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Bonfire Night

The crackle of fire flames licking up a pile of wood, glowing in the leaflets of piney branches, gusting smoke on a cool, breezy autumnal evening reminds me of hot apple cider, hot chocolate, and roasting s'mores - perfect fall treats. Hot chocolate is more ubiquitous, but the other two treats are very American and Canadian - not British at all, and what is Guy Fawke's Night but a celebration of the unity of the United Kingdom in the face of potential destruction?* We ate fire-baked potatoes, hot pot, sausages, parkin, and gingerbread while flowers of fire rained down with the mist from all directions.

C.'s extended family hordes wood all year 'round in preparation of bonfire night. Broken furniture, torn town fences, Christmas trees - all are saved up in preparation for a night of organized destruction, hours of burning into the depths of the night. They set off their own fireworks, but, however much fun and sparkle there is in the yard, others in the neighborhood have invested in more industrial-grade fireworks: larger, higher, brighter cascades of brilliance in a flurry of explosions for hours on end.

For all the beauty and warmth and company, there was so much there that reminded me of other things, other times and places, beyond the frustration of trying to explain what cider is - here, cider is purely an alcoholic drink, rarely tasting of apples, let alone the intense essence of apples the way cider does. It reminded me of the familial fireworks set off by my extended family on the 4th of July - I've never attended, but heard so much about them. It reminded me of how I clung to our old Christmas trees, still green and soft, once twelfth night was over; at least once, I so couldn't bear to be parted with it that I hid it behind a large pine tree in our yard, so it wouldn't be taken off with the garbage for chipping. It reminded me of childhood hay wagon trips.

The fireworks grew infrequent, and the flames died down into lurid coals, burning into the night.

* Or, if you're feeling snarky, you could argue that only the Brits would have a day commemorating a failure.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 6th, 2005 10:19 pm (UTC)
What are "hot pot" and "parkin"?

I know, I'm such a Yankee. I don't think I've ever even had alcoholic cider; I know I can find it fairly easily, but I've never tasted it. I'm always too attracted by the sweet apple goodness of the non-alcoholic stuff. Mmm.

I just remembered I'm out of apple cider. Boo.
Nov. 6th, 2005 10:27 pm (UTC)
I meant to put in footnotes explaining those, but this comment will have to do for everyone else who wonders the same thing - which will be most people. They're typical Lancashire dishes, but this was my first experience with either.

Subjectively, parkin was a lot like gingerbread-type cake, only drier, with fine grade oats mixed into them. It's apparently a traditional bonfire night dessert.

Hot pot is a potato and onion dish, oven-baked, and, if my one experience with it is anything to go by, finished off with pickled cabbage and/or beets. Here's some commentary on the subject, although to read it, it looks like lamb is a usual addition.
Nov. 6th, 2005 10:29 pm (UTC)
P.S. I really would love to find a source of the cider I'm used to here - surely it must exist. It's not as if apples aren't grown in England.

There's wonderful alcoholic cider in the world, but I'm picky about it. I don't like most brands, because they don't taste of apples at all to me. My favorite brand is Canadian - B.C. Grower's. They do both a Granny Smith and a Macintosh apple alcoholic which taste just like the kinds of apples involved.
Nov. 6th, 2005 10:46 pm (UTC)
mmmmm ... cider-y goodness. Funny, I love watching huge fireworks displays, but can't stand the home-done ones. Here on the 4th, Guy Fawkes (which has the other horror of bonfires) and Silvester in Germany ... Could it be because my dad was a firefighter and I tend to hold fire in a kind of awe/fear/majesty? That and fireworks and bonfires bring out the dumbass in folks. Still, I was sad not to have run into my old department chair last week -- I've got into the habit of ostentatiously giving him a penny in front of others (he's a Tudor/Stuart person) on the 4th or 5th, just to confuse people. That and saying "Remember" ever time we met in the halls on the 5th ;-)

I do seem to remember finding something cider-like in the UK, I want to say it was one of the brands of apple juice that approximated the stuff that one heats up and mulls ... OH-- The Evil Coffee Empire (TM) might have an idea, as it's the time of year they sell the hot caramel cider ...
Nov. 6th, 2005 11:53 pm (UTC)
Or, if you're feeling snarky, you could argue that only the Brits would have a day commemorating a failure.

But only the Americans would have a national anthem commemorating one.
Nov. 7th, 2005 12:32 pm (UTC)
Yes, but it was the Brits' failure.
(Though it is very weird to have a national anthem that, basically, commemorates The Other Side's extremely crappy marksmanship.)
Nov. 7th, 2005 07:19 am (UTC)
only the Brits would have a day commemorating a failure.

But it was a success! A gloriously successful defence of... the monarchy. Ok. Glad that worked, then.
Nov. 7th, 2005 08:32 am (UTC)
Oooooh.... parkin... I haven't made parkin for years

And as for your footnote: yup, and we're proud of it :-)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )