Had a wonderful day out yesterday with a couple of friends I hadn't seen in quite some time. One of them, C, had a couple of questions she must have been burning to ask me: "Why are you called Lyle?" and "Someone gifted me a can of Golden Syrup. What is it for?" Strangely enough, the answers are related.
The two cans of treacle pictured above are from my own pantry. One is just a couple of years past its use-by date and the other is a good decade old. So it's not that treacle gets a great deal of use in the Hopwood Household, but they do get used eventually. (I've just read the back of one and it says to discard after the date on the can, but I think I'll ignore that. What could possibly happen to treacle, which Google says is,
British term for molasses.
cloying sentimentality or flattery.
"enough of this treacle—let's get back to business"
and Wikipedia, more correctly, defines as:
Treacle is any uncrystallised syrup made during the refining of sugar. The most common forms of treacle are golden syrup, a pale variety, and a darker variety known as black treacle. Black treacle, or molasses, has a distinctively strong, slightly bitter flavour, and a richer colour than golden syrup.)
Treacle is a key ingredient in Yorkshire's national food, Parkin. (It's also a key ingredient in Yorkshire's other national food, treacle toffee.) The BBC have a recipe for Parkin on their cooking page, which I haven't tried but looks about right. Parkin (and Treacle Toffee) are eaten on Bonfire Night, which C (who is American) guessed is the day after Christmas when you break down all the cardboard boxes. It's actually New Year's Day, November 5th, when English people throw red and gold fake banknotes into the river Thames for the spirits of our ancestors so they can pay their afterlife expenses. When you're American, though, as I am now, you can eat it on any day. And you can use black molasses since getting black treacle requires a co-conspirator in the UK. British people weigh ingredients (except for sub-teaspoonful amounts) instead of messing with 1/4 cups and 1/2 flagons and 2 1/2 sticks and so on but you get used to it. And 140C is 285F.
BBC Yorkshire Parkin recipe
110g soft butter
110g soft dark brown sugar
55g black treacle
200g golden syrup
225g medium oatmeals
110g self-raising flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground mixed spice
2 medium eggs, beaten
1 tbsp milk
Pinch of salt
I first came across treacle in the book Alice In Wonderland, which has a riff on treacle that I memorized as a kid, but here I have used the modern version of memorization, ctrl-c ctrl-v. The Hatter is describing his poor relationship with Time:
Preheat the oven to 140C/120C fan/Gas Mark 1. Grease and line a 20cm x 20cm square cake tin.
In a pan, over a gentle heat, melt the butter, sugar, treacle and golden syrup. Don't allow the mixture to get too hot or bubble. When they have melted together remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
In a large mixing bowl sift in the dry ingredients and make a well in the centre. Gradually add the melted butter mixture and fold together. Pour in the beaten eggs and milk and combine together.
Pour into your baking tin. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, however keep an eye on it as parkin can easily become dry and over baked.
Remove from the oven and leave in the tin for 20 minutes. Tip onto a cake rack and leave to cool completely.
Store the parkin in a cake tin and wrapped in greaseproof paper. You must keep it in a tin for a minimum of 1 day and up to a week before you cut it. Leaving it to develop will give it a moist and sticky texture, as well as making the flavour richer and deeper.
'And ever since that,' the Hatter went on in a mournful tone, 'he won't do a thing I ask! It's always six o'clock now.'
The treacle well is apparently in Binsey, Oxfordshire. The things you learn while blogging.A bright idea came into Alice's head. 'Is that the reason so many tea-things are put out here?' she asked.'Yes, that's it,' said the Hatter with a sigh: 'it's always tea-time, and we've no time to wash the things between whiles.'
'Then you keep moving round, I suppose?' said Alice.
'Exactly so,' said the Hatter: 'as the things get used up.'
'But what happens when you come to the beginning again?' Alice ventured to ask.
'Suppose we change the subject,' the March Hare interrupted, yawning. 'I'm getting tired of this. I vote the young lady tells us a story.'
'I'm afraid I don't know one,' said Alice, rather alarmed at the proposal.
'Then the Dormouse shall!' they both cried. 'Wake up, Dormouse!' And they pinched it on both sides at once.
The Dormouse slowly opened his eyes. 'I wasn't asleep,' he said in a hoarse, feeble voice: 'I heard every word you fellows were saying.'
'Tell us a story!' said the March Hare.
'Yes, please do!' pleaded Alice.
'And be quick about it,' added the Hatter, 'or you'll be asleep again before it's done.'
'Once upon a time there were three little sisters,' the Dormouse began in a great hurry; 'and their names were Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie; and they lived at the bottom of a well—'
'What did they live on?' said Alice, who always took a great interest in questions of eating and drinking.
'They lived on treacle,' said the Dormouse, after thinking a minute or two.
'They couldn't have done that, you know,' Alice gently remarked; 'they'd have been ill.'
'So they were,' said the Dormouse; 'very ill.'
Alice tried to fancy to herself what such an extraordinary ways of living would be like, but it puzzled her too much, so she went on: 'But why did they live at the bottom of a well?'
'Take some more tea,' the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
'I've had nothing yet,' Alice replied in an offended tone, 'so I can't take more.'
'You mean you can't take less,' said the Hatter: 'it's very easy to take more than nothing.'
'Nobody asked your opinion,' said Alice.
'Who's making personal remarks now?' the Hatter asked triumphantly.
Alice did not quite know what to say to this: so she helped herself to some tea and bread-and-butter, and then turned to the Dormouse, and repeated her question. 'Why did they live at the bottom of a well?'
The Dormouse again took a minute or two to think about it, and then said, 'It was a treacle-well.'
'There's no such thing!' Alice was beginning very angrily, but the Hatter and the March Hare went 'Sh! sh!' and the Dormouse sulkily remarked, 'If you can't be civil, you'd better finish the story for yourself.'
'No, please go on!' Alice said very humbly; 'I won't interrupt again. I dare say there may be one.'
'One, indeed!' said the Dormouse indignantly. However, he consented to go on. 'And so these three little sisters—they were learning to draw, you know—'
'What did they draw?' said Alice, quite forgetting her promise.
'Treacle,' said the Dormouse, without considering at all this time.
'I want a clean cup,' interrupted the Hatter: 'let's all move one place on.'
He moved on as he spoke, and the Dormouse followed him: the March Hare moved into the Dormouse's place, and Alice rather unwillingly took the place of the March Hare. The Hatter was the only one who got any advantage from the change: and Alice was a good deal worse off than before, as the March Hare had just upset the milk-jug into his plate.
Alice did not wish to offend the Dormouse again, so she began very cautiously: 'But I don't understand. Where did they draw the treacle from?'
'You can draw water out of a water-well,' said the Hatter; 'so I should think you could draw treacle out of a treacle-well—eh, stupid?'
'But they were in the well,' Alice said to the Dormouse, not choosing to notice this last remark.
'Of course they were', said the Dormouse; '—well in.'
This answer so confused poor Alice, that she let the Dormouse go on for some time without interrupting it.
'They were learning to draw,' the Dormouse went on, yawning and rubbing its eyes, for it was getting very sleepy; 'and they drew all manner of things—everything that begins with an M—'
'Why with an M?' said Alice.
'Why not?' said the March Hare.
Alice was silent.
The Dormouse had closed its eyes by this time, and was going off into a doze; but, on being pinched by the Hatter, it woke up again with a little shriek, and went on: '—that begins with an M, such as mouse-traps, and the moon, and memory, and muchness—you know you say things are "much of a muchness"—did you ever see such a thing as a drawing of a muchness?'
'Really, now you ask me,' said Alice, very much confused, 'I don't think—'
'Then you shouldn't talk,' said the Hatter.
This piece of rudeness was more than Alice could bear: she got up in great disgust, and walked off; the Dormouse fell asleep instantly, and neither of the others took the least notice of her going, though she looked back once or twice, half hoping that they would call after her: the last time she saw them, they were trying to put the Dormouse into the teapot.
'At any rate I'll never go there again!' said Alice as she picked her way through the wood. 'It's the stupidest tea-party I ever was at in all my life.'
For "Out of strength came forth sweetness" see Judges 14 and the story of Samson's wife. Trigger warning - like many bible passages it contains sex, violence, sexual violence, death and bees.