Milk to hand…

Did you know that Malted Milks are second cousins to the Malteser? Also light caloried, but with added chocolate. You’re welcome.

Listen to Audrey Assad’s Fortunate Fall album (or pretty much anything she’s written.)

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The Oreo

Consider the Oreo… As many New Worlders celebrate their independence today, I thought it high time we profiled their National Biscuit on the Bestiary and for the convenience of speakers of American English I shall be referring to it here as a cookie. It’s a measure of how popular Oreos have become in Britain now that you can even find them in the wilds of Yorkshire. Here are four sitting pretty on some old Blue Willow china, no doubt waiting for a glass of milk to accompany them…

IMG_0932Left to my own devices, I might have assigned the Oreo’s genesis to the ’50s but in fact it first appeared in 1912 around the same time as equivalent sandwich styles premiered in Britain (c.f. the Bourbon and Custard Cream). Even today America’s Oreos are still produced by the successors of the wonderfully named National Biscuit Company, created back in the era when Old and New World biscuits were largely the same thing.

New York, New York and Nabisco (image from Chelsea Market and The Smithsonian)

Intriguingly, this compact and demure little cookie manages to attracts more controversy than the Knights Templar, viz. ‘What does the name really mean?’, ‘What does the Cross on the top signify?’ and, most crucially, ‘What is the most righteous way to eat it?’ The more you delve into the question of the Oreo’s spiritual significance the more you’ll find a dazzling – and frankly gnostic – range of exegeses on the market. Far too many to come down on one side or the other in a hasty fashion.

Photo credit: Olivia Brambill

While it’s not the first time we’ve profiled embossed cookies on the Bestiary, the intricacy and regularity of the Oreo’s design bears closer examination. In America at least, it’s as distinctive as a coin face and almost as widely recognised. This excellent article from Edible Geography on the unsung heroes of biscuit embossing and the history of the Oreo in particular is well worth a perusal (I had no idea that the current design only dates to 1952, or that the Oreo has a very Greek-sounding rival, the Hydrox, with an even more venerable history).

The nearest thing I can find to a commentary on the art of embossing in the bible comes in Paul’s statements in Romans about Christians being conformed to the image of Christ and not being conformed to the world’s pattern. If we’re honest, such language of conformity rarely sits well with children of the revolution for whom freedom is ‘a breakfast food’ (as one brilliant New World poet put it). Perhaps it plays too much on our fears that faith means towing a line or adopting a sort of cookie-cut saintliness that leaves no room for individuality or self-expression. For the New Testament writers, however, being conformed to Christ’s image is less about being boxed in than being let out and finding freedom from the power of sin and death to become the people we’ve always wanted to be. ‘I run in the path of your commands for you have set my heart free’ the Psalmist writes. It’s on this path to freedom that he’s our template and trailblazer.

Further Delectation

A masterclass on the art of Oreo-eating from Jess and her Dad (but if all this seems very complicated, just experiment with your own inimitable style – whatever that is!)

Give the humble Hydrox some love – or at least a read of its history in the Atlas Obscura.

Don’t have any Oreos in the house to celebrate your independence with? Have a consolatory read of e e cummings’ loveliest medieval-themed poem.

If you’ve landed here straight from the High Middle Ages and find yourself a bit flummoxed by all these bizarre references to a New World, you can catch up with Amerigo Vespucci‘s correspondence on the subject or these more recent Letters from America and newfangled experiments in Netherlandish cartography:


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Roshen Hazelnut Wafers

I’ve been saving these hazelnut wafers for the Feast of Corpus Christi, another of those moveable feasts in the Church calendar which falls on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. Gareth kindly sent these along with the Chocoline Cookies as another example of Eastern Europe biscuitry, but sadly they have not weathered the journey quite as well. The first few I extracted from the packet broke apart in my hands and I had to dig down a layer or two to find some that were more intact, like this one:


A very innocent looking biscuit, you wouldn’t dream its Ukrainian manufacturers had been banned from exporting it (and other Roshen products) in a now infamous ‘chocolate war‘ with Russia. While the outer layers of wafer crumble easily, they are light and sweet as well as splintery – and the crumbly bits could well find their home in a dessert of some kind. The hazelnut-flavoured chocolate filling is also very pleasant and nicely complimented with a mid-strength coffee.


The easily breakable wafers reminded me of other wafers with a history of being broken: the little disks of bread that symbolise (or, according to Catholic doctrine, actually become) the body of Christ and his real presence with us in the Eucharist. It’s a celebration that can take many forms, but is in essence a very simple thing: the breaking of bread and drinking of wine together as he commanded us to do at the Last Supper.

For in the night in which he was betrayed, he took bread; and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, Take, eat, this is my Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me…

This year my friend Sarah wrote a poem which illuminated one particular sentence in the accounts of that supper that I’d never noticed before. The line where Jesus says, ‘I have longed to eat this Passover Meal with you.’ The word longed brought me up short. Naturally it’s not the same word in all translations, but most English texts use something similar such as ‘very eager’ or ‘earnestly desired’. Somehow I’d never given it its proper weight. That in the night in which he was betrayed, in the final hours before the torture of the cross and all its terrible rejection and humiliation (all of which he had already foreseen and steeled himself to go through) there was something he had been looking forward to. Because the sacrifice of his body and blood wasn’t about saving us so he could save us, but saving us so he could be with us – about sharing a meal with his friends. Was it any coincidence that the disciples on the road to Emmaus first recognised him in the breaking of bread?

Further Delectation

medieval poem for Corpus Christi from the Clerk of Oxford.

This moving post by Joy Clarkson with a link to Gavin Bryar’s Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet (if you’ve never heard it before, you might want to read the story of how it came to be written).

In the late middle ages, Corpus Christi was celebrated with processions and mystery plays in England. You can read more about them and modern revivals here and here, and here’s an early fifteenth-century Corpus procession from BL MS Harley 7026:

Harley 7026 f. 13 Corpus Christi procession

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