Lammas Day

In our urban lives where food is available all year round, we have become detached from the traditional calendar, which was a mixture of agricultural and Christian. To get authentic feel for our chosen period – if it comes before WWII, say – it’s a good idea to get or make a diary which marks the year in the traditional way. If we begin to think – if not live – like our characters, it will help enormously to get authentic period detail.

I’ll do my best here to mark the days, although I have to say it was sheer luck that I turned on the radio this morning to hear Lammas Day being celebrated in the chapel of Eton College. Well I never…

So… Lammas Day is loaf-mass day. It is when the wheat is harvested and the first bread baked with the new grain. How wonderful that must have been if your grain had run out or rotted or been eaten by rats. So,  it’s Bread Day.

Exercise:

Make a loaf by hand – no bread machine. You could get properly historical and research whether the bread of your characters had yeast or not, and what kind of grain was used. But to make it easy, try it with fresh yeast and spelt flour, which are both readily available. Rest the attention on the sense of touch. Feel the dough rise as you knead it; get into the rhythm. When the dough takes on a life of its own, pushes back at you and is smooth as a baby’s bottom, you’ve kneaded enough.

Lammas Day is also known as ‘First Fruits Day’. After a late start this year, harvest has come early. We’ve picked our first pumpkin, courgettes have been in glut for the past two weeks, we’re feasting on cherry tomatoes and new potatoes. But our nod to Lammas Day is the onions. David discovered a new way to dry them. So after I’ve baked some bread today, I must go looking for somewhere else to hang the washing…

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