Monday, April 11, 2011

The Bells of St. Clements (an English nursery rhyme)

Note: I'm a bit behind in posting to the blog these days.  Busy, busy, busy but nothing much worth reporting.  Meanwhile I had this entry about ready last week and for some reason never got around to posting.  Oh well....hopefully the recipe at the end is worth the wait!  Enjoy!

Gay go up and gay go down,
     to ring the bells of London town.
Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St. Clements.
  Bull's eyes and targets, say the bells of St. Marg'ret's.
    Brickbats and tiles, say the bells of St. Giles'.
     Halfpence and farthings, say the bells of St. Martin's.
       Pancakes and fritters, say the bells of St. Peter's.
        Two sticks and an apple, Say the bells of Whitechapel……
    ….Here comes a candle to light you to bed, here comes a chopper to chop off your head.
           Chop chop chop chop - The last man's dead!

Funny how our minds wander to make odd connections. Today was one of those where my brain synapses managed to connect with this old English nursery rhyme when I saw that April 1st was “Oranges and Lemons" observance day.  (Don't ask me where I dig this stuff up from, but I assure you I'm not making it up!)

It seems that my brain wasn’t far afield, for although all of the observance calendars I checked list this as a legitimate American food holiday, there is no mention of why, other than a reference to an English holiday that points to this old nursery rhyme.

It seems the rhyme was repeated to prisoners on the morning of their impending execution by beheading by the man that lights the early morning candles in the dank cells of 16th century London. Somewhere along the line it became a children's rhyme.  Gruesome, huh? What any of this has to do with food is unknown to me.

Anyhoo….this did make another off-the-wall connection in my head to a movie that is one of my favorites,  actually two old movies, both by the same title of “The Old Dark House.” The original film with Boris Karloff and Melvyn Douglas in 1932 has nothing what-so-ever to do with oranges and lemons, but the second one with Tom Poston filmed in 1963 did. The film begins with an American (Tom Poston) being invited by his English friend to come to spend the weekend at his ancestral home in Dartmoor. However, once he arrives, he finds that his friend is dead--lying in state in the creepy old mansion. But, like any scary old house film, the car is damaged and unable to take him home AND the rain is so bad that he really can't leave anyway. That is when the murders begin and it becomes obvious that the house is filled with a bunch of nuts.

Somewhere during all this craziness the nursery rhyme “Oranges and lemons” is repeatedly recited with a new murder for each line of the verse, leaving us to believe that “The last man dead” would be our main character, so he needs to find out who’s out to get him before he gets got….or something like that. It’s not a particularly good movie, but I like it and I have at least one friend who was frightened enough by it as a youngster to have nightmares for about 2 weeks.

One thing leading to another FINALLY gets me around to a recipe for today (bet you thought I’d never get here!) This recipe came to my collection via the Joy of Baking webpage. It seems highly appropriate for a celebration of Orange and Lemons Day with the addition of a lemony glaze on top. Sorry I'm so late in posting this, I missed April 1st by several days, but these muffins are good any time you want to try them.

These were declared delicious by my co-workers and a friend who was the recipient of two said they were "awesome."  Gotta love that!  So, here’s to Oranges and Lemons Day!

ORANGES AND LEMONS (AND PINEAPPLE) MUFFINS

1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 teaspoon pure orange extract
1 tablespoon orange zest (1-2 oranges)
1 - 8 ounce can crushed pineapple, drained

Lemon Glaze:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2-3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in center of oven. Toast the pecans for 8 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant. Set aside to cool and then chop into small pieces.

Grease, or spray with a nonstick spray, 12-muffin tin. Set aside while you make the batter.

In a separate bowl, whisk to combine, the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

In the bowl of electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then beat in the sour cream, orange extract, and orange zest. Add the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated. Fold in the toasted pecans and drained pineapple.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

While the muffins are baking combine the glaze ingredients (sugar and lemon juice) in a small cup.

Remove the muffins from the oven and place on a wire rack. When the muffins are just barely still warm, drizzle with the glaze.

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