'Scotland's a thocht, a state o mind. Aawye
Scotland's far we are. Scotland's ony place.'
From 'Scotland' by George Ritchie (?-1995)
Following on from St Catherine, there seems to be a bit of a ‘find me a husband’ theme around the saints with feasts at the end of November. The Oxford Book of Days tells us that, according to Martin Luther, on St Andrew’s Eve ‘…young maidens stripped themselves naked, flung themselves to the ground and prayed: O God, my God, O St. Andrew, give me a godly husband, show me tonight what manner of man shall wed me’. One maiden, Luther adds ‘was nearly frozen to death, but no man came.’
I think the St Catherine method sounds much less likely to result in a case of hypothermia.
There are two Grimm’s fairy stories about the divination of husbands– one about a group of girls who stripped naked in front of the fire (sensible) and threw their blouses into the blaze, but the spirits of their future husbands could not disentangle their clothes so failed to appear as they were supposed to. The second more gruesome tale involves the requirement that the maiden is supposed to keep concealed from her husband anything that was left behind by his spirit on St Andrew’s Eve. When a husband discovers the knife his wife has concealed from him for thirty years he murders her with it.
Why aren’t there any stories about young men divining whom their wives are going to be?
St Andrew was the first Galilean fishermen apostle and is associated with Scotland because his relics were supposed to have been taken there - to St Andrews of course. He is also the patron Saint of Russia - I wonder if they had a bit of him too?
In 832, at a battle between the Picts and the Scots lead by Oengus the Second on one side and the Angles lead by Aethelstan on the other, the Scottish victory was supposedly assured by the appearance in the sky of the Saltaire Cross of St Andrew. This is the X shaped crucifix on which the saint was supposed to have been crucified in Patras in Greece. Legend says this sign in the sky prompted the adoption of St Andrew as Scotland's national saint, although some evidence exists that he was venerated there earlier than the ninth century.
The vapour trails of jets make lines in the sky commonplace nowadays - but in the ninth century?
Anyway to celebrate St Andrew we must have a fishy Scottish theme. This tart is supposed to be made with Arbroath Smokies, but undyed smoked haddock would do as well, or smoked mackerel or salmon trimmings. I did once make it with kippers and they were way too strong.
Smoked Fish Tart
For the pastry
125g plain flour
25g grated parmesan
25g oatmeal or porridge oats
125g unsalted butter
splash of water.
For the filling
Large pair of smokies or two large mackerel fillets or a piece of cooked smoked haddock.
150ml single cream or milk/cream combined.
½ tsp mace
Chopped parsley and a few grinds of black pepper.
Make the pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour and oatmeal then adding the cheese. Add the beaten egg and bring it together with your hands – add a splash of water if necessary. Line a deepish fluted flan tin and bake blind for about 15 minutes.
Flake the fish and put into the baked tart shell, place on a baking tray.
Mix the eggs with the cream and add the mace, pepper and parsley. Put the tart into the oven then pour in the egg mixture. Bake for 35-40 minutes at 180c until puffed up and golden.
Serve warm with a sharp salad.
'Tonight, I am white and full.
You are the man on me,
and I am the moon.'
From 'I am the moon and you are the man on me' by Claire Askew (b 1986)