Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Harvest festival

Pain d'epi: a bread in the shape of eaves of corn for harvest

I went to a church school and my favourite time of year was Harvest festival. The school would tell us to ask our mums for some cans of food which would then be donated to local old people. The display of foods by the altar in church was always a source of fascination: so much food and so many different types, an insight into the kitchen cupboards of our mothers. The star of the show would be plaited breads or enormous loaves in the shape of a wheat sheaf.
One year our school had a project in which pupils would pair up with elderly people in the area and visit once a week. My old lady was a holocaust survivor who often did the tarot cards. I'm not sure she even liked being visited!
At Harvest festival our old people were invited for lunch in the school hall. This time the food was piled up on the assembly stage.
The head teacher said we could go up and select some food for our old people. My lady gazed over the selection from her chair, then, spotting the jewel in the crown, whispered to me  "I want that huge loaf, get it for me". 
Dutifully I took it, handed it to my old lady who snaffled it into her handbag. We carried on drinking tea. A little while later, the headmistress, looking stern, said:
"There has been a problem." She paused dramatically.
"Someone has taken the harvest loaf" Gasps all round. Surreptitiously I looked sideways at my old lady. She poked the loaf further down into her bag with a determined expression on her face.
The headmistress continued: "Who has taken it?" She swept the room with a steely gaze.
"Nobody? This loaf has been made specially for this festive occasion, it's for decoration only."
I did think the loaf was rather hollow sounding and dry.
When the headmistress had stopped, I said to my old lady "Look we've got to give it back. You can't even eat it" and wrestled it out of her bag, much to her annoyance.
I was always in trouble at school. I was known as the naughty one. This time however, it wasn't even my fault. Why did they have to pair me with an equally naughty old lady? This wasn't going to help my reputation.
I removed the loaf from the bag as discreetly as I could, not easy, it was about two foot long and, I noticed, had a metal spike jutting out the bottom. I sidled up to the headmistress trying to explain that it wasn't me, it was my naughty old lady.

Elderberry cordial cocktail

Corn and cobnut salad

Pain d'epi: a bread in the shape of eaves of corn

Chile en nogada using a mix of fresh poblanos, Joe-E Parkers, Corno di toro peppers, with new season Grenoble walnut sauce. 

French and Italian cheeses
Home made Ryvita

An Indian harvest festival: rice pudding

Coffee by Douwe Egberts

There are still tickets available at


  1. Lowfield Road Elderberry Cordial by any chance?! Perfect for cocktails!

  2. As a very nosey person myself I remember being fascinated by the tins from other people's cupboards too.

  3. Super story; it reminds me of when I was a librarian, delivering and collecting books for hospitals and the elderly. The latter, it was accepted, would always involve some sort of chat etc., but one or two of the old girls had houses full of cats, with the inevitable smell!

    But unlike my colleagues I found the conversations absolutely riveting on occasion. One of the old girls turned out to be a minor member of the Bloomsbury set; fascinating woman and an early, avowed lesbian, who was still pining for her now dead artist partner/lover. There were paintings all over the place; beautiful watercolours and her poetry was excellent. My female colleagues were terrified of her in case she made advances to them - which had me in stitches - imagine an ancient woman of 93 sidling round a table trying to catch a young fit 20s woman!

  4. Cute story! Naughty grannies make me laugh! Sounds like a good feast! Ah when I'm back in London

  5. CE:No I got it from Anne Mae's Smokehouse stall at the ufcm.
    Sally: yes, just like looking at their bookshelves too..
    Chumbles: I always wanted to be a librarian, work in a book shop, I must admit.
    CC: yes be lovely to see you again.


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