It’s still Π Day for a few minutes more here in the Eastern Time Zone, and I know it goes without saying, but what a holiday it’s been. Yet I still long for the simpler Π Days of my childhood. It’s all so commericial now, with the Π Nog Lattes at Starbucks and Justin Beiber’s cover of “Do They Know it’s Π Day?” on constant repeat on the mall’s muzak system. And that’s not to mention that fake precision that’s all the rage with the tweens, their memorizing π to all those places.* “In my day,** π was between 3.1408 and 3.1429 and that was good enough for us, consarnit!***
Anyway, there was a rhetorical question in the title of this post, and I mean to answer it with another one. One day on which we all get really obsessed with a non-repeating decimal’s value is pretty sweet, but you know what’s sweeter than Π? Pie. But you know what’s often sweeter than that? Cake.**** And you know what those medieval English folks got for an entire month, according to Bede? The answer’s the same: sweet, sweet cake.***** Witness his venerableness’s words in The Reckoning of Time****** :
Sol-monath dici potest mensis placentarum, quas in eo diis suis offerebant.
Solmonath can be called the “month of cakes”, which they offered to their gods in that month.
I’m afraid I got your hopes up a little prematurely, though, for Solmonath is the Anglo-Saxon word for February, which is nearly twelve whole months away. If only there were a blog that posted information on medieval monthly traditions on a regular schedule, then this tragedy might have been avoided.******* But, on the up side, you’ve got twelve months to get those cakes ready for your gods.
However, if you absolutely must celebrate Π Day, celebrate it right, by baking a medieval pie. Here’s a recipe for a yummy one taken from The Forme of Cury (as translated by Gode Cookery):
Leche Frys in Lentoun
166. Leche frys in lentoun. Drawe a thik almaunde mylke wiþ water. Take dates and pyke hem clene with apples and peeres, & mynce hem with prunes damysyns; take out þe stones out of þe prunes, & kerue the prunes a two. Do þerto raisouns, coraunce, sugur, flour of canel, hoole macys and clowes, gode powdours & salt; colour hem vp with saundres. Meng þise with oile. Make a coffyn as þou didest bifore & do þis fars þerin, & bake it wel, and serue it forth.
Cold Slices in Lent. Draw a thick almond milk with water. Take dates and pick them clean with apples and pears, & mince them with plum prunes; take out the stones out of the prunes, & carve the prunes in two. Add currants, sugar, cinnamon, whole maces and cloves, good powders & salt; color it up with sandalwood. Mix this with oil. Make a coffin (pie shell) as you did before & place this filling in it, & bake it well, and serve it forth.
Of course, if your kitchen is low on sandalwood, you can always follow this modern adaptation of the recipe (also from Goode Cookery).
Cold Slices in Lent
- 2 cups extra thick Almond Milk
- 1/4 cup chopped dates
- 2 medium apples, peeled, cored, & diced
- 2 medium pears. peeled, cored, & diced
- 1/2 cup pitted prunes, sliced lengthwise
- 1/4 cup currants
- sugar to taste, up to 1/4 cup
- 1/2 tsp. each cinnamon, mace & cloves
- good powders: ginger, nutmeg, white pepper, etc., 1/4 tsp. each or to taste
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- few drops red food coloring (in substitute of sandalwood)
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- one 9-inch pre-baked pie shell
Mix together well the Almond Milk, sugar, spices, oil, and food coloring. The color should be a brilliant red; the mixture should be thick but runny. In a separate bowl, mix together the fruits. Add the Almond Milk mixture and thoroughly blend. Place this filling in the pie shell and bake at 375° F for 45 minutes, or until the filling is set and the top has slightly browned. Remove from oven; allow to completely cool before serving. Serves 6-8.
An alternative to using real Almond Milk would be to follow the modern Swedish method of flavoring whole milk with almond oil or extract. For this dish, make a roux by blending 4 Tbs. flour with 4 Tbs. of melted butter; cook this over low heat until the flour has cooked and the roux has a slightly nutty aroma. Remove from heat; with a wire whisk, blend in 2 cups of milk. Return to heat. Beating with the wire whisk, slowly cook until the sauce has thickened. Add almond extract or oil to taste, and beat in the sugar, spices, oil, and food coloring.
- * Again, I blame Beiber and his recent eighteen hour long single, ‘I’m Just Going to Recite the Digits in π for 18 Hours (Because, Girl, You’ll Buy Anything I Put Out)’. [↩]
- ** When I lived two streets down from Archimedes. [↩]
- *** Archimedes used to say consarnit all the time, I swanny. [↩]
- **** I apologize if this all brings back memories of that Cake v. Pie decision the 5th Circuit handed down last year. But if it does, don’t worry, I hear Lisa Loeb has a strong case that the Roberts court is considering granting cert to in order to decide the question once and for all. [↩]
- ***** Possibly sweet, sweet, sweetcake, too. The translation (of my own sentence) is unclear. [↩]
- ****** Which, coincidentally, would be a pretty great subtitle for a direct to DVD Terminator movie. [↩]
- ******* Blog scientists disagree about whether such a blog is even theoretically possible. [↩]