British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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116                                   MOTHERING SUNDAY.                      [MARCH |*
So far all things went on harmoniously ; but when the cake was irade, a subject of violent discord arose, Sim insisting that it should be boiled, while Nell no less obstinately con­tended that it should be baked. The dispute ran from words to blows, for Nell not choosing to let her province in the household be thus interfered with, jumped up, and threw the stool she was sitting on at Sim, who, on his part, seized a besom, and applied it with right good will to the head and shoulders of his spouse. She now seized the broom, and the battle became so warm, that it might have had a very serious result, had not Nell proposed as a compromise that the cake should be boiled first and afterwards baked. This Sim acceded to, for he had no wish for further acquaintance with the heavy end of the broom. Accordingly, the big pot was set on the fire, and the stool broken up and thrown on to boil it,. whilst the besom and broom furnished fuel for the oven. Some eggs, which had been broken in the scuffle, were used to coat the outside of the pudding when boiled, which gave it the shining gloss it possesses as a cake. This new and remarkable production in the art of confectionery became known by the name of the cake of Simon and Nelly, but soon only the first half of each name was alone preserved and joined together, and it has ever 6ince been known as the cake of Sim-Nel or Simnel.—Book of Days, vol. i. p. 337.
Mothering Sunday.—In many parts of England it was formerly customary for servants, apprentices, and others to carry presents to their parents on this day. This practice was called Going a-Mothering, and originated in the offerings made on this day at the mother-church.
In the Gent Mag. (vol. liv. p. 98) a correspondent tells us that whilst he was an apprentice the custom was to visit his mother on Mid-Lent Sunday (thence called Mothering Sunday) for a regale of excellent furmety.*
* Furmenty, Furmity, or Frumity; still a favourite dish in the north, consisting of hulled wheat boiled in milk and seasoned. lb was especially a Christmas dish. In the True Gentlewoman''8 Delight, 1676, p. 17, the following receipt is given for making furmity :
Take a quart of sweet cream, two or three sprigs of mace, and a nutmeg cut in half, put it into your cream, so let it boil; then take your French barley or rice, being first washed clean in fair water three times and .picked clean, then boil it in sweet milk till it be tender,
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